Dear Members,

The Beekeeping season is now in full swing. The streets are alive with blossom and the nasty cold snap in early April is hopefully not going to be repeated. 

I hadn’t realized until I started beekeeping that large trees like the sycamore, chestnut and lime are prolific sources of pollen and nectar for bees. While lots of attention has been given to encouraging the planting of wildflowers to sustain pollinators, a great many shrubs and trees, with what look like insignificant flowers, are very good sources of nectar and pollen. I was once called out to a ‘swarm’ of bees only to find the cotoneaster at the door covered with buzzing bees - both honey and bumble bees. The flowers on this shrub were barely visible, but clearly had a great interest for the bees. Other shrubs like the Skmimmia and Hebes also attract bees in great numbers and provide attractive additions to a garden. While many of these trees and shrubs are not indigenous they have been shown to ‘help the bees’! 

May and June are prime months for swarms. It is important to remember that swarming is a positive activity for bees - this is how they reproduce, and our job as beekeepers is to help them do this in a way that does not make a nuisance for the people near our hives. We have chosen to position our hives around people and therefore we have a responsibility to try to manage this natural process in a way which causes least bother and inconvenience to the public. 

With this in mind, at our next meeting the Association will show a video on swarm control and we are encouraging local beekeepers to come along to discuss their own challenges with swarm control and management. My experience is that there is always something new to learn, or try out, based on what others have discovered in their beekeeping journey. Our next Apiary meeting will also feature swarm control. 

Gerry Collins, in his informative talk to the Rugby Beekeepers last month, reminded us of the importance of observing closely what is going on in our hives and he stressed trying as best we can to understand what we see, smell and hear - all important clues to the health and progress in the hive. The more you try to hone your skills of observation the better beekeeper you will become. 

Drones are an important part of the reproductive process of swarming and seeing the first drones emerge is a good signal for us as beekeepers that we need to be looking out for other signs of possible swarming in the weeks ahead. This is where knowing the development phases of the drone becomes important. It takes 24 days for the drone to develop from egg to emergence and then another 10 - 12 days before they are mature enough to go on their mating flight, and of course virgin queens have a much shorter development phase, 16 days from egg to emergence and then another week before they are mature enough to take the first of several mating flights.

When thinking about doing a pre-emptive swarm control, like splitting a colony, it is important to have these timings in mind. 

I came across some research recently that showed that drone’s seminal fluid had the effect of reducing the virgin Queen’s eyesight. (Joanito Liberti 2019 eLife 2019;8:e45009) Apparently this is a means of ensuring the first drone to mate’s genetic predominance. I am not sure how useful it is to know this, apart from reminding us as beekeepers that we should not keep aggressive colonies because by doing so we allow their drones' genetics to be produced and spread in the bee population. 

Regards, and stay safe and well.

Margaret Holdsworth  


BeeBase

Beebase News Web feed
  • A confirmed finding of a single Asian hornet in Felixstowe, Suffolk
    29 April 2022
    The National Bee Unit is carrying out enhanced monitoring and awareness raising together with local beekeepers after a single insect, confirmed to be Vespa velutina was killed at a sentinel apiary, reported by a beekeeper.

    Laboratory analysis has shown that the Asian hornet was a female but as it was dried out and damaged it couldn’t be ascertained if it was a queen or worker. Additionally it is highly likely to be from the European population rather than a new introduction from Asia and is highly unlikely to be the offspring of either of last year’s nests in the UK.

    Further information regarding the yellow legged Asian hornet can be found on Defra's Asian Hornet sightings page and on BeeBase’s Asian hornet page. Please direct all media enquiries to the Defra Press Office: 0330 0416560

    We continue to ask beekeepers to remain vigilant, record monitoring trap locations on BeeBase (guidance here) and report suspect sightings here.
  • Registration Page - Error - FIXED
    24 March 2022
    We are currently experiencing an error with our registration page which is preventing beekeepers from registering.  We are working hard to find a fix and will update this News items as soon as a fix is found. 

    To register, please come back in a few days or give the NBU a call on 0300 3030094 and we can process your registartion for you. 

    UPDATE: This has now been fixed. 
  • Analysis of 2021 Asian hornet nests
    03 March 2022
    During the 2021 season, two Asian hornet nests were located and successfully destroyed by NBU inspectors and APHA colleagues, following sightings reported via the Asian Hornet Watch app.

    The nest found in Ascot, and destroyed on 11th October, was 35 cm in diameter and contained six combs. Results from genetic analyses suggest that all Asian hornets collected in the surrounding area were likely to have come from this nest, and that the nest hadn’t reached the stage of producing adult sexual stages.

    The nest found in Portsmouth, and destroyed on 31st October, was 31cm in diameter and contained 4 combs. Results from genetic analyses suggest that all Asian hornets collected in the surrounding area were likely to have come from this nest. The nest had reached the stage of producing sexual stages but was highly inbred and a large proportion of the offspring were triploid.

    The queen and drones for both the Ascot and Portsmouth nest were highly unlikely to be direct offspring of the Gosport nest from 2020.

    Further information regarding Asian hornet can be found on Defra’s Asian hornet sightings page and on our BeeBase Asian hornet page. Please direct all media enquiries to the Defra Press Office: 0330 0416560.

    Use the Asian hornet Watch app for Android and iPhone to report sightings.

    Yn ystod tymor 2021, cafodd dau nyth cacwn Asiaidd eu darganfod a'u dinistrio'n llwyddiannus gan arolygwyr yr NBU a chydweithwyr APHA, yn dilyn golygfeydd a adroddwyd drwy'r ap ‘Hornet Watch’ Asiaidd.

    Cafodd y nyth a ganfuwyd yn Ascot ei ddinistrio ar yr 11eg o Hydref. Roedd yn 35 cm mewn diamedr ac yn cynnwys chwe adran i atgenhedlu. Mae canlyniad y dadansoddiadau genetig yn awgrymu bod yr holl gacwn Asiaidd a gasglwyd yn yr ardal gyfagos yn debygol o fod wedi dod o'r nyth hwn, ac nad oedd y nyth wedi cyrraedd y cam lle y caiff ffurfiau rhywiol llawn dwf eu cynhyrchu.

    Roedd y nyth a ganfuwyd yn Portsmouth, a'i ddinistrio ar 31 Hydref, yn 31cm mewn diamedr ac yn cynnwys 4 adran i atgenhedlu. Mae canlyniad y dadansoddiadau genetig yn awgrymu bod yr holl gacwn Asiaidd a gasglwyd yn yr ardal gyfagos yn debygol o fod wedi dod o'r nyth hwn. Roedd y nyth wedi cyrraedd y cam lle y caiff ffurfiau rhywiol llawn dwf eu cynhyrchu ond roedd wedi mewnfridio i raddau helaeth ac roedd cyfran fawr o’r epil yn driploid.

    Roedd y frenhines a'r dronau ar gyfer nyth Ascot a Portsmouth yn annhebygol iawn o fod yn uniongyrchol o’r nyth darganfyddwyd yn Gosport yn ystod 2020.

    Mae rhagor o wybodaeth am y gacynen Asiaidd ar gael ar dudalen golygfeydd cyrn Asiaidd Defra ac ar ein tudalen cyrn Asiaidd BeeBase. Dylech gyfeirio pob ymholiad gan y cyfryngau at Swyddfa'r Wasg Defra: 0330 0416560.

    Defnyddiwch yr ap Gwylio Hornet Asiaidd ar gyfer Android ac iPhone i roi gwybod am olygfeydd.