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At the January meeting Dru Hatcher, chair, welcomed some new members to the Association before introducing the speaker for the evening – Julian Stanley from Ayr Beekeepers. Julian’s talk about “Food, Trophallaxis & Communication” was a fascinating subject to start 2017.

Julian explained how honeybees collect nectar from flowers and convert it to honey, by introducing enzymes and reducing the water content to around 20%. Nectar and honey are the carbohydrate in the honeybee diet. Bees also collect pollen from plants and transport it back to the hives in the pollen baskets on their rear legs, which can be seen quite clearly when bees are flying – they can carry up to twice their body weight in pollen. Pollen provides the protein in their diet. Honeybees are particularly good at pollination as they are loyal to one type of plant – something farmers and growers use to their advantage by working with beekeepers when growing oil seed rape or field beans for example. News of where to collect the best nectar and pollen is communicated to the other bees in the colony by complex dances within the hive – but that’s another story!

Moving on to trophallaxis which is the transfer of food by mouth from one individual to another. The nectar is transferred between bees many times in the process of feeding larvae and the queen and before it is ready to store as honey, but it has another purpose and that is to spread word around the colony that the queen is well and that the worker bees can continue to concentrate on bringing in more nectar and pollen. Trophallixis however has a downside as any disease or poison (e.g. pesticides) introduced to the colony spreads very quickly and can be fatal to the colony.

Julian answered questions from the members and Dru thanked him for his well-presented and interesting talk. Julian reminded the members that Ayr Beekeepers will be hosting the Beekeeping Convention this year, 8th – 10th September – an opportunity not to be missed.

The WGBA programme of events for 2017 is busy with the two study groups well under way and exam dates looming, two more talks during the winter session, a day in the shed which is an opportunity to make and repair equipment, apiary visits and several events. To find out more, have a look at the website www.wgba.co.uk

The next meeting will be on Monday 27th February, when Graeme Sharpe from the Beekeeping Unit at Auchincruive will make his annual trip to Western Galloway to give an insight in to the Honeybee mating process – equally as fascinating a subject and important for beekeepers to understand for the management of their bees. Usual place, Glenluce Bowling Club, usual time 7pm. All welcome – beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike.