The news this week that Defra has granted a derogation for farmers to use the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on sugar beet in 2021 has caused uproar amongst many beekeepers and environmentalists.
Somerset BKA Chairman Stewart Gould told the local news: “We know that the intended derogation of neonicotinoid use is for a limited period and is to be used on sugar beet seed, a plant which is harvested before it flowers, and one that doesn’t attract bees, but systemic neonicotinoids, thiomethoxam in this case, are not selective, and are poisonous to all insects, threatening bees and all other pollinators in particular. “
One third of food is dependent on insect pollination and in the UK insects pollinate 70 types of crop – strawberries to cabbages.
Dave Goulson – Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and author of bestselling titles including ‘A Sting in the Tale’ – has responded to the news with a blog.
There is also a debate planned for Tuesday, 19 January https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/events/wild_live_bee-pesticides
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.
Somerset BKA has awarded its most prestigious honour to Fred Horne from Yeovil Division.
The West Country Honey Farms Award is presented annually to the Somerset member judged by a panel of three previous winners to have made the greatest contribution to beekeeping in the county.
Up until now the award has been presented at the AGM but Fred is having to make-do with a photo of the trophy until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Fred, who first opened a hive in 1952, is a former Vice Chairman of Somerset BKA (1985-86), served as Chairman (1987-1989), is a Vice President (elected in 1990) and an Honorary Member since 2010.
He has been an active member of Yeovil Division since he joined in 1976 (when it was known as the Southern Division). Within two years he became Treasurer, holding the post for three years before taking on the role of Secretary for a further seven years. He has been a valued and loyal member of his Divisional Committee for almost the entire period of his membership. His most recent office was that of Divisional President (1999-2017).
In the citation for nomination it says: “For all the current membership Fred has always been there. Modest in mind and the epitome of a skillful mentor, Fred offers a master class example of how to communicate. Good mentors, like good teachers, are rare to find but he certainly fits the category well. His empirical knowledge of bees, inspires, encourages and motivates. Not one for gaining qualifications and post nominals, Fred made you think logically, rationally and reminded us that bees are doing what they want to do (usually for good reason) and that we need sometimes to just watch and listen and sometimes leave them to it. Fred, like some other rare individuals, has clearly mastered the art of communicating during his career as a teacher and is able to effectively impart his knowledge at a level commensurate to both the individual and the complexity of the question.
“Many of the Division's new members now realise the value of having Fred as their mentor and have appreciated the knowledge and passion that he has been able to transfer. Many inexperienced beekeepers have learned much, and more importantly, limited the potential damage that could have been done to their precious bees by seeking his counsil. By having this sound knowledge base available, either in person, or at the end of a telephone, their beekeeping has improved considerably.
“To quote a relatively new member: "It has been a privilege to know and seek the President's advice at times when apiculture was proving demanding and each and every time his wise and thoughtful words made sense and clarified the mire. The value and importance of a skilled mentor should never be underestimated".
“Fred stopped keeping his own bees a few years ago and has now stepped down as Divisional President. However, he has not really retired as he is still available to provide advice to the less knowledgeable and experienced members of the Division.”
South West Asian hornet action teams are launching an Asian Hornet Spring Watch publicity campaign over Easter. They are calling on the public to get involved.
Somerset’s AHAT coordinator Lynne Ingram said: “Lockdown means that people will be spending more time in their gardens and on walks around their neighbourhood this Easter.
“We would like people to look for Asian hornets on flowers such as camellias, trees that ooze sap and in sheltered spots like sheds and porches while keeping within government guidelines in relation to Covid-19.”
Asian hornets have distinctive orange faces and yellow tipped legs and are smaller than the bright yellow striped European hornet.
“If anyone sees an insect they think is an Asian hornet, check it out on the Asian Hornet Watch app which has an identification guide and lets you send in your sightings.”
Beekeepers and conservationists hope to mobilise support from all over the region to prevent the destructive insects getting established in the UK where they will decimate populations of pollinating insects and honeybees.
“Given the many pressures on our precious pollinators, including climate change, habitat destruction and pesticide use, it’s vital we do all we can to support them by reporting sightings.”
Somerset Beekeepers’ Association has many useful ID materials on its website including a children’s colouring-in sheet. https://www.somersetbeekeepers.org.uk/resources.html
Asian hornets are a notifiable invasive species and should be reported immediately, preferably with a photo using:
Notes to editors:
Asian hornets (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) are slightly smaller than native European hornets and look like large black wasps with an orange face and yellow legs:
A single Asian hornet can kill 50 bees a day, with a nest containing up to 6,000 workers and up to 350 queens.
In Jersey, France and large areas of Western Europe they are stripping the environment bare of insects before moving on to prey on managed honeybee colonies.
Asian hornets are a notifiable invasive species and should be reported immediately with photo using:
Somerset BKA's Asian hornet action team co-ordinator Lynne Ingram is urging us all to start monitoring for Asian hornets:
"We're approaching the time when Asian hornet queens will be emerging from hibernation – when the temperature is consistently reaching 13 deg C – and so we need to be monitoring for their presence.
We don’t know if there are any Asian hornet queens over-wintering in the UK this year, or whether any mated queens will make their way into the UK post-hibernation. But we need to be prepared.
We strongly recommend the use of monitoring stations, rather than killing traps. This allows us to get the evidence of Asian hornets that we need, without killing our native beneficial insects, in particular European hornets.
Asian hornet queens will be searching for sugary foods to build up their energy, not preying on your bees. This means that all monitoring stations need to be positioned where you cannot help but see them and where you can easily check them daily - e.g. outside the kitchen window, or in a sunny spot in your garden. All beneficial insects must be released from monitoring stations daily.
From mid-May Asian hornet queens will be mainly in their nests and so monitoring stations can be removed.
We are recommending the adaptation of Thorne's traps to include the wick stations inside. This allows wasps and small flies to escape. (See photos above).
Use Suterra (now sold as Trappit wasp attractant). Get this from your AHAT Team leader if restrictions allow (keep yourself and others safe and comply with government guidelines) or buy online (Pestfix.co.uk sells smaller bottles).
If you cannot get it due to current restrictions try one of these French recipes:
• Dark beer mixed with 25ml strawberry dessert sauce and 25ml orange liqueur
• 350ml sweet white wine (or white wine sweetened with sugar) + 20-30ml mint syrup
Please also observe any flowers where Asian hornet queens may be feeding. Any trees that may be oozing sap are also very attractive to queens in Spring. Being confined to our homes at the moment gives us the ideal opportunity to spend time monitoring for Asian hornets.
From the August onwards, Asian hornet workers may be found preying on your bees, so monitoring stations may also be hung in your apiaries. Again, we need to be monitoring regularly so that we protect our beneficial insects, and so that we have live samples that could be tracked if necessary. Please register your monitoring stations in apiaries on BeeBase.
What to use
• Monitoring stations as above
• Open bait stations – plastic tray with screwed up kitchen roll, a stone and your liquid bait. Ideally protect these from rain - on a bird table
In the Autumn Asian hornet workers can be observed on fallen and growing fruit and on ivy plants, where they will often be seen taking prey. Males and new queens will be produced in the late Autumn and males can be seen feeding on flowers. This is a crucial time to spot Asian Hornets as it is important to find any nests before the queens emerge and go into hibernation. Observe plants, fruit and also around your apiary.
If you think you have seen an Asian Hornet:
• Get a photo (or sample)
• If you are not sure or are struggling to get evidence contact your local Asian Hornet Action Team – firstname.lastname@example.org
• If you are sure and you have evidence, then report on the Asian Hornet Watch App or on email@example.com – and to your local AHAT.
Due to current restrictions please make sure that you keep yourself safe and comply with government guidelines. Check BBKA website for updates on how this relates to beekeepers."
Dorset beekeeper Chris Slade is blogging about Lecture Day and declares that in spite of a long journey through Storm Dennis "It was worth it though and I’m glad I went."
Read all about it here: https://chrissladesbeeblog.wordpress.com/
We hope all who attended enjoyed the day and look forward to evaluating the online survey feedback.
The Annual Lecture Day on February 15 is FULLY BOOKED. It's great that so many of you are coming to this event and we're sorry to disappoint anyone who hasn't bought a ticket yet.
After Lecture Day we will review arrangements to see if we can accommodate more people in future years.
If you've bought a ticket but can't make it - let someone else come in your place
And remember to bring your ticket - either a prepaid paper ticket or an Eventbrite ticket - without it you won't be admitted!
Somerset BKA’s new education support group, made up of four Master Beekeepers, has launched with a flying start.
There’s been an overwhelming response to news of our first county-wide queen rearing course, ‘How to rear your own queens when you only have two or three hives’.
Within hours of sending an email to members the course was three times over-subscribed. Currently tutors are looking at additional dates and will inform anyone who has registered an interest in due course.
Also, the training day later this month for members interested in taking the BBKA's honey bee health certificate is full.
Meanwhile, the group publishes articles in SBKA’s newsletter and on the website.
Thank you to all SBKA members who completed our annual end-of-season survey.
The findings reveal that on average members have more colonies at the end of the season than at the beginning and most enjoyed an excellent harvest.
Summary: On average a member has five colonies going into winter (one more than in the Spring), harvested up to 50 lbs per productive colony and 175 lbs in total.
Based on the findings provided by the 222 members who completed the online questionnaire, the total membership harvested more than 60 tonnes or 134,000 lbs from nearly 4,250 colonies.
For a detailed breakdown of responses to each question, take a look at the January newsletter.