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Chair’s AGM Report 2021

This is essentially an overview of 2021 for the HWBKA picking out some of the highlights … and lowlights. More detail can be found in each of the committee members reports which you also have received.

Starting with the ‘lowlights’ we are obviously still being impacted by COVID although not as severely as in 2020 when almost everything stopped.

On more positive notes the Association continues strongly with 247 members, only one down on last year.

Finances are still strong with a healthy balance of ≈£21k although this would have been even greater had we been able to run the course last year in 2020. It is still our hope and intention to be able to fund an Apiary with a permanent Club House and we are slowly building funds to accomplish that.

Despite the BBKA increasing their charges last year, when we had to absorb the cost as we could not do anything about it until the following AGM, we have decided again to maintain our current level of subscriptions and absorb that cost increase once more. Most of your dues do go to the BBKA and for BDI as can see in Peter Halford’s and Rob’s reports. It was for this reason that we changed our rules and constitution to enable us to increase dues by whatever the BBKA impose should we need to, without having to wait for the following years AGM to pass a resolution or hold an EGM.

At the beginning of 2021 it was not at all certain we would be able to run the Beginner’s Course. It represents a major revenue for the Association both financially and in terms of new members. In anticipation of future difficulties, we setup an education sub-committee, an objective for which would be the generation of a comprehensive course manual, and this was completed during the bleak mid-winter and early spring.  Armed with this document we felt that in the worst case we might be able to run the course on a one-to-one basis or in much smaller groups depending on prevailing lockdown criteria at the time. This would of course require a greater number of tutors who may well need the manual for reference. In the event the first 2 classroom-based sessions were held on Zoom and the initial ‘in-the-field’ events one to one with the very much increased number of tutors in their own apiaries. Our tutors did sterling work, and we are very appreciative of their efforts on behalf of the beginners. This all worked well and then in July we recommenced group events. The manual will stand us in good stead for the future and all new beekeepers on the course get a copy to keep so they get our association’s view and are not too confused by all the sometimes-conflicting advice they might get in books and on-line

We held the Taster Day this year in June at my apiary and had a most enjoyable day with 11 participants, including Peter Halford and Talha Dinc who came long to help.

Following on from a laudable initiative from Malcolm 2 years earlier to encourage people through their Basic Assessment, we finally managed to hold the assessment, again in my apiary to better facilitate necessary teas, coffees, brandies etc. 5 people, 4 from HWBKA and one who came up from Hastings and Rother took part. Mike Cullen, a Master Beekeeper from Hastings took us through quite gently. My guilt at not doing it earlier in my beekeeping career finally got the better of me and I too took the test of ‘beekeeping manhood’.

In terms of other events held throughout year they have been quite severely curtailed. Committee Meetings have been held on Zoom as Peter Leswell has had to maintain a strict isolation regime. There were no country fayres we could attend. BeeBanter was off the menu until it re-commenced in the latter half of the year. Attendance at BeeBanters has been somewhat down compared to the past, no doubt because of people’s legitimate concerns over either getting infected or spreading infection. Last month Talha managed to organise a very successful wax workshop which Helen Hadley led, and Sandy Infield hosted in her spacious studio. On the 8th December he has organised our annual Christmas Dinner at the Middle House in Mayfield. We hope you will be able to attend.

Our Association Apiaries are in mostly good fettle, although it has been a tricky year for many beekeepers as indicated in Keith & Steve’s report about Slab Castle. We heard in Jonathan Coote’s Apiarist article about the winter losses. We had a warm February causing the colonies to build quickly and early, followed by a colder dry spell and then a colder wet spell and some colonies never really got up to speed. My own honey crop as with the Associations was less than half the usual.   

Nonetheless Slab Castle is going into the winter with 10 colonies and much work has been done over the year maintaining it and the equipment.

Our lease from WDC for the Horsted Green Apiary was increased to 12 colonies in exchange for which they wanted our assistance with promotion, and you may have seen articles in Ashdown Living Sussex Country Living. I took over from Steve running the Apiary mid-way through the year as the combination of running Slab Castle and Horsted with all the travel that entailed was getting too much. Steve was very largely responsible for setting up the splendid facilities at Horsted for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. There was a very successful queen rearing activity held at Horsted and led by Helen Hadley and Malcolm. We used a particularly vigorous colony of nice gentle bees and produced some 30 or so queens which were given out to various members. We plan to hold something similar next year with more emphasis on teaching the craft. We will also be raising 10 nucs of bees with the very generous assistance of John Miller, to supply future new beekeepers on the course. A small part we can play in reducing the need to import bees from abroad along with whatever plague they might bring in with them.

As mentioned above, it is an awful lot of work running the association apiaries and we hope next year to be able to enlist some permanent or semi-permanent assisting teams to help share the burden and perhaps as a teaching experience too for those less experienced, to learn from the likes of Steve and Keith. There will be a form sent out and at the AGM for those who would like to express interest.

The Apiarist is going out quarterly ‘jam packed’ thanks to the sterling work of Paul with his expertise in DTP

AHAT - fortunately there has been very little activity on the Asian Hornet front, due in no small part to the continuing vigilance of beekeepers nationwide and of course FERA.

The website continues to support our activities and membership very well. The advent of booking forms for events and the eR2 system making life much easier for our Membership Secretary Peter …although it is still a great deal of work he does behind the scenes to keep our Association running smoothly.

SBKA has been quiet and similarly impacted by CV-19 and holding meetings on Zoom. There was no Bee Market this year but the Autumn Convention which was a hybrid live /Zoom meeting had some interesting talks particularly from the folks at Buckfast Abbey.

Having overstayed my statutory three term year as Chair by one year in extremis to get through the COVID crisis this has been my last year …honest!


It’s been fun, an honour and a privilege. I will still be around, however, looking after the little darlings at our Horsted Apiary.

'Don't kill flies, wasps or bees this summer' warning

30-May-22 – Essex Live

https://www.essexlive.news/news/uk-world-news/dont-kill-flies-wasps-bees-7143004

Could the land of milk and honey save the world's bees?

26-May-22 – Jewish Chronicle

https://www.thejc.com/lets-talk/all/could-the-land-of-milk-and-honey-save-the-worlds-bees-4PLxtyh6FATHzEa8U7J7v0

Bee charity wins silver medal at Chelsea Flower Show

26-May-22 – Abergavenny Chronicle

https://www.abergavennychronicle.com/news/bee-charity-wins-silver-medal-at-chelsea-flower-show-548314

Guerlain marks World Bee Day with #WomenForBees fundraising campaign

23-May-22 – Moodie Davitt

American Foulbrood found in Perthshire bee hive

20-May-22 – Gov Scotland

https://www.gov.scot/news/american-foulbrood-found-in-perthshire-bee-hive/

Hive mind: Tunisia beekeepers abuzz over early warning system

20-May-22 – France24

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220520-hive-mind-tunisia-beekeepers-abuzz-over-early-warning-system

World Bee Day: A British beekeeper’s guide to protecting the essential insects

19-May-22 – Alloa Advertiser

https://www.alloaadvertiser.com/news/20149888.world-bee-day-british-beekeepers-guide-protecting-essential-insects/

Bees are at risk and we can all help to keep them safe

18-May-22 – The Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/e5a77cf4-d6e1-11ec-8585-951ab3afb4d2

In Scotland, The LACRIMA Foundation is Making 3D Printed Wooden Beehives

18-May-22 – 3D-Natives

https://www.3dnatives.com/en/lacrima-foundation-3d-printed-wooden-beehives-180520224/

Scientists’ astonishing discovery: some bats pretend to be bees and hornets to defend themselves from predators!

12-May=22 – Medium.com

£2.4m components contract secured to help save the bees

04-May-22 – The Business Desk

Chef Clodagh McKenna reveals why she loves to keep bees

01-May-22 – Homes and Gardens

https://www.homesandgardens.com/gardens/clodagh-mckenna-reveals-why-she-loves-to-keep-bees

“Honey galore in sunny St Leonards” - by Malcolm Wilkie

Once again this season has been like no other. A very mild wet winter has meant that the bees have started building up really early and collecting a lot of nectar from spring flowers and trees : although we have had little rain so far the ground itself was moist and trees with their deep roots have been able to express nectar in great quantity.

The month of April was very kind from the point of view of the weather and so it is perhaps unsurprising that large colonies have wanted to swarm early. A few years ago the main swarming season was towards the end of May but this certainly hasn’t been the case this year for my bees.

My problem is that colonies on which I did swarm control by taking the Queen out on the nucleus have now built up to such an extent that they themselves also now need a super. Lesley and I now have 22 units between us, and those numbers seem to be mushrooming! As soon as the sun comes out Les’s garden hums so loudly that one thinks there must be a swarm somewhere. As our neighbour said when he looked over the fence the other day, the activity of your bees is rather like the M25 as there seems to be so much traffic.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I have run out of supers and a lot of the supers that I have on hives are so full of honey that the bees have nowhere to place the ingress of nectar. So I urgently need to do a honey extraction in order to create some space, because my concern is that new Queens will have nowhere to lay in the brood box and so that will trigger another round of swarming and of course that is what I want to avoid at all costs.

All of us as beekeepers need to keep an eagle eye on the weather. We have now just had a good dump of rain, and more is expected next week. The consequence of that, given the elevated temperatures, is that we will have the most humongous nectar flow and brood boxes will become honey bound if we are not careful. So if your bees are in condition, add supers and think about removing frames of stores from the brood box and replacing them with foundation. This will keep the bees busy and create space for a new queen to start her brood nest.

Below are some pictures of Lesley’s garden. The supers are so heavy that it is difficult to lift them off the hive. We don’t think there is rape in the vicinity this year. However in my out apiary that may not be the case and if I am unlucky when I can do an extraction (which is not until next week) the honey may have granulated to such an extent that I won’t even be able to get it out of the frames. Jo Groom avoided this problem last week because she realised that the honey was granulating before her eyes. That’s the difficulty with rape honey because it will set overnight if you’re not careful. So it needs to be put into jars at the same time as you are extracting if at all possible. Otherwise you’re going to have to use a warming cabinet. At least (because she is on the ball) she has extracted the ripe honey from her frames and they can now be used again. If I am unlucky and the honey in my out apiary has set rock-hard in the frames I will not be able to extract it and all that drawn wax will be wasted!

Lesley and I have never had a spring crop like this one before. Honey galore! As long as I can actually get it out of the frames!

  • Video - Nuc boxes in a row as part of swarm control. This is only a part of the garden!
  • Image-1 - Swarm control!
  • Image-2 - The top part of the garden.
  • Image-3 - The bottom part of the garden.

Despite the number of hives, the bees let us mow and strim in the garden without bothering us. Some of those bees are from last year’s calm queen project.

Rape honey can be a blessing or a curse.

  • Image-4 - Jo Groom’s extraction from yesterday. Definitely rape - it granulates before your eyes.
  • Image-5 - Jo’s honey granulating as she is bottling up. It will be set within 12 hours.

Malcolm Wilkie (training officer) – 20th May 2022

Is No Mow May a good idea?

29-Apr-22 – LivingEtc

https://www.livingetc.com/advice/no-mow-may

UK braced for another invasion of killer Asian hornets after first insects of 2022 found

25-Apr-22 – EssexLive

https://www.essexlive.news/news/uk-world-news/uk-braced-another-invasion-killer-6994583

Landworkers' Alliance seeks to ban export of UK-made pesticides

22-Apr-22 – FarmingUK

https://www.farminguk.com/news/landworkers-alliance-seeks-to-ban-export-of-uk-made-pesticides_60256.html

Bee diversity needed to sustain life on Earth

18-Apr-22 – Environment Journal

How to prevent insect bites and stings as the weather warms up

17-Apr-22 – The Courier (Scotland)

Researchers explore DWR inspired by bees

12-Apr-22 – Au Manufacturing

Pollination experts install listening devices at Dyson Farming site

11-Apr-22 – FarmingUK

https://www.farminguk.com/news/pollination-experts-install-listening-devices-at-dyson-farming-site_60199.html

EU to restrict use of harmful Sulfoxaflor pesticide for pollinators

07-Apr-22 - EU business

https://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/sulfoxaflor-pesticide.74xw

World’s First Bee-Free Honey Company MeliBio Secures $5.7M In Funding

07-Apr-22 – Plant based news

Recent cold weather could be detrimental to wildlife, say Woodland Trust: Here’s how you can help

08-Apr-22 – On-the-Wight (but it’s in the South too!!)

Cold weather could hit wildlife after mild start to year, conservationists warn

07-Apr-22 – Fife Times (I know it’s a bit north of here!!!)

https://www.centralfifetimes.com/news/20050411.cold-weather-hit-wildlife-mild-start-year-conservationists-warn/

Colombian researchers seek safety for bees in urban jungle

05-Apr-22 – France24

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220405-colombian-researchers-seek-safety-for-bees-in-urban-jungle

Want to attract bees? New study says to keep these 3 common weeds

04-Apr-22 – Country Living

https://www.countryliving.com/uk/homes-interiors/gardens/a39624295/garden-weeds-benefit-pollinators/

Scottish fruit growers to use new AI system to boost yields

31-Mar-22 - FarmingUK News

https://www.farminguk.com/news/scottish-fruit-growers-to-use-new-ai-system-to-boost-yields_60136.html

What are bee bus stops and could the Channel Islands get some?

31-Mar-22 – ITV News

https://www.itv.com/news/channel/2022-03-31/what-are-bee-bus-stops-and-could-the-channel-islands-get-some