‘Twas a cold rainy night and four of us made it to the Lamb & Flag in Oxford, to discuss bee related Things over a few drinks.
The most important point raised was how often to meet and reviewing what the nature of the meetings should be. Those present felt a meeting every 5-6 weeks was appropriate and the next one should be early March, when the bees have begun flying. We felt each meeting should have a theme to stimulate conversation, and for the next meeting the theme will be “what have your bees been doing at the entrance for the last week?” This will sharpen our observational skills, and people will have specific questions and comments to kick things off.
The exact time and location of the next meeting will be settled in the near future.
We discussed how our colonies were doing, and the conversation rambled across a number of subjects such as the variation of cell size across a natural comb, and Gareth’s project to sort out a better form of insurance than that offered by Biobees – which seems to have some loopholes.
This reminds me, by the way – one of the potentially major outcomes of bees being reclassified as domestic animals in a couple of years could be insurance. I don’t think anyone’s considered the consequences. I can imagine nervous beekeepers in heavily populated areas getting rid of their colonies for fear of being sued. Does anyone reading this know the legal implications here? I’ve heard that you can be held responsible for your dog causing an accident but not a cat, as cats are not considered controllable. Another implication of bees being classed as domestic animals could be, stricter definitions of care.
Another topic was how even pathogens are part of the balance of a hive, much like our own guts have a balance of microbes, some of which would be dangerous in excess – did you know the stuff used to treat Nosema, “Fumidil-B”, is made from the fungus that causes Stonebrood? The NBU can detect stuff at meaninglessly low concentrations. They’ve been known to declare a colony infected with EFB simply because they detected a trace in a sample of bees taken from the hive entrance. Whether the colony is actually suffering the symptoms of too much EFB can’t be assessed without opening the hive.
I told the others what I’d seen at the BBKA Annual Delegates’ Meeting. In summary, when flexibility was needed to address an unforeseen procedural situation that arose, the BBKA – which is a regulated charity and has to obey its “rules of order” strictly – stalled for an hour and a half. Eventually a workaround was found. This highlighted to me how they are unable to adapt to changing situations, and why they continue to try chemical recipes to solve their problems rather than letting natural selection do the work for them. They are focused on training people (in a particular way) and spreading their own brand of beekeeping, and will wait for someone else, an authority figure like DEFRA or a pesticide manufacturer, to solve problems rather than do something themselves. They will remain ineffectual at lobbying for their own interests until they change this passive attitude. They do not consider low intervention beekeepers authority figures, partly because we’re not honey oriented (comment: “so why do you keep bees then?”) and partly because we tell them they’re Doing It Wrong. It made us realise how lucky we are to live in the area covered by OBKA, who are very open-minded and welcoming towards experimentation.
Gareth, Heidi and some others are visiting a BBKA event with a Sun Hive to open eyes to alternative styles.
Tip: don’t get Peter started about the Evils of Thymol.