Down Your Way - News from the Regional Bee Inspector

by Andy Wattam

Well, all that can be said is “What a season”. Looking back to the opening words of my Spring Newsletter “With the good weather in the early part of March – Seasonal Bee Inspectors were able to make a good start”, everything looked so promising, but sadly went downhill afterwards.

Most beekeepers in East Anglia are reporting a bad year from the perspective of Honey Production (although not all), and this is reflected in the comments received by colleagues in other regions. It also seems to have been a very testing year for queen mating, superscedure and late swarming leaving small unviable colonies.

Please don’t think that as Bee Inspectors we are immune to the trials and tribulations suffered by other beekeepers, because we have all suffered some unusual things this season within our own apiaries.

From my own beekeeping records I note that the summers of 1984, 1987 and also 1988 were not good in this part of the country.

I started with bees in 1984, which was a bad year, so I would say to all of those beekeepers that have started their beekeeping this year – please stick with it and use it as experience for the future. Despite the poor weather – levels of inspections within our region are higher than last year, and are the highest levels of colony inspections and beekeeper visits since computerised inspection records began at the National Bee Unit in 1994.

On all of the Inspectors travels this year one thing, which has been very consistent, is beekeepers comments regarding their difficulties with the control of Varroa. Many of our call-outs by beekeepers where disease has been suspected have culminated in colonies either weakened or collapsing with varroa.

I cannot emphasise enough that the only way to control varroa (like any other type of parasite or disease) is to monitor it’s levels and be familiar with how it works. Much useful information is contained within the ‘Managing Varroa’ booklet produced by ourselves. Many thousands of these have been given to beekeepers but it is still apparent from the questions and queries we receive (whose answers are contained within the pages of the booklet), that they in many cases have not even been opened and read.

Winter Losses of Colonies
Any beekeeper who sustains abnormally high losses of colonies from now onwards which are ‘inexplicable’ please get in touch. A free visit will be made if you desire and an investigation carried out, with samples gathered for analysis at the National Bee Unit and advice offered where possible. Most of the samples gathered from dead colonies last winter showed that causes of death were mainly attributable to viruses.

My feeling is that it is essential that we continue to look at dead-out colonies and gather ‘baseline’ data to find out exactly what is happening with our colonies. Primary contact should be Andy Wattam, as the Seasonal Bee Inspectors are not employed at this time of year.

Continued online…… Click here to download and read the full newsletter.

Eastern Region courses run by the National Bee Unit in 2008 can be found by clicking here.

Courses in other areas (which may differ somewhat) should be discussed with your nearest Regional Bee Inspector, the contact details of whom can be found here.

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