Orpington Branch Newsletter January 2001 by Frank Chappell.
KENT BEEKEEPERS` ASSOCIATION
Orpington Branch Newsletter January 2001
A Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you had a good Christmas. As usual, our Christmas Party was very enjoyable, with lots to eat and drink and, of course, good conversation. Gordon had laid on a quiz for us with exceedingly difficult questions. I think there were about thirty-five of them and you can judge how stiff they were (or our ignorance) when I tell you that the winning score was thirteen. My wife was the winner and received the prize of new-laid eggs which came from Gordon and Jacqui's chickens. Except for Godfrey Munro and his wife, the guests we had invited had been unable to be present, which was a pity. If you have not yet paid your subscription, this is your last reminder.
The next activity is the January talk at Bromley. This is on Tuesday 16th January at the allotments and the speaker is Ken Hoare with the subject "Come Beekeeping with Me". Now Ken used to be a member of our branch. I remember that before I joined, I wandered into the Apiary one Saturday afternoon to have a look at the bees and there was a man there who was cutting the grass. He stopped and came across to talk to me, and this was my first meeting with Ken. I believe he was Apiary Manager at the time and he was both very knowledgeable and helpful to a newcomer. Unfortunately he later decided to move up to Shropshire and so he was lost to us. It will be very nice to see him again.
Our first meeting at the Petts Wood Memorial Hall is on Wednesday February 14th but I do not yet know who is going to speak.
Freeman and Harding have sent me a sample of a new honey jar, which is more attractive in appearance than the standard one. It holds a pound, is slightly flattened at the front and back and has some finger recesses at each side. The area for the label has an oval shape, which would require special labels but F & H state that they can let us have names and addresses of suppliers. You could not use such a jar for entry in a competition. They claim that the improved appearance will help sales and that the wider neck makes filling easier as well as making it easier for the consumer to use. They have only given me prices for a thousand so I do not know how much dearer they are.
There was a very interesting article in the "Sunday Times" some weeks back with beautiful photographs. It was about honey hunters in the forests of Central Cameroon. The following are some extracts:
"Every year, men from the Gbaya tribe in central Cameroon risk their lives for honey. Dressed like giant corn dollies in protective suits of woven grass, they climb high among the treetops of the forests of the Adamawa plateau to reach the beehives. With vision limited to what can be seen through chinks in their wicker armour, they clamber up makeshift wooden ladders, all the time vulnerable to attack from an angry swarm...February is the best month for collecting honey. The tribesmen revisit the hives they have discovered in the past, but to find new ones they enlist the help of the honey guide" (which is a bird) "The hunter puts on his protective suit, leaving his hands bare, and slowly climbs the ladder. African bees are much more aggressive than their European counterparts and have to be drugged before the honey can be harvested, so mashed leaves of a narcotic plant are dropped into the nest. Then the hunter plugs the cavity with mud and waits for the drug to take effect. The tranquilliser is not strong, lasting less than twenty minutes, so he works quickly... His hands and feet are soon covered with stings as the bees outside the hive become increasingly irate". They leave some honeycombs and brood combs so that the colony can rebuild itself and also as a reward for the honey guide, since they believe that if they do not, the bird will lead them to a lion or leopard next time.
Bees seem to be giving problems even at this time of year. The "Daily Telegraph" reported on the twenty-ninth of December: "A three million pound scheme to stop 35 homes falling into the sea at Castlehaven in the Isle of Wight is being delayed by a nest of bees."