Sustainable Bees & Queens?
Close to capacity at Rudgwick Village Hall
Saturday 30th March 2019 – Rudgwick, West Sussex
Saturday saw the last in a series of events hosted by BIBBA, this particular event being at Wisborough Green BKA.
Refreshingly the day was not about which honeybee sub-species is best.
Using our own stock, or stock from a cooperative of local beekeepers, home bred bees are well within our grasp.
This can be acheived with little change to current practice.
The day was incredibly constructive, with a full and engaging agenda.
A concern is growing amongst beekeepers of all abilities and experience, about the ever-increasing importation of bees and queens.
Reasons for concern, include the possibility of pest introduction, diseases and pathogens, aggression in subsequent generations and the unsuitability to our fickle climate.
Defra has recently conducted a Queen Replacement Survey that shows the majority of beekeepers prefer home-reared queens but need help to produce them.
In addition, many beekeeping associations (BKAs) are unable to produce enough bees for their beginners and queens.
In response to the obvious need for Bee Improvement, the Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA) have staged a series of one-day regional events during the 2018/19 winter/spring.
The days help and encourage everyone from the small-scale beekeeper upwards and BKAs to produce bees and queens from local stock, using simple techniques.
Techniques that may be little more than a variation of what many beekeepers already do, and at little or no cost.
The main takeaways included:
The day was born out of much practical experience.
When asked who bred bees, few folks put their hand up.
However! most beekeepers may select colonies for splits (An example, amongst many activities), it then becomes apparent, nearly all beekeepers do indeed breed bees one way or another.
Sustainable beekeeping without imports is possible, with small variations and at little cost.
Localised honeybees have thrived for over 10,000 years without imports (Since the last ice age).
Concerns continue to grow, with the importation of bees introducing non-native pests, diseases, and pathogens.
It is acknowledged that aggression can be present in subsequent generations (F2 aggression).
This invites ongoing expense and effort, continuously buying queens, to head off any possible F2 aggression.
Locally adapted breeding of queens, also ensures we have honeybee stocks better suited to our ever-changing climate.
If the above were not good enough reason to look at breeding your own queens, the possibility of biosecurity measures with imports, suggests we may well need to prepare to be without imports in the future.
With the above in mind, the messaging was reassuringly clear.
One size does not fit all in beekeeping!
When selecting bees, keep the criteria list short, beekeeping is meant to be fun!
Beekeepers (Beeks) need to cultivate a culture of:
- LATERAL THINKING
- Common sense (Not as common as it once was)
- Challenge what you are told
- There is also a lot of politics in beekeeping, which detracts from what really matters.
Studies (COLOSS) have shown that locally adapted bees, perform better than imports and offspring from imports.
Several methods were shared, for large and small scale rearing of queens.
There are methods for increasing colony numbers.
In fact, within a matter of weeks, any beekeeping association can have many new colonies for their members.
All from your own select locally adapted colony’s of honeybee’s, now there is a thought!