This is the first in a series of educationally-based articles written by Master Beekeeper Tricia Nelson from Quantock Division.
The end of one beekeeping season and the start of another; time to reflect on what happened this year and what you want to do next. What went well for your bees? What didn’t? What might be worth trying next year? So, what sticks out in my recollections of the year which might be of interest to you?
We have all learned that bees walk uphill into dark spaces. Hence smoking swarms up into skeps, tucking your trousers in your socks and covering your wrists so they don’t walk up your trousers and sleeves. Some of us have shaken a swarm out onto a sheet arranged over a sloping board leading up to a new hive and watched them slowly processing into the hive and how they surge up and in once the queen enters. However, seeing exactly the same behaviour in response to a rhythmic and persistent tapping on the sides of the skep with no smoke used at all was extraordinary. It was so quick, almost instantaneous. I hope you enjoy the videos and the photos.
Saving the brood comb
I thought this was an extremely useful technique to learn, very difficult in the hot conditions facing David during his demo, but particularly useful if you have do a cut out when retrieving a swarm, so perhaps it is worth keeping a few strung frames, a flat board and a knife on standby for just such occasions!
At the start of Asian hornet week (Sept 9-15) Somerset Beekeepers Association has published a suite of Asian hornet resources we've produced and are happy to share.
Meanwhile our Asian hornet actions teams are busy following up on reports from local people. For example, in the Minehead and Exmoor area there have been several unconfirmed sightings which the local AHAT is investigating.
Our Asian hornet roadshow rolls into Taunton's Farmers Market on Thursday & Somerset County Show on September 21-22.
The NBU found and destroyed an Asian hornet nest in Tamworth, Staffordshire last week. In Jersey they have caught 69 queens and discovered 54 nests so far this year. While here in Somerset we haven't had a confirmed sighting yet but fear it is just a question of time.
If you spot an Asian hornet, perhaps feeding on flowering ivy, take a photo and report through the Asian Hornet Watch app or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need some help, contact us direct email@example.com
Anne Rowberry, Somerset AHAT member and BBKA Vice Chair writes:
"An Asian hornet sighting was confirmed in the Tamworth area of Staffordshire on September 2, 2019. This is the first report since July, when a single hornet was confirmed in New Milton, Hampshire. In each case they were spotted and reported by a member of the public.
Since 2016, there have been a total of 15 confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet in England and six nests have been destroyed.
Nine of these sightings occurred in 2018; an individual hornet in Lancashire (April) and Hull, three in Cornwall, two in Hampshire, one in Surrey (all September) and one in Kent (October).
The risk of an active Asian hornet nest being found in the UK is negligible during the colder winter months, but higher during the summer. Asian hornets have already been spotted this year in countries close to the UK (France and Jersey) and a risk remains at all times of year of accidentally transporting an Asian hornet when returning to the UK from abroad.
It is crucial you report any possible sightings so our experts can take quick and effective action to eradicate Asian hornets."
Asian hornets are a notifiable invasive species and should be reported immediately, preferably with a photo:
Asian Hornet Watch app for iPhone
Asian Hornet Watch app for Android or
the online recording form http://www.brc.ac.uk/risc/alert.php?species=asian_hornet firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Mark and Christine Gullick from Burnham Division who were awarded the Bronze Bee for winning the most points at Bristol’s Bee and Pollination Festival on Saturday.
They beat extremely tough competition to scoop seven firsts, five seconds, three thirds and one highly commended. Next stop: the National Honey Show!
In this month's SBKA newsletter, AHAT co-ordinator Lynne Ingram says public enquiries are coming in.
"The AHATs have been busy fielding calls or emails from members of the public who believe they have spotted an Asian Hornet. Most have been European hornets or hornet mimic hoverflies.
The Exmoor team headed out to check out a possible sighting but after a day in the area did not find anything. The photo in that case seemed to show a melanistic European Hornet with the yellow headband visible.
These almost all black European hornets have added to identification confusion, but they are distinguished from Asian Hornets by a having brown legs and a yellow ‘headband’."
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:
If you see an Asian hornet, take a photo and report it on the Asian Hornet Watch app or contact email@example.com for further advice.
For the first time we're staging a second exhibit exclusively focusing on Asian hornets (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) at the Royal Bath & West Show which runs from tomorrow until Saturday (May 29-June 1) in Shepton Mallet.
We want to alert visitors to the imminent arrival of Asian hornets in the UK this season with huge banners, Asian Hornet Action Team co-ordinator Lynne Ingram's glass cases displaying pinned Asian hornets and other insects, leaflets and cards to take away and children's colouring-in sheets.
Our AHAT will be on hand to talk to beekeepers and the public about Asian hornets - how to identify them, how to report them, the threat they pose to our honeybees and other pollinators.
In Jersey 70 plus Asian hornet queens have been discovered already this year; in France, where Asian hornets arrived in 2004, honey production is down by 50 per cent which reflects the impact these hornets are having on honeybee numbers.
Asian hornets are a notifiable invasive species and should be reported immediately with photo using:
Asian Hornet Watch app
Somerset Beekeepers will be out in force at the Royal Bath & West Show starting tomorrow (Wednesday) at Shepton Mallet.
Our preparations in the Bees & Honey marquee are well underway - don't be put off by this photo which was taken on Sunday! What promises to be an attention-grabbing stand will demonstrate the invaluable role honeybees play in the pollination of the nation’s best-loved food crops.
Plus there will be our usual team of experienced beekeepers on hand to talk about the craft to visitors.
The feature is run by three counties - Somerset, Avon and Wiltshire - and includes a honey show, candle rolling for children, free honey tasting and advice about all aspects of beekeeping.
Plus visitors will have plenty of opportunity to see honeybees at work in observation hives, where bees are behind glass, and in the outdoor bee garden where beekeepers will demonstrate behind protective netting.
If you're at the Show, do come and hello!
Love Somerset – the online site celebrating Somerset’s people, places and products – is kindly supporting Somerset Beekeepers’ Association.
They’re donating 20 per cent of the sale price from a charming range of wildflower seed cards designed by Hannah Marchant of Long Sutton.
Each design has been printed onto paper embedded with wildflower seeds which will bloom when planted.
Check them out here!
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!
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!