Bee Craft October 2011 – Letters

From Bee Craft October 2011

Feeding

I would like to ask why we feed different types and mixes of feed to our bees? There is fondant and syrup with various degrees of strength (and no doubt others advocate other feeds) and then these can only to be used at certain times of the year. Is there any modern, verified research evidence for our various practices? With bees under threat, it seems vital that we give them the best chance of getting through winter fit for the next spring.

Roy Norris, by e-mail

Varroa-Gard

Although I had treated my colonies with Apiguard in August 2010, when I arrived home at the end of November from a period abroad, my wife told me with some alarm that my strongest colony had discharged large numbers of white grubs from the entrance, ‘like cream out of a jug’. By the time I inspected the colony, the bees had cleared them away but the next day, a lesser discharge occurred and I collected a number which I took to a convention being held by my local association a few days later. There I asked the local experts for a diagnosis.

I was advised the cause was varroa damage so great that the colony concerned was doomed, even if I treated it with oxalic acid, the only treatment that was not temperature sensitive. I had used oxalic acid the previous winter and, for the first time since keeping bees, I lost two colonies. I had therefore not intended to use it again.

However, fortunately, I had read in Bee Craft of a new product, Varroa-Gard, which I gathered could be administered at any time of the year. I acquired the product and fed it twice (at two-week intervals) to both my remaining colonies in the intense cold of December. As I am away for long periods, I would not have otherwise have been able to attend to the bees until the end of March 2011.

On my return, I was delighted to find that both colonies were active; the affected one was extremely active and the other weaker colony, which I also feared I might lose, was quite strong. I cannot thank Bee Craft enough and Technical Marketing, the suppliers of Varroa-Gard, for their help.

GD Clough, Charmouth, Devon

Legal Matters

I would like to comment on the letter published in Bee Craft, September, page 7, from Catherine Clark.

I feel it is important that when cases of injury are quoted that the facts are presented accurately. The case of the death of a puppy appeared on 14 July 2011 in the Daily Telegraph. The ‘puppy’ was, in fact, a young Alsatian dog of 15 months which had been left unattended by the owner who was at work. The dog gained access to a neighbour’s private garden protected by a wall and fence. The dog had knocked over a beehive which had resulted in multiple bee stings as the colony tried to defend itself (the owner of the hive has photos to prove this statement). The report contained other inaccuracies and ill informed comments and also implied that this sort of event is common (you can read the article online with a number of very insightful and quite amusing comments by readers).

There were also allegations by Ms Clark and the Daily Telegraph that beekeepers place hives in public places without adequate fencing or concern for the public. This is difficult to accept and unsupported by any evidence. No beekeeper that I have ever met would place a beehive in such a location, as this would result in a danger of the hive being stolen or overturned by vandals or animals, with loss of valuable stock and possible harm to the public.

Let’s leave the specific incident and article aside for a moment and let’s look at the facts. Insect stings cause 1–2 deaths per year in the UK, almost always from anaphylaxis from a single or small number of stings in highly allergic individuals and not from any form of attack. Most stings are from wasps and not bees. I am unable to find any incidents of bee attacks on people in the UK resulting in significant injury apart from these allergy cases. The risk of death from an insect sting is less likely than death from a lightning strike. The risk of death from a bee ‘attack’ in the UK is less than being killed by sharks (we Brits do go on holiday to Australia)!

I would suggest we compare this with dog attacks. Statistics on death from attacks are difficult to find in the UK, but in the US over 3000 hospital admissions and 264 deaths were recorded in a 12-month period. In the UK there were 3600 injuries caused by dogs, serious enough to result in attendance at Accident and Emergency departments in a single year (this is the tip of the iceberg, as lesser injuries would not be recorded).

I would strongly suggest that a little rational thought and a sense of perspective be applied when examining risks from bees. In answer to the specific legal advice mentioned by Ms Clark; I would venture to suggest that beekeepers would not place a hive by their post box nor allow visitors to wander around their gardens without supervision or advice on where their beehives are kept. Hazard warning signs on hives are inappropriate and less justified than signs on dog kennels and equally unlikely to be used!

Dr Joseph Tattersall, by e-mail

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