Chairman’s letter – March 2023

Dear Kennet BeeKeeper,

I am again writing this Newsletter before March as our first talk takes place next Wednesday, which is the 1st March.

This will be The Honey Island – bee-lore from the Isles of Britain and beyond by Chris Parks.  Chris Park lives on an organic farm in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire. His work is wide and varied, from arts and craft, ancient technologies, experimental archaeology and educational projects to eco-building, professional storytelling, folk music and raising the awareness of the heritage of beekeeping. Check out his ancient and aged website. He is also a skep beekeeper, skep-maker, apitherapy student and a practicing Druid. Looking to the past to look to the future.  I am sure this talk will be of interest to other members of your family so do feel free to bring them along.  I have know Chris for many years and I am sure you will all feel this is just a very different talk and will fill you with ideas and bring you back in history. All at Bishops Cannings Village Hall SN10 2LA starting at 7.30.  Also at this meeting on 1st March Diane from the Bee Depot will be there.

Talking of inviting the family our talk on 5 April is The Plight of the Bumblebee by Gill Perkins and she is CEO for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust perhaps that would be good talk for the non beekeepers in your family – ask them and put it in the diary!

Wax Flowers Workshop. Many of you will know of Sue Rawlings’ (WWBKA member) success with her wax flower entry at the National Honey Show last year. Since then she has been asked to deliver wax flower workshops to introduce others to this craft. She has kindly offered to allow our members to be the first to attend. Here is what she says:  “This is a workshop in Beeswax flowers where I will guide you through the art of making a rose and one other flower. It will cover methods for making your sheets of coloured beeswax and turning them into life like examples for display. You will receive a starter pack with templates and wires etc. The course is aimed at beginners, so no previous experience is needed and I hope this will be a starter to encourage new exhibitors to the show bench.  We’re very fortunate to have been given this opportunity, several members have already asked if Sue would consider helping them learn how to make wax flowers. The workshop will take place on Saturday the 18th March 2023, starting at 10:00 a.m. The venue will be the Jubilee Hall in Bratton. There is a cost of £20 per head to cover materials and hire of the hall. If you’d like to attend, please contact Nina Wilton (see email for details) to book your place.

BBKA Vacancy. BBKA have a vacancy for the post of Friend of the Honey Bee Liaison Officer. This is a self employed contract at £12 / hour. Hours will be flexible but will be mainly during term time and we anticipate no more than 150 hours per annum. Closing date 10th March. If you want to know more, email Elaine who send you the details. 

Education. I thought now might be a good time to remind you about some further education that will be taking place this coming season. 

The Basic Assessment, For those of you who don’t know; the Basic assessment is the first in the series of BBKA qualifications. It’s the springboard for further study and ensures you’re on the right path to becoming a confident, competent and knowledgeable beekeeper.

Each year here at KBKA, we hold a series of theory study sessions and practical demonstrations to provide students with everything they need to pass the assessment. The aim is to develop a deeper beekeeping knowledge and it is designed as a follow-up to our beginners’ course, helping existing beekeepers to improve their skills and confidence. The study sessions are open to everyone – you don’t have to be a beginner to take part, anyone who is a member of KBKA and has been keeping bees for at least one season can join in.

The theory sessions will take place on Wednesday evenings, 7pm-9pm via Zoom on the following dates: 15th and 29th March and 12th and 26th April. The practicals will take place in May. The sessions will follow the BBKA syllabus, which you can view online by clicking on the link below.

Up and coming Fetes and Fairs: Kennet are joining with the other 4 Wiltshire branches to provide a stall at the up and coming Eco event in Chippenham to celebrate our natural world, share information about sustainable living and to create a positive, hopeful vision of a greener future. The event is being held on Saturday 15th April 2023 between 11am – 4pm at Chippenham Town Hall. If you would like to be involved please contact Elaine  for more information, especially if you would like to sell any of your honey or hive products. The only thing we ask in exchange for selling products is for you to give an hour or two of your time.  Honey is being gathered from across all 4 Wiltshire branches and Elaine is looking to take around 40 jars from Kennet, so please contact her asap if you are available on the day and have honey or hive products for sale.  Whilst you are at the event you will have the opportunity to visit a range of stalls from sustainable businesses, community groups and organisations offering money-saving guidance, renewable energy advice, freebies, clothes swap, family activities, seed swap, demonstrations and environmentally friendly products. Art for the Environment exhibitions for both under 18s and adults with prize-giving ceremonies for each, along with Free workshops for families, young people, upcyclers (Where others see Waste, We see Opportunity)  plus Climate Lego.  Live music from Luke Gittens and Mean as Custard, as well as spoken word and poetry along with Free tea and coffee and don’t forget to look out for a range of delicious vegan food stalls in front of the Town Hall.

Apiary advice from Jeremy-  our Apiary Manager 

Don’t Dos:

Don’t go poking about in your colonies [otherwise known as ‘inspections’] at this time of the year.  Although there are plenty of videos on social media relating to early inspections, for the vast majority of beekeepers, this is not just a waste of time but also potentially highly damaging to the colony. Whereas a commercial or very experienced keeper can have a quick, and I mean quick check by opening a hive in poor conditions, for many less experienced among us, it is generally a mistake to interfere as yet. The question one should ask is just why you are prepared to drop the internal temperature of the colony to a dangerously low level and for what benefit?  In general terms, regular hefting will tell you the quantity of the stores and observing the bees bringing back pollen to the hive gives an indication that the Queen has survived the winter and is laying. I use a piece of glass over the feed hole in the Crownboard to be able to see if the bees are up at the top of the hive, a possible sign of low stores and that, combined with the hefting gives me enough information to decide on whether to give them some fondant. Being reasonably paranoid about starvation at this time of year, [there is no worse sight than all those dead bees with their heads in the cells having searched for the last remnants of stores] and remembering that food requirements will increase rapidly as there will be more mouths to feed by the day, I almost inevitably err on the side of caution and provide fondant. The benefit of this is that if they need it, they will eat it and if they don’t then it can be wrapped up for the next time it is needed.  Additionally, although hefting gives you an indication of quantity, those stores may be late season Ivy that requires the bees to add water to make it usable so again, putting on some fondant is simply an insurance and much cheaper than having to replace a colony.

Do Dos:

Bee Prepared!!  Are you ready for that time when you find Queen cells in the colony and need to split it? Are you ready for finding that swarm in a tree and need to hive it? Are you ready to add that extra Super as your colonies expand rapidly or create a new hive as that overwintered Nuc expands? NOW is the time to be benefitting from supplier sales to purchase AND make up frames etc ready for the new season. I also buy foundation but keep it stored in a dark and cool place [I use an old fridge] and only add it to the made up frames when needed otherwise it can dry out and become brittle. Clean up any kit that has been lying around over the winter ready for use, making sure that any nasties harboured over the winter don’t make it to the new season. And again, keep an eye on the temperature [I tend to wait until it is T shirt weather of around 14C or above before thinking of inspecting] and don’t be tempted to be a ‘bee botherer’ until you can actually do something about whatever you might find after the winter.  Best of luck! 

Well, there is a lot to read in this Newsletter and I am always trying to cut down on too much information – still I hope you find all this of use and look forward to meeting all new members and all those who seldom come to meetings – go on surprise me and come to the next talk!

All best wishes