BIIG and it's website are no longer in existence. This page will be retained for historical purposes only. Names and contact details have been retained, but it is not advisable to contact them unless you know they are still with us.
Ron Hoskins, 10 Larksfield, Swindon, Wilts. SN3 SAD.
e-mail: (Address removed. R.P.)
NEWSLETTER 1. (October 2004)
As the title above states, this is my second official newsletter; the first was in June. I had asked for your help by providing material, but alas ...... No.
We had a good 'Practical Day' meeting on 20th June with plenty of equipment on display and queens to inseminate. Those who attended enjoyed the day. Those that couldn't attend missed out big-time. See you ALL next time?
There is to be a committee meeting in Oxford at the end of this month. A report will appear in the next newsletter unless I delay this one. I will be unable to attend that meeting.
I went to the National Honey Show on Thursday and managed to sign up a new member, David Allen. Welcome to you David. Our group was invited by Francis Capener to put on a display (at a cost), but we declined. Perhaps we should think again next year, though it is a 3-day event calling for a rota of members to man the display.
There are those among us with the skill to breed queens and drones, and with I.I. equipment they are able to use. If that is you, then you are probably in the position to take part in a giant leap forward in honeybee breeding and give nature a helping hand.
It is a known fact (though my details may be 'blurred'), that John Dews, after examining many thousands of fallen Varroa mites found that some colonies had apparently developed the ability to groom themselves free of Varroa. Some colonies were apparently biting legs off, others chewing the carapace to dislodge the mites. In 2002 Queens and Drones were bred from these (similar) colonies and, through BIBBA, Redmond Williams was brought over from Ireland to perform the insemination.
In September Albert Knight informed me that the surviving new queens have been studied this season and nearly 50% of the fallen mites have shown the same signs of grooming! (Incidentally, as I write, Albert is convalescing at home after a 'New knee' operation. I'm sure you all join me in wishing him well). As mites are mainly resident on the larvae during summer this figure is very encouraging, and should increase in late autumn when brood is reduced and mites take up residence on adult bees for the winter. I'm also told that Francis Ratnieks has found colonies able to groom. Yours too may have developed this ability for which you are unaware, as you may not have been looking.
This news is surely very encouraging for beekeepers in general but especially so for us, that can inseminate, knowing that we have the ability to speed the process up. Since Varroa came to this country I'm sure we have all been guilty of following the leader and treating against the mite by whatever means suited us, fearing that without treatments our bees were doomed. Now it seems we know different. Can your bees develop the skill to groom? If they can it also seems that this skill can be passed to new queens by I.I. so go for it.
Given that you have the time to collect fallen mites for examination, if positive signs are found it could prove very rewarding. I stopped treating some of my hives about two years ago after listening to a lecture at the BIBBA AGM and hearing that drone sperm was adversely affected by Varroa treatments. I then found that most of my colonies survived without treatment! Why? I did not collect mites to see why at the time, but am setting up to do so now. With my 'Conservation-Hat' on I am concerned that feral honeybees are no longer in the remote areas helping pollination that results in nuts, berries and seed for our wildlife. Squirrels, other mammals and birds are losing out. Our wildlife and nature needs all the help it can get.
So I put index finger to keyboard and with the help of Ron Hill, developed a plan with which we approached Swindon Council for help. In July they showed their support and gave us a piece of land in Stanton Community Park for our "Bee Conservation Project" as we christened the plan, and we've had quite a bit of help from the Park Rangers too who understand "the plight of the honeybee". (Sorry about that last bit).
Only with bees able to fend for themselves will feral colonies be able to survive in the wild once again. Since August we have set up 20 hives for the study to begin ASAP, have built a nice workshop and applied to various quarters for financial help for equipment. I have also enlisted the help of all Wiltshire BKA members who do/or will collect their dropped mites by asking them to pass the mites to me for examination. Should there be grooming signs the next step will be to obtain grafts, etc. As I hope to have some successes (fingers crossed), then it shouldn't be too long before we are in a position to be testing the results of our mated new queens and hopefully not too long after that before we have queens for sharing and sale.
The last unofficial newsletter I sent out was firstly by email, which is obviously far easier for me, and less costly for the group, but several emails failed to get through and I then had to go snail-mail, which meant a delay. Email me your latest details if you can, even if only to confirm the address I have is in fact your latest.
In my last newsletter you were asked if you would like to submit a Logo design for our group. There were not too many submissions; in fact none, other than Dave Cushman's! We have therefore agreed to adopt Dave's design, as on the heading of this news. Other sizes up to A3 can be found in this directory by clicking on the link below...
(Note the email address removed. R.P.)
A price for Lapel Badges was obtained, but too expensive at this time. Perhaps a cheaper source is out there somewhere.
You must know by now that Steven Loughborough has used his computer knowledge to help BIBBA with a breeding record program for computer that is now available. After each visit to your apiary you feed the 'hive info' into your computer awarding up to 5 'quality points' to each of your selected attributes and the program analyses the info. As the season progresses your best quality colony becomes the top of the list, aiding you make the decision of which one you should use for improved breeding selection. If you were to include 'Grooming' as one of your attributes I wonder what the national picture would look like?