Harry hosted the latest ONBG meeting at his apiary in Shilton. The weather was kind and some 15 members turned out to benefit from Gareth’s vast experience and skills in bee- keeping. Harry has a good sized shed, which is, in fact a converted, redundant, battery hen unit. and a good conversion of the gable end with old, full sized patio windows, giving a good viewing platform to the apiary below. The apiary had three Warre hives, all full of bees, collected last year from swarms in Kingham, Ducklington and Chedworth. All were doing well through the summer. We also had three Langstroth hives, one full hive from Fullbrook ,(Church swarm), really strong and the other two with small casts that had come from Chedworth and Ducklington. Both of which we believe swarmed twice this year. The serenity was shattered by wasp attack and despite putting out many traps, the wasps were relentless. Harry tried closing down the hives that were under attack, copper pipe in the entrance and other efforts, all to no avail, they just kept on coming. To his great regret, and in total frustration, Harry set about the wasps with a badminton racquet, only stopping when Melvin threatened to ring the RSPCA. So, as always, nature had its way and Harry decided to make the meeting an education for all, with Gareth taking us all through a practical session to uncover the results of the wasp invasion. His approach was very revealing and his confidence, as he carried out the practical session was hugely interesting to all present, even those watching from the indoor viewing area. Two healthy hives had been completely emptied of stores, brood and honey. with only only the tell tale signs of empty comb remaining and a thick carpet of pollen on the floor of each hive. It was upsetting to have lost the two colonies, but we are comforted that those wasps that had escaped the badminton racquet would continue to pollinate. Many ‘non-intervention’ natural beeks would point out that what happened ensures the ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario, although Melvin and Kevin did scour the surrounding area to try to locate the wasps nests of the attackers. Kevin identified that their were at least two strains of wasp involved in the assault. After the practical session in the apiary, the group retired back to the house for a chat and debrief, time having been allowed for new members to be introduced to ‘old hacks’. Harry failed on the home cooking front, but did Mr.Kipling’s on demand. The general discussion varied from bees to neonicotinoids and GMO’s, as its difficult to leave these out of the topics of discussion. Indeed , the more one reads and becomes aware of our environment, the more one realises that man has had a destabilising effect on the natural diversity of all living forms, through intensive farming and the over use and reliance on chemicals for food production. Indeed, Gareth has produced an interesting article called ‘The world in a jar’, well worth a read and contemplation.
Without getting into matters too deeply, everyone managed to air their views and we all appeared to disperse as friends. Harry has vowed to be more resolute next year and will annoy Melvin no end, by purchasing a larger top of the range racquet in order to combat the wasps. Perhaps we can install some imitation wasp nests, as a more humane way of protecting the bees, as has been Paul’s wont. As suggested by Gareth, Harry will continue to feed the weaker colonies and be happy with the two strong colonies, as we go into winter. We wish all in the group a very happy festive season and hope that all your bees winter well. Harry will insulate our hives again this winter. with a view to keeping the bees that bit warmer, which we hope will mean they need to eat less food to keep to keep warm and preserve stores. It seemed to work well last year, which greatly pleased Harry and Melvin. It always raises our spirits to meet with others in the group, it helps us to be comforted that we are all doing our small bit for bees and for mankind. we now have new website, kindly donated by Kevin. http://www.givebeesachance.org.uk, as well as http://www.gbac.org.uk.