Carribean Beekeeping by Peter Dalby

At the last Apimondia conference held last year in Dublin Barbara and I met up with an old friend from Tobago, Gladstone Solomon. Some of you will have met him at the National Honey Show or when he has stayed with us in Cheshunt. Gladstone has been trying to persuade us to visit the Caribbean for a long time and this time he was successful with the added incentive of attending the fourth Caribbean Beekeeping Conference in November Some of you may also remember 3 beekeepers from the Caribbean who attended the South East Herts BKA meeting in November 2000 and shared a little of their beekeeping with us. They were visiting England to attend the National Honey Show, where other Herts members may remember meeting them. Ramesh Jadoo and Anthony David are both with the Trinidad Ministry of Agriculture and Francis Forbes is now the vice president of the Tobago Beekeepers Association. Ramesh. Anthony and Gladstone were involved with the organisation of the conference. Originally I booked into a hotel but Ramesh invited me to stay with his family and so the hotel booking was cancelled and I spent a week outside the conference staying up in the jungle, the only white person in the community. The whole community made me feel at home with jokes such as “Why does a group of black men take a white man swimming?" Answer "The sharks see the white man first."

The Jungle comes to within a few feet of the houses in the community and even the telephone wires have Bromeliad plants growing on them and flowering, So many plants were growing wild that we regard in England as delicate houseplants, some of them to enormous size. Philodendron species 50 or more feet high growing up trees, Crotons growing as hedges. The highlight of the week however had nothing to do with bees but another small creature. Ramesh took me to visit his watermelon plantation on a hillside in the jungle one night. In the inky darkness there were 10s or even 100s of thousands of fireflies twinkling away all over the hillside like random Christmas fairy lights. Ramesh runs around a hundred hives of his own (all Africanised bees) but I never got an opportunity to look at them in daylight. Those of you that are interested may like to know that despite their reputation the stings felt no different to those that our own bees can inflict.

The week long conference was attended by beekeepers from all over the Caribbean, and a few from further a field, the USA, UK, S America, Holland and Tanzania. There were sessions on adding value to bee products, international trade, stingless bees, bee diseases, beekeeping on different islands and more.

The Friday of the conference was given over to technical visits and I opted to look at stingless bees Mellipona trinitatis. Our host for the day (Harry Ramsamooj) runs around 50 colonies and a larger no of colonies of honeybees. These are probably only half the size of our honeybees and have much smaller colonies. They do not produce large quantities of honey and harvesting is done using a 50mil syringe to suck the honey from the honey “pots”. There is growing interest in possible therapeutic uses of this honey. The honey was rather watery, with a mildly bitter taste and from what I could gather fetches a good price. Harry generously supplied me with a quantity to forward to University College Cardiff for their research.

On the Saturday a number of people flew over to Tobago for a weekends beekeeping and sightseeing with Gladstone before departing homewards. I stayed on with Francis and his family on the island. Most of the second week was spent on Tobago staying with Francis Forbes and his family. Francis and Shirley made sure I saw a lot of the island in my few days with them. The coral reefs seen through a glass bottomed boat are spectacular, and for a little culture "Sunday School" which I was surprised to discover was an evening of steel band music on the waterfront.

The honeybees here are European and easily to handle, at least the bees in the apiaries I visited were. I was surprised at how weak many of colonies were but the beekeepers assured me that this was normal and they were capable of producing crop in February. In late November (end of the rainy season) all the apiaries were being fed, mostly the feeders were trays holding several gallons of syrup set out in the open and when I asked about robbing I was assured that this was rarely a problem. I suspect that with the discovery of foul brood on the island which is easily spread by communal feeding this may change. On the Wednesday Wellete Toby-McMillan showed me around some of the government agricultural stations and here was the only example of in hive feeding that I saw. The beekeepers were feeding a light brown semi-refined sugar and water mix which was cheaper than white sugar, but the bees can fly all year round so this does not cause any problems.

All the apiaries on the island had lizards running around and in one apiary a number of the hives had large cockroaches inside on the walls but away from the area occupied by the bees. Apiaries of 50 or more hives seem to be normal and whilst most of the honey bees are kept in Langstroth hives I saw a number of Kenyan Top Bar hives in use.

Since his visit to England Francis has become well known among the beekeeping fraternity on the island for his mead making. I would like to thank all the beekeepers on the islands who shared their homes, their bees, and their islands with me.

Bees for Development are running a safari to Trinidad and Tobago from the 29th January to 8th February 2007. Details can be found in the newsletter.

Wanted - Honey Queens

I would like to take the opportunity of using this blog to appeal for the participants to join in the hunt for the next British Honey Queen.

Have a think. Is there anyone in your club who might make a good ambassador for beekeeping? Some one who could communicate well with the press and public? The person may not already be a beekeeper or even a member of your club.

Could this be a great way to recruit new members who might have an interest in becoming honey queen? Is there an event in your beekeeping club year that would benefit from a publicity boost? Could this be used to stage the selection process for your club honey queen?

At the county level, have any other clubs found honey queens? Could a County Honey Queen competition be the thing your county honey show needs to increase member and public attendance?

My route to becoming British Honey Queen was relatively painless but now we have a brilliant opportunity to generate much press and public interest in beekeeping. Please start the hunt for your club honey queens. Time is running out. Now Apimondia in Australia is having a Honey Queen Competition, we need to find the next British Honey Queen.

Ceri Cryer - World Honey Queen

West Herts news by Andy Clavey

This seasons Apiary meetings have been well attended and we have welcomed 2 new members Val and Rita, both have received swarms of bees and are now bonafide Beekeepers.

The association apiary has 2 strong hives going into winter, these produced a surplus of 35lbs of honey that has now been sold or donated to Croxley House, many thanks to Rita for providing the venue for the extracting.

One of the association sheds is in disrepair and we have permission from Croxley House to replace it, we will need to get a working party together to dismantle the old shed and assemble the new one; please let me know if you are willing to help.

This year we bid a sad farewell to our president Dr Harry Riches who has is standing down as he has now moved to Devon. Dr Riches has been a member of WHBKA for nearly 40 years and has served as chairman & president. His organization and hard work have been instrumental to the past success of the association, not to mention his work with the BBKA and as author of numerous beekeeping books. We wish him the best of luck in his new home.

More picture of Bee World

Bee World by Richard Peterson

Capel Manor was again host for Hertfordshire Beekeepers annual showcase of beekeeping and the event, held on Saturday, September 23, was blessed with lovely warm autumn weather that drew in a fair number of visitors to the Centre.

The major exhibitors were St Albans with their display on forage, pollen and pollination, South East Herts with their observation hive and candle rolling and Bishops Stortford Beekeepers with the ever-popular demonstration of extracting honey from the supers. These were supported by Welwyn Beekeepers with honey sales, Brian Fairey with a display of fruits and flowers frequented by bees and Robin Dartington with a stand dedicated to his Long Hive beekeeping system that also gave visitors a glimpse of what is contained within the hive.

‘Bee World’ again attracted a steady flow of visitors as it was situated in a room adjacent to the foyer and had to be passed by people as they entered the building on their way to the ‘London Farm and Garden Show’s City Harvest Festival being held at the Centre that day. It was a pity that ‘Bee World’ was not listed amongst the advertised events on the billboards as this might have increased the number of visitors to our promotion, as this is probably the major beekeeping event held in Hertfordshire and one of the best events for recruitment.

Take up the challenge
We understand that the display of beekeeping has been invited to return next year so we are looking for some new blood and different ideas to give the promotion a fresh appeal. We have used the same or similar displays for the last two shows so it is time for a change. Anne Wingate who has organised the events in the past will be unavailable next year owing to some family commitments so we all have been given plenty of notice for somebody to throw their hat into the ring and make next year’s show a bigger and better event in the interest of...

Bishops Stortford news by Alan Lewis

There is nothing of note for the news letter this month except to advise our members that the Bee Craft are asking for the subscription by the 30th of November the cost being £30.00. Also the beekeepers subcription for the coming year is £16.00 plus £2.00 for four or five colonies and £5.00 for those who do not keep bees, payable to our treasurer (details in newsletter).

Varroa Update

I make no apologies for banging on about Varroa treatments, it is the most important problem we have at the moment now that Synthetic Pyrethroid Resistant Varroa Mites are about. I know of some beekeepers who are not giving the problem the attention it deserves and their bees will take the rap.

The colonies of one of SE Herts members I reported on in last months Newsletter which were still heavily infested with Varroa after applying Apiguard as recommended after the supers were taken off, phoned me a few days ago. Both colonies are now working very well taking in big lumps of pollen, and the mite drops are are down to 3 to 4 mites per week after dropping some 2000 mites since early September.

A few days ago I had a beekeeper ring me asking if he could purchase a nuc from me. He had been referred to me by our County Secretary (thanks Helen), he was not a member of any association. He had purchased nucs from Thornes, collected swarms, and continued to lose them winter after winter. I will not supply bees to anyone who is not a member of their county association. This IDIOT had no idea why his bees had died and knew little or nothing about Varroa control. These are the kind of people who put bees into brood disease contaminated equipment, give their neighbouring beekeepers hell, and should not be encouraged.

For those who are, or are thinking about using FORMIC ACID treatments I would suggest paying a visit to The guy seems to have done a lot of research into the application and monitoring. He also keeps some 2000 hives in Kelowna BC Canada. I am not on the internet so I don't know what you will find.

I have had several people ring me about making Thymol Grease Patties. They have used a soft fat and their mixture has turned out all runny with a layer of liquid fat on the surface! 'PURA' is a 100% pure vegetable oil. It is supplied as a solid block wrapped in greaseproof paper with no additives, ie no water, emulsifiers, preservatives, or colourings. It is primarily sold as a deep frying oil. It becomes a liquid when warm to the touch (approx 45°C). It is sold in Sainsbury's at around 57p for 500 grams. I am told that when properly mixed grease patties should have the texture and appearance of mashed potatoes.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The Harvest Supper was a great success. Thanks go to all the ladies who bought and provided the food. The Skillman Shield was awarded to Daphne Rooke for her jar of honey.

The association apiary colonies have now been fed and treated with Thymol. I was a bit concerned as the mite drops proved to be much higher than I expected (60 per day), since at the September apiary meeting the bees looked quite good, but they have now come down to an acceptable level. The exceptionally warm weather during October has meant that the bees have continued to maintain large amounts of brood. Although this is good as regards having lots of young bees to carry the colonies through winter it does mean that any Varroa mites surviving the Autumn treatment have multiplied also.

The winter meeting at 8.00pm. on Thursday 16th November at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall will be about 'Keeping Hive Records'.

Anyone dithering about whether or not to enrol on the Beekeeping Course should make up their minds quickly. The numbers will be limited to not more than TWENTY and space is fast running out.

Welwyn news by Peter Mathews

Nothing special for Welwyn members this month. But, I can't believe only 4 members have e-mail …or, maybe they just don't read the newsletter! If you haven't already done so, please e-mail me so that I can put you on my Welwyn contact list.
Thanks, Peter

How do bees navigate?

Professor Mandyam V. Srinivasan of the Visual Sciences Group at the Australian National University in Canberra should know. He has just won the Australian Prime Minister's science prize for his work and receives a gold medal and a cheque for A$300,000. His research interests are:
Understanding the principles of visual processing in small animals, such as insects, that possess relatively simple nervous systems but nevertheless display a rich behavioural repertoire. My research seeks to elucidate principles of flight control and navigation, and to explore the limits of the "cognitive" capacities of small brains.
He applies this work to help produce small pilotless aircraft controlled by computers with the same power as a bee's brain.

North Herts news by John Hill

Our first meeting of the Autumn was very well attended by sixteen members who turned out to listen, and contribute, to a general discussion regarding the '06 season. The chair, was taken as usual by FE, who, incidentally had a terrible cold. He began by stating that the year had been very 'strange', some members seemingly had had a productive season, whilst others had virtually negligible honey (including myself). One member with 'active' bees, found that they were flying as far as seven miles, each way, to a borage crop near Walkern. Quite a number of members had lost bees, up to 30%, (including myself). Some had, what FE called 'non-active' queens, i.e. the hive was thriving with plenty of stores, but nothing going into the supers.

When it came to Varroa Control, there had been "very small drops of mites" for those using Apiguard, and some members were treating again as late as early October with alternatives. Apistan users were getting 'largish drops', and those using the dreaded "F" word solution, as 'a disinfectant', seemed to be carrying on as usual with plenty of crop from strong colonies.

So we proved in discussion that indeed,... it had been a 'Very Strange Year'. Perhaps '07 will bring normality? Some members found that bees were ignoring rape crop in favour of tree and flower nectar. Some 'lazy' bees were still flying on sunny days in mid-October.

Part of the evening was given to a 'Chat' by DR, who described a neat way of combining two hives in a 'stress less' manner, by using a special floor above the first hive with an 'openable panel within' which, can be at the beekeeper's discretion when to open it, and thus allow combination to take place. He also described in some detail the three types of queen cell, and distinguishing differences, viz....the 'emergency' cell, the 'supersedure' cell, and the 'swarming' cell, the former being produced usually in the centre of the frame, with the other two at the bottom. The differences explained for the two latter were associated with the 'roughness' of the outer structure

Altogether, a fine evening! Most members contributed too, which was much appreciated. What's more we had a prospective member turn up....always welcome!

Also, the refreshments were prepared (and cooked by Rosemary F.). Many thanks!! Who else gets Chelsea Buns AND Jam Sponge??

So what's on next month? Well, by popular request, FE, our revered Chairman, will present a slide show... the sort of production that he has done for many W. Institutes in our area, but a bit more technical? So please reserve the date: November 14th, (second Tuesday), usual venue @ the Friends' Meeting House, Sollershott East, Letchworth, starting at 7:30pm. You will not be disappointed!

And now I thought I would finish with a few relevant Proverbs I have gleaned from a "Handbook of Proverbs" dated 1888, that I bought from a second-hand book shop many years ago for three shillings and nine pence (old money)!
Honey is sweet, but the bee stings
Honey in the mouth, saves the purse
Honey is too good for a bear
Sweet-heart and honey bird keeps no house
He that would an old wife wed, must eat an apple before he goes to bed.
(the explanation being given in the book is "which by reason of it's flatulency is apt to excite desire."). !!!???

Just starting.....

Here is an interesting account (with pictures) by a complete beginner.

Honey helps wounds heal

When our dog got bitten (by another dog) the wound was quite deep and clearly painful. As the vets was not open for a few days we decided to treat it ourselves and turned not to the medicine cabinet but to the larder. We applied some honey and the wound stayed clean until we could take her to the vets where the wound was stapled. A day later she removed the staples herself so we continued applying honey. A few weeks later and the wound has repaired itself without any problems.

For further information about the healing effects of honey (and many other interesting articles) see the September edition of the Apis-UK newsletter.

75th National Honey Show, 19-21 October 2006

RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London, NW9 5LL

For details click here.

There is still time to get your entries in.