Hello, good evening and welcome! The next eight weeks of presentations are designed to equip you with the knowledge you will need to successfully tend your bees through the summer months and just as importantly to provide them with all they need to survive the following winter.
Each week covers an area of beekeeping in a sequential process that will progressively build up your understanding of how the colony and the individual bee within it works. The beekeeper is an integral part of keeping colonies hale and hearty; recent research suggests feral colonies in the UK die out after a maximum of two years.
The theory course schedule is
1Feb. Adrian Burnside – Introduction- History and the moveable frame hive.
8Feb. Tim Brenchley – The Colony.
15Feb. Paul Taylor – Queen and bee development.
22Feb. John Thompson – Swarming and public relations.
29Feb. David Bough – The Beekeeping year.
7Mar. Peter Crosby – Colony health and manipulation.
14Mar. Margaret Langstaff – Bee anatomy. Plants, pollination and products.
21Mar. Building a frame, Cleaning a frame & Replacing foundation.
All presentations will be held at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming Murton starting at 7pm in the canteen moving upstairs to the library by 7.30pm.
Take advantage of the half hour at the beginning of each presentation to mix with your fellow beginners and ask questions of the more experienced members present. There is far more to the subject than can possibly be covered, or even touched upon, in the time available, but we do aim to whet your appetite sufficient that you will want to participate in the practical course which follows.
The practical phase begins Tuesday 31May and runs for five sessions finishing either Monday 27 or Tuesday 28June. Experienced beekeepers will be on hand to demonstrate various aspects of colony handling and manipulation, followed by the individual practising their own handling skills, possibly on their own colony as it builds up in size. On the last evening at Bossall all the colonies are packed up fit for travel to your own chosen site.
It is at this point that you will truly realise the full benefits of having attended the course and of having built up that contact base of other beginners and other association members, to be sounding boards in the coming weeks as new situations arise. Good luck and enjoy the journey.
The honey bee has evolved from flies, along with the wasp and started that process about 200 million years ago, when this planet was an entirely different place. The continents were only starting to drift apart, the Himalayas and Alps were yet to be thrust up and the insects of the time ate whatever they could find-all were omnivores. As the different insects evolved, the bee began to develop a symbiotic relationship with plants, until the point was reached about 25 million years ago where it became a social insect entirely dependent on the products of the flowering plants. It was only at this point that Man first entered the scene.
The bee originated in central Africa and spread across the land masses as they slowly drifted apart, but it did not reach Australia or North America; the first colonists took the European bees there from the 1600s on. Because it requires flowering plants to flourish, it is restricted to temperate and tropical latitudes, so as the five major glacial periods have occurred, each with several ice ages within, the range of the bee has contracted and then expanded again many times. As it moved into different climatic zones it adapted and changed to better suit the environment, hence there are now many different strains of honey bee.
The ancient civilisations of the Middle East and Mediterranean all kept bees, as did the ancient Britons; the Romans were simply the first to write about what they found here. Each society extracted the produce of the bee colonies, sometimes from feral stock and sometimes from hives which would be situated nearby settlements and produced from whatever material was readily to hand. In the Middle East this might be clay, in Briton it might be reeds. This produce consisted of honey (the principal food sweetener until less than 200 years ago), wax (making the finest candles) and propolis (its wound cleansing properties well known to the Egyptians and Romans).
To extract these products the bee nest would be plundered, the comb removed and the colony destroyed. Many bees would die defending their nest, although some would have flown away to join other colonies or try and rebuild their own. This was because the so called beekeeper had never satisfactorily devised a hive that separated the brood nest where the queen laid her eggs and the young were tended, from the rest of the hive where any excess of honey would be stored. It was that excess of honey and its wax that the beekeeper was interested in, not the brood nest itself. It was only in the late 1790s in Europe through to the 1850s in the U.S., that careful observation of the behaviour of bees in the nest produced a better understanding of the concept of ‘bee space’ and this revelation quickly led to the design of the modern moveable frame hive, in all its different sizes.
In England the WBC was the most popular hive until the First World War, when wood prices soared and it became too expensive. In the 1920s the British Standards Institute issued its design for a cheaper but standardised alternative and this was again modified in 1946, to become the ‘British Standard modified National’ hive, better known as the BS National, easily the most common hive in this country today, although other countries too have their own favourites. If the hives themselves differ in size and to some extent shape across borders, at least most of the tools used by the beekeeper to manipulate the hives, are common to all. Their use and the behaviour of individual bee and colony within the hive will be the subject of next weeks presentation.
Websites to look at:
- www.bbwear.co.uk Offers BKAs a 20% discount on orders, so a basic bee suit and pair of gauntlets costs £80. They are excellent quality.
- dave-cushman.net An encyclopaedic treasure trove of beekeeping hints, reviews, history and common sense.
- www.yorkbeekeepers.com York & District Bee Keeping Association website
- www.bbka.co.uk The British Bee Keeping Association website; when you join our York & District Bee Keeping Association (YDBKA) you automatically become a member, get some 3rd party liability insurance and receive a monthly magazine. A lot of info, photo library, blog…..
- ybka.org.uk Yorkshire Bee Keeping Association website; your membership of YDBKA also confers membership of our county body.
- thorne.co.uk The leading beekeeping supplier, a tad on the pricey side
- abelo.co.uk A local beekeeping supplier
- www.paynesbeefarm.co.uk An alternative supplier especially of polymer equipment
- beekeeping.co.uk Offer some alternative frame styles