Firstly, I would like to thank like-minded folk who attended the 5th Bee Improvement Day (BID) held at Dobwalls on a very wet, miserable day. The atmosphere inside was far from dull with trade stands and kitchen volunteers beavering away long before most of us had even left home.
So how did it go? Nick Bentham-Green, our Chairperson, made sure things moved at a steady pace, keeping his ‘beedy’ eye on the clock and giving a short introduction to the various speakers. The order of the day would unfold, trusting the technology would behave itself.
Willie Robson was our first speaker. He is a commercial beekeeper from ‘up country’ at Chain Bridge Honey Farm, Berwick- upon Tweed. We would like to thank Willie and his wife Daphne, for making the long trek down by train on the Sunday prior to the conference to enjoy a little sightseeing of Cornwall and Devon. They also joined a few of the BipCo members and partners for a very enjoyable evening meal at the Hayloft, Liskeard. The food and conversation was excellent and gave everybody a chance to get to know each other a little better ready for BID.
Willie's presentation was very informal, taking the form of a reflection on his journey and experiences in the very precarious business of making a living from producing honey and it's by-products in the inclement Northumbrian weather. Willie soon realised that lady luck had a vital part to play on his journey with so many variable's and mother nature throwing all she could to upset the apple cart. Determination and a strong survival instinct drove him on. Today the hard work has paid off and Willie has a very successful business employing 10 part time and 10 full time staff and over a long time has established a very highly regarded brand name. His 1600 hives continue to do their magic, making their produce which has already been spoken for. Questions were taken from the floor, which prompted Willie to change ‘tack’ at will to answer each subject raised; you can't put this man off his game! His presentation is totally unscripted, very relaxed and was enjoyed by all.
The coffee break gave us all a chance to catch up with those who had ‘gone to ground’ for the winter and to, once again, cross paths with those we seldom meet.
Maureen Wakefield (NBU) travelled down from York by train, hats off to GWR that three people that made it to Cornwall on time, came by rail.
Maureen is, by her own admission, not an expert on apiculture but obviously an accomplished and experienced entomologist and project manager. Some of what she said went a little over my head at times, but that's no reflection on the quality of a really interesting Project, namely SMARTBEES, which she explained with clarity and left us knowing it is in a safe pair of hands. BipCo is developing an apiary at St Cleer to be actively involved in this European project which should assist us in identifying and protecting our native bees, whilst working together with some structure, which I believe is welcome and timely.
Rodger Dewhurst, a local bee keeper, is actively working with Andrew Brown and Nick Bentham-Green on an ongoing project named B4 (Bring Back Black Bees). He informed us of their work and successes thus far.
B4 have been tirelessly and painstakingly collecting local samples of near native, look alike and bees judged to show real promise. Initially morphometry was used on bees from Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. These samples have then been sent out to Switzerland to obtain the analysis of their DNA to establish the purity of AMM.
Rodger presented the results which confirmed that small pockets exist of near native purity, and he now intends to expand the project and create areas flooded with near native bees. Because there are so few populations of this Cornish Amm, he said that it is vital that we take positive action to increase the numbers of this very rare honeybee.
Eric James, newly appointed Seasonal Bee Inspector for our area, took the opportunity to introduce himself and remind us of the precautions relating to biosecurity both in our clothing and hive tools as well as apiary hygiene.
Lunches were made available and promptly served. Many thanks to Bev, Steph, Vicky and Ollie for doing such a great job. There was also an abundance of gorgeous cakes, which disappeared almost as quickly as they were put out on the serving counter.
Jo Widdicombe was our last speaker, and informed us of the long awaited mechanism to link the national organisation of BIBBA to more localised needs in different regions across England, Wales and Scotland. Ireland have formed their own bee improvement group. I think it is fair to say that if BIBBA is to survive and more importantly to have a role to play in conserving the local Amm, then it has to be much more proactive than it is at present
Jo asked for suggestions and opinions to make the way forward to modernise BIBBA and invited all the breeding groups in the South West to keep their own identity but exist under one united banner.
I feel that this could be a discussion point at our next AGM to be held at Duloe Marquee Bar at the village hall on 25th February at 7.30pm. All are very welcome to have your ‘two penny's worth’ and if you feel you want to be involved a little more you can put yourself up for election onto the committee or volunteer to help on some of the forth coming events.
Raffle completed, Nick thanked all concerned in the organisation of such a great day, he thanked the spaeakers, thanked the Trade stands - Beekeeping Supplies, BBwear, and Northern Bee Books for their support, and concluded with a summing up of an enlightening and very enjoyable day. Finally he thanked the 80 (yes 80!) or so Beekeepers who braved the elements to come along.
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