Meetings and Reports
East Lothian Beekeepers
On these pages you will find some of the proceedings of Association meetings and relevant reports affecting the Association. (Previous Postings)
1. There were mysteries and surprises galore at the February meeting of the East Lothain Beekeepers Association held in Haddington's Town House. Members tried to guess the function of strange pieces of beekeeping equipment, successfully identifying a honey creamer, a frame for making up sections, an aid to uncapping honeycomb and a mould for making wax foundation, but the purpose of other items brought along remained a puzzle. After refreshments that included honeycake, the meeting heard a story about an encounter with a bad-tempered beekeeper, and a recital of Auden's "Lake Isle of Innishfree" which includes the lines "Nine-bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee / And live alone in the bee-loud glade". Next was the story of a foolish young queen who missed the entrance to her hive and forced her workers to build a brood nest underneath the hive. The eclectic evening finished with a rendition on fiddle of the "Bee's Wing Hornpipe".
April 2007 seems a long time past now, but perhaps by now some members have made their first Dartington Long Deep hive after Graham White's inspirational talk. The first summer meeting at George Barton's apiary in May found the Association hive in dire need of a Varroa treatment – a useful reminder to us all to keep checking for the numbers of falling mites. If you don't manage and treat for Varroa then your colonies will collapse. John de Pree reports that the mite fall in his hives in July exceeded 30 a day and so he had had to treat them. We had hopes of finding a temporary site for the Association apiary at Alderston, but East Lothian Council have again stymied this – we are still looking for a suitable site, and this has to be the top priority for the Association before next season.
Mike Bain and I had a busy afternoon at a cub scout camp at East Fortune at the end of May fielding a flurry of questions about the observation hive. The highlight of the summer visits was our trip to John de Pree's apiary at Beech Hill in June where everyone was impressed with the quality of the frames and their ease of manipulation due to John's complicated, but effective methods for managing swarming and his abundant honey crop. The sun was out for the Haddington show where Mike Bain, Gordon Biggar, Pat McErlean, David Marshall, Bill Fife and myself manned the display and took over £200 in honey sales. The following week a small band of beekeepers came to my apiary and were kind enough to keep their thoughts about my brace-combed, propolised, queenless, ill-fitting hives, to themselves, though the strawberries were judged to be very good!
George Hood - Bee-farmer
The county's only commercial beekeeper, George Hood of Ormiston, entertained a recent meeting of the East Lothian Beekeepers Association with a virtuosic display of beekeeping at which the only things missing were a bit of sunshine and some bees! George Hood can trace his beekeeping lineage back to the legendary Willie Smith of Innerleithen, the inventor of the Smith hive, and from whom he bought his first hives in the 1960s. He began by paying homage to the Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth, the American who discovered “bee space” in 1852. If two surfaces in the hive are too close together then the bees will block the space with sticky propolis; if the surfaces are too far apart then they will fill up the space with honeycomb. However, if two surfaces are just the right distance apart – between 6 and 9 millimetres - then the bees will use it as crawl space and the beekeeper can take frames of honeycomb or brood from the hive almost as easily as taking a file from a filing cabinet.
Using an empty hive and frames of honeycomb, George demonstrated to his fascinated audience of part-time, back-yard beekeepers how things had to be done when you have hundreds of hives to look after. He demonstrated how to find, catch and mark queen bees, how to deal with swarming, and how to remove honey at the end of the season. He particularly impressed upon his audience the importance of looking after your equipment, keeping tools sharp, cleaning out the smoker, keeping an eye on “bee space”, everything geared towards not stirring up the bees. He finished with a few tips on marketing, explaining how the customer's tastes were not always easy to guess, and the importance of packaging and presentation.
“The uniqueness of the honey bee dance language”
Why are bees so clever? This was the question posed by Dr Peter Wright of Edinburgh University 's Psychology Department when he addressed members of the East Lothian Beekeepers Association at their AGM on 12 th January in the Haddington Town House. The answer, according to Dr Wright, is that it takes about 50,000 miles of flying (about twice the earth's circumference) for the bees to produce a pound of honey. If their foraging wasn't efficient then they would have to fly even further! Bees use a dance language to alert each other to the location of rich sources of nectar and pollen. The distance of the food source is indicated by the amount of waggling during the dance, while the direction of the dance indicates the bearing to fly, relative to the sun.
Proof that bees are really communicating through their dancing comes from “Gould's Lie” experiment, in which dancing bees gave misleading directions about the location of a food source. Normally it is dark inside a beehive and bees interpret the orientation of the dance relative to gravity – straight up means “fly towards the sun” while a horizontal dance means “fly at right angles to the sun”. However, if a horizontal light is shone inside the hive then the bees interpret a horizontal dance as meaning “fly towards the sun”. If the eyes of the dancing bees are covered up so that they aren't aware of the light inside the hive, then they dance as if were dark, and so send the other bees to the wrong place. They lie, though it's not really their fault. More contentious were experiments suggesting that bees are able to anticipate changes in the location of food sources, and that they “know” not to bother flying out over the sea, knowing that there aren't any flowers north of Dunbar !
Annual Dinner - with Pictures
Eighteen members and partners gathered at Bonar’s restaurant in
Haddington on 4th November for the revived Association Annual
Dinner. Douglas Bonar used honey from the Association apiary as
the basis for a superb honey-themed menu and the evening flowed
with wine and conversation, bee-related and otherwise. George
Barton presented Basic Beemaster certificates to Maureen and
Allan Cameron, Margaret Dunning and Donald Smith.
Click on the link above to see the pictures courtesy of Alan Cameron
Pat's out-Apiary visit - Pictures
AGM and DIY hand cream demonstration
The night of the AGM (24 th February) was a filthy one, but there were fifteen brave souls attracted by the exiting agenda. Or possibly they were there for Mike Bain's demonstration on making hand cream using beeswax. With his waterbath boiling, his whisks, bottles, jars and laboratory pipettes at the ready he looked like a cross between a celebrity chef and a domesticated scientist – but the creams he produced were succulent
The President, Secretary and Treasurer were all re-elected and are George Barton, Donald Smith and Rosemary Carthy respectively. The committee comprises Colin McIntosh, Mike Bain, Gordon Biggar, Pat McErlean and David Marshall. The accounts are healthy and so the membership fee has been kept at £5.00. A committee meeting will be held in the next few months to arrange the program for the year. If you have suggestions there is a space on the membership form, or contact a committee member.
This meeting was our informal honey show at 7.30pm in the Haddington Town House on the 17 th March with George Duncan will be the judge. The classes were the same as the Gifford Honey Show (see Newsletters 127 or130, also available on the website).
George went through all the entries with a critical eye and described what the judges were looking for