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Report of East Devon Beekeepers AGM 2019 & Quiz

Held at Kilmington Village Hall, 7th November 2019

Our AGM is a chance for members to hear what has been going on in the group over the last year and for them to vote-in Officers and Committee members. The meeting was conducted efficiently as much of the information had been issued beforehand. The new Committee are:

President Hilary Kirkcaldie
Acting Chair Alasdair Bruce
Treasurer Keith Bone
Secretary Val Bone
Committee John Badley, Mary Boulton, Sarah Collins, Ralph Cox, Nicky Langley, Rosemary Maggs, Colin Osborne, Ann Pengelly, Richard Simpson, Peter Weller
Branch delegate to DBKA Executive Committee Peter Weller

Val Bone will also be Membership Secretary, Richard Simpson will be Education Officer and Keith Bone will be Apiary Liaison Officer.

Honiton Show Committee members will remain as last year (John Badley, Keith Bone, Ralph Cox, Angela Findlay, Sue Johnston and Mike Walters). We will be actively seeking new members to replace those who will be standing down in the near future.

Hilary Kirkcaldie congratulated the eight candidates who passed their Basic exam this summer (Sara Bredemear-Gill, Oliver Gill, Richard Croft, Jon Gosse, Mark Williams, Robert Sorrell, Angela Brooke-Smith and James Holbrook). The Craythorne cup for gaining the highest points in East Devon was won by Sara. Hilary also presented certificates to those who were present at the meeting.

During the break, tea, coffee and refreshments were provided. Thanks to Helen Bithrey with Kath West and Mary Boulton for their delicious cakes.

There followed a quiz described as ‘something to do with bees, but just a bit of fun’. The format was 5 teams, each with up to 6 people. Each team were provided with a buzzer that would indicate the first to answer. The quiz was organised and overseen by Val Bone. To start with it was all a bit chaotic as we quickly found out that the buzzers couldn’t cope with enthusiastic team members ‘just testing my buzzer’! So we carried on with a good, old fashioned show of hands.

The first question was an easy one, the Latin name for a honeybee. Then followed more questions requiring a good beekeeping knowledge e.g. ‘What is a DCA?’, ‘What does Mellitology mean?’, ‘What colour will we be marking queens in 2020?’.

Then things got more difficult. Identification of bee diseases from pictures. We should all know these but it’s not easy on the spur of the moment. Try these two images (Courtesy The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Crown Copyright):

For those of you who like puzzles we had a section on beekeeping anagrams. Try these examples: RALOWESTXTOAARXCR (3 words), EFMRTERCROATE (1 word) and KEGQNNPREMIUNAE (3 words).

And bee related abbreviations: ABPV, CCD, WBC.

And if numbers are your thing: ‘Add a honey bees eyes to its legs. How many?’

For those not too familiar with bees there were the Music and Literature sections, all with a beesy theme. Again, try these:
Flight of the Bumble Bee was composed by Rimsky Korsokov. What nationality was he?
Who sang ‘Kiss me Honey Honey Kiss Me’ reaching no3 in the charts in 1958?
In Greek mythology who is credited as being the first beekeeper?

Meanwhile, Jes Pelham was doing sterling work keeping the score board updated. The final score was very close, only one point separating 1st and 2nd.

Val did a great job as quiz master, managing to keep the (slightly) rowdy element under control. She can definitely put ‘Quiz Master’ on her CV!

Feedback was very positive so if you find the questions above intriguing then come along to the next quiz we have, as I am sure there will be demand for another one. It really was fun, and we learned something about bees! Well done Val.

East Devon Beekeepers support Axminster Town Council Environment Day

Axminster Environment Day

Axminster Town Council have declared a climate emergency and have staged the ‘Environment Day’ above to promote the decision and show people what they can do to tackle climate change and reduce their carbon footprint.

East Devon Beekeepers were happy to support the Council by providing an Information Stand with special reference to bees and the environment. Not just honey bees but the wider importance of all types of bees and their pollinating activities.

Speakers through the day covered a wide range of topics including hints and tips on recycling all kinds of household items. Plastic waste was targeted, especially waste on our beaches and we were given a fascinating talk by Todd Olive of University of Warwick on the basics of climate change and why the current situation is considered by many to be an emergency.

Well done Axminster Town Council on this important initiative!

“How killer bees evolved into chiller bees in just one decade”

This headline was seen in the the New Scientist.

As many of you will know, the story of killer bees started in Brazil in 1956 when Warwick Kerr, a local geneticist, imported Tanzanian Apis mellifera scutellata bees to start a breeding programme aimed at making the local Apis mellifera strain more productive and resistant to tropical conditions.

Some of the aggressive hybrids escaped into the forest and interbred with local bees, soon becoming dominant. They spread rapidly through Brazil and on to central America, reaching southern US states in the 1990s. Killer bees had now taken root in 20 countries on two continents! By 1994 aggressive bees were recorded on the eastern side of Puerto Rico, having stowed away aboard a ship in Texas bound for the island.

“By the 1990s, killer bees had taken root in 20 countries on two continents”

These bees were just as aggressive and many colonies were killed by the authorities. Then, in September 1998, Hurricane Georges hit the island, sending bee numbers plummeting. During the post-Georges recovery, bee numbers eventually rebounded but researchers at the University of Puerto Rico discovered that bee attacks had dropped dramatically. Baffled by this change, they tested the bees genetically and found them to still be hybrids, not pockets of the old European docile bees as they had expected.

So what was the mysterious force driving this transformation?

One theory is that island living imposes conditions where there are fewer predators but limited resources. Bees would evolve less defensive behaviour and become better honey gatherers . Another possible explanation is that the human population density on the island is very high, leading to the aggressive colonies being eliminated by human intervention.

The likelihood is that all these factors have played a part. Despite the very rapid evolution, the bees have retained a high degree of genetic variation and the resulting colonies are not just docile but resistant to disease and are good honey producers.

Then in September 2017 Hurricane Maria tore Puerto Rico to shreds a second time. The new docile bees were almost annihilated and a major rescue operation by local beekeepers managed to locate around 65 colonies, saving them from extinction.

At this point, US beekeepers became interested in these docile, disease resistant, productive ‘chiller’ bees. Having suffered for years from colony collapse disorder (CCD), they were on the lookout for anything that might mitigate the problem. It appears that the hybrids spend far longer grooming themselves than European honeybees and so they are far more likely to dislodge varroa mites which are seen as a major part of the problem of bee decline worldwide.

Some see the importing of Puerto Rico’s bees to the USA as promising. Others have pointed out that CCD emerged from multiple causes including poor nutrition, pesticides, pests and pathogens. It is unlikely the new bees would be able to deal with all of these circumstances.

Even so, it is hoped that these extraordinary bees will be part of the future battle to strengthen global bee populations. Next steps, already under way, will be to isolate the genetic differences responsible for aggression and mite resistance. With such a rapid evolutionary change from killer to potential saviour, who knows what will happen?



News & Events

Pesticide made from spider venom kills pests without harming bees
Funnel-web spiders have neurotoxins in their bite that can kill an adult human yet they might turn out to be our allies if the small hive beetle ever reaches the UK.
Scientists at the University of Durham and Fera Science think the spiders may provide the weapon we need to stop the beetles.
The spider venom contains a cocktail of ingredients and one of them – Hv1a – is toxic to most insects, including the small hive beetle, but does not seem to affect bees or humans.
Hv1a needs to be injected to be effective. Just swallowing the toxin is ineffective as it is degraded in their gut. To get round this the team have bound Hv1a to a molecule from the common snowdrop which effectively carries it through the gut barrier.
In the laboratory the team fed the “fusion protein” in a sugar solution to beetles and their larvae. Within a week, all the beetles and larvae were dead.
Next step was to put beetle eggs on bee comb with brood, and spray with the compound. The honeycomb and bees survived virtually untouched, but most of the new beetle larvae died.
The selfish case for saving bees: it’s how to save ourselves
These crucial pollinators keep our world alive. Yes, they are under threat – but all is not lost.  Click here to read the article.
World’s largest bumblebee under threat.
The Patagonian bumblebee, the worlds largest bumblebee, is under threat from the import of species native to Europe.The growth of the bumblebee trade for agricultural pollination since the 1980s has been identified as one of the top emerging environmental issues likely to affect global diversity.Follow this link to read the article.
Best plants for bees: 5 yr study results by RosyBee
Follow the link to see the results of 5 years of monitoring which bees visit a variety of ‘bee-friendly’ plants.
What’s that Buzz? Plants hear when bees are coming
New research has shown that plants can ‘hear’ sounds around them and flowers respond to the buzz of approaching bees by producing sweeter nectar. The research biologists from Tel Aviv University played recordings of flying bee sounds to evening primrose flowers and found that after a few minutes the sugar concentration in the flower’s nectar had increased by 20% on average when compared with flowers left in silence or submitted to higher pitched sounds.
The authors of the report say that, for the first time, they have shown plants can rapidly respond to pollinator sounds in an ecologically relevant way.
Producing sweeter nectar in response to the sounds of bees can help entice the insects to visit the flowers and increase the chances of its pollen being distributed.
Thanks to Ann P. for spotting this article in the Times.