Gloucestershire Beekeepers Association

Cheltenham & Gloucester Branch

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Meeting Notes

Mead . a talk by Brian P Dennis, author of .Good Health & Long Life., on Fri 8th March 2013.

An entertaining evening, and potentially useful since he said you can drink mead as soon as it has been finally .racked off. and has stopped .working.. (We have Sweet Mead and Dry Mead as entry classes in our honey show this year). He advised, though, that mead improves if you can bear to wait a year or two before tippling it.


To make dry mead (about 13% alcohol) - (medium mead needs 4 lbs honey and sweet mead needs 4½ lbs honey): Warm 3 . 3½ lbs of honey in three times its own volume of water, stirring to dissolve and to avoid burning the honey. Bring just to the boil and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove the scum. Allow to cool, covered by a clean cloth to keep out unwanted yeasts. You will also want sufficient water to bring the whole amount up to 1 gallon, so while the honey-water is being prepared you might like to use a kettle to boil up enough water and allow that to cool also. Rinse a 1 gallon demijohn well with hot water and, while waiting for the honey-water and other water to cool, gather:
* ½ oz citric acid
* ½ cup of strong black tea (or you can used ½ tsp of tannin if you have it)
* ¼ tsp of yeast extract (to provide Vitamin B) . .Marmite. will do.
* 2 tsp yeast nutrient.
* (Optionally: 12 oz washed and chopped or minced sultanas . requires initial racking after 10 days, even before the mead has stopped working.)
* Wine yeast sachet

When cool, transfer the honey-water (or .must.) to the demijohn and top up with the second lot of water to about 3 inches from the top to allow space for frothing. This must should have a specific gravity of about 1.100. Add the other ingredients (less yeast), possibly mixed with some of the second batch of water, to the demijohn. Scatter the contents of the yeast sachet on top of the .must., fit an airlock (or plug with cotton-wool) and leave in a warm place. If making medium or sweet mead add more honey whenever the SG sinks to about 1.000 . too much too soon can kill the yeast. When bubbles have stopped and the mead has begun to clear, rack it off the sediment. Failure to rack gives the mead a .mousey. flavour. Give it time and it will throw another sediment. Rack off again. Repeat until no more sediment forms. If necessary, filter or use wine finings to make it absolutely clear. Bottle.

Brian admitted that in his time he has brewed some horrible-tasting meads, but his samples that evening were delectable. Keep trying! His book which tells you much more, and gives you alternative recipes, is sold by Northern Bee Books.

23 Feb 13 . pre-GBKA AGM talk . Varroa, by David Chandler

For next year you may like to note that many people attended for the talk (and very interesting it was too) and then slipped away before the AGM. As an open-minded, unbiased academic he was able to say that in laboratory conditions a significant proportion of bees affected by a .field dose. of neonicotinoids failed to return to the colony. Computer modelling from that predicted colony collapse but he stressed that other factors assumed for the modelling (e.g. the rate of hatching out of workers) also had a significant effect on the results. He also said that bees can be heavily infected with the Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) without suffering deformed wings. Thus you are not safe to assume, just because there are no deformed wing bees around, that your colony is healthy. In summary: * Varroa are endemic, and are vectors for many viruses. * Treating for varroa in late summer is absolutely essential if the winter bees are to come through successfully to the spring. See also:

8 Feb 13 . Raising your own Queens. . Jim Vivien-Griffiths

This was encyclopaedic; everything you might want to know about raising queens delivered in one hour flat. The success of the evening was proved by how many stayed behind to ask questions etc.
Main points:

1. All beekeepers should raise queens, to improve the breed and to have spare queens as an insurance and to provide flexibility.
2. Timing: Lots of drones needed; Queen rearing starts one week after drone cells capped so that the drones and the virgin queens are ready to mate at the same time.
3. Recipe for Success: strong colony; a good supply of nectar, pollen & water; minimum unsealed brood; good ventilation (e.g. varroa mesh floor)
4. Breed from the Best: subjective judgement, but keep records to identify the best; cull the worst! Score desired characteristics (e.g. docility, steadiness on the comb, brood pattern, pollen storage and even comb building) on a 0 . 5 scale and record at each visit.
5. Work with the bees rather than against them: give them what they expect to find.
6. Pick a method that works for you. Miller method (foundation cut into dragons teeth) probably best for the small-scale beekeeper, but there are many others.

11 Jan 13 . Catching Swarms . Nick Lambert & Mike Forster

A light-hearted but not frivolous account of swarming, and how it can benefit the beekeeper. The talk must have had some effect because the list of potential swarm collectors in the Branch is well-subscribed. For those who have not yet read it, please note the advice given in our Swarming Handbook at which also gives useful guidance on how to prevent bees swarming while you are away on holiday.


These have now been prepared and will be issued at our next meeting on 8 Mar 13. 1G

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