Dear Members,

Hopefully, if you have not lost too many swarms you will be seeing your supers fill up with honey during July. This is the month that, as colonies will be at their strongest, don’t forget that a lot of hatching bees also means a lot of hatching varroa mites - so, be prepared, and if you have not done so already, order your varroa treatments to use next month.

The Rugby beekeepers stall at the Dunchurch fete was apparently well attended and both honey sales and candle rolling were popular with the public. These events are vital for us as beekeepers to attend, and as the main aims and objectives of the branch are to inform and educate the public about bees and beekeeping this is a golden opportunity for us to do so. If you can offer to help in the future, it is often an enjoyable opportunity to share your enthusiasm about beekeeping. The event this year was organized efficiently by Helen Ireland, one of our newer beekeepers.

The issue of defensive or aggressive bees has recently come to the fore in my apiary and I have heard from others experiencing something similar. Aggressive bees in an urban setting are difficult to manage and as I am finding, it is often difficult to identify from which of a number of hives they are originating, so it is difficult to deal with the problem. I define aggressive bees as either those who when you open the hive start to bat on your veil or attack your hands, but more importantly those which follow you from the apiary and mean you need to keep your veil on, even at a distance from the hive and are also likely to attack any casual passers-by. These are the ones which are difficult to deal with - which of 5 or six hives/nucs are they flying from?

Record keeping is obviously important and recently I came across a copy of records that detail behaviour traits like running on the comb, following, and attacking the veil. I am thinking that perhaps if I included this detail in my notes it may make it easier to identify the offending hive. If neighbours or passers-by are being attacked it is important to deal with the problem, however, it is also possible that external factors may influence bee behaviour so it is important to measure this over time and not react precipitously as weather, rough handling, availability of forage, and queenlessness (or a new queen starting out) can all influence bee behaviour and need to be ruled out before taking drastic action. 

Also, if we have ‘badly behaved’ bees we should be aware that by breeding drones from these hives we are helping to spread these genetics in the wider bee-keeping community and we should take steps to remove them. This means once you have identified the culprit hive you need not only to remove the queen and re-queen but also remove any drone brood in the hive. 

Speaking of drones, I have noticed that some of my hives seem to have very few drones and I wonder if this is something others have observed, or whether it is owing to most of my hives currently having new queens. 

At our next Apiary meeting we will be dealing with removing honey and extracting, so do come along to discuss any issues. Also, if you wish to loan the Branch Extractor please contact Steve Martin to book a turn.

Regards, and stay safe and well.

Margaret Holdsworth