European Foulbrood (EFB) has been a problem in Somerset for a number of years with some beekeepers having colonies being infected year after year. Taking all the advice on offer from the National Bee Unit (NBU) about cleanliness and not mixing equipment has not stopped these repeats.
Then a few years ago some NBU research into EFB found from their data that there were difference strains of EFB, some more prevalent than others. But it was interesting that the strain in Somerset and north Dorset was not found anywhere else in the country. Why?
Now EFB is the most prevalent bacterial brood disease in England and Wales with up to 350 cases each year and, in some years, Somerset had the dubious honour of leading the way with the highest number of cases. Somerset and north Dorset contain a dense cluster of highly related M. plutonius sequence type 2 (ST2). ST2 has been associated with this part of the country for at least 10 years with very few outbreaks of other sequence types.
Somerset BKA wanted to see if they could help to move this research forward and find out why this was the case. So two years ago they started discussions with NBU about supporting more research specifically into this strain. There have been some delays along the way, with funding systems changing, staff at NBU changing and then Professor Giles Budge, who had worked on the original research, offered to help.
Along with Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd, Somerset BKA will be financially supporting a PhD student over the next four years. The student will investigate this local EFB cluster using modern molecular methods in an attempt to improve the understanding of disease transmission and to try to understand why this disease cluster is so persistent in the area.
Dr Ed Haynes at Fera has developed a bioinformatics pipeline to sequence genomes of the causal agent of EFB, Melissococcus plutonius. Hollie Pufel at Newcastle University is the PhD student who will refine this protocol and then use it to assess transmission events using Somerset as the case study.
Hollie will be working with beekeepers across Somerset as well as with the NBU Bee Health Inspectors to improve disease local control measures. Her supervisor will be Professor Giles Budge.
The work will start this autumn so, if you are contacted, please give Hollie all the help and information that she needs. Then we hope her work will be able to help beekeepers in Somerset deal with this strain of EFB.
Sharon Blake, Somerset BKA Executive Member and BDI Treasurer
[first published in SBKA's October newsletter]
Asian hornet awareness week is an excellent reminder to look out for the non native and highly destructive hornets when in the garden and out and about: check flowers, ivy, in wasp traps and fallen fruits.
At this time of year Asian Hornet nests are growing bigger and there are many hungry mouths to feed. This means that if we have any Asian Hornets in the UK, they will be out and about collecting food, and are more visible. They can be spotted feeding on flowers, on the ivy once it is out, and also on fallen fruit. They can also be spotted near beehives, where they will try and catch honey bees as they return to the hive full of nectar. Asian Hornets look like a big wasp, but are mainly black with orangey yellow faces, and a broad orangey yellow band across the base of the abdomen. The bottom part of the legs is yellow.
If you spot what you think is an Asian Hornet please Take A Photo, then report it through the FREE AsianHornetWatch app. If it is an Asian Hornet then someone will come to check it out for you. If you are not sure what it is, Take A Photo anyway. You can compare the photos on the app with what you have seen.
If you need help with this contact your local Asian Hornet Team https://www.bbka.org.uk/asian-hornet-action-team-map.
For Somerset contact email@example.com
The lock down series of webinar lectures was originally envisaged as live and interactive - bringing beekeepers together to watch speakers giving practical tips or discussing their research in the field of apiculture.
However, we’ve received so many requests to view recordings that we have started to upload those that we have to the members-only section of this website (click here to go there). But note that these recordings are literally as-live – technical difficulties/clap for carers/tea breaks and all.
Not all speakers give us permission to record their talks and for some the technical issues are just too distracting. To date we have Eleanor and Rosemary Burgess talking about swarming and David Evans about rational varroa control.
Over time we plan to add to this library and hope you can take a look if you miss a lecture or want to revisit one.
At this time of year, Asian Hornet primary nests are building up in size, and the amount of workers will be rapidly increasing, says our AHAT co-ordinator Lynne Ingram.
Primary nests are generally in sheltered low level places – maybe in a shed, a low bush, hedge or in a bramble patch. As the nest increases in size, the colony may outgrow this location, and 70 per cent of them will relocate to a secondary nest that they develop in a much higher and inaccessible position – often in a tree. For about a month, the two nests will continue to function in parallel until the larvae in the primary nest have all emerged.
As we move towards mid to end of summer, the number of workers in the nests increases hugely and they will start to become more visible if they are in your area. Keep your eyes peeled for the sight of an Asian hornet in your garden or around your bee hives. Continue to monitor any traps in your garden or apiary. If you think you have spotted an Asian Hornet then take a photo so that we have some evidence of it. If you are sure, then report it through the Asian Hornet Watch app. If you are not sure, or need help identifying an insect or getting a photo, then contact your local Asian Hornet Team Coordinator or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Asian Hornet Watch app for iPhone
Asian Hornet Watch app for Android
SBKA’s Chair Stewart Gould writes in July’s newsletter that beekeeping is experiencing its own ‘impending pandemic virus’:
“CBPV has been with us for a while now, and is even mentioned in Ted Hooper’s Guide to Bees and Honey. My copy was published in 2008, and has a whole page on the subject of Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus. What differs between opinion in 2008 and the present day is that we no longer think of CBPV as being associated with acarine, and it can certainly be more virulent and deadly than as described by Ted Hooper. ‘With this type of paralysis the colonies are often very little affected and seem to be able to breed fast enough to keep the population up. From the literature, however, it is clear that many cases have occurred where colonies with paralysis have dwindled badly or died out entirely’. There has been a considerable upsurge in the number of cases in the last 2 or 3 years, with many experienced beekeepers reporting that they have only come across it in that time period. It can’t really be blamed on acarine anymore, as the treatments (miticides) which we use to attack varroa will also knock out acarine, as they are both mites. There are two distinct forms of CBPV, in type one, bees are found crawling outside the hive, on nearby plants, and have bloated, elongated abdomens with partially spread or dislocated wings. It can be serious with the colony succumbing completely, but what Ted Hooper didn’t do was separate out the two forms of the disease. Type two CBPV is, in the early stages, spotted when black greasy looking bees are spotted on the frames, and it can stop right there, but if it progresses, which it seems to be doing increasingly, bees will be seen trembling on the top bars of frames. If that wasn’t enough to grab your attention, the black greasy bees, as seen in the photo, which appear to be smaller because they are virtually hairless, will also be present, and you may soon notice bees trembling on the landing board, if you have one, or around the entrance, as in this video click here. Other bees will nibble at them, as if removing the hairs. Perhaps the most disconcerting evidence is a large pile of dead bees which may well appear immediately beneath the entrance. There could be hundreds and hundreds.
Where did CBPV come from? It’s been here a good while, but present thinking is that it has been exacerbated by the increase of imported queens. There are varying reports on how much it affects the queens, but it is most obvious in adult workers, possibly because there are more of them than anything else, and the brood doesn’t seem to be affected at all. Bees are social insects, and when out and about, will greet each other by touching antennae, or make contact with their proboscises. Any virus would easily be transmitted from one to the other.
Like Covid 19, we have no treatment for CBPV, as anything strong enough to kill the virus, would kill the bee – at present. We all know a littler bit more about viruses these days, and the best advice so far, is to wash your hands, because soap and water can break down the outer coating of the virus. The same applies to CBPV. Practising a healthy regime in your apiaries should help to contain any outbreak you may have. Changing hive tools between hives when inspecting, and washing both the hive tool and your gloves in a washing soda solution, will minimise the risk of introduction or transmission.
It’s not all doom and gloom, some colonies do recover from CBPV. Of the six current cases I know, 3 hives have recovered, but please be mindful and keep a weather eye on your hives. CBPV can exist at a low ebb and just bumble along without
becoming a major problem (asymptomatic) – in that hive, but it can easily be passed on to other colonies, and other beekeepers’ apiaries.
It’s perhaps a little late now, but swarms can easily transmit the problem over miles at a time. Swarms have been extremely plentiful this year, but I hope you have managed to contain them, and following the reported bumper Spring crops, can look forward to an excellent main crop.”
This month the National Bee Unit has released three training/educational videos created by Fera Science and presented by Kirsty Stainton on YouTube.
Asian hornet Biology
Asian hornet Genetics
The videos help fill the gap left by the National Bee Unit being unable to carry out any Bee Health Day training, evening Association talks or attend any national events due to COVID-19 restrictions.
We've been trying to unravel the problems which have stopped some of those who register for Zoom webinars from receiving the event hyperlink from Eventbrite on the day.
The email containing the hyperlink is timed to be sent out two hours before the event starts.
Some email providers are known to block or delay delivery of emails for online events including Hotmail, MSN, Live.com, Yahoo!, AOL, SBCglobal (to name a few).
The BBC’s Chief Environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt (pictured above) is running a series of news features about Asian hornets (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) across BBC channels tomorrow (Wednesday, June 3).
Our AHAT coordinator Lynne Ingram (also pictured) was one of the experts he interviewed for his investigation into this non-native insect
He spent a very hot and sunny time with Lynne in her home orchard apiary to talk about the impact Asian hornets would have if they became established here.
Lynne said: “This is a great opportunity to get the information about Asian yellow legged hornets out to a wider public; to encourage everyone to keep their eyes open for this invasive species; to be able to identify it, and then to report it.
“Also, Justin was interested in the way beekeepers have formed themselves into Asian Hornet Action teams across the country in readiness for any possible incursions.”
Catch the news reports on:
brood SW Regional Bee Inspector Simon Jones is warning beekeepers against using old comb in bait hives and has asked us to highlight the disease risks associated with using combs from an unknown source.
He said it had been brought to his attention that someone in the Exeter area is selling old brood combs to bait swarm traps on ebay.
As we say on our website: “There is little doubt that there is a need to focus on apiary hygiene in Somerset. Many diseases can be spread by beekeepers’ actions, but perhaps the most important are those that are not readily visible. EFB often exists in a sub-clinical state and Somerset has a persistent problem with EFB… Nosema is another endemic problem linked to colony losses with the prevalence of Nosema apis and N. ceranae both around 40 per cent of apiaries in the South West. Without an approved treatment, the only management option for Nosema is good hygiene practices.’
Why would a beekeeper want to spent £15 on an old, dark brood comb from an unknown source when it could pose a health risk?
As seasonal bee inspector Eleanor Burgess said in her webinar about swarming recently, bait hives can be set up with attractants including lemon grass oil, a large lump of propolis and swarm lures are available commercially.
The video was taken by our chairman Stewart Gould and shows the delightful sight of a swarm moving into a new home.
It’s a brave new world out there - foreign to every single one of us, but we have to carry on with life, and also looking after our bees, in the best way that we can, while being mindful of our safety, and that of those around us. For those new to the craft, it is going to be even harder, as learning first hand is not going to be easy, or perhaps, even possible.
The same applies to my new position as chairman of the Association. Anne Pike has done an admirable job over the last three years, and her contribution as chairman will be remembered and valued for years to come. She hasn’t run away screaming, as she claimed she was going to, but is still with us, acting in a promotional role, and will be looking after the website, among many other things.
I know quite a few of our members, but there are many that I have yet to meet, and who have no idea who I am. Well, here’s a little insight. I hail from Bath, and spent a lot of the 1960s enthralled by and involved with the music of the time.
After spending 17 years involved with sales of construction materials to the unsuspecting architects of the South West, I spread my wings and headed for Saudi Arabia, where I actually sold sand to the Arabs, admittedly in the form of lightweight concrete, but on my return, the UK had gone into recession, and construction was particularly badly hit. I did what any red-blooded male would do, and diversified. A friend was running a woodworking business that needed a little help, so I invested, and used my sales skills to put the business on the tracks. He bailed out about three years down the road, and so I carried it on with my slowly improving woodworking skills, and a small group of cabinet makers.
That worked well until 2008, when I realised that something was amiss, my energy levels had dropped severely, and small items were slipping out of my grasp without me knowing. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Again, I did what I thought best, shed the business, retired and took up beekeeping. It’s been a great distraction, and has helped by making me plough on through physical difficulties. At one point I had 12 colonies running, but have now reduced that to six.
I joined the committee of Somerton Division in 2010, and took over their newsletter the same year, before also taking on the county newsletter and yearbook. Gerald Fisher, who had run the Beginners’ course for many a year, wanted to hand over the reins, and being a total glutton for punishment, I took that on about eight years ago, and now run it in tandem with Joe King. I shed the Somerset newsletter and yearbook when elected chairman of Somerton Division. During my three year tenure we managed to acquire ¾ acre land in Long Sutton, as the result of a generous gift, and with help from the county and a few small grants, converted that piece of ‘filled quarry wasteland’ into an apiary with wildflower meadow and an apiary building, with car parking for 30 cars.
I had been a Somerton deputy county delegate for several years before being elected vice chairman three years ago, and at this year’s virtual AGM, became chairman.
It’s not going to be easy, but I aim to draw the divisions closer, so that we can function more as a single entity, and get together (albeit virtually at present) with more combined events. The ones that we have work so well. The Lecture Day and Special Lectures are praised highly. The Special Lecture, being an evening event has been slightly hampered by the distance that a lot of members would have to travel, for a two hour session, only to drive back again the same evening. The lock down has caused lateral thinking, and Lynne Ingram of Taunton Division has gained us Educational Status with Zoom, which for those who have no experience of it, is a free to use, online conferencing facility, so that we can have mass audiences for virtual lectures. The virtual Special Lecture on April 23rd attracted applications from over 200 members, kick-starting a repeat, which Ken Basterfield was only too delighted to accommodate. There are live Q & A sessions afterwards too. Further talks are coming up, with excellent guest speakers, and topics relevant to the moment. What’s more, they can be enjoyed from the comfort of your armchair. There is, however, nothing quite like being in the presence of the speaker in real time. You wouldn’t consider watching a music concert on your computer to be the same as actually going to the concert, would you? But in a slightly bizarre way, we can turn this situation to advantage, and gain some knowledge at the same time.
See you at the next Zoom session.