Hampshire Bee Health Day

Learning how to identify a notifiable disease is much easier in a real life situation

Hampshire Beekeepers’ Association hosted its Bee Health Day in partnership with our Regional Bee Inspectors on Saturday 18 June 2022. The free event was held at Sparsholt College, Winchester and combined talks from a variety of experts with practical hands-on learning.

After teas and coffee and a catch-up with friends, the day started in the lecture theatre with an overview of exotic pests by Seasonal Bee Inspector Nigel Semmence. There was particular emphasis on the Asian hornet and Small Hive Beetle.

The Asian hornet information was particularly pertinent to us as most of the incursions so far have been close to our area due to its proximity to the channel ports. It was also interesting to hear (and see, with the benefit of visuals) how the team tracked down and removed the last reported nest in Ascot, Berkshire.

After a break for coffee, our regional bee inspector John Geden talked us through how to identify European and American foulbrood in preparation for our afternoon session in the laboratory. This is an important subject not least because as beekeepers, we are legally obliged to report these diseases and therefore must know how to identify them.

At 12.30 we stopped for lunch at the college cafe (quiet unlike the food I remember from my student days, there was an excellent choice of reasonably-priced, good quality fare) before starting the afternoon workshops.

We were split into three groups which rotated through the workshops. The first workshop, hosted by Kevin Pope was a much more detailed look at Varroa (varroaris), its effect on our honey bees and the various treatment and control techniques open to us.

Whilst the threats discussed earlier in the day such as the Asian Hornet and Small Hive Beetle are thankfully, not of immediate concern, Varroa is a clear and present danger and it was good to be reminded of what we should be doing and when, the options available to us as well as new developments and ideas.

Seasonal Bee Inspector Mark Lynch

The next workshop, hosted by seasonal bee inspector Mark Lynch was a practical demonstration of the various methods of comb changing and apiary and equipment hygiene.

Mark talks the group through various methods of comb change before demonstrating how to correctly flame a box.

We discussed comb rotation (the movement of dirtier comb from the centre of the brood nest to the edges of the box prior to removal), the bailey comb change and the Shook swarm method.

We also looked at the basics of good apiary hygiene, like how to clean a smoker, hive tool and bee suit. The National Bee Unit has produced a series of short videos which are available to you by subscribing to their YouTube channel. You can access the channel by clicking on one of the links in this paragraph.

The third workshop took place in a laboratory and provided the chance to examine frames (recently removed by Bee Inspectors) infected with European and American Foulbrood. This was an opportunity most beekeepers would not get an an ordinary apiary meeting and was a chance to really expand our knowledge of these notifiable diseases.

Reading about EFB and AFB in text books and looking at photographs and videos is one thing but being able to actually see the frames, pull out and dissect infected grubs and carry out the matchstick test really did increase our confidence in being able to identify these diseases.

The workshop, hosted by John, Avril Earl and Dan Etheridge was carried out in strict laboratory conditions with every care being taken to ensure no infection could be transmitted to attendees for onward transmission to their bees.

John Geden taking a group through a frame

The whole day was extremely informative and interesting and our gratitude goes out to our regional bee inspectors for the time and effort they put in to making the day so useful and enjoyable. Thank you also to Meridian’s own Richard Skinner who put so much effort in to arranging the event on behalf of Hampshire Beekeepers. Not only did the day run like clockwork but there was all the behind the scenes organisation; liaising with the venue, caterers, bee inspectors and all the ticketing and promotions work.

Avril demonstrating how to examine a frame for European Foulbrood

Our bee inspectors are a rare and precious resource, available to all of us free of charge. If any of us ever worries that our bees are infected with any of the notifiable diseases or pests, the bee inspectors are there to help and are not be feared. Beebase is also a free resource packed full of definitive information designed to help you to keep your bees healthy and if you haven’t done so already, its a good idea to register there.

The day ended with a questions and answer session and various handouts including a guide to the Miller method of queen rearing and an Asian Hornet fact sheet; we have a supply of the documents and if you would like them, please get in touch.

If you were unable to attend the Bee Health Day, we hope this page provides some of the information you missed. If you get a chance to attend next time, it is thoroughly recommended; not just for new beekeepers but for those with more experience too. The most up-to-date information is presented clearly and in an engaging way and encourages and motivates us all to better look after the welfare of our bees.

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