Hitchin Bee Centre - the debate part 8

By Oonagh M. Gabriel

I have been asked to comment on the ongoing debate on the Hitchin Bee Centre. Having read the dialog so far and feel I am treading on eggshells.

I can only base my comments on the articles that everyone else has seen and I have not seen the site.

Robin’s response, to Frank’s comments, says that North Herts committee was told the same day as Hitchin Council contacted him. Those involved should note that it was Hitchin that contacted Robin and not the other way around. I have not seen anything saying why Hitchin contacted Robin rather than North Herts BKA.

Derek Driver says ‘why not centrally in Hertford’. Why not, but it was Hitchin that offered the land not Hertford and Hitchin is not exactly Lands End. In essence the project appears to be a good idea but it will not run itself. If Robin, through lack of support, is left holding the proverbial baby then there should be no great surprise that he favours the Dartington hive. I wonder if William Broughton Carr suffered the same criticism as Robin is enduring now. If I had found myself in the same position as Robin I would have favoured the Jumbo Langstroth. Then there would have been those who would have said we must have Nationals. (Terrible hives: time we moved into the 21st century!).

The concept of the long, deep hive is not new. I have a few reservations on its design but, if you do not intend moving your hives about and follow the management techniques as recommended it is a very good hive.

Regarding the siting near allotments, I have visited an apiary south of the river that is actually on some allotments and I was given to understand that there have never been any problems. Maybe they have just been lucky. I admit to some concerns in these litigatious days but, I repeat, I have not seen the site. Perhaps eight hives is overkill but, again, I have not seen the site.

If it appears that Robin is pushing ‘his hive’ who can blame him? There would be no reason why other hives could not be on display but all working hives would have to be the same design. We all know the problems that mixing the different sizes and shapes can cause. If Robin is left doing all the management he is going to want his favourite hive, as I would want Jumbos.

I know nothing of fund raising but it appears that Robin was not asking for actual money just the support of a parent organization in order to apply for grants.

It is a great pity that a good initiative is in danger of floundering through what appears to ‘an outsider’ to be a clash of personalities.

I was at Stoneleigh at the weekend, on Exam Board business. Here is a photo of the BBKA apiary. Oh look, there’s a Dartington!

Hitchin Bee Centre - the debate part 7

Robin's comments on Peter Folge's letter (see debate part 5)

Peter touches a cord when suggesting Herts Exec moves beyond administration into improving bee keeping in Herts. And his target of raising better queens - breeding the Herts Bee - is spot on.

Using only queens that produce large, quiet non-swarming colonies does more to make bee keeping satisfying than any other decision a bee keeper can take.

I would happily allocate space on my 2 acre site for a mating apiary that could be flooded with top quality drones and would take the trouble to suppress drone rearing in any of my own hives with less than perfect queens. No doubt there will be negative comment about spreading diseases. Peter Heath would need to be involved.

Hitchin Bee Centre news by Robin Dartington

Holidays have interrupted work on completing the hives enclosure with the equipment shed. Building a shed from scratch is much more fun than buying one - but takes longer!

Application for grant from Landfill Tax will be made on 28 September to cover Phase 2: Community Bee Garden including Exhibition Room. The council, as landowner, will sign the application, adding gravitas and saving VAT.

The summer will therefore be occupied with research, design and costing, starting with visits to similar local sites. North Herts has an observation hive at Standalone Farm, Cambs. on display in a listed stables. Bedfordshire a display in Stockwell Park, Luton. South Bucks
has hives at the Rural Life Museum and at the Community Orchard in Milton Keynes. There is a new observation hive at the Science Museum, Kensington, shaped like a tree.

If anyone wants to join in the research or to suggest other places of interest, please contact robin.dartington (at) btinternet.com or phone ☏.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The meeting at Richard Ludwell’s Apiary on Sunday 17th June was very well attended. Richard showed us two of his colonies in Jumbo Langstroth hives and two in normal Langstroth hives, the large frames make inspections quicker and created much interest. Pat had prepared some very nice Chocolate ‘Muffins’ and we all went home well satisfied. Many thanks to both Richard and Pat for a super afternoon.

After the promising start to the season in April, May turned out to be a DAMP SQUIB, and June to date hasn’t been much better. I swear the supers on my hives are getting lighter by the day not heavier.

Swarming has been a big problem for some this year and some new Queens have started to lay before getting mated because they couldn’t get out.

I took Garry one of our beginners out to look at a swarm I had been asked to deal with. When we arrived we were both a bit ‘Gobsmacked’ at it’s massive size. It was one of those biggys you only get on very rare occasions, hanging some 15ft. up in a Laburnum tree overhanging the pavement. When we went back in the evening to collect it I wasn’t sure if it would all go into my Smith brood box in which I had fixed a couple of frames of foundation (to stop them moving about in transit). It turned out to be a rope round he supporting branch and a big shake job. Now the books tell us how delicate Queens are, and that they should only be handled with the utmost care. The way that swarm hit the pavement and scattered all over the place was a bit scarey. We put the hive down beside the biggest clump of bees not having a clue as to where the Queen might be, or if she had survived the crash, and were thankful when they all began marching in like little toy soldiers, that is apart from a stubborn lot the size of a football that preferred to stay up the tree. We left the hive there to pick up the stragglers and when we arrived back the next evening the bees were all in the box and doing just fine. Some careless beekeeper has lost a very nice lot of bees and I’m glad. If all goes well then Garry is into beekeeping big time, and has a good yarn to tell! I suspect the bees will benefit from a dose of Thymol a couple of days before the swarms first brood is capped.

Please don”t forget the Broxbourne Council Open Day at Bishop’s College on Saturday 7th. July. If you have any hive produce for sale then contact Derek Driver on ☏. Produce must have have labels meeting the current regulations.

The next summer meeting will be at one of Peter Dalby’s Apiaries on Sunday 15th July (see enclosed map and details).

There is no Newsletter in August so I am reminding you now of our last summer meeting at the Association Apiary on Sunday 9th September.

SE Herts will be providing a Observation Hive for the HBKA ‘Bee World’ event at Capel Manor on 22nd September, a little help from members would be appreciated.

Remember to keep Saturday 13th October free for the Harvest Supper at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall. The evening is completely FREE to members and their partners, and is a great opportunity to swap ideas and experiences.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Monday 3rd September at Heaton Court.

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

Thank you to all the members who attended the Good Bee Husbandry day. Members attended from all Divisions except Barnet and SE Herts or did you not sign in? There were 48 beekeepers including some from Bedfordshire BKA.

We all learnt something and were lucky to have real specimens of EFB and AFB to look at and smell! Andy and Peter were impressed by the turn out, but still felt beekeepers did not realize the ever increasing responsibility DEFRA are passing on to beekeepers. I see Barnet BKA are holding their own Bee Disease workshop on 21st July.

St. Albans members will be pleased to hear that Andy was impressed with our Apiary, set-up and standard of equipment. Keep going. We do need a satellite Apiary, any suggestions of possible sites please let me know.

Our next meeting is 3pm on Saturday 7th July at the Apiary and the subject will be 'Preparing for Winter'. The Beginner Beekeepers will need to purchase white sugar after this meeting. All will be explained !

Welwyn news by Peter Mathews

Many thanks to everyone for helping to make our Apiary Day a big success. We were more, or less, on schedule excepting the last few visits. Huge thanks to everyone being at the right place on time. And, special thanks to Fizzi, Christine and The Folges for providing refreshment stops.

We had 14 people involved including 5 new or prospective members. I lost count of the number of hives. Varroa levels were very low, which is good. But, so were the number of strong colonies, largely because of varroa related winter losses through incorrect treatment last autumn. We will all do better this year, maybe.

The award for Best Hive again goes to Peter Hills......this was very strong, with lots of honey and the quietest, best behaved bees seen during the day. Peter is amongst a minority of small beekeepers to invest in a quality queen. The value of doing this was well demonstrated. Perhaps we should learn?

The most interesting colony was mine. This had two queens. The old light queen was in the process of supercedure as she was crippled and unable to lay. On the same frame we saw the new dark queen with recent brood and eggs following a gap of 2-3 barren weeks.

Diary Dates
Saturday 7th July - Apiary Meeting at Raffin Green at 10.30am ; Welwyn stand at 'Ayots Horticultural Show', Ayot Green, 2 - 5 pm. We need helpers for our stand during the afternoon.

West Herts news by Brian Norman

The apiary now has a few new members colonies and all are at differing stages of development and a recent inspection gave the new members present an opportunity to study the progressive stages of development in the new colonies. A colony from the previous year has expanded to give a small surplus of honey with a few Queen cells in the half brood chamber. A couple of frames with Queen cells were taken to make another nuc with the objective of making another young colony.

The previous meeting went well with the clearing out of old equipment and a few pieces were bought by members. There are still a few hive pieces left and if members are handy with woodwork skills they can be modified to suit a need.

North Herts news by John Hill

Unfortunately, this month’s contribution has had to be written well before the end of June because of an impending holiday, so I hope that readers will understand. In fact I can only report on the one meeting held at Robin Dartington’s Apiary at Letchworth. About five NH members turned up plus ‘an interested prospective’ member, but Robin had a number of “admirers/disciples” with him and it all made for an interesting afternoon. We examined about six or so hives, all with varying aspects of bee husbandry evident. One queen met her demise due to an unfortunate “slip” with a super box., but we did manage to mark about three or four queens with Robin’s special “Humbrol” paint, and we had to wait quite a while for it to dry. The hives were Robin’s ‘specials’ and there were many variants of occupancy, ranging from colonies on many/ few frames, and nucleus boxes perched on one another. Thanks to Robin for a great tea served ‘al fresco’ by his many ‘helpers’. We all went home replete, and the weather was extremely kind too.

As far as the bees at Boxwood are concerned ,we’ve had all sorts of problems, …artificial swarms that didn’t take, absconding bees, no queens, (even when frames of eggs and brood were introduced from alternative sources). Plenty of swarms to collect, …however, and lots of activity, BUT STILL VERY LITTLE CROP!! At mid June there seems to be some encouraging signs, but I think the bees have missed the ‘nectar boat’ and we shall have to treat very soon. Not much Varroa to be seen at this time. Still, I expect all will change in the coming month!!

The Hitchin Bee Centre seems to have attracted a lot of “blog” attention, to say the least! I don’t intend getting embroiled in the discussion, but I would say that many facts have been distorted, and certain ‘faits accomplis’ were very evident in the printed matter that has appeared during the past month… There’s a saying… “Don’t confuse me with facts once I have started the job” …(‘Nuf said!!).

The meeting in July will be on the 14th, at Nortonbury apiary, where about six members have their hives. Please note the time …14.30 hrs. It is hoped that the Bee Inspector, Peter Heath, will put in an appearance, and lead the proceedings. At this point in time I do not yet have the date for Andy Johnston’s meeting in mid August… (There could be some frantic ‘phone calls?…).

The answer to last month’s puzzle regarding the clock, and how many times the minute hand passes the hour hand between noon and midnight, was surprisingly,… Ten times. "Go on check it!"

Here’s another for your consideration:- “A clock takes five seconds when striking 6. How long will it take when striking twelve?”.

So, finally:
The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And the bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a fallen star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar,

And they that rule for England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.
G. K. Chesterson. 1874-1936.

Honey for Sale in Hertfordshire

Many people ask me where locally produced honey can be purchased. They often ask at this time of year because they believe that local honey can help to alleviate hay fever.

So a map has been created for Hertfordshire beekeepers to indicate where their honey can be purchased. The map can be found by clicking here. There is a permanent link to the map from the Links section (lower down on the right of this page).

If you want your honey outlet to be added to the map, please send me the address of where it can be obtained. The intention of the map is to show where local honey can be purchased so please only send me addresses that are within a few miles of your apiary.
Paul Cooper

Hitchin Bee Centre - the debate part 6

Robin replies to Frank Everest (see debate part 4)
Frank forgets:
  1. The Council called me at 11am on 14 February and I passed on the offer to a meeting of NHBKA the same evening. Call me ‘Lighting’ but the project was not a ‘fait accompli’ after eight hours. The offer however was derided instantly by the Treasurer: ‘Ridiculous to put bees on allotments; you will not get any money from me’. The outright rejection was based seemingly only on prejudice (allotments are gardens for the common man) – the site had not been visited and there was no discussion. Normally, an association would jump at such an offer and set up a branch apiary run by an Apiary Manager who would be a member of the Committee.
  2. One week later, I sent the Committee a ‘Preliminary Outline Proposal’ to illustrate how the site could be developed through a working group – nothing had then been agreed with the Council. Frank was the only member to visit the site and provide useful comment. The Committee’s decision – ‘it would have to be a separate organization, financed apart’ was clearly reported in April Herts Bees. It is true that I went along with the decision – looking around the room it was obvious that the Committee lacked the will to make an effort. Rather than see the site turned down, I was left taking the tenancy myself and getting the first grant to reclaim the former rubbish dump.
Frank seems to have no idea how projects are financed. A project has to be locally supported and be sustainable through a self-perpetuating community group if it is to be eligible for public sector or charitable grants. There is no possibility of this being “Robin’s” project – I am just the project champion, in default of North Herts which seems only capable of complaining after the bus has left.

The allegation that allotments are not safe for bees is not worth discussing. BBKA has no objection - nor has the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. It is quite normal to find hives on allotments, with no trouble. However, beekeepers who do not keep bees quietly had probably better stick to using the large private gardens they are fortunate to enjoy.

The need to establish a new organization was unexpected as the Bee Centre aims to do nothing that other branch apiaries already do – only to do it all in the most up-to-date way. Dartington hives are an example – the long box is the result of butting two deep Nationals together and so is only a modern version of the National hive that is easier to manage. The honeyboxes are only half-length National supers whose reduced weight respects the softer backs of today’s beginner beekeepers. People have come from Cornwall and Wales to try the hive in my apiary – pity that shorter trips within Herts are less common.

Frank regrets there will be a new beekeeping organization offering choice to beginners. It was the Committee’s own decision.

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They are particularly interested if you use honey related products yourself. Beekeepers who make candles, creams or similar using honey or who like cooking with honey are also welcome.

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