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The Newsletter Volume no 20

Issue no 1 February 2013

SBKA website

Just before the entrances were cleared

A Timely reminder As with all animals, bees find the cold weather hard. They are not able to forage for food and the colony is all but shut down. We all know that they are living on their resources saved from the summer an that they should have enough stores to see them through, but therein lies the trap. They may well have enough stores for the winter, but it will not be until the end of March that the first real crop oif nectar becomes available in the shape of blackthorn blossom. It is during February and early March that our bees are in the gravest danger of starving, so keep a weather eye on them and feed when they need it. Your own bee book will tell you what to feed for different outcomes. 1

Microscopy exam success Last year, several people started the long and arduous trail that leads to the BBKA microscopy exam. Only one person completed the journey and also passed the exam. Congratulations to Fred Clarke, one of our members, who lives in Chilton Polden. The achievement is highlighted by the fact that Fred has been keeping bees for something like three years. It proves that you don’t have to be a lifelong beekeeper to be able to grapple with this complicated course – just dedicated. editor

Somerton BKA January Committee Meeting Several important matters were discussed at the recent committee meeting, not least, the provision of a divisional apiary. It was agreed that Pat Lehain would re-visit the report he, Joe King and John Webb prepared for the division, over a year ago. It was also agreed that Stewart Gould would liaise with Ken Edwards of Quantock Division fund raising, as they have successfully acquired a plot of land and erected a building for storage and teaching. The Oxalic acid workshop run by Joe King, attracted many more people than last year and it was thought that this was down to the time of year that it was held. Thanks also go to Jackie Mosedale and Dan Govier who made up all the ‘lots’ of oxalic acid solution. The (six evening) Continuation Course organised by Catherine Fraser was judged to be a huge success and it was thought it would be a good idea to run a similar course this year and Catherine will be asked if she will be prepared to organise it once more. Feedback forms handed out on the last session indicated that people thoroughly enjoyed the subjects, which were delivered in such a way that all levels of experience were catered for. There may still be a need for a course which reinforces the Introductory course and leads to the Basic Assessment. 2

Also discussed, were events which we attend during the beekeeping season, where we aim to further beekeeping, but members attending are able to sell their bee related products and it was decided that a list of all events will be carried in the newsletter, so that any interested members can help to man the stand and perhaps make a small profit, into the bargain. The National Gardening Show, one of the largest events which is normally attended, will not take place this year. The County Honey Show, hosted by Taunton Division for many years is still in a state of flux, with very few entries in the County classes. A subcommittee formed by Somerset Beekeepers’ Association council is in talks with Somerton Division committee, who have suggested hosting the event in 2014. The object of this exercise is to see if any more interest can be raised, if the show becomes peripatetic. Should no further interest be apparent, then the future of the County Show will be decided at County level. The Somerset subcommittee and members from Somerton who are directly concerned with our own Honey Show, will be invited to our next committee meeting to discuss the implications. Steve Horne reported that the Division is moving one of its bank accounts from CAF (Charity Aided Foundation) bank to Virgin, who have a charity account that actually pays interest in these straightened times. He also reported that membership renewals were in line with previous years. At a county level, it was reported that BBKA want to increase their capitation on membership subscriptions by £2.00 per. annum. This was resisted by the council, but they armed Richard Bache (our county delegate to BBKA) so that he could vote in line with the council’s thoughts on the subject, which were, generally, that there would have to be a pretty good reason for doing so. The county yearbook is with the printers. In 2011, £400 was pared from the production cost by the editor compiling it before submission, but last year, the requirement by divisional secretaries for extra copies added £200 to the cost, halving the saving. Many of these extra copies were never used by the divisions and this year, the number will be reduced to a more realistic figure. It was suggested to council that next year, in line with the county newsletter, the yearbook could become largely digital. This would save the county a further £500. As approximately £450 is gained through advertisements, it could even make a profit. 3

Jam Jar Myth To Be Quashed by MEP Mid- Somerset WI, community groups and the Diocese of Bath & Wells will be contacted by South West Euro MP Sir Graham Watson to quash, what he calls, the latest Euromyth. In October, the EU was accused of threatening the age old tradition of re-using jam jars to sell home made preserves, pickles, jams and chutneys through new health and safety legislation. However, following the submission of a parliamentary question by Sir Graham, the European Commission has now confirmed that the new legislation designed to improve the sterilisation of jars being used in the market place, does not apply to those who produce their jam at home for charitable or domestic purposes. Following the news, Sir Graham said: ‘My inbox has literally been jammed full of queries from church groups, WI members and community leaders, on the issue. Selling jams and preserves at village fĂŞtes and fundraisers is a core part of British life and I want to assure everyone that the European 4

Commission had no plans to threaten this. ‘Through a parliamentary question I have been reassured that anyone wishing to sell their produce for charitable purposes or to fundraise for their organisation, is excluded from the new health rules. EU guidelines on food preparation do not generally apply to church or community groups and that will continue to be the case. Once again, a fiction has turned into a news story by anti-Europeans. It is time we put as lid on it and spent our time explaining how the EU makes people’s lives better’. The Wells Journal Jan. 3rd 2013 - thanks to John Grosart It should be pointed out that this applies only to goods being produced for charitable or domestic purposes. It does not apply to honey being sold for profit.


Zest Hives - Bill Summers The first evening meeting of the winter was meant to have been an in depth exposé of the small hive beetle, but fate, in the form of some Chinese birds, stepped in. During the first session of the Beginners’ course, Christine King (Joe’s wife) was frantically trying to get hold of him, as our speaker for the following evening, John Carr, was grounded in China because his plane ploughed into a flock of birds during take-off. Quelle domage! Being the stalwart that he is, Joe managed to cajole the creator of the Zest Hive system (Bill Summers) to step in at the last moment. What a treat! Bill is one of the most entertaining speakers that I have heard for a long time. Confusing, but entertaining and certainly interesting. Bill has turned present beekeeping principals on their head, by designing a system that has a frame equivalent to a double brood frame, but divided into three sections, which uses no foundation wax. That and an insulated hive with a top entrance, are the key to the whole system. Bill has many detractors and I can appreciate some of the points they make, but although he does sell kits to make these hives, he suggests that you go down to your local Builders’ Merchant and buy the bits. As for the frames. You can buy them from him, but he would prefer that you bought them direct from the manufacturers – KP Plastics. Having looked at the Zest web site, I have to say that I found navigating it a little confusing. There appeared to be no frames for sale on their own and although I found a web site for KP Plastics, there was no mention of beekeeping frames.. The hive itself is made by placing concrete blocks together to form a plinth and then building a very large box using thermal insulated concrete blocks (Thermalite, Siporex, Durox). These form the walls of the hive and then insulation board (Celotex, Kingspan) is used to form the roof, with a corrugated metal sheet placed on top to displace water. The theory is that there are no howling 6

draughts careering through the hive and the bees can regulate the temperature with ease at all times of the year. The 28 unwired frames without foundation, yes, 28 frames are, as mentioned earlier, the depth of two National brood frames and divided into three sections. As the entrance is at the top, the tendency is for brood to be confined to the top two sections and stores to the bottom. To inspect, the frames are lifted out as in a normal wooden hive, but there are no heavy supers to remove first. You simply remove one frame at a time. Bill freely admits that the hardest part of inspection is finding the queen. To harvest the honey, you lift a frame and cut out the honey, comb and all, then replace the frame. This means that you only harvest what is ready and don’t have to haul heavy boxes back to the house and take only the full frames, returning the rest to the hive. It all sounds so simple. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, but I ask one question. How do you clean the floor of a working hive which is effectively a solid concrete box, with solid floor and a removable top? There were many more questions from the floor. Bill’s book can be obtained by visiting the web site at - It might get complicated. editor

Two Zest Hives - photo courtesy Bill Summers


February Evening Meeting Our January Speaker, Dr John Carr, unfortunately was unable to get to Somerton to give his talk. He was stuck in Taiwan, after a bird strike made his plane unflyable. We were very grateful to Bill Summers, architect and inventor of the "Zest Hive", who stepped in at the last moment. I hope that all those who attended enjoyed his talk and Stewart Gould has circulated the link to Bill's book, which can be downloaded for free. Dr Carr is keen to give his talk and has offered to give his talk in February replacing Bill Summers. In order to do this we have been obliged to change the date and the venue. Our February monthly Meeting will be held at The Edgar Hall Somerton on Thursday February 28th at 7.30pm. As yet the small hive beetle hasn't arrived in the UK, but with a container unloading at our ports every three seconds it seems likely that it will eventually arrive, either as a hitch hiking adult, or as eggs which are laid in soil and may arrive with plant material. There has been one incident when the small hive beetle was introduced to Portugal with some illegally imported bees. Rapid and radical action, destroying the colonies involved, saved the day and the s.h.b was eradicated before it was established. It is therefore important that we are vigilant and well informed about this potential threat to our bees. Dr Carr will speak on the small hive beetle , its cousin the large hive beetle, and the biosecurity measures which are in place in Australia. We look forward to seeing you at The Edgar Hall. Joe King


Chairman’s Ramblings mid January A Happy New Year to you all. I hope you all have a better bee-keeping year this year. Before Christmas I treated my seven hives with oxalic acid. Fortunately all the colonies were viable although a couple seemed a bit light. The cluster sizes ranged from 3 seams to eight. I have given them all some candy and hope that this will be enough to help them through to the spring. Now the rush of Christmas and the New Year is over, it is time for me to check my equipment for the coming season. I tried to clean everything as it was removed at the end of last season but there are one or two repairs to be carried out. I must also make up some new frames to be ready for some frame changing. Our beginners course this year, has started well with a large number of potential beekeepers. We have our February talk later in the month – details will be elsewhere in the newsletter. I hope to see many of you there on that night. Trevor Adams


Beekeeping Donkey I thought you might like this story from Treehuger: Manuel Juraci is one of 120 beekeepers in Itatira, Ceará (Brazil) who produce massive quantities of honey each year. This is an excellent trade for one of the world’s poorest regions, though it’s difficult to get ahead. But Juraci has a special tool that makes him one of the most competitive of all beekeepers: a donkey. Outfitted in a custom suit designed by Juraci that keeps him safe from bee stings, Boneco the trusted donkey transports the honey that Juraci collects down to the marketplace. This teamwork ensures a greater carrying capacity than other beekeepers can have, and the Association of Honey Producers is keen to commission more donkey beekeeping suits from their designer. And that might help, but Juraci insists that the secret behind their success can’t be attributed to the suit. It’s the donkey’s friendship and loyalty that matters the most. From Ebees – courtesy of Huntingdon BKA


Regional Bee Inspector For several years now, we have been served by Adam Vevers as Regional Bee Inspector for the South West of England, but Adam has stepped down from the position and returned to being a Seasonal Bee Inspector for the Devon area. I am sure that we all wish Adam the very best in the, slightly less frenetic, post. This meant that a void existed in the position of RBI. Several people applied for the post including one of our own SBIs – Simon Jones. To use the best television vernacular, I can now reveal that Simon Jones has been appointed as Regional Bee Inspector for the South West of England. Simon will take up his new post in March and I think that we are lucky to have such an experienced and knowledgeable beekeeper at the helm of the regional inspectorate. There will obviously be changes to the Seasonal Bee Inspector’s in our area, but as yet it is not clear who will be covering what. As soon as we know, we will inform you, although it might be wise to keep an eye on the Beebase web site. editor Apiary site needed June Ridout (one of our members) has been keeping her bees in Tintinhull, but feels the need to find a new apiary site relatively close by. She actually lives in Stoke sub Hamdon, but is willing to travel to visit her charges. If anybody has a site, or is aware of anywhere that June could keep her bees, could they contact her on 01935 825232, or by email at editor

HONEY FOR SALE I have 30 lb tubs available to those of you who may be unable to keep your customers going. For further information contact David Morris on 01823 432686 or e mail at 11

Introductory Theory Course It was thought that the bubble of beekeeping popularity might have burst and so it was decided to put this to the test. David Rose, Jon Penton and I put up numerous posters around the area, with tear off strips, so that people could get in touch. Notices were added to Beecraft and the BBKA web sites, as well as our name being mentioned in several local publications and web calendars. The efforts were not in vane and we can be assured that the bubble has not yet burst. Out of caution, I printed 45 sets of notes for the first session, not really expecting that many to turn up, but when the door was opened, in they came – and they just kept coming. It was heart warming to see that many people with an interest. editor

Membership renewals So far only about 50% of our members have renewed their subscriptions and according to Steve Horne (treasurer) this is not unusual at this stage of the year. There is a problem looming for those who do not renew and several people have fallen into the trap in the past. Their Public & Product Liability Insurance will expire in the not too distant future. Once that happens, it is a very drawn out process for it to kick in again. Even if you renew your membership one day after the deadline, your insurances will not become valid again for six months. This is not some cunning plan to get you to pay your subscriptions, it is just the way that the insurance world works. Those insurance policies are extremely good value for money and protect beekeepers from the vagaries of the beekeeping world. editor

Reflections of a retiring Librarian It is said that time flies when you are enjoying yourself and that has certainly been true of my time as librarian. I had no idea until I checked up that I had been doing it for five years. One of the most interesting aspects has been keeping up to date with the new 12

books about beekeeping. I hadn’t realised how busy the presses are with Bee books. Nearly every month there are new books which, as you would expect, vary enormously in quality and content. The biggest category by far is the basic book for beginners. It sometimes looks as if anybody with the slightest journalistic ambition who has held a hive tool thinks he has a duty to share his expertise, however limited, with his fellow beekeepers. So they come out with tedious regularity with ‘basic’ ‘beginners’ ‘starting’ or ‘practical’ somewhere in the title. What these authors forget is that we already have some very good basic reference books such as Ted Hooper’s ‘Guide to Bees and Honey’ and Clive de Bruyn’s ‘Practical Beekeeping’ which have nurtured generations of beekeepers and have been kept up to date. Ted Hooper’s book was originally published in 1976 and went through several reprints until we got the New Revised Edition in 1983 and recently another edition bringing it right up to date. The only new book of this type, which I would predict will become a firm favourite, is the Haynes Bee Manual. I say this because not only it is written by the Warings who are distinguished beekeepers but also it is in the Haynes Car Manual format. Those of my generation are familiar with these manuals through nursing old bangers along long after they would now be condemned and put off the road by an MOT. They are very good, with simple basic instructions to keep you going without getting unduly bogged down in the theory, which can be considered at a later date when the immediate crisis is 13

solved. That is exactly the style of the Bee Manual. Clear concise instruction for quick reference which is exactly what is needed. Another category of book, which I have particularly enjoyed, is the academic, carefully researched tome written in an engaging way. The quite outstanding book in this category is Jurgen Tautz’s ‘The Buzz about Bees’. It is a beautifully presented book with excellent quality paper, a profusion of superb pictures and very readable in spite of being a translation from the German. It introduced me to the concept of the bee colony as a superorganism which is a fundamentally different way of understanding a colony and the way the constituent members work together. Another excellent book in this category for the serious reader is Thomas Seely’s ‘Honeybee Democracy’. His idea is that bees decide what to do by a complicated system of democratic consultation which our politicians would do well to emulate. It is a delightful read with a mixture of profound research, interesting recollections and anecdotes. There are a couple of other books which I have greatly enjoyed reading that deserve a mention. One is a very simple book written by a granny for her granddaughter called ‘My first honeybee book’ by Mary Hill. It is written for a child to read, but as you would hope it is a very clear concise well presented explanation of what goes on in a hive. It is an ideal introduction for those new to bees and I think it should be compulsory reading for all new beekeepers of any age! In the same vein but for a rather older child is ‘Hannah and the Honeybees’ by Alison Simms which is a sort of bee version of Gulliver’s travels. Finally I feel I must mention Bill Turnbull’s ‘The Bad Beekeepers Club’. Some ‘proper beekeepers’ look down their noses at it because it is written by a TV journalist and celebrity. However, it is delightfully written and a fun read by somebody who is very well informed and has undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the public image of beekeeping. As I look back over my time as the keeper of the books and hand over to Richard Kinsman, I feel a pang of regret giving up a most enjoyable role within the division. John Webb 14

Queen Rearing Course 2013 Bees and weather permitting we will run a practical queen rearing course at Kingsbury Episcopi during May and early June. Topics covered will include the choice of donor and cell building colonies, feeding, manufacture of queen cups, subsequent grafting using young larvae and insertion into a cell-building hive, removal of queen cells, and the setting up, populating and use of Apidea mating nucs. Emphasis will be placed on the principles involved, so that the beekeeper can raise the best queens possible irrespective of the technique he (or she) uses in queen rearing. One way or another each participant will end up with what I hope will be an absolutely enormous queen cell, housing the biggest and most prolific queen on the planet with offspring that are gentle, non swarming, clean and stupendous honey gatherers. Hand outs will be given (or preferably sent by email), and we might be assisted by Pat Lehain.We may use an out-apiary, so local travel might be necessary. Saturday 26 May – Start 2.00, probably finish late afternoon. Sunday 24 May – Start 12.00, a couple of hours. Wednesday 5 June – Evening, an hour or so to collect queen cells Note that the start date may be weather dependant but the period between the second and third sessions will be 10 days. 6 places available.3 years beekeeping experience required. First come first served. 3 needed for a quorum. Email Roy White at or phone 01935 823898.

Basic Assessment successes Apologies to our members who passed their Basic Assessments in 2012, as their successes were not highlighted in time for the last issue. Congratulations go to our members who successfully completed their basic assessments last summer. Bridget Kingham, Stuart Gibbons, Ian Collier, Jeremy Hale and Steve Horne all sailed through the experience. 15

President Joe King 01749 890357

Dates for your diary Introductory Theory Course United Reformed Church Rooms Somerton Wednesdays February 6th, 13thd & 27th

Chairman Trevor Adams 01458 832051

Small hive beetle. Future Menace. Are you ready? - Dr John Carr Edgar Hall, Somerton

Vice Chairman Stewart Gould 01749 860755

Thursday February 28th 7.30 pm

Secretary Jackie Mosedsale 01278 723320

Note the venue Somerset Beekeepers’ Lecture Day Kings of Wessex Academy, Cheddar

Treasurer Steve Horne 01278 662335

Saturday February 16th - 10.00 am Tickets from Jackie Mosedale 01278 723320

Librarian Dr. Richard Kinsman 01458 210288

Somerset Beekeepers’ Association Annual General Meeting All members welcome The Cossways Hotel, North Wooton Near Wells

Honey Show Secretary Post Vacant

Saturday March 9th - 2.00 pm

Newsletter Editor Stewart Gould 01749 860755 Programme Joe King 01749 890357 County Delegates Joe King Pat Lehain Alison Dykes Stewart Gould Members without portfolio Suzy Perkins Catherine Fraser


Somerton Beekeepers Newsletter  

February edition of the Somerton & District Beekeepers' Association

Somerton Beekeepers Newsletter  

February edition of the Somerton & District Beekeepers' Association