Asian Hornet update September 2020

The beginning of this month produced the first Asian Hornet to be found this year. It was spotted in Gosport by a member of the public in his conservatory, it was then identified by a local beekeeper and confirmed by the lab on Tuesday 8th September. The small, football sized nest was found by the NBU on Thursday and it was destroyed on Friday 11th. It took a small team of inspectors to track it down (they were using Suterra bait to monitor flight directions and visit frequencies). We can safely say that from start to finish, the successful outcome was pretty fast and a great example of how the system works. Well done NBU and all concerned!

This is also a sharp reminder for us all to stay vigilant and wherever we can, inform the public about this threat so that there are more eyes open.
Another example of the system working well was that on the 14th September. I received a call from the regional inspectorate to help to identify a possible AH sighting by a member of the APHA Vet team who thought she spotted an Asian hornet in the Heather Garden at Great Windsor Park. I immediately passed this on to the AHAT team lead of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead BKA and the following day the area was searched and traps were set in the garden and around also using Suterra bait. Traps were also set up in a nearby apiary.

The traps have been monitored now for two weeks and only European hornets and a few wasps have been caught or seen. So hopefully, another mistaken sighting.

So, to conclude, all well so far… although let’s not become complacent.
To illustrate our situation, I’d like to quote an old Arab saying – “Man makes many plans, but what actually happens is God’s will…and don’t forget to tie up your camel!”

Jonathan Brookhouse

Thanks to Jonathan for keeping us up to date.

Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of Weybridge Division of Surrey Beekeepers Association will be held at 7.30pm on Thursday 19th November 2020 by Zoom

This year’s AGM is necessarily different from previous years. A number of people have said they would prefer an evening meeting on a weekday, to keep their weekend free. As we are unlikely to be allowed to hold the meeting in a physical hall, we are following the example of other divisions, and using the electronic platform of Zoom. This has worked very well for other meetings, and is usually quicker! We will give details of how to set this up nearer the time. (Any member wishing to attend, but not having access to computer and email, should contact a member of the committee and we will try to arrange something. Contact details are at the foot of the newsletter and on the website.)

Clearly, our famous honey competition cannot take place. The usual delicious tea and cakes will also be sadly missed.

We look forward to seeing as many as possible of you there (on our screens). We may have a bumper turnout!

Jane Hunter (Secretary)

Weybridge Summer Market

Weybridge Town Business Group held it’s first post-lockdown Summer Market on Sunday, 16th August. The event was very well supported by the local community who grabbed the opportunity to come out and shop and enjoy the music provided by Brooklands Radio and local band, Shuffle.

The Mayor of Elmbridge, Mary Sheldon, opened the event and 18 stallholders came to sell everything from cakes and doggie accessories to local English wines and South African food.

It was lovely to see so many local enterprises including Weybridge Beekeepers, Sew Weybridge, Weybridge Pottery and Stoked Wood fire Pizza.

WTBG has donated £50 each to two local charities, Weybridge Beekeepers & Sew Weybridge.

Gill Eastwood August 2020

Asian Hornet – update

At the time of writing (16th July), there have been no sightings of Asian hornet in Britain this year. If there are any Asian hornet nests in our area, it is in August – October when they will be most evident. The nests will be coming to peak strength and worker hornets will be searching for food around bee hives. When you are near your hives, spend some time looking for the hornets, which are 25-30mm long and mostly black with an orange band near the rear end of the abdomen. They are likely to be flying around the front of the hive and snatching worker bees as they emerge or return to their hive. If you see an Asian hornet, try and get a photograph or capture a specimen so the identification can be confirmed. If in doubt, contact Andrew Halstead (01483 489581; ahalstead44@btinternet.com).

If you are certain it is an Asian hornet, contact https://www.brc.ac.uk/risc/alert.php?species=asian_hornet or use the Asian Hornet Watch app on smart phones.

Last year the Weybridge division put up ”Not wanted” posters on public noticeboards and in supermarkets, garden centres, etc. A digital copy is attached; paper copies (A4 and A5 size) are available from Jessica Kazimierczak (jessicakay2009@hotmail.co.uk). If you can help spread the digital poster within the Weybridge division area (not nationally!) or you can put paper posters on noticeboards, please do so. The aim is to alert the non-beekeeping public to the Asian hornet problem and provide local contacts who can sift out false reports. The government agencies that deal with Asian hornet receive thousands of reports each summer, most of which are for insects that are not the target species.

BBKA has arranged insurance cover for up to 15 named persons in our division who are part of our Asian Hornet Action Team. This provides third party public liability cover in the event of a claim being made while AHAT persons are investigating a report of an Asian hornet sighting. We have not yet filled our quota of 15 persons, so if anyone wants to join the Weybridge AHAT team, please contact me for further details. A simple online test has to be taken before you can be registered with BBKA for the insurance cover.

Andrew Halstead

Do take Andrew’s appeal very seriously. We must be grateful to have gone through another season so far without the hornet. This is almost certainly the fruit of much work in making them known, finding and destroying their nests successfully in the last year or two.

Marion Cooper August 2020

Warning of possible colony starvation

The good spring honey flow that many of us had was followed by a poor or non-existent summer flow, so starvation losses could occur even in late summer or in autumn this year, before we even think of winter. Indeed it could well be advisable to check you colonies for stores now. Honey shortage could be serious at this stage because there is little or no nectar being collected and several beekeepers have noted an unusually large amount of sealed brood still present in the colonies; when it hatches, all of the new bees are going to need to feed, thus depleting early what would normally be their winter stores. If you took a significant amount of honey off your colonies earlier this year, do take special care when preparing your bees for winter. You won’t want to add to the serious (and I suspect mainly unnecessary) colony loss figures for previous years, as reported by The National Bee Unit (BeeCraft, August p. 27).

Geoff Cooper August 2020

Will there be a Summer Honey Flow this year or will it be only a Honey Trickle?

At the end of last month you may recall that I was confident that the summer flow would be starting very soon. After all, there had been an excellent spring with more honey coming in than in most years, my scale hive colony was queenright and strong, it had plenty of bees and the hive weight had increased by more than 50lb between 14th April and 8th June.

Since then the flow into the hive has been very poor apart from a few
unsubstainable short blips which promised for a day or two the start of a summer honey flow. The lime trees have been flowering and currently there are sweet chestnut trees in our road in full blossom. Why aren’t the bees finding them? Some of them have already passed their best with the tassles lying on the ground.

I am now wondering if the bees are saying, “I told you so!” as I had dared to question their foreknowledge in the last issue.

Since writing this I have received David Brassington’s latest figures please click here to view, which you will see seem to make nonsense of the above, but I still have to wonder what is going on with my bees, so have left my comments unchanged.

Geoff Cooper

“National Honey Show 2020

Due to concerns about holding such a large show under the cloud of Covid 19, the Committee have reluctantly decided that this year’s National Honey Show will now be a virtual event to which everyone is invited both in the UK and worldwide.

Whilst we will greatly miss seeing you all in person, as part of the National Honey Show community we hope you will enjoy our series of virtual workshops and lectures, with the opportunity to ask questions afterwards in real time.

If you’ve never physically attended the show before, this will offer a taster for what will be on offer in the future in addition to our usual display of honey, hive products and craft entries, next year and at subsequent shows.

The show runs across three days. For this year, Thursday 22nd, Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th October 2020. We are planning pre-recorded demonstration workshops and lectures with live questions and answers during the day and on-line social events in the evenings.

More timetable and programme details will be available shortly. Please visit our website over the next few weeks for the latest information.”

Drones and Other Matters

I am writing this on Friday 26th June, the fourth very hot day in the current heat wave. It is undoubtedly too hot for beekeeping, all we have been doing is putting in clearer boards, extracting honey and returning the “wet” boxes for the bees to fill again. Obviously my earlier pessimism regarding lack of a “main flow” has been proven to be totally incorrect, the bees have just been refilling the boxes as soon as they are returned.

However, the Limes are now finishing so we only have the Sweet Chestnut, Heather and Himalayan Balsam to come, providing the environmentalists have not destroyed the latter.

A quick update on the two swarms we have taken this year. The “Rowtown” swarm is now located in one of our apiaries, occupying three deep boxes, good brood pattern and very docile, we look forward to extracting a small surplus from them during August. The large swarm, still in our garden, has already produced over 100lbs of extracted honey and are busy refilling the returned “wet” boxes.

Unfortunately, however, our queen rearing programme has been and is a complete disaster this year. We rely on the swarming instinct to produce the best queen cells for placing in the mating nucs, and this year swarming in our colonies just has not happened. Some colonies have tried to supersede, only a couple of queen cells, we have tried artificial swarming on these, destroying them and replacing the frame with eggs and young larvae from the colony we wanted to reproduce from. All they did was to produce another couple of queen cells and frequently one of these failed. Very frustrating! It looks like most of our colonies will be going into winter with either a 2019 or a 2020 supersedure queen.

Although, we and many other beekeepers have noticed a huge proliferation of drones in the colonies this year there has not been a similar significant increase in virgin queens. Many of us have noticed that the current queens do not last for more than one season, in the past a queen bee could remain viable for at least three years. In my opinion, probably as a result of varroa, drone virility is lacking. My theory is that we are possibly witnessing an evolutionary trend whereby the bees are trying to correct this phenomenon by producing more drones thus increasing drone numbers to facilitate better mating for the virgin queens.

Rob Chisholm (June 2020)

Update on 2020 Swarming Season

Good News – Everyone on my list of members wanting swarms has now received one. If there is any member who thinks they asked for one but has not received one please let me know. Meanwhile several members have asked for a second swarm and I have now started to supply them.

The ‘Hoover’ has been put to good use and has been requested and used by three members now. Unfortunately by the time we arrived for the second, the swarm was just flying off but I was able to demonstrate the Hoover’s use. However, we did receive a donation to the Club house fund for our troubles, which brings the donations from swarms to just over £600 this year.

The photo on the left shows me collecting a swarm about 30 feet off the ground. It does help to have a second person to use the second pole to push obstructing branches aside (see picture on right).

There are one or two modifications that I want to make to the Hoover to make it easier to use.

I had an interesting incident after collecting a swarm from a pine tree in Burwood Park. The next swarm was spread over a gravel drive but I could not get the bees up so gave up on the Hoover and reverted to the traditional skep (see right). On the next occasion a member wanted the Hoover for a high swarm. After using it the swarm was removed from the tree but no bees were in the box. Shaking the tubes revealed them all within. At that point we suspected a blockage so used a second smaller tube to push through to find what was causing it. Out popped a small pine cone, perfectly shaped to wedge in the tube, and suddenly all was working again.

Michael Main

Hive weights from David Brassington

Here is my latest hive weights chart. As usual I include last year for comparison. Only two active colonies at the moment but one is rocketing up (both in honey weight and height). It is about a month ahead of our monster hive from last year. We might need a cherry picker this time! The only problem is that the bees are very aggressive so I don’t want to disturb them except to add supers (and they even get angry about that). Our other hive swarmed and since then is just marking time. With luck it will start to gain weight soon. It is quite active. The swarm was very high in a tree but we thought we had got all the kit to collect it from the ground (cardboard box attached to telescopic lopper and rope round the branch – has worked well in the past). Unfortunately the swarm took off just as we were ready – only an hour after it settled.

Hive weights from Geoff Cooper in Hersham

You will see that, apart from one week, the flow last month was virtually down to zero.
The cumulative change is ongoing from last month’s figures.
Date Weight Change (lb) Cumulative Change (lb)
May 1st -1.4 38.1
May 7th +14.6 52.7
May 17th -4.8 47.9
May 24th -2.9 45.0
May 31st +4.1 49.1