Somerset Beekeepers’ Association is calling on visitors to the Royal Bath & West Show, which starts tomorrow (May 30) at Shepton Mallet, to be on the alert for a major threat to the UK’s pollinators.
For the first time they are running an interactive exhibit about the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) in the Show’s popular Bees & Honey Feature.
Association chairman Anne Pike said: “We want gardeners, farmers, walkers and all countryside-lovers, as well as beekeepers, to be on high alert for the imminent arrival of Asian hornets.
“These hornets look like black wasps with yellow tipped legs and are as devastating to pollinators as foot and mouth disease was to livestock.
“In France, where Asian hornets arrived in 2004, honey production is down by 50 per cent reflecting the impact these non-native and highly invasive insects are having on honeybee numbers.”
Members of the newly-formed Asian Hornet Action Team will be on hand to talk to visitors about the hornet and explain how to correctly identify them. In addition to large information banners, there will be glass cases displaying Asian hornets next to European hornets and honeybees, identification leaflets to take away and children’s colouring-in sheets.
Master Beekeeper Lynne Ingram, who heads up the Action Team, added “The greatest resource we have in fighting the Asian (yellow legged) hornet are members of the public. They are our eyes. Come into the tent and find out what an Asian hornet looks like. This time of year, look out for tiny embryo nests in sheds or garages. If you wait you will see the queen returning to feed her larvae. In June the workers will emerge and you may find them drinking nectar on flowers. If you see one, take a photo and report it on the Asian Hornet Watch app or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.”
In addition, Somerset Beekeepers will be demonstrating the invaluable role honeybees play in the pollination of the nation’s best-loved food crops including apples and strawberries.
Somerset members, together with beekeepers from Avon and Wiltshire, will be taking part in a highly competitive honey show, will run candle rolling for children, offer free honey tasting and advice about all aspects of beekeeping. In addition, visitors will have plenty of opportunities 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.
To find out more visit Somerset Beekeepers’ website: https://www.somersetbeekeepers.org.uk/
For further information contact:
Anne Pike, Chairman of Somerset Beekeepers’ Association, tel: 07971 275840;
Lynne Ingram, Co-ordinator of Somerset’s Asian Hornet Action Team, tel: 07846 165877
Notes to editors:
Somerset Beekeepers’ Association is a Registered Charity run by volunteers and works to advance the craft of apiculture within its membership and to promote general awareness and understanding of honeybees.
Asian hornets (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) are slightly smaller than native European hornets and look like large black wasps with 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:
Asian Hornet Watch app
Somerset’s honey crop is one of the worst for decades say members of Somerset Beekeepers’ Association (SBKA).
Some beekeepers have not harvested any honey at all, while others are substantially down on last year.
The British Beekeepers Association’s (BBKA) annual Honey Survey released today (October 23, 2017) reveals that beekeepers in the South West saw their honey crop drop to 18 lbs per hive.
SBKA Chairman Anne Pike said: “The glorious early Spring saw colonies build up fast but when the weather turned the honey stores were quickly consumed by the growing colonies of bees.”
David Morris from Taunton has been keeping bees for 61 years and describes this season as the worst-ever and averaged just five pounds of honey per hive.
“The cause is mainly weather-related,” he said. “We had a hot June followed by a wet July when what we want is the reverse to give us plenty of blackberry and clover nectar for a summer honey flow.”
Local honey is in short supply and prices are expected to rise to reflect this season’s shortage.
“Local honey is an extraordinary, natural product – it’s usually raw (untreated), contains local pollen and is additive-free,” added Anne. “Honey doesn’t just taste different from place to place, but from hive to hive and week to week! To use a wine term, local honey truly reflects the local terroir.”
There are two honey crops a year, one in Spring and the other at the end of the summer and one hive can produce 60lb (27 kg) in a good season. Bees fly about 55,000 miles, making more than a million visits to flowers, to make just one pound of honey.
Margaret Murdin, BBKA Chairman, concludes: “Everyone can play a part in helping honey bees and all the other insects they love such as butterflies and bumble bees by planting the right sort of flowers and shrubs. Check the label to see that anything you plant will be rich in nectar and pollen, as not all plants are equal in this respect. A crocus is so much better for bees than a daffodil, for example.
“Our survey shows that suburban gardens and urban roof tops produce some of the best honey crops, so how we garden really can make a difference.”
Somerset Beekeepers (SBKA) is inviting the public to explore its new website launched today.
The new website is packed with up-to-date information aimed at those who are interested in honeybees as well as beekeepers.
SBKA Chairman Anne Pike said: “Our beautiful and informative new website contains information ranging from what to do if you spot a swarm to news about the latest Asian hornet sightings.”
The site has been created by fellow beekeeper and IT security specialist Neil Cook from Yeovil to work on a PC, tablet and mobile.
“Making the site informative and useful, but also relatively simple to navigate and ‘clean’ rather than cluttered, was a challenge,” said Neil.
It took around 200 hours to build the site which is aimed at SBKA members, the public, press, and as a shop-window for apiculture.
He added: “I think what is quite revolutionary, at least as far as I’ve seen in beekeeping websites, is having a central calendar and website for the whole SBKA, but with the divisional aspects updated and maintained by each division.”
SBKA is a volunteer-run registered charity which works with more than 850 members and raises awareness of issues affecting honeybees more widely.
Anne Pike added: “We are the voice of Somerset’s beekeepers and honeybees and this wonderful new website enables us to do this better.
“Honeybees and other pollinators are having a tough time because of pests and diseases, loss of habitat and pesticides. One of our key roles is to help our members to keep healthy and strong colonies and to encourage the public to get behind pollinators.”