Tuesday, 15 March 2011

12 March 2011 - Meeting Note

 Many thanks to all who made it to our first meeting of the 2011 season – in all there were 29 of us present - 17 sent their apologies.

Using the library for the business part of the meeting seemed to work well so we will probably repeat for the next meeting – I'll confirm in my meeting reminder email.

The following is an outline of what we discussed for those who missed it and a recap for those who came and lust for more!:-

News, Update & Gossip

  • The first National Natural Beekeeping Conference will take place  Fri 5th to Sun 7 August in Worcestershire. Spaces are limited so if you are interested you need to pre-register (no commitment at this stage) here or here.
  • Bristol Sustainable Beekeeping Group meet on 2/4; 30/4; 4/6; 2/7; 6/8; 3/9; 1/10
  • Jenny mentioned that a second Bee Day will be run at St Matthew's Church in Kingsdown, Bristol on 21st May - several of us went to last year's and had a good time – I have since contacted Helen Philips, the organiser, who will keep us in the loop re publicity.
  • John outlined an approach he had received from Bristol City Farm to keep bees there. If anyone wants to be involved with this please contact John Baldwin.
  • Jo outlined the system she has developed whereby members can make recommendations about book they have read and suppliers they have used. She will finalise this and offer forms for members to complete – these will probably also downloadable on the YABeeP website.
  • Early Day Motion on pesticides - Sarah Malone outlined ongoing correspondence she has been having with both Government and the Bristol branch of the Avon BKA over the continued support of Government and the BBKA for intensive pesticide use.
  • Bristol bridge wild colony – this was confirmed to be still alive in February but its current fate is unknown. [Post script – I passed the colony on 14 March during a warm afternoon and I'm pretty sure the colony has died – see photos at foot of this page]

Introduction to Natural Beekeeping
Robin gave a short presentation on what we in YABeeP mean by natural beekeeping using a swingometer diagram to illustrate various hive types and beekeeping management regimes. The swingometer was used to gauge how bee-friendly each method might be.

Natural beekeeping 'Swingometer'
(© Robin Morris - YABeeP)
Using a feral colony living undisturbed in the wild as one extreme, and an intensively managed Lang operated by a commercial US pollinator as the other, each hive type/method was overlaid to demonstrate where on the this swing it might be considered to lie.

The conclusions drawn being that each hive type allowed a range of management options. These would ultimately depend upon:

  1. our reasons for keeping bees - be they for extracting high yield crops through to a desire to just help the bee, 
  2. how we are inducted into beekeeping, be it the one size fits all approach of the BBKA an many BKAs or the more open minded approach that natural beekeeping offers, and
  3. where we are on our journey toward natural beekeeping we are at any point in time.

A fuller exposition of this talk will be published later if there is a demand.

Members hive review – how we faired the winter
All members present reported back on how their colonies were doing following what has now been confirmed by the Met Office as the coldest winter in 100 years. Although we recognise that the danger period is not yet passed (a cold snap now could still doom a colony now frantically raising brood yet low on stores), not one colony was reported to be lost as a result of the winter. By my count this was 18/18, though more members not present today are still to report back.

As natural beekeepers we do not see the demise of a colony as a 'fault' of the beekeeper or our methodology – it is natural for colonies to die. That said if this zero, or even a low loss continues we have much to celebrate as it's a fantastic achievement and a possible endorsement for natural beekeeping methods.

Introduction to the Hive Building Workshops

1. The Solitary Bee Boxes Workshop will take place following our next meeting on 9th April all members are welcome to stay on for this.

This is highly recommended as we are lucky enough to have Carlo Montesanti from the Bee Guardian Foundation  presenting at our meeting. Carlo is an inspiring and knowledgeable speaker who I have seen speak and I thoroughly recommend attending. If you intend to stay to build bee boxes please bring sandwiches/BBQ food (we shall run a BBQ stove or two) as we shall eat, drink and be networking before starting the workshop which should only last for a couple of hours at the most.

Tools and most materials will be provided but an email will be sent before the meeting outlining what we need so those who have suitable tools and timber can bring them to contribute – watch your emails.

2. Our Honeybee Hive Building Workshop will take place on 30th April for those wanting to build a hive or come along anyway to help or just join in the fun. This will be a full day from 10am to 6pm so come prepared with vitals of your choice. The hive type we shall be building that day is the Warré.  See these pages for more information.

We will pre-order the timber and glass - costs are expected to be no more than £50 per hive if you are including windows, less without. Final costings will be announced at by our next meeting on 9th April when those wanting to build will be expected to pay.  You will also need to have decided by then what options to include in your hive (see the You Must Choose section on this page), so if you have not already done so please make your decisions or come to the next meeting with your final questions.

Getting Bees
Even for those starting this year if you want to have bees this year it is important to start planning this now. There is information on our website about what you can do but please bear in mind that if you think that you may resort to buying bees (c. £200 seems to be this year's rate for a commercial nucleus) you need to get an order in soon.

We will cover this in some detail at the next meeting so you may choose to wait until then but if you go ahead before this please make sure you understand the difference between a real nuc' and a packaged one and that you check that your bees have not been imported.

Observation Hive
Having seen this ingenious hive (follow the link and watch the first YouTube video listed on that page) on the Natural Beekeeping Network (aka biobees forum) 3 weeks ago and thanks to encouragement and support from Gareth who has already run one, Sarah and I have decided to build a 'natural' version for our home which will be available for members to view at meetings.

Plans are competed and all that remains now is for me to knock it up and find an obliging swarm to install. I know a glass hive is not 'natural' but I have been persuaded that if I run it as an unmanaged single top bar feral colony I shall be sticking to our principles and we can learn much about bees natural behaviour.

Other Business
Spring Comb Change – Anne had heard via her local BKA that it was important to change the comb each year and wanted to know how this was achieved with the brood comb in a horizontal Top Bar Hive. This was discussed and we agreed that the current thinking is that a rotation out of old comb over a two/three year period was beneficial but an annual change is certainly not required. Gareth kindly outlined how this can be done by moving brood bars and inter spacing fresh top bars for the bees to build new comb.

The honey comb is renewed when harvested and renewing brood comb in a Warré hive happens automatically over a similar 2/3 year period with the annual rotation of boxes.

Harvesting a Warré box – Peter & Sue's Warré is very strong and Peter enquired about the mechanics of removing bees from a harvested honey box. There are methods described in Emile Warré's book Beekeeping For All which include the use of smoke or a one way trap but Gareth recommended the simplemethod of using a hair dryer on the clod setting as used by the traditional Japanese beekeepers – see the YouTube videos below. Their traditional hive is remarkably similar to a Warré and follows a similar management regime.

Warré harvesting is normally performed in August/early September but can be done earlier in the season once the bees are strongly building up. Maybe a group of us could join Peter after a meeting too watch, help out and film the process?

Taking honey from a traditional beehive in Japan :-
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4How to make a traditional Japanese beehive

Next Meetings
9/4; 14/5; 11/6; 9/7; 13/8; 10/9; 8/10

The business part of the meeting then ended and we adjourned over the road to see the hives & bees, network, enjoy refreshments and forge those important freiendships.

Many thanks one and all for making it such a lovely morning.

© Robin Morris - YABeePFacebook smileys

Bristol bridge colony - 14 Mar 2011
(click to enlarge)

All does not look well
(click to enlarge)

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