We had a a meeting of the group yesterday and despite the weather we had a good afternoon. We were expecting 13 to 17 people by the replies we'd received and were unsure what we were going to do with everyone, as the forecast was not good. I think most people just forgot because it doesn't really feel like Spring properly yet. In the end only 3 came, so there were 6 of us altogether. Also the weather cleared up quite well by 3.30 and we were able to spend some time with the bees.
It's always hard knowing how much to plan these events, as our group is so diverse, ranging from people just getting interested in Beekeeping to people who have been doing it for a few years. However, we are all learning and I feel the main aim is for us to exchange ideas and help each other. Hopefully, in the long term we will be able to share bees with each other as well. To a certain extent, this has already happened between us and Paula, in Bude.
We were pleased that Amanda from near Lifton was able to join us this time. She has one Top Bar hive and her bees have survived the winter. She told us about her bee journey so far which has not been without it's difficulties, as always seems to be the case with beekeeping. It's good to hear about other people's experiences, as it makes us realise it's not just us who have problems at times.
Bee losses this winter
The past year has been very difficult for bees and even the most experienced beekeepers are just finding out how many losses they have suffered. We have heard of one local Beekeeper who has 7 hives left out of over 30 and another who has lost all 5 of his hives. It's tragic and doesn't bode well for the future. We too lost one of our hives, The Lizards, despite them having a fair amount of honey left. This seems to be the case with other people who have had losses too. There are various theories as to why this is. The terrible weather last summer meant that some new queens were unable to mate effectively, if at all. This, combined with being unable to get adequate stores of pollen in (needed to make beebread for baby bees), probably meant fewer bees in many hives to overwinter. They need a certain number of bees to keep the temperature up and to regulate the humidity in the hive over the winter. Another problem seems to be getting adequate pollen in this Spring, again to be able to feed the new brood properly.
Our bees that have survived, The Dolphins, seem to be doing very well and have been bringing in pollen, on good days, since February. They particularly liked the snowdrops and are currently working the gorse. We could see at least 2 sorts of pollen coming in yesterday, dark orange and yellow. I think this might be gorse and goat willow. We have offered them fondant, but suspect they probably have plenty of honey left too, as they have only been taking the fondant very slowly. We think they are probably a hardy variety of local bee and so are well adapted to the North Devon/Cornwall coastal climate. They are quite dark in colour which presumably means they haven't got much Italian type bee genes.
Farewell to Jim
One piece of news we have is that Jim is moving to Herefordshire. He and his family have been finding it increasingly difficult to manage in their tiny cottage. Three growing boys take up a lot of room! It's hard to find affordable housing round here now, so they have had to look further afield. Fortunately they have found a 3 bedroomed house in a rural location. It will also be good for Jim's work which often takes him to Wales. I will be very sorry to see him go as we've made a good team the past 3 years. Luckily, since we caught the swarm last summer, Mick has become very interested, so at least I am not on my own.
A couple of suggestions came out of the meeting. A request for a summer meeting and a request to ask Phil if it would be possible to meet up with him when he is here for a course. Also I was asked to distribute phone numbers, as well as email addresses and will try to do this soon.
I have spoken to Essie who lives at Red Post. Their 2 Top Bar Hives have come through the winter well and she said it should be fine to have a meeting there towards the end of the summer. She will talk to Richard and get back to me with a date and I will email everyone.
Meeting up with Phil
He is currently away, so I will contact him when he's back and ask if he would be up for a semi social meeting, in The Old Smithy, on the Saturday evening of the course in October. There is a course here next weekend, but that might be too soon.
Do keep in touch, particularly if you manage to source bees this year, we will be really interested to hear how you are getting on.
Sue & Mick Dollimore