Did you see a group of Somerset beekeepers in The Times and the Guardian earlier in the month? Photographer Zach Culpin went along to an apiary session for Somerton’s beginners' group and took a series of colourful photos which he kindly shared with us. Great work Joe King, Stewart Gould and the new beeks!
Congratulations to Joe King, this year’s winner of our Oscar for his outstanding contribution to beekeeping in Somerset.
The Westcountry Honey Farms Award was formally presented by Jackie Mosedale, President, at the Special Lecture on Wednesday evening.
She gave us a run through of some of his activities stretching back many years - from marching on Westminster, to protest against the government's stance on neonicitinoids in 2013, to his work for Somerton Division in a multitude of capacities, running the County Honey Show in 2014 and his role as Somerton delegate on SBKA Council.
The April newsletter is out now! If you haven't received your copy - emailed by your Division - you can take a look here.
Among the articles and notices is this update on Asian hornets by our AHAT coordinator Lynne Ingram:
By the time you read this, I hope that we will be experiencing warmer spring temperatures and longer days. As this happens, any hibernating Vespa velutina queens will emerge from their winter hiding places, and start rebuilding their strength by feeding on nectar and tree sap. In Jersey and France queens have been spotted feeding on tree sap from oak trees as well as beech, maple and willow, as well as on single open camellias, so keep an eye on those and other flowers open in your garden.
Feeding stimulates the queen’s ovaries to mature, and the nesting instinct increases. Before the foundress queen starts her nest however, research suggests that queens will migrate some distance away, as other species of Vespa are known to do – sometimes in large numbers. It is assumed therefore, that post hibernation migration may be occurring in Europe, which could explain the rapid spread of Vespa velutina across France. Research suggests that Vespa velutina queens are able to fly about 40 km per day.
Once the foundress queen has migrated, she will start making a small embryo nest from papier mache. These are generally in a sheltered low level site – in a shed, garage, loft or in a bramble patch. The queen is alone and vulnerable at this time and so conserves her resources. Keep an eye out for these nests – they will be much easier to remove than a large nest 50 foot up in a tree! If you see one, take some time to observe such a nest to make sure it contains Vespa velutina and not a wasp – take a photo of the queen on her nest as evidence, before reporting on Asian Hornet Watch.
At this stage it can take up to 50 days from eggs being laid to worker emergence. Once the workers emerge, they will gradually take over many of the roles of foraging, defence and nest building within the colony, leaving the queen to lay eggs. They will enlarge the nest around the embryo nest, as the numbers increase in the colony. This primary nest will continue to grow in size and numbers until mid July when 70% of these nests will relocate into a high tree. For about a month, however, both nests will remain active, until the brood in the primary nest has all emerged. This is when you may start seeing Asian Hornets preying on your bees, as the adults have many hungry larval mouths to feed.
The adult hornets hunt for protein for the larvae, and in return receive a sweet substance from the mouths of the older larvae. The adults also collect and eat nectar and tree sap. Remember to keep monitoring your traps daily, releasing any by-catch. At this time of year the queens will not be hawking for bees so traps should be hanging near your kitchen window or somewhere very easy to see. If you see an Asian hornet, the key is to get evidence so that you can report it. The easiest way is to take a photo or video, then email it with details to: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Asian Hornet Watch app.
Somerset Asian Hornet Action Team: If you think you may have seen an Asian Hornet and are struggling to get evidence, or need some advice then contact the Somerset Action team on: email@example.com, and someone will come and help with identification and getting evidence. Further contact details for the Somerset AHAT teams are in the Somerset Beekeepers Association Year Book, and on the SBKA website.
We are hoping to provide all Divisions and AHAT team members with an Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) in acrylic to help with easy ID.
However, we are having issues with the consignment we've received as many don't have a distinctive yellow band on the abdomen and the eyes are light-coloured rather than brown.
We're in negotiations with the supplier who has subsequently added a disclaimer on their website.
Meanwhile, if you see an Asian hornet, the key is to get evidence so that you can report it. The easiest way is to take a photo or video, then email it with details to: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Asian Hornet Watch app.
If you think you may have seen an Asian Hornet and are struggling to get evidence, or need some advice then contact the Somerset Action team on: email@example.com, and someone will come and help with identification and getting evidence. Click here for further contact details for the Somerset AHAT teams.
I am delighted to announce that Jackie Mosedale is our new President! Jackie was elected at the AGM on Saturday and succeeds Ken Tredgett.
Jackie is well known to many Somerset beekeepers not least because she is a former SBKA Chairman, is active in Somerton Division where she is President and Secretary, is involved in the county’s display in the Bees & Honey feature at the Royal Bath and West Show, and is part of the team which stages the county’s annual Lecture Day.
Two years ago she was awarded our most prestigious honour, the Westcountry Honey Farms Award.
I hope Jackie will enjoy her term of office as she continues to champion honeybees and beekeepers.
Meanwhile, Ken is still very much a part of SBKA – he is a Vice President and continues to run the Lecture Day and Special Lecture.
Anne Pike, SBKA Chairman
If you're planning to take a BBKA exam or assessment this year, do check the closing dates - the bulk are fast approaching!
They're on page 11 of the 2019 Year Book together with the fees (and, of course, SBKA refunds fees to successful candidates).
SW Regional Bee Inspector Simon Jones writes about the last season in his annual report - the good, the bad and the ugly! It provides a fascinating snap-shot of what has happened in Somerset and the region.
There is some good news for our county beekeepers - the number of colonies affected by EFB fell last year to 26, but that is still more than Devon, Cornwall and Avon put together. However AFB was not reported in Somerset but it is just over the county border in Devon.
"The 2018 season started late after a cold winter and spring. However colonies that were healthy and strong coming out of the winter were able to take advantage of the good weather that followed and gathered a good crop of honey. From my own experience the honey has been of a good quality with most of the combs fully capped with the extracted honey having a low moisture content.
The Bee Inspectors have had another busy season. They have been carrying out their usual programme of risk based inspections for European Foulbrood (EFB) and American Foulbrood (AFB). There has been an increase in the levels of disease in Cornwall but the other counties which make up the South West Region (SW) have showed a significant decrease with Avon having no disease at all (see graphs further in the report).
In partnership with the local Beekeeping Associations we have continued to deliver our ‘Bee Health Days’. This season the North Somerset/Avon Bee Health Day took place at the Langford Veterinary College, the Cornwall Bee Health Day was in Lostwithiel at the local community centre and the Devon Bee Health Day was hosted by Exeter Branch at the Kenn Centre just outside of Exeter.
I would like to thank all of the local association secretaries/training officers who helped us to manage the programme of Bee Health Days across the SW. We are also very grateful to the local beekeepers who allowed us to use their nearby apiaries for demonstration purposes.
The Inspectors also had a presence at the Somerset Lecture Day in February and Cornwall’s ‘Bit of a Do’ (BOAD) in September.
We have again been carrying out Exotic Pest Surveillance (EPS) inspections around risk points such as ports and airports to check for incursions of Small Hive Beetle (SHB), Tropilaelaps and Asian Hornet. With local beekeepers help we set up four Enhanced Sentinel Apiaries, two are situated near Avonmouth Docks and two near Plymouth Docks, both are considered to be very high risk points. These apiaries are inspected three times a year by the local BeeInspector and floor samples are sent into the FERA laboratory for analysis.
In addition to these inspections there are 18 Sentinel Apiaries around the region. This is where beekeepers that have an apiary near a risk point assist the National Bee Unit (NBU) by regularly monitoring their colonies for Exotic Pests and twice a year they send in floor debris samples to be tested. I am very grateful to the South West Sentinel Apiary Beekeepers for all of their help this season, they are an important part of the NBU’s surveillance programme.
Part of our work each season is to monitor imports of queens and package bees from the European Union (EU) and Third Countries (Argentina, Australia and New Zealand). Again this year we saw a large number of packages imported from Italy, some of which were bought by beekeepers in the South West (SW) region. These were inspected for SHB as they were decanted into hives and fortunately nothing was found (SHB was found in Southern Italy in 2014).
Throughout the season the SW Inspectors carried out enhanced surveillance for Asian Hornet in the Woolacombe area of North Devon to ensure nothing had been overlooked from the nest that we found and destroyed in 2017.
We were also in the thick of it again when Asian Hornet was found to be predating bees in an apiary in Cornwall."
For more a detailed report, please download the file below.
All members of SBKA are to be given an Asian hornet trap and the attractant Suterra.
We anticipate starting to distribute the Veto Pharma traps at Lecture Day on February 16 in good time before any over-wintering queens start to emerge.
The remainder of the traps and the attractant will be available for members to collect from their Divisions.
We are determined to stop Asian hornets becoming established in the county and to that end AHATs (Asian Hornet Action Teams) have been set up, publicity materials produced and a PR-campaign started.
Last November Council set a £6,000 budget for our 2019 Asian hornet campaign and we subsequently received a £3,600 donation from Yeo Valley which Council decided to allocate to this work.
The costs of providing the traps and attractant will be £4,200; £3,400 being the cost of the traps supplied by Thornes at a slight discount and £800 for Suterra bought in bulk.
Members will receive Asian hornet fliers and identification cards, plus an EFB leaflet, with their 2019 year books. Pick up your year book at Lecture Day; the remainder will be posted.
As soon as day time temperatures reach 10-12 degrees C, any over-wintering queens will emerge. Time for super-vigilance to start!
It's worth checking your hives today and clearing the snow from landing boards to ensure entrances don’t get blocked up with snow or ice if there's a thaw followed by freezing temperatures. And don't worry if you see the odd dead bee which has been attracted by this morning's bright light and then succumbed to the cold.
Richard Bache is our BBKA Delegate and reports from the recent BBKA ADM.
On the 12th January I attended Myton School in Warwick for the 59th BBKA ADM. A minute silence was held for the beekeepers that had passed away. There were the usual housekeeping, apologies and adoption of the standing orders. Margaret Murdin (President and Chairing the meeting) reported that there had been increasing abuse over the telephone by beekeepers towards the staff at BBKA headquarters necessitating the introduction of telephone recording. 66 (of 74) Area Associations were present, representing 23284 members.
Minutes and Reports
An amendment from Manchester regarding the minutes of the 2018 ADM had been accepted by the executive. Bob Maurer (Surrey) asked why there was so little recorded about the disciplinary process at last years ADM. Margaret Murdin explained that it was best to leave it out as a lot of what was said was contentious and confidential. The minutes were accepted.
Terry Hitchman (Stratford delegate) asked what progress had been made on the discouragement of honeybee importation. Margaret Murdin stated that lobbying had occurred and that banning importation of honeybees might be possible after Brexit, but there were other political priorities for the government. It was noted that it was mainly bee farmers who were importing honeybees.
Tony Lindsell (Devon) recorded his disappointment with progress reports and the fact that it did not seem that ADM propositions moved freely to the EC to action. He also noted missed opportunities regarding a DEFRA consultation, although Anne Rowberry noted that she had responded in several capacities, including as BBKA trustee. Later, Tony Lindsell asked for a copy of the BBKA response to the DEFRA consultation.
John Canning (Cleveland) asked about the Northern Ireland situation post Brexit. Margaret Murdin noted that there were already difficulties in recording bees crossing the Northern Ireland border. The Northern Ireland (INIB) delegate stated that figures for bees crossing the border were not clear, there are bees and beekeepers that straddle the border and there are likely to be low numbers but also under-reporting.
Tony Lindsell briefly asked for an update on the VAT proposition of several years previously, although it was noted that this might be difficult to achieve before Brexit.
Roger Patterson noted that importation of honeybees was permitted from Argentina and that the have Africanised honeybees.
The reports were dealt with much quicker than in previous years as there were no verbal supplementary reports except on the Spring convention, where a paragraph had been omitted. It was explained that there was much subsidy of the convention by the traders and that they were trialling cheaper day tickets. Michel Badger (Yorkshire) asked whether there was a plan to stay with Harper Adams long-term. Joyce Nisbet replied stating that the venue was frequently under review, and although there were some disadvantages to the venue there were also many advantages and there are no plans to change the venue at present.
Simon Cavill explained that the next International Meeting of Young Beekeepers will be in Slovakia and that it was hoped to get beekeepers aged 12-16 involved for selection. The reports were nearly unanimously accepted.
Val Francis (for the exam board) noted that there had been more basic assessments and awarded the Surrey shield (Basic Assessments) to Newcastle and the George Knights Memorial Shield (higher assessments) to Gloucester.
It was noted that there had been a third consecutive year of surplus and no increase in capitation was intended. The reappointment of auditors and financial reports were both passed with near unanimous support.
New Association applications
After lunch, attention turned to the associations applying for BBKA membership. The Laddingford representative gave a fairly bitter account of their split with Kent BKA which seems to have centred around the insistence that all Kent members subscribe to Bee Craft. They were initially formed from the Yalding Branch and it sounds like there was deeper bitterness around the finances of the division. The Kent delegate offered no objections to them joining BBKA, but noted that some issues with their formation had been raised with the Charity Commission. The Medway representative also had no objections and supported the application. Bob Maurer (Surrey) made the point that once again, inability to sort out local issues had resulted in potential for increased administration at a national level. Michael Badger (Yorkshire) stated that they should pay an appropriate rate. As a delegate, the test I always apply is whether a new association represents fragmentation of existing associations or inclusion of previously unrepresented beekeepers. I felt this leaned towards fragmentation and therefore did not support the application. 34 Associations supported their application against 20 against, but this was overturned with a membership vote (7520 for, 10953 against).
Terry Hitchman (Stratford) reiterated a previous request that local problems could be sorted out by a national taskforce. David Coates (Burton and district, Derbyshire) stated that large associations wield too much power with the membership vote.
The other applicant association, Ellan Vannin, had withdrawn their application. Roger Patterson expressed annoyance that work had been undermined. Points were raised about the BBKA neutrality in membership applications before Michael Badger (Yorkshire) proposed we move to next business.
The executive nominees, John Canning, Margaret Wilson and Diane Drinkwater were duly elected as there were more candidates than vacancies. The Exam board were elected as Somerset wished with Stuart Roberts, Marin Anastasov and our own Lynne Ingram getting the three-year terms, Celia Perry getting the two-year term and Michael Cullen getting the one-year term.
After Lunch there was a rearrangement of the agenda to enable some work on the constitution.
Margaret Murdin explained that the VAT issue (from Devon) was best brought up after Brexit, and presented the past presidents badge to John Hendrie. There was a series of quick-fire non-contentious propositions which were heavily supported (including by me): Enabling videoconferencing (8), Winding up BBKA Enterprises (7) and changing the BBKA news wrapper to a recyclable material (5).
The proposition for protected time for propositions at the ADM (9) was felt to be too restrictive. Suggestions that were raised to enable more discussion included an informal forum, a digital forum or even a second day of voting. I was among 39 that voted against this one.
The first proposition to generate much debate was the inclusion of a schools category, should the new constitution not pass. It was clarified that one school would constitute one voting member and that the school would rely on their own insurance. It was agreed that the educational establishment would have to be defined more precisely with Ofsted registration (or Estyn in Wales). Annette Campbell (Newcastle) was concerned that all the students at the local university could converge on the club apiary, but Margaret Murdin stated that it was up to local associations to define the relationship they have with Educational establishments. Lesley Jacques (Cheshire) suggested that universities should be excluded as they were comprised of adults that could join independently. There was suggestion that the fact the wording was not published in time would make the proposition out of order, others suggested that it ought to go to the executive to work on it in more detail. However, two amendments were tabled- one to necessitate OFSTED/ESTYN registration for a school being a members (which I supported and passed) and one which included Universities (which I supported and did not pass). The proposition was passed (which I supported) with 56 votes (84%) for and 8 against. It was noted that it is up to associations to amend County membership classes accordingly.
The proposition on whether BBKA should be represented at tradex (6) divided opinion with many seeing an opportunity to engage with more beekeepers. It was noteworthy that those involved in the BBKA spring convention and those who were executive members when Bee Tradex was formed were very much against this, citing the inflexibility of the proposition. It was supported. The next proposition on publishing BBKA minutes divided opinion. Tony Lindsell (Devon) stated that this was a matter of transparency while Margaret Murdin felt that draft minutes could not be published and John Canning stated that it can suppress ideas at the meeting with decisions taken away from formal committee process. He instead pressed for a good report of the meeting. Margaret Wilson highlighted the positive thinking newsletter. It was suggested that the whole proposition be re-written. Padraig Floyd (Essex) proposed that the word Draft be omitted and I seconded this as this was the steer that I had from Somerset and this was well supported. John Canning then immediately proposed an amendment that this should be a summary of the meeting, which I felt watered down the proposition but was nonetheless passed and the amended proposition passed. The proposition to discourage manufacturers from selling leather gloves to beginners (11) was next, with the Derbyshire delegate stating that the best use for leather gloves is smoker fuel! Mike Duffin explained that he gets bad reactions and wears disposable gloves over the leather gloves. Anne Rowberry added that the suppliers had their reasons, but all agreed to suggest nitrile gloves. I was one of 44 who voted for this proposition.
The next proposition to be discussed was the discipline and dispute resolution policy (1). Stephen Barnes, for the executive, acknowledged that there were some weaknesses that had been identified. The broad change was that the right of appeal moved from being at the BBKA ADM to being independent arbiters. This, of course, would avoid the farcical events of last year where the EC were left potentially legally liable for the outcome of a dispute but had no input into the decisive vote. Padraig Floyd (Essex) supported the broad policy direction and vowed to work with the trustees to bring amendments to the next ADM. There were concerns that on one hand the BBKA needed a policy, but on the other, it needed to be well thought-out. The policy was accepted and collaboration with the review was invited.
The major proposition was dealt with last: that of the new constitution (now that BBKA are becoming a charitable incorporated organisation). Stephen Barnes discussed the background to the document and the progress that had been made over the past year. He stated that there had been little feedback, but that it had been of high quality, and sometimes quite novel. There had been a number of amendments, many of which had been received in the previous 24 hours, ranging from minor to substantial. It was even considered whether to pull the document, but that they had identified 7 amendments for consideration:
The amended constitution was put to the vote and I supported it along with 58 other associations. The Manchester delegate expressed his thanks for all the effort that had been put into the document to widespread applause. Margaret Murdin thanked the delegates for their time and goodwill, and also the staff of BBKA.