Chairman’s Chatter

Happy New Year one and all!
2018 ….. now but a distant memory was my first year as Chairman of the High Weald Beekeepers’ Association and I’m relieved to report that I have not presided over too many calamities…so far. Despite my initial reservations about accepting such a role amongst such an august body as our committee, I must say that it has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. How could it be otherwise with such an agreeable, committed and knowledgeable collection of individuals who selflessly give of their time and energy in support of bees, bee-keeping, and your association.
It was a case of ‘in at the deep end’, as shortly after our own AGM last year we were charged with hosting the SBKA (Sussex Beekeepers’ Association – of which we are a division) AGM at the end of March, providing talks and nourishment. You may recall that the weather was particularly foul last March and I was obliged to stand in for our speaker from Arnia who literally could not get here from Cumbria. I have had Arnia hive monitoring equipment for some years now, so the task was not too onerous. It was very much the 21st century theme we intended as another member of our association Edward Hutt gave a very good talk about Flow Hives as the folks from Australia couldn’t come either (….because of the weather?... maybe not), and Rosie and team despite the weather provided the most excellent catering. The HWBKA did very well and we were highly commended.
The Association goes from strength to strength with membership just shy of 200 now.
Finances are very strong with our current balance >£15k under Steve’s stewardship. This has been bolstered this year by a grant from Wealden DC ably negotiated by Debby Park. Consequently, dues will remain unchanged for 2019/20…. one of the lowest in the area. It is probably worth pointing out that very little of our income actually comes from membership dues, approximately £500 in fact. The dues go almost entirely to the BBKA and BDI. Most of our income is generated by our own activities, such as the training courses, honey and plant sales at various events, wax workshops etc. none of which would be possible without the dedication of the committee and other helpers. We are now trying to build a fighting fund to support future plans for a new permanent apiary.
The training programmes have been very successful again - courtesy of Malcolm providing 17 new beekeepers  as fresh blood. We have for the first time added to the website the glowing references we received from the participants which may be read here - https://hwbka.org.uk/2018-beginners-course-testimonials/. We also held a Taster Day again which was a great success.
Popularity of apiary visits has been waning for many years now, but other social events such as BeeBanter still serve our community well, and there has been a full year of other activities too, organised by Rosie Riley.
The association apiary at Slab Castle is in rather splendid fettle courtesy of Keith and a new member Steve Davies who has put in a tremendous amount of work. However, we have shut down the Great Danegate site at Eridge due to the retirement of Norman Beresford the apiary manager
Various shows were attended such as the Honey Market at Heathfield School, the Crowborough Fair, Langton Green Fair, and Weald in the Field generating revenue for beekeepers and the Association, and more importantly generating interest in bees and beekeeping
The website continues to support our activities and membership well and is now maintained more conscientiously by our very conscientious secretary Peter Halford.
At the AGM last year, we acquired 3 new members on the committee, Sam Bowles who has served many times before on the committee and will be taking over the Apiarist magazine, Steve Davies who as mentioned above has been assisting Keith at the association apiary, and Helen Searle who will be assisting Rosie with events.
The challenge going forward will be to secure a more permanent apiary site where it is worth investing in permanent facilities such as a club house etc. – challenging. A plea for land was sent out far and wide earlier last year with limited success. 4 sites were visited – mostly deemed unsuitable on grounds of access, safety or lack of permanence. One private site is in abeyance
Our hopes are now pinned on the either the Uckfield or Crowborough SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) courtesy of WDC again – and despite initial slow progress things are now looking more encouraging.

This may seem rather familiar to those who attended the AGM … apologies! but it is really for those who couldn’t.

Over the winter months I thought I’d re-read my bee keeping books to see just how much I’d forgotten ……checking on that incipient senility problem I mentioned in my previous Chairman’s Chatter. (I am of course only joking and don’t mean to make light of a serious medical problem.)

When I read some of these books the first time around I was nearer the bottom of the steep learning curve of bee keeping and when new to a subject important points don’t always stick without having the all-important context.

Sure, enough I re-discovered many interesting things that had fallen out of the holes in my memory.

I was reminded of one thing I’d intended share when I saw Malcolm at the talk last week on Swarm Management, and now that spring finally seems to be on the way it is particularly apposite.

I recall well, when I started, the difficulty of remembering how to do an artificial swarm, which box went where, when and with which bees in …… a bit like the three-cup trick… confusing. And then as a new beekeeper I quite often had hives where I had not manged to find and mark the Queen early enough in the season and now I’m faced with a brood box heaving with bees, about to swarm and with almost no chance of now finding the Queen …. What to do? Sometimes in desperation I would simply split the brood box in two taking half the frames off into another box. It often worked but was clearly sub-optimal and I’m sure I probably lost casts.

In the Green Guide to Beekeeping which we provide to new members taking the course we give, I re-discovered during my revision what they refer to as a ‘Simple Swarm Control Method’ on p145. It may prove useful to new beekeeper’s (and maybe even not so new ones too) who find themselves in that self-same position …. burgeoning brood box, about to swarm and un-marked / illusive Queen.

Simple Swarm-control Method*

  • Wait until you see unsealed queen cells
  • Move the parent hive to a new permanent stand at least four feet away
  • Place a new brood box (or nucleus box) on the original stand
  • Select a comb with a good-sized, unsealed queen cell
  • Gently brush every single bee from this comb and destroy all the other queen cells
  • Put the selected comb into the new brood box; the flying bees will find their way back to this box but the old queen cannot be present as no bees were transferred
  • Add at least two frames of food stores (and pollen) plus one frame of sealed brood — brushing off all the bees first
  • Fill up the new hive with frames of drawn comb or foundation and reduce the entrance
  • Replace the frames removed from the old box with frames of foundation; this will both improve the ventilation of the hive and give the remaining bees something to do apart from thinking about swarming, although the reduction in population should quell the swarming urge
  • Divide the supers between the two hives
  • Feed both parts as necessary

It will take about three weeks before the new colony has a functioning queen and it is very vulnerable during this time. Keep a careful eye on things without disturbing it too much.

I hope you may find this helpful.

*I’m sure this contravenes copyright law but hope they will not object on the basis it is good publicity for their jolly good book.

 I recently became Chairman of the High Weald Beekeeper’s Association, at the AGM Iast November (2017) in fact, and this is by way of a brief introduction. I do put this elevation purely down to deafness and incipient senility, such that when Helen, my predecessor, asked for volunteers to take a step forward, I must have been thinking about something else at the time, when everyone else took several steps backwards.

For those of you who don’t know me already, I took up beekeeping about 7 years ago, after an apiary visit with our very good friend Rosemarie Riley, where I was charmed by these fascinating little miracles of nature, the bees, and it was then I got the ‘bug’ …….a lame joke you’ve all heard far too often I’m sure. Shortly thereafter I bought some bees, did Keith’s most excellent course, struggled through my first two seasons of hot springs and cold wet summers but haven’t looked back since.

I was not only charmed by the bees, in fact, but also quite taken by the rather special folk who take care of bees, and, ever a soft touch for a good cause, I gradually became involved in the work of the committee. These are the special folk who try to take care of the people who try to take care of the bees, by laying on courses, taster days, offering expert help and advice 24/7, social occasions, collecting swarms, and by managing this website—all a considerable amount of work and a huge commitment. Talking of which, this website was the first task I picked up on behalf on the committee. Since then I have become involved in various other activities the committee support on behalf of the membership. Talking of which again, the membership, through the good auspices of the committee,  has grown considerably over the years such that the HWBKA are now the largest of the divisions within the Sussex Beekeeping Association.

We have a comprehensive range of activities planned again for this year, the beginners’ course, taster days, improvers’ group events, Bee Banter—our monthly support group in the pub, the summer barbeque, the honey show, talks, candle-making workshop, local fairs and fetes, our newsletter—The Apiarist and, no doubt, others which may come to light as the year proceeds. Please keep checking the events calendar on this website for times, dates and venues.

One new significant activity this year will be the drive to get a new permanent Association Apiary, with, hopefully a club house with appropriate facilities for storage, extraction and so on. Several possible locations have been identified and visited and fund raising to equip it has commenced in earnest. This will improve life for all concerned with organising events, rather than having to book halls and rely on the generosity of members to host events such as apiary visits etc.

We would welcome any suggestions for other events you would like to see, or any offers of assistance with those already arranged.

We wish all our members and friends a happy successful beekeeping year.

Peter Coxon

Chairman's chatter Feb 2016

I hope everyone has made their bee plans for 2016 and purchased extra beekeeping equipment in the winter sales. I have been cleaning all my spare bee equipment in the hope that I will be busy in a few months time. In a bid to be free of EFB we have been busy at the association apiary burning old frames and cleaning equipment. We will wait to have the seasonal bee inspector visit and then shook swarm all the hives. If you have any spare time please come and join us on the working party dates.

The beekeeping season has begun - here in the south the queens are only out of lay for a very short period. The days are now getting longer and I am sure my queens are laying a few frames of brood. The old bees are under a huge amount of stress and they are munching stores to produce energy and heat to keep the brood warm and feeding the young larvae pollen (protein) required for growth. Please heft your hives regularly and if in any doubt put a kilo of fondant and a kilo of pollen substitute on - this will avoid starvation. Also remember if it rains the bees cannot get out and collect nectar and fresh pollen which is so important for healthy brood.

We have made a few changes this year to Bee Banter. We have decided to go back to having one bee banter a month but alternating the pub venue. So the next Bee Banter is on 23rd February at The Rose and Crown in Mayfield then 29th March at The Crow And Gate near Crowborough. We can review this again in the future. Malcolm will bring a selection of bee books from the library. You can also look on the website and see the list of books we have and request to borrow a specific book.

Keep checking the website for events at our two apiary sites. This year we will be attempting several methods of queen rearing (yet again!). There are also some interesting open apiary visits to attend. Open apiary visits are a chance to visit members' apiaries which can be great for picking up tips on how to improve your beekeeping as we all do things in slightly different ways which makes beekeeping so interesting.

Can I please ask that you inform Rose Marie if you wish to attend any events - this helps us plan refreshments.

Helen Hadley

This is my first year as chairman and the committee has been working hard to organise events which we hope all our member will participate in. Our aim is to provide interesting , fun events covering all aspects of beekeeping for beginners and improvers.

Please keep checking events for what’s going on so you don’t miss out and please join us.

We will run our usual beginners course at our Cherry Gardens apiary. This runs throughout the beekeeping season. For the improvers we are running a Queen Rearing Group and hope to be able to raise local queens, best suited for our environment.

New this year we are offering a Taster Beekeeping Day, for anyone interested in bees. This will be held at our Rotherfield Apiary and will be a fascinating days insight into the world of bees and beekeeping.

We continue with our informal, friendly, social, bee banter evening meetings held on the second Thursday of the month at The Crow & Gate Crowborough and the last Tuesday of the month at The Rose and Crown Mayfield, where you can meet other beekeepers and ask any beekeeping questions. (Please see Events Page https://hwbka.org.uk/events/ for up to date information on events)

We will be attending the Heathfield show, Framfield village show, Horam fun day and Crowborough fair.

Finally we would like to invite all our members to a BBQ on 18thJuly at our Rotherfield Apiary, a friendly social event to chat and share any problems or successes around beekeeping.

We welcome any suggestions for future events and wish all our members and friends a happy successful beekeeping year.

Helen Hadley