Your winter reading: Honey Press
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Happy New Year and a good beekeeping one for all.
Last year was one of uncertainty for beekeepers across the country and Hexham Beekeepers had a full range of  disruptive events to cope with from cold winds in May and June, queen failure on a large scale and a warm autumn which prevented bees from clustering. Speaking personally there were two high spots: one the continuing growth of Hexham beekeepers not only in membership but in the willingness of so many members to get their sleeves rolled up and make contributions to the Association in a host of ways: two, the heather once again provided a haven of hope with good crops for those with  relatively strong colonies. So what about trying the heather this year. Never guaranteed but so often exceeds expectations.
With membership over 160 for the third year the executive does try to provide a full range of events and this can only happen if the executive can renew itself on a regular  basis. The decision of your secretary ,Neil Dawson to stand down after a decade of outstanding service to HBKA, and the current failure of the association to line up a successor, shows that we need to improve  succession planning. What should we do to improve this process?  Suggestions please.
Those of you who attended the AGM, about twenty, and thank you, will know that the constitution has been changed. The chair can only serve a three year term and cannot return for another three years but serve on the executive if the membership vote them in. So looking forward there is going to be  more of a turnover on the executive which hopefully will encourage some of you to get involved . So what about you?
Philip Chair HBKA
Tuesday 2nd February, HBKA member Mike Hendry will give a presentation entitled Kungkhongo Village Bees, about a beekeeping project in Malawi.  Mike will talk about how the project started, the training they underwent, and the outcomes they are expecting.  He will also cover some of the vast differences in beekeeping between Malawi and the UK.

This will be at the Hexham Cricket Club, Eilansgate, Hexham, NE46 3EW. The bar opens at around 7pm and the talk will start at 7:30pm. All welcome.
"The Beekeeper & The Bee" by Kate Lynch

Book Review

Kate Lynch is first and foremost an artist and admiring one of her paintings of beekeepers led me to discover her book.

Kate spent two years visiting apiaries, sketching, painting and recording conversations with beekeepers of all ages and experience in the Somerset Levels. Her work is encapsulated in a real treasure that any beekeeper would love. 

It contains reproductions of her oil paintings and charcoal drawings that record beekeeping throughout the year. Alongside the pictures are transcriptions of conversations with beekeepers describing their  activities and concerns, and what the bees are doing and why. 

This is not an instruction manual. As individuals describe the chores, the smells, the sights and the pleasures from season to season, it is a reminder of why we choose to spend our time watching and trying to manage bees. The personal accounts and paintings capture a wonder of bees that we share, our enduring curiosity about what happens in and out of the hive. 

As Kate writes:" The beekeepers are the authors, telling their own seasonal stories...It has been a fascinating journey into another world..."

She specialises in documenting traditional rural skills - previous books are "Sheep - From Lamb to Loom" and "Willow" - so it is no surprise to find an account of weaving a skep using a turkey leg bone as a needle, wheat straw, and a slice of cow horn, along with an explanation of the skep's use.

The paintings are beautiful, with atmospheric colours which could easily be applied to Northumberland. They are rich and varied and will resonate with any beekeeper.

Kate has generously donated a signed copy to the North Of England Beekeepers Convention raffle. I'd buy a book of raffle tickets just to get my hands on this publication, if I hadn't already bought myself a copy.

The Convention is on April 16th at The Beacon, Newcastle (
"The Beekeeper & The Bee" and a selection of cards can be ordered through

Sheilagh Matheson
Report on 2016 ADM Chesford Grange Saturday January 9th

This report does not attempt to a comprehensive account but more of a snapshot based in part reflecting the issues the author believes to be important for Northumberland Beekeepers.
I will begin by reporting that there was an opportunity for the reps from Cumbria, Durham, Newcastle, Cleveland and Northumberland to meet informally. The outcome was that it was reiterated that Northern bees and beekeepers do have much in common and there could be value in further exchange of ideas. It’s not clear where this might lead, if anywhere. The individuals concerned felt that any progress would require the involvement of others who think likewise.
Once again the first 45 minutes were spent discussing standing orders and their validity vis a vis the constitution. The delegate from Dover was much exercised by this. This delayed the adoption of the minutes of the 2015 ADM.
There then followed a very interesting presentation by Tim Lovatt about Bee Connected, a web based system for Spray liaison. Subtitled ‘NFU enlightenment at last’. This involves voluntary initiatives, the Crop Protection Association,   the NFU and BBKA. Beekeepers who have registered an interest in a particular location, probably their apiary, will be informed via email.  There will be automatic email alerts allowing transparency and confidentiality. GPS location; select alert distance; take action. This is being tested in March and launched in June.
A key issue which was discussed briefly was progress on a proper membership data base . In this way the BBKA trustees may be able to bypass those associations who don’t want the BBKA to be an effective organisation. Why? This is part of the ongoing debate
Neonicotinoids in honey.  10grm samples are being sought by researchers at Wallingford.  The  EU apiary programme amongst member states. Currently in UK disease has been the main focus. The suggestion is that now in the UK Queen rearing may now be of greater concern. This could lead to funding for this which could be implemented in Northumberland
The introduction of a comprehensive ‘Whistle blowing’ policy was a proposition suggested by Northumberland last year. This was a reaction to a trustee who had strong contrarian views. It was pointed out that WBPs only apply to employees.
The Education and Husbandry  accounts have now been rectified after liaison with the  treasurer Howard Pool.This was a point of contention in the past.
Concern expressed about  cuts to Disease Liaison Officers  by Government . Contain and eradicate won’t work with Asian hornet if work is left to area/local associations.
Members survey response. Only 701 responses from individual members  25 area and local associations. Wasn’t time to look at causes but I would suggest that because the BBKA relied upon local associations members may not have been encouraged to take part. Is this a conspiracy or plain bloody mindedness? Everyone will see data from responses.
The  new Treasurer Howard Pool  started in October. Previous experience was managing Electrolux in South America. When he said that it was easier than the BBKA account I don’t think he was joking. A very effective presentation for the most part and he is very happy to talk to area and local associations. His  points
1 Wind up BBKA enterprises
2. Deficit of £34,000 accounted for by 2 SDMs £14,000 and postage increase for BBKA news £23,000
3. Jane Moseley’s accident last year meant that fundraising was curtailed and she now needs help with fundraising
Myths: lack of financial control. No. Control is tight and getting tighter
About to go bankrupt,  BBKA have reserves of £600,000 and annual operation  costs are £211,000. Policy to be changed in the new year.
Don’t get value for money ?  All this for £19 a year!
The current budget was approved by 29/19 with 12 abstentions. The proposal to increase capitation by £2 p a was lost by 10,167 to 12,874.
John Hendry beat Doug   Brown   by 17,074 to 5805 to the post of president. Doug has worked very hard to modernise the BBKA in his time as chair.
Reflection on this ADM.
On the face of it I felt that the mood had lightened but I was wrong. I’m now more convinced than ever that it going to be very difficult to create a modern  charity. Northumberland might consider two actions. Invite the new president and treasurer to visit Northumberland and to press for the early investment in a new membership database.  And when it is up and running use it to ask individual members whether they want to pay a higher capitation membership fee. At the moment we have no way of knowing the truth about this.
Howard Pool and John Hendrie  have both accepted an invitation to attend the North of England Spring Convention April 16th. There could an opportunity for a meeting outside the day of the Convention There has been preliminary work done on the results of the BBKA members survey which will be available in the next few weeks.
Philip Latham
Humans aren’t the only creatures who love a spoonful of honey.
According to pigeon fancier Owen Shaw, a spoonful of honey helps to get his birds to the peak of fitness just before a big race. 
Owen lives between Winlaton and High Spen and he’s been breeding and flying racing pigeons for around 30 years. He swears by honey as a food supplement. 
“A couple of days before a race, I mix a spoonful of honey with two of glucose in slightly warm water and put it in their drink. It gives them a real lift. 
“They might be exhausted when they return, so I give them the honey solution again. The next day, they’re quickly all pepped up and raring to go.”
Owen is in the Tyne and Derwent Federation of Pigeon Fanciers. He is currently breeding about 70 young birds that should be ready by Easter and he also has 24 pairs of older birds. In their first cross-Channel race they will have to fly 375 miles. The furthest race is from Bourges in France and is 575 miles. 
Our own HBKA pigeon fancier, Bill Hunter, confirmed that birds are fed lots of different pigeon power potions and honey is a popular ingredient. Twice a week, his birds tuck into a delicious concoction of grain, with added seaweed powder and honey. 
“You need to give them a good balanced diet, especially at this time of year,” said Bill. “Honey is a contributory factor.” 
Last year, an old-timer phoned Owen with a hot tip. “Try Manuka honey grade 15,” he whispered. Owen immediately used the Internet and splashed out on a small jar for £25. He fed it to the pigeons and waited for the winners to fly in.
Were the results with Manuka any better than normal? “No. I couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, last year was one of my worst ever,” said Owen, blaming himself for not spending enough time with his birds. “But I won’t waste my money with that Manuka. I’ll stick to the local stuff in future.”
Sheilagh Matheson
In Case You Missed It
Dear Beekeeper
We are writing to ask for your help in updating your records of the number of overwintering beehives within your apiaries on BeeBase, the National Bee Unit’s database. We would like you to record the total number of overwintering hives as of 1st November 2015.
Please update your records by 12th February 2016. We are asking you to do this as part of a pilot study for an annual National Beehive Count we will launch from the winter of 2016 onwards. The National Beehive Count is aimed at improving our understanding of our honey bee population – how many there are and how healthy they are. This fits in with the aims of pollinator and bee health strategies across the UK.
The information we gather will also be used by the EU Commission to assess the size of honeybee populations across the EU. The EU provides financial aid to Member States in support of their beekeeping sectors. We are required to submit estimates on the numbers of beekeepers and beehives in the UK in order to continue to receive our share of funding from the EU Apiculture Programme from 2020 onwards.  
More details of this project, its importance and why we need your help can be found on Beebase
We have produced guidance on how to update your records within BeeBase, including a Frequently Asked Questions document.
The project is led by the National Bee Unit and supported by Defra, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, DARDNI, the British Beekeepers Association, the Welsh Beekeepers Association, the Scottish Beekeepers Association, International Bee Research Association, and the National Diploma in Beekeeping.
Thank you very much in advance for your assistance.
National Bee Unit
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
Sand Hutton
Y041 1LZ
It was the day after Hallowe’en, but Prof Steven Martin, from the University of Salford, still succeeded in scaring the living daylights out of the audience attending the annual Rachel Lowther Lecture. 
He was talking about the latest horror threat to our honeybees, the Asian Hornet, aka Vespa velutina. Once seen, never forgotten.
Beekeepers, be vigilant, because  Professor Martin reckons we will be the first to spot it. It’s large, it’s conspicuous, and it’s in France where 88% of its prey is honey bees.  If we’re very unlucky, we’ll see it hovering outside our hives, facing away from the colony, picking off bees by the hundreds.
The Asian Hornet arrived in Bordeaux in 2004 and two nests were destroyed by the authorities, who then decided that any others would probably die out in winter. They made little effort to track down and eradicate other nests. What a mistake. 
What they didn't know was that each colony produces up to 1000 fertilised queens which hibernate in winter, then fly into action the following spring. By 2011, the hornet had stormed through France at the rate of 100 kilometres a year and invaded Belgium, Portugal, Germany and Italy.
All it needs is one fertilised, hibernating queen accidentally brought into Britain in a caravan, or in imported wood, or in a container and we’re scuppered. 
Vespa velutina are right at the top of the insect world. They have the same life cycle as wasps - a fertilised queen emerges after hibernation, builds a small nest, lays eggs, then remains indoors when the number of workers has increased. Colonies grow very fast, up to a metre in diameter.
It nests anywhere, but prefers an urban environment, setting up GHQ in cavity walls, tower blocks, or  roadsides and the greater the urban density, the more it thrives. But don’t start to relax, thinking we’re safe in rural Northumberland where native hornets’ nests are rare and contain only 50-100 workers. Vespa has thousands and thousands of workers, and queens.
So what do we do when we spot one? Call in the experts, that’s what. In France, two fire officers died trying to destroy a nest, and even if you don’t die the stings are so horrific you might wish you were dead.
The nest has to be found and torched within a day or two of sighting the Asian Hornet, by professional pest control officers in space suits with perspex visors, because did I mention that they can spit venom through an ordinary bee veil? No? That’s probably because I’m trying to forget.
If the nest is not found quickly, and queens have been produced, we’ve had it. Prof Martin seems pretty certain that there is no escape. So in a few years,we might look back fondly on the days when all we had to worry about was varroa.
The Rachel Lowther lecture is a very sociable event which began with a fantastic afternoon tea provided by Wall WI, so everyone was in a very cheerful mood. Then we had the lecture, and afterwards we were a bit subdued. Thank goodness some wine was provided because I sure needed a drink. 
Sheilagh Matheson
Rachel Lowther Lecture
Forthcoming Events
March 1st

An oral history of beekeeping in the North Pennines 

Mandy Oliver from the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership’s Nectarworks project will share some of the stories and memories collected from veteran beekeepers living in and around the AONB
The North Pennines AONB Partnership is the body responsible for co-ordinating efforts to conserve and enhance the North Pennines.
The Nectarworks Project is a four year Heritage Lottery Funded project to educate, enthuse and enable communities to take action for bumblebees.
Copyright © 2016 Hexham Beekeepers Association, All rights reserved.

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