European hornets at close range

I have several artificial nest boxes around our firewood shelter along with a Warré hive and bees. The nests have been occupied by various birds and bats but this year I had the pleasure of watching hornets at close range. Having not seen any after 17 October, curiosity won on 27 October and I took it down to look inside.

Beekeeping courses

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Do you fancy the idea of keeping bees and would you like to learn about beekeeping? Each year we run a Beginners' Beekeeping Course for people interested in taking up this wonderful hobby. The course is aimed at complete beginners - your and old - without bees and no,or very little, experience but with the desire to learn about bees and beekeeping.

UK will back total ban on bee-harming pesticides

The UK will back a total ban on insect-harming pesticides in fields across Europe, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has revealed.

The decision reverses the government’s previous position and is justified by recent new evidence showing neonicotinoids have contaminated the whole landscape and cause damage to colonies of bees.

It also follows the revelation that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, a discovery Gove said had shocked him.

Killerton Apple Fair

Exeter and Tiverton branches were once again asked to bring a stand to the annual National Trust Apple and Cider Fair at Killerton House in October. This year's topic was to be based around the myths, legends and folklore of apples and bees. An interesting subject, and many members immediately suggested the old custom of telling the bees about births, marriages and death, which seemed a good place to start. In fact there are so many traditions and beliefs about bees going back thousands of years, it was really hard to know where to begin.

Asian Hornet identified in Devon

The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) at an apiary near Woolacombe in Devon. This is the first confirmed sighting since 2016, when a nest was discovered in the Tetbury area in Gloucestershire. Bee inspectors promptly tracked down and destroyed the nest.

Autumn management of colonies

As we approach the autumn season, you may be planning what to do in order to successfully over-winter your colonies. Remember the start of the 2018 beekeeping year begins now and anything you do or do not do to your colonies will have repercussions on their ability to over-winter successfully, and on their subsequent performance in the following year.

Starvation alert

The National Bee Unit has issued an alert in the south-west encouraging beekeepers to check their colonies food levels. Many of the Bee Inspectors are finding colonies on the brink of starvation with alarmingly low food stores. The National Bee Unit says "As a rule of thumb, a full size colony should have about 25 kg of honey stores to get through the winter and into the first part of our unpredictable springs. Therefore, many beekeepers will feed around 25 kg of thick sugar syrup (1k g of granulated sugar to 630 ml of water) between August and September."

Talking bees on local radio

Devon beekeeper, Liz Westcott, has been invited along to Phonic FM, a locally-based community radio station, to talk about her bees and how people can get started if they are interested in taking up beekeeping themselves.

If you would like to listen live, tune into Phonic FM on Wednesday 6 September between 11 am and 12 noon.

Do you know anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper? 

Predicting the spread of the Asian hornet

The yellow-legged or Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is native to South-East Asia, and is a voracious predator of pollinating insects including honey bees. Since its accidental introduction into South-Western France in 2004, V. velutina has spread to much of western Europe. The presence of V. velutina in Great Britain was first confirmed in September 2016. The likely dynamics following an initial incursion are uncertain, especially the risk of continued spread, and the likely success of control measures.