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How do bees react to a solar eclipse?

eclipseOn Friday 20 March 2015, there was a solar eclipse over parts of Africa and Western Europe. But how do bees react to the phenomenon? Previous studies give some clues.

UPDATE Friday 20 March 10am: With temperatures at 5C and leaden skies, the bees here in Hampshire, UK seemed completely oblivious to the solar eclipse. Only about three bees have poked their heads out so far this morning and none since the eclipse was at its maximum 40 minutes ago. Looks like the next good eclipse in the UK might be 2090

A Turkish journal reports that bees detected an eclipse 65 minutes before it happened and produced a unexpected buzzing noise. (Turkish Journal of Veterinary and Animal Sciences)

Social Ethology reported increased defensiveness by a colony: “during the peak phase of the eclipse, the number of the attacks raised by almost 5 times”.

Polarized Light and Polarization Vision in Animal Sciences wonders what might happen if bees run out of fuel during a total eclipse.

Indian rock bees became much more restless and active during an eclipse according to a 1950’s report by the Director of the Zoological Survey of India.

There’s even been a cartoon made about an eclipse affecting bees: Queen of the Solar Eclipse.

In this part of southern England, the eclipse will probably happen too early to spot any differences in foraging behaviour, but we’ll be watching closely!

Here is a good animation showing where and when the eclipse will happen.

Spring buzz at Stoneleigh

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Vita’s Technical Director Dr Max Watkins explaining the use of the Beetle Blaster to control Small Hive Beetles.

Vita’s stand was very busy at Stoneleigh on Saturday when British beekeepers had their first taste of spring at the now annual Bee Tradex expo. Estimates put attendance at approaching 2000 and they were plenty beating a path past Vita’s stand.

Hot topics were the Asian hornet and the Small Hive Beetle. Will they both get to the UK? And which might be first?

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Jon Stacey of Vita explains how best to use Apiguard to control the Varroa mite.

Beekeepers were eager to get hands-on with both the hornet trap and the Beetle Blaster products. Quite a few people avoided post and packing by buying hornet traps on the day and someone was obviously so impressed that Vita received a single order for ten this morning!

Swarm wipes were also a focus of attention and beekeepers prepared for the swarming season.

As usual there were lots of enquiries about  Apiguard and Apistan as well as Vita Feed Gold and the forthcoming HopGuard.

Next month it’s the BBKA Spring Convention at Telford in Shropshire on 17 April 2015.

 

 

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A small selection of the books on display at the Northern Bee Books stand.

 

 

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It mightn’t look it,m but this smoker is tiny. That’s a 1 oz honey jar beside it!

 

Snap up a bargain at Bee Tradex

Asian hornet spread 2013

Asian hornet spread 2013

Pick up a bargain by buying the Apishield hornet trap at the Bee Tradex exhibition at Stoneleigh, UK, on Saturday 7 March 2015. There will be a limited supply of traps available, so reserve yours now and avoid the usual £15 postage and packing charge!

Vita will be bringing a limited number of Apishield traps to the first trade exhibition of the year.  There will be various sizes available suitable for almost any hive type.

But to be sure of having a trap to take home, reserve yours by emailing stating your name, hive size and the number of traps you would like to buy.

Costing only £60 without the packing and postage charges, the Apishield trap is proving very effective in the increasing number of areas under threat from the Asian hornet invasion.

See Vita’s hornet trap video below and talk to Vita about the latest developments at Bee Tradex.

Sebastian’s London marathon for Uganda

Sebastian's marathon training selfie

Sebastian’s marathon training selfie – it was a bitingly cold morning!

Sebastian Owen, Vita’s Commercial Development Manager, is enduring all sorts of British winter weather in his training for the 2015 London Marathon in April.

He would welcome support — moral and otherwise — from beekeepers in his bid to raise funds for Mitanya, a trust that aims to break the cycle of poverty in the rural Mityana district of Uganda.

The Mitanya Projects Trust is based close to Vita’s offices in Hampshire, UK, and focuses on very practical projects such as providing sewing machines that can have an immediate and lasting impact. Projects always start small to make sure they work before funds are committed to expand them on a wider scale.

Sebastian is under no illusions of the glamour of running in the London Marathon: “The 4+ hours of the marathon and the countless training miles are going to be hellish for me, only made bearable by the thought that your donation will be of so much help to people that desperately need it.”

Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world and poverty is most entrenched in rural areas.  Even small donations can make a big difference in Uganda, so please support Sebastian if you can.

Donations can be made here.

Sebastian was one of the lucky 30,000+ who won a place by ballot to run in the London marathon, ranked as one of the six top world marathons. We hope he feels very lucky as he trains!

His latest training run was from his home village of Whitchurch across the top of the famous Watership Down, passing a number of beehives, to Ashford Hill — to give a talk about Mitanya when he got his breath back!

Why treatment testing is so… testing

Varroa hit

Varroa hit

Beekeepers often wonder why some honeybee colonies have much higher levels of Varroa infestation than others in the same apiary. In fact no two colonies ever seem to have the same level of infestation, so that requires the trialling of new treatments to be very scientific. Rigorous testing of treatment efficacy and repeatability are key features of the registration process.

Max Watkins said: “Few things are certain, but you can always be sure that infestation levels are never equal between colonies in the same apiary.

“Some colonies become more infested than others, but the reasons are usually unclear. One hive may have been robbed by an infested colony, both bees and Varroa vary in their resilience, hive temperature and light exposure may also be factors.

“Fortunately, when we are testing efficacy of products, we can adopt methods to try to level out infestations. For instance, we swap frames of brood from heavily infested colonies with those of less infested ones.”

It’s a tricky topic, so don’t be surprised if your own colonies show inexplicable variations in infestation.

But at least you can be sure that if you use registered products, tough questions will have been addressed in the registration process.

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