Latest WGBA News from February’s Meeting

“The Queen Bee” was the subject of a fascinating talk by Graeme Sharpe, the honey bee advisor for the whole of Scotland. Graeme, with very many beekeeping years under his belt and 120 hives to take care of is based at Auchincruive Agricultural College in Ayrshire. In summer he runs courses for beekeepers that are very well attended.

The Queen lives for 3 to 5 years, but with age she becomes less prolific with her egg laying. At her peak she could lay 1500 to 2000 per day. She emits a pheromone called ODA which holds the colony together and inhibits worker ovaries from developing and also the construction of Queen cells in the hive.

There are several types of Queen cells that may be constructed throughout the year. Supercedure cells are made when the colony wants a new queen, swarm cells are made when the colony wants to divide and increase and emergency Queen cells are made when the colony has become hopelessly queenless.. If the latter happens the ovaries of workers develop and they start to lay eggs. Sometimes there are several eggs in one cell and these would grow into drones as workers are infertile. Each type of Queen cell should be recognised by the beekeeper and he should also recognise a good quality one by its wrinkled, waxy surface and size. A smooth surface may indicate a poorly fed Queen.

The Queen measures the size of the cell with her front legs before deciding whether to lay a worker or a drone egg but it is the feeding regime that dictates whether that female egg develops into a worker or a Queen. Both types of egg are fed Royal Jelly for 3 days. After that, the diet changes for the worker to a less rich brood food and only about 150 feeds daily as opposed to a continuous diet of Royal Jelly throughout life and 1500 feeds daily for the Queen. This new queen needs 16 days to emerge and 2 or 3 days to get ready for her first maiden flight.

Trailing her pheromones she sets off for a drone congregation area where several thousand boys will be waiting to court her. Only 10 or 12 of the strongest will make it and pay the ultimate price for the effort as their genital organs detach inside the Queen. Drone congregation areas can be 2 or3 miles distant and consist of many thousands drones from all around the area making a good diversification of the gene pool. The weather plays an important part of the mating ritual. Good flying conditions – not too windy, a nice sheltered valley and a temperature around 20*C. If by any chance the weather is consistently poor a queen may not get mated for 2 or 3 weeks or not at all. In the last scenario, she will become “stale” and turn into a drone laying queen.

An interesting event inside the hive is the sound that virgin queens make before and after emerging. A high pitched intermittent tooting or piping. The old queen makes a quacking noise, a deeper tone. These noises signal to queens the presence of others and a battle ensues the first emerging Queen killing off the others until only one remains.

Lastly, the desirability of traits of a queen’s offspring are: Good temper, non- following, calm on the comb, good honey gatherers, non-swarming and locally adapted bees.

The next meeting in Glenluce Bowling Club is on the 27th March at 7pm, when Ian Craig past president of the Scottish Beekeeper’s Association will talk on Swarm control and queen Rearing. Newcomers and members all welcome.

Updated Spring and Summer Events

Monday 27th February at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

  • Graeme Sharpe – Mating – how does it all work?

Saturday 18th March

  • SBA Module Exams

Monday 27th March at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

  • Ian Craig – Swarm Control and Queen Rearing

Sunday 30th April – hosts Mary and George Pattison at Whithorn – starting at 10.30am – members can pop in and out during the day

A practical day – build something, repair something, for the newbies – knock up a few frames. Hopefully a demonstration

Bring a project and some lunch

Last Monday of May, June, July, and August at 7pm

  • Apiary visits – to be arranged. All members will be invited to an apiary in Western Galloway. Weather permitting, hives will be opened. In any case general discussion about what is happening in the apiary and what to expect/plan for in the coming month

 22nd – 25th June

  • Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.

Steward in the Honey tent or exhibit your honey/wax/baking/mead

Wednesday 2nd August – to be confirmed

  • Wigtown Show. Information stand – volunteer will be required

A Sunday in August – still to be arranged

  • The Wonder of Honeybees at Castle Kennedy Gardens – volunteers will be required

8th – 10th September

  • Beekeeping Convention, Ayr Racecourse

Latest News

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.

January WGBA News

Western Galloway Beekeepers’ Association

The December meeting was held before Christmas and started with a light hearted quiz about the day to day life of a bee. The members imagined they were a bee and what they would be kept busy with in different situation, at different times of the year, and if they were a worker, queen or drone. As beekeepers it’s always good to think like a bee when deciding what course of action should be taken in the apiary.

There followed a discussion, over some lovely food, about how the members would like to increase their beekeeping knowledge. The conclusion was that there was enough interest among the members and newcomers to run both a Basic BeeKeeping study group and a Honeybee Management (Module 1 of the SBA Intermediate syllabus) study group. The more experienced members volunteered to run the sessions.

The study groups started mid-January and will run until mid-March with 9 members in each group, including some new members to the Association. A different topic is covered at each session, so by the time the bees start to become active in the spring the members will be much better informed about how to look after them.

The speaker at the next meeting will be Julian Stanley from Ayr Beekeepers. Julian will talk about “Food, Trophollaxis & Communication” which is a fascinating subject. The meeting will be held on Monday 30th January at the usual place, Glenluce Bowling Club, starting at 7pm. All welcome.

Spring/ Summer 2017

Tuesday  10th January – 14th March

  • Basic Beekeeper Study Group.

Thursday 19th January – Thursday 16th March

  • Honeybee Management Study Group.

Monday 27th February at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club.

  • Graeme Sharpe – Mating – how does it all work?

Saturday 18th March

  • SBA Module Exams.

Monday 27th March at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

  • Ian Craig – Swarm Control and Queen Rearing.

April – date to be arranged – probably a Sunday

A Day in the Shed at Whithorn. Make, repair, demonstrate and learn.

 

Last Monday of May, June, July, and August at 7pm

  • Apiary visits – to be arranged. All members will be invited to an apiary in Western Galloway. Weather permitting, hives will be opened. In any case general discussion about what is happening in the apiary and what to expect/plan for in the coming month.

22nd – 25th June

  • Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.

Steward in the Honey tent or exhibit your honey/wax/baking/mead.

A Sunday in August – still be be arranged

  • The Wonder of Honeybees at Castle Kennedy Gardens.

8th – 10th September

  • Beekeeping Convention, Ayr Racecourse.