I spent last Friday and Saturday attending the Midland and South West Counties Convention at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. It was a good venue for a meeting, complemented by an interesting and entertaining programme of talks. I presented our research on the influence of Varroa on the transmission of pathogenic strains of deformed wing virus, together with brief coverage of both high and low-tech solutions that might be useful in mitigating the detrimental impact of the mite on the virus population (and hence, the colony).
Queen rearing course
On the Saturday I donned my beekeepers hat (veil?) and discussed queenright queen rearing methods – a talk really aimed at encouraging beginners to ‘have a go’. I’m was aware there were people in the audience who earn their living from bees whereas I largely dabble at the weekends, and that they’ve probably forgotten more about queen rearing than I’m ever likely to learn. I’m always (silently) grateful they don’t ask tricky questions or interrupt with a “You don’t want to be doing that …” comment. I think only about 10% of beekeepers actively raise queens – by which I mean select suitable larvae and generate ‘spares’ for increase, sale or giving away. Without more learning how relatively easy it is to raise queen we cannot hope to be self-sufficient and will remain reliant on imported stocks, of largely unknown provenance (and with an unknown pathogen payload), particularly at the beginning and end of the season. There were excellent presentations on the analysis of pollen in forensic studies (Michael Keith-Lucas) and the use of the shook swarm (Bob Smith), together with a very interesting mead tasting event. I unfortunately missed the workshops and the Saturday afternoon presentations as I had to waste hours hanging around for three delayed trains to eventually get to Heathrow a few minutes after my flight back to Scotland departed 🙁
The MSWCC 2016 event will be running again next year (on the Gower) in mid-October hosted by Swansea and District BKA. The theme is “Meet the Natives” and – if this year is anything to go by – it promises to be a very worthwhile event.
I’m delighted to be sharing the programme with Michael Palmer and Celia Davies at the Somerset BKA lecture day in Cheddar this Saturday (21st February ’15). I’ll be adding a small bit of science to the day and no doubt benefiting significantly from their wealth of beekeeping expertise. It should be a very enjoyable event.
Update – it was a very enjoyable event. Aside from a few audio problems with a misbehaving microphone a packed hall enjoyed two talks by Celia Davies on Summer and Winter Bees and A World of Scents and a further two from Michael Palmer on the Sustainable Apiary and Queen rearing.
If you’ve not heard Michael talk about the importance of overwintering nucs for sustainable beekeeping then you should either try and catch him on his current UK tour or watch him deliver the talk at the 2013 National Honey Show on YouTube. I think I’ve heard this talk three times and have learnt something new every time. The methods Michael uses directly address the problems (lack of early-season queens, overwintering losses etc.) I’ve previously outlined in a post on the impact of imported bees and queens on the quality of UK beekeeping in Supply and Demand.
All the talks – including the science of Varroa and deformed wing virus I presented – generated lots of questions and discussions. With thanks to Sharon Blake for the invitation and organisation of the day.
I’m delighted to be speaking at the CABK Stratford Conference (the Central Association of Beekeepers; Bringing Science to the Beekeeper) on Saturday and Sunday 22/23 November 2014. I’ll be discussing the identification of a virulent strain of deformed wing virus, characteristics of its transmission and potential ways it might be controlled in the future. The CABK website doesn’t yet appear to list other speakers, but the provisional programme I’ve seen lists Alison Haughton from Rothamsted, Ben Jones from FERA, Jochen Plugfelder from Bern and Bob Smith from Kent.
There should be ample time for discussions so please introduce yourself if you want to chat.
Despite the best efforts of the Falcon Hotel (who appeared to have reserved far too few rooms for the registered delegates) the meeting was very enjoyable. The talks I heard were excellent, with ample time for discussion. In particular I enjoyed listening to Bob Smith who showed us the differences between DN5 frames from two of the major manufacturers … one made to British Standard sizes with the wrong beespace (Thorne’s), and the other with the correct beespace between the top bars, the rebated side bars and the wide bottom bars (National Bee Supplies if I remember correctly). Bob’s talk was the only beekeeping talk I’ve heard with psychedelic imagery and a guitar riff. Bob also demonstrated his enviable woodworking skills with an elegant little (mating nuc sized) observation hive. Jochen Plugfelder gave two fascinating presentations on improved formulations of formic acid for Varroa treatment and the chemistry of queen fighting, the latter supported by excellent video. Ben Jones discussed his studies on dietary influences on foragers and – in a commendably dedicated way – rushed off early to complete a time course experiment. Finally (although it was actually the first talk of the meeting in place of Alison Haughton) Robert Pickard presented a wide ranging overview of social and solitary bees and their mimics. The talk was actually so wide ranging that it was difficult to categorise it and was illustrated with a range of interesting slides.
I’m looking forward to speaking at Birmingham and District Beekeepers Association on Friday 31st October. My talk is titled “Dr. Bodgit goes beekeeping: make the stuff you can’t buy … that works better … with as little blood loss as possible“. It’s a gentle introduction to building some of your own equipment, saving a few bob and making things that work better than the equipment you can buy from the major suppliers. Aside from the financial benefits (e.g.DIY insulated crownboard for about £8, Thorne’s uninsulated polycarbonate quilt for nearly £20) there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained from building your own equipment. Almost no specialised tools are required and certainly almost no power tools … all helping avoid blood loss.
Clearer boards …
Update … Thanks to BDBKA for their hospitality on Friday evening. Considering the wealth of experience in the room I was pleased there were a few things that were new to them in the talk. I hope to hear of their success with Kewl floors and foundationless frames when I next visit.
Update – it was a very enjoyable meeting and I’d like to thank the YBKA, Roger Chappel and Michael Badger for their excellent hospitality. My talk on queenright queen rearing using the Ben Harden system was well attended and generated some interesting questions. Abelo had a small trade stand selling all sorts of ‘essentials’ including some competitively priced radial extractors.
The move to Harper Adams College has improved the facilities available to people attending the BBKA Spring Convention – there’s more space for the trade exhibits and much better quality lecture theatres for those both speaking or listening in the educational talks.
However, speaking to some of the people running the trade stands (on the Friday, which was the only day I attended in 2014), the impact of BeeTradEx is perhaps beginning to have an effect. There appeared to be empty spaces in the trade tents – though this might have been for exhibitors waiting until the Saturday to set up – and discussion of some exhibitors being offered additional space at no extra cost. I suspect UK beekeeping may not be big enough for two large trade shows per year, particularly since they occur within a month or so of each other.
Business appeared to be steady, presumably because the orgy of beekeeping retail therapy largely occurs on the Saturday, but the ‘new boys’ on the Mann Lake stand said they’d underestimated the stock needed and were considering making an overnight run to Canterbury to stock up. Remember to give the Mann Lake people your email and get a free hive tool in return to lose sometime later in the season.
For the first time (in my memory at least) the trade tent was open on the Friday afternoon and into the evening. This was very welcome. Having spent the afternoon in the Insect Pollinators Initiative presentations I rushed around, stocking up on the essentials I needed. I had a quick look at Thorne’s new poly nucs which appeared to be pretty good quality (and, because they’re smooth on the outside, easy to paint) and their one handed queen catcher, which was disappointingly cumbersome.
As always, everyone was very friendly and it was a great opportunity to catch up with old, and make new, friends. I just hope that the introduction of BeeTradEx doesn’t damage the BBKA meeting … without the bustling trade stands I’m not sure how much of a draw the convention would be.
On Friday 31st. of January I presented a talk at Birmingham and District Beekeeping Association on Queen rearing for beginners. After a bit of rushing around to procure a projector and cable to allow my Mac laptop to work we had an enjoyable evening and I’d like to thank them for their hospitality. It was good to talk about something for warm sunny summer days on such a filthy wet evening.