Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects
Basingstoke Mayor finds a queen in town
On 13 July 2019, 18 members of the Blandford & Sturminster BKA (part of Dorset BKA) enjoyed a rare public visit to Vita Bee Health’s apiary in Basingstoke, UK. They were honoured to be joined by the Mayor of Basingstoke Councillor Diane Taylor, and her consort. An additional special guest was a local boy with learning difficulties who is fascinated by bees.
In groups, visitors were shown the Vita apiary at a town allotment by Paulo Mielgo and learned about how two Basingstoke Beekeepers run it, the Vita trials there, and tips about the application of Vita’s products. There was also an introduction to Vita’s local and international R&D activities followed by a stimulating Q&A session in Vita’s office.
Basingstoke’s mayor was very impressed by Vita’s activities and proud that such important pollinator work is taking place in her town. Finding a queen in Basingstoke, on her very first visit to an apiary, was a particular thrill!
Clearly Blandford & Sturminster BKA enjoyed their visit: “Very many thanks for a wonderful day. Everyone who came found it instructive, interesting and were most impressed with the very smooth organisation.” A visit such as this “makes me review what I do”.
Early signs of varroa – what happened next
Turlough, Vita Bee Health’s Guest Blogger, writes:
On 14 February 2019, I reported on the alarming discovery of a very early season heavy varroa drop-down rate (blogpost here).
So did the colonies recover?
They certainly did!
They produced a very good spring harvest and on 21 June they were again tested for varroa. The result — just one or two varroa per 200 nurse bees from each colony.
And to double-check, we gave two samples an alcohol wash as well (reluctantly because, unlike the CO2 test, the alcohol kills the bees). That revealed only one more varroa .
Clearly Apistan is still working well in this part of the world.
Research just published this week gives a clue as to why the colony was infested over winter after being remarkably clear of varroa in the autumn. Professor Tom Seeley and David Peck think that late surges in varroa result from healthy colonies robbing varroa-infested colonies and bringing the mites home as passengers.
Apiguard most successful treatment in Oregon
Overwintering losses of small-scale beekeepers in the state of Oregon, USA, were again very extensive, averaging 48%. Full report here.
In a survey of 416 backyard (hobbyist) beekeepers, Apiguard was recorded as the most effective treatment used (32% colony loss — Figure 22).
Amongst the non-chemical treatments used, only two measures (both designed to reduce drifting) performed better than the average — but only slightly better, 46% loss as opposed to 48% (Figure 21).
Reasons for losses are thought to be complex. The respondents thought varroa was the chief culprit, but queen failure, starvation, and weak colonies were also blamed (Figure 8).
Jerry Hayes video podcast
In a wide ranging video podcast, Jerry Hayes, Vita Bee Health’s North American VP, talks to Vance Crowe.
Starts with Jerry Hayes at 5 mins 40 sec.
5.40 How Jerry moved into beekeeping and a new career
11.40 The arrival of Africanized bees in the USA. Why they have been less fiercesome in the USA than expected
21.00 Honey bees as livestock. Do we keep bees alive or do bees use us to keep alive?
29.00 Almond pollination in California and migratory beekeeping
34.30 Colony Collapse Disorder — discovery and recovery
44.00 Why is the public so concerned with honey bees? And how can them help them?
51.00 The amazing characteristics of honey bees
1:06:00 The challenges of working for an agribusiness
1:20:20 Working for Vita Bee Health
1:22:00 Vance Crowe and Jerry reflect further on working for an agribusiness
1:25:40 Being disciplined and good habits at work
1:33:35 Pick just one bee book?
1:35:50 Writing the Q&A the American Bee Journal for 35 years
Asian hornet latest
A new book by UK scientist gives some of the latest findings about the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) in Europe. The Asian Hornet Handbook by Sarah Bunker
In a three-section book, Bunker discusses the biology, the spread of the hornet and control measures.
Since the Asian hornet was little studied in its native south-east Asia, in the early days of its arrival in Europe assumptions of its biology were based largely on extrapolations from other types of more-studied hornet.
So, the biology section highlighting what has been found in Europe is of great interest. Here are a few little gems:
- the foundresses (mated queens) may hibernate in groups of two or three in burrows, holes and crevices
- when they emerge they feed on nectar or tree sap
- the fast spread of the hornet (c 80 km each year) seems to happen after emergence — but whether in groups or singly and whether by flight or human transport is not yet known
- primary and secondary nests have distinctively different structures — and sizes
- what look like side entrances in secondary nests are half-finished bubbles or pockets that may be used to extend the nest
- in France, nest density can be as high as 12 per square kilometre
- in France, certain nest hotspots have been found where Asian hornets nest year after year
- in France, the invader prefers urban areas
- honey bees are a perfect diet for the Asian hornet — they are big, meaty and humans keep them in boxes in open areas that are easy to attack.
There is plenty more such information in the handbook to fascinate and perhaps terrify the beekeeper. It’s a good read!
Priced at £16.00, the 164-page book is available here.
Via Bee Health has supported the publishing of the handbook.