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SWARM GATHERING

One of the joys of being Secretary is the interesting phone calls you receive from the public. On the 1st of September I took a call from a lovely lady living in a Mill house near Launceston. She was pretty sure she had a hive of bees “living in” a blackthorn bush on her land. I have to admit I was dubious until she sent a photograph (see below) . The bees had built a substantial amount of comb around a large branch and expanded it to include barb wire and various other branches and twigs. This represented a problem well outside my limited experience but fortunately we have members (in this case Peter Hicks) who will happily assist. In 25 years of beekeeping and swarm retrieval this was only the second time he had seen bees creating a hive in the open in this way. So a couple of days after taking the initial call myself, Peter Hicks ,Paul Hine and Chris Marshall attended. Armed with pruners and wire cutters Peter carefully cut around the hive . Fortunately the comb was well cemented to the branch running through the centre so once that had been cut effectively Peter had a bee hive lollipop (see photo). The comb and bees were successfully put into a hive then recovered back to one of Peters apiaries later in the day. We were perplexed as to why a swarm would decide to make their home in the open in a hedge as opposed to the normal cavities they like. In Peters experience a swarm of bees flying in thundery weather can be driven to ground by a heavy clap of thunder in order to avoid the heavy rain that is usually imminent. In survival mode it is a possibility they will seek any vaguely suitable location to create a hive in order to survive….an intriguing theory.

GAME OF DRONES


Some of you who buy the Independent or Sunday Times papers may have seen the recent articles entitled” Game of Drones” and “ Do bees travel overseas in the search for sexual adventure?” respectively. This concerned the ongoing project of trying to improve the genetics of honey bees on the Scilly Isles. One of our members Nick Bentham Green with his BIBBA hat on is part of the team delivering this project. The latest experiment involves marking drones with a colour specific to the island they are hived on. This is to see whether the drones can island hop. Hundreds of drones have been marked on the thorax with different coloured spots to indicate the five inhabited islands, with blue for Bryher, orange for St Agnes, red for St Martin’s, green for St Mary’s and purple for Tresco. Nick is firmly of the opinion that drones do cross water and he believes this experiment will prove it once and for all. We will let you all know the outcome! For the full Sunday Times online article please follow the link https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/6fce6462-278a-11ed-9092-6adde03bf612?shareToken=4e69ecd8f34ceaac6be80f9f115a7068


SCHOOL REPORT


We were pleased to receive the school report on LBG members Heather Bishop and Jo Parish who you may remember set sail on the awesome task of setting up hives this year on their grounds at St Catherine’s C of E school in Launceston. Gold stars all round by the look of it. 


Back in May of this year our school, St. Catherine's, purchased 2 established colonies from a fellow Launceston Beekeepers Member, Rosemarie Lane. We had butterflies of excitement on the morning of moving the colonies. 

Our initial inspections were fairly daunting on our own, trying to remember back to all our training, learning that the sooner we use the smoker, the better, with regards to the calmness of our colonies. 


We soon settled into a good routine though, thankful that we were embarking on this journey together, (myself, Jo Parish - the School secretary, and my colleague, Heather Bishop - our Nursery Manager), to be able to talk through our inspections and decisions we made. 

Once our confidence had grown a little, we started an After-School Bee Club. This was open to pupils from Years 5 & 6. Group numbers fluctuated slightly, depending on other school trips at this time of year, but overall, we had approximately 24 pupils who were keen to learn more about bees and bee keeping. 

From our fundraising we had managed to purchase 6 children's beekeeping suits in varying sizes, so, during our club, we were able to take 6 pupils at a time into the apiary, whilst the others watched on through the mesh observation point at the end of our school polytunnel. Initially, we did a couple groups of 6 in each 1 hour club, swapping halfway through to ensure all the children got to see the bees 'up close' as soon as possible. 

The children all amazed us with their bravery and confidence. Some immediately confident, others nervous and scared at first, but all eventually coming close to the bees and even lifting a frame up for inspection. They loved the opportunity to share any existing knowledge and to help to spot the Queen, honey stores and brood. 

Whilst the 6 suited pupils were in the apiary, the remaining pupils were observing and helping to create posters for Bee Club demonstrating life cycles and even designing labels for our honey jars - when we get to that stage!

Over the Summer months Heather and I have had our moments of fun with the bees. From some inspections showing the odd Queen Cup, to others having the hives riddled with Queen cups. On one hive (named Honey Home by the children) the Queen was still laying but wasn't as productive as we felt she should be. The colony eventually made a Queen cell, so we removed the Queen to a Nuc, along with some frames of brood and stores. The Nuc has continued steadily but without further growth. We then had to patiently wait for our new Queen to emerge, mate and start laying - which was such a welcome site when we spotted the eggs and brood!! Knowing we had done this step right was such a relief. 

On our second hive (named Queen Honey by the children) despite our best attempts to keep an eye on Queen Cells, one got past us and the hive swarmed. We saw them go, but at this stage we were unsure of which hive they had come from. We then had another anxious wait for this Queen to emerge, mate and lay, which was approximately 1 week after the first hive. 

In spite of these 2 new Queens for our colonies, we have managed to successfully retain healthy colonies, and have just this week completed our first honey extraction, with approximately 55lb of honey which we have now jarred and labelled, ready to sell at school. All profits from the honey sales will go back into our beekeeping at school and future supplies. 


When the pupils return to school in September, we shall continue Bee Club, this will be for the new year 5 and 6's. We hope to also start the CBKA Junior Beekeepers certificate with some of our more passionate Year 6's. The studies of this group will continue into the winter inside the classroom until we are able to resume inspections next Spring. 

SEPTEMBER APIARY VISIT

Postponed by 2 weeks due to poor weather on the original date Sue and Mark Hoult hosted our final Apiary visit of the Summer on the 17th September . The location was their Apiary in a small hamlet close to Launceston. The focus of the visit was the treatment of their 9 hives and 2 nucs to mitigate against varroa. 8 members attended all interested in the process that Mark and Sue applied to their second treatment of Apiguard. The weather was fine and a relaxed session with plenty of questions from all attending meant the session was enjoyed by all. Our thanks to Mark and Sue for hosting.

Further inside events are planned at Tregadillett Community Hall on:


  • 18th November 2022 Bee Healthy

  • 17th February 2023 Beekeeping on a Budget

  • 10th March 2023 This is Your Bee Life

  • The Callington Honey Far is due on October 5th and Launceston Beekeeping Group will be providing a display on the Asian hornet with a little sponsorship from South West Water.

  • Our combined Annual Dinner and AGM is booked for Saturday 21st January 2023.

Paul Burridge

Secretary

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