The start of the season took off with a high, as new members, Ash, Ros, Eric, Rufus and Jillian joined the group and attended the first practical session (Varroa Treatment) of the year. Unfortunately, we were greeted with the problems that bees have with overwintering, as queen Eva, our relentless protector of the apiary was destroyed, displaying signs of dysentery and robbing. The remains of the colony were destroyed and hive parts disinfected to prevent further spreading of the problem.
Unfortunately, 2017 has been our worst year for infections, diseases and queen rearing, with some hives failing to build up through summer. This has had an impact on the number of colonies that we have ready for winter and on reflection, I believe we can learn from this years events.
At the start of the year, the group had two projects to focus on which never took off. The ideas to raise money for the bases of the green houses failed and the project to raise and keep queens in a bank also failed due to the poor start to the season and hive buildups. I feel that the lack of food available for forage around the BeeEducated Apiary prevented early build up, leading to colonies not being strong enough to build up stores quickly enough.
In previous years I have had full supers going into May which I have removed, harvested honey from forage in the months of June, July, August, and replaced Spring supers for winter. I cannot help but feel that the current Apiary is not supporting the colonies with sufficient food and nutrients.
For first time, no shook swarms or frame changes using the bailey method, have been performed. I am sure that has had an impact on the health of the colonies this year too. As a group we are poor at spending time to maintain the hives and apiary and our Assets Manager had a rough year with injury and illness! Poor Kizz has had infections and nearly lost her fingers whilst making hive parts.
Going forward, I wish to adapt the rotation method for cleaning hive parts and maintenance as the MDBKA does, which enables learning the flow of all aspects of beekeeping.
This year, we have taken advantage of offers from Beekeepers and the public to keep hives in their garden and green spaces, and these hives have done better because of the access to better forage.
The theory sessions of 2016 has led to better informed and educated group members when it comes to infections and diseases as per the online learning. This is something that needs to continue, to increase awareness and to help identify potential issues going forward.
Finances & Assets
For the first time, we have bought our own Public Liability and Contents Insurance, and we have sold a few items and made a small profit on. We have a stock of second quality roofs, cover boards, brood frames and foundations which we will either use or sell on to members of the group.
At the time of writing this article, I have just placed an order for Varroacides, for the winter and some monies are to be collected to pay for ordered items. The total funds available at the moment in time is £67.89. Although this amount seems low, the group is at its largest in terms of value, in assets and stock.
This year, we have not applied for or received any grants from any charities or companies.
Plans for 2018
Having reflected on the events from this season, I feel that further efforts should be made to make the apiary full of forage for our bees and other pollinators. I would like to have another attempt to raise funds to pay for the green houses to have a base and to be fully functional either at the BeeEducated Apiary or another site. The apiary should take advantage of the planks for the raised beds to give more places for flowering plants.
Having acquired the materials for queen rearing, I feel we should make a better attempt to raise and mate queens for our use and to sell. This could generate an income for the group. The location of where this would take place would depend on the forage and health of colonies.
As our group grows stronger, we need to recruit new members while encouraging existing members to continue learning and helping improve the stocks of honey bee colonies in the area. Although member contributions pay for the running of the group, there is a need to apply for grants for a large shed to secure our assets and equipment.
If any member of the committee or group would like to take charge of any of the above projects, please let me know as any help would be really appreciated.
This year has made me realise that there is something to be said for the type of breed of a bee. We have experienced the Black (Amms) bee which lead to disappointment and the Buckfast which has lead to prolifically and health!
Preparation need to be made from January to be ready for all hives to be shook swarmed and to be prepared for swarms. More effort is needed to maintain equipment and hygiene. We need to recruit more members for 2018 and membership prices should remain the same.