Thursday, 3 October 2019

Springwell School Visit. 23/09/19

On the 23rd September I was joined by one of our other members, Jenny to visit Springwell School Grantham where we has been asked to go and talk to 'Primary 1' about bees.
Springwell School Grantham.
This was the second time the school had contacted me, earlier in the year I took their older children into live hives on the district apiary site. 
We had a wonderful time in the classroom and the children were very engaging in the talk asking many questions and also enjoyed trying on the beesuits and having a hands on look at frames, honeycomb, smokers and tools.

The children were a small group aging between 6 and 10 years.

When it was time to say goodbye both Jenny and I received a lovely bunch of flowers presented to us by one of the children and some lovely goodbyes.

The Beautiful flowers given to
Jenny and I just before we left.
One of the pupils also gave us a lovely colouring....

Picture given to us by one of
the pupils.

Before leaving we got to stop in on the older children and it was nice to see that they remembered who I was from last summer and listen to them talking knowing that the experience of going in the hives had a lasting impression with them.

Then a few days later through the post we received these;

The letters from the children were a lovely surprise and it was nice to read what they found interested and remembered from our visit. Click on the images to make them bigger if you would like to read through them too.

Next year we hope to have a follow up visit with the children and take them to look inside a live beehive!!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Asian Hornet Volunteer week - day 6

So Saturday was my last full day in Jersey. After oversleeping and then getting lost I eventually made my way back to the baits I had set up in St Peter’s.

After all the action of the last few days today proved to be much slower and one for patience......a lot of patience !

Top left in the picture this one
 flew by but didn’t stop !
I had no sign of hornets taking the bait, twice I had one fly by, have a quick look but disappear. After several hours I decided to spread the traps out over a much wider area, as much as 500 metres in each direction.

Morel Farm 1622 !
Incidentally this took me to a lovely local house dating back to 1622, Morel Farm, lived in but owned by the National Trust. I called to let them know I’d set a bait near their entrance and left half an hour later after having had a little guided tour of the farm including its outbuildings containing an original cider press and several horse drawn carts still in amazing condition. How friendly people are on this island will be an abiding memory.

Above; Cider press at Morel Farm,

and below; the horse drawn carts.

Still no joy on the hornet front by half past three, after five and a half hours ! I decided to call it a day...... being a persistent so and do I decided to have one last look at the original bait station.... and there it was, an Asian Hornet guzzling away, action stations !

At last !...... and so it begins...
After taking all day I decided not to spook it so I let it fill itself up and fly off, trusting it would return, I waited and waited and waited for it to return and sure enough at last it did so I caught and marked it. This one proved to be quite far from home, every time she came and I timed her and I recorded flight times between 12 and 15 minutes which means the nest is likely 1.2 - 1.5 kilometres away in a SSW direction, 210 degrees to be precise !

For 5 hours this butterfly was
my only regular visitor
I set up a couple of further bait stations, one 100 metres along its flight path with a better line of site, the other taking a bit of a gamble about a kilometre or more away, again in the line of flight as best as I could establish.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to see this one through as I’m off home today (Sunday), flying early afternoon, so I relayed all the information to the AH team and I’ve asked them to let me know how this one goes, having waited all day to trap a single hornet and get early distance and direction data I’m really keen to follow this one from afar !

Finally, after five and a half hours,
a hornet to catch and mark
So it’s back home today! I’ve had a great and interesting week, learning a lot that sadly, I’m sure us beekeepers on the mainland are going to have to put into use one day. I also want to thank my hosts for the week, Pauline and Werner who put me up for free, cooked me great Paella and shared Werner’s favourite Austrian Beer imported from his homeland.

Good luck to everyone involved in the Asian Hornet fight, having witnessed it first hand I don’t think anyone outside the team fully understands and appreciates just how hard a dedicated few are working to keep this islands hornet invasion under control.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Asian Hornet volunteer week - day 5

Today we resumed our hunt for the nest in St Aubin on the south coast where we had refined our search the previous afternoon to a heavily wooded steep bank behind the town and harbour not far from the Somerville Hotel.

The thick undergrowth on the
steep bank was challenging
The baits we established last night yielded no hornets so we set up a bait in a garden above the woods and soon enough we had hornets. We marked one and got times of 1 min 30 sec meaning we were no more than 150 metres flight path away.

The tree the nest was in,
from this angle impossible to see it

After they established their flight patterns we watched them fly through a gap between two trees 60-70 metres away before descending down the bank away from us. From those trees we could see roughy where they were heading, which incidentally was very close to the bait stations we established the night before.

X marks the spot for the pest control team
Two of us headed down the bank to that area and were just putting a further bait out when the local ‘hornet hunter’ I was with, Jane, happened to look up and in the tree directly above was the nest ! Ironically we had searched this garden earlier and had missed it but it was evident that you have to be in just the right spot, if you moved just a couple of metres you couldn’t see it.

Nest above !
Anyway this was a great success having spent two days tracking this one and we all felt quite elated. Our two Northern Irish colleagues were particularly pleased as we found it only half an hour before they had to head off to the airport and home !

After a late lunch I headed to St Peters in the middle of the island where there had been hornets reported but nothing set up so far. I established a series of initial bait stations to leave overnight and will go back tomorrow to see if this has created any activity.

The garden we found them in,
the guy taking photos is Tom,
the head bee inspector in Northern Ireland
For the first time this week I ‘knocked off’ early at about 4.30 pm and headed off to a beach for a chill, hornet hunting all day every day is more tiring that I had thought.

R & R time to end the day

Friday, 27 September 2019

Asian Hornet volunteer week - day 4

Today we spent the whole day tracking the nest in St Aubin where the bee hives we saw last night were being hawked,

Nice view from one of the bait Hives
We started up above the village near the hives where we had established initial bait stations yesterday. Despite the poor weather and rain the hornets were still flying and we witnessed them hawking bees.

Another bait hive
After a couple of hours we established flight paths and distances of 400m or so to the nest, incidentally this was in a different direction to what the AH action team had previously thought.

Using Google Maps to plot flight lines
 to triangulate approx nest location
After lunch we set up base stations closer to the nest and in a direct line along the flight path they had been taking to the mornings baits and fortunately the sun came out too making it very pleasant.

You might be able to see plotted flight lines
We again picked up hornets very quickly and watching them leave the bait stations we lost sight of them after about 70m as they headed towards a steep wooded hill at the back of the village so it was time for our first ‘feathering’ flight. We trapped a large hornet capable of carrying a feather and glued one to its thorax. This made it very visible and we were able to clearly see its line of flight up through the woods where it disappeared between two trees maybe 150-200m away.

Operation feathered hornet begins
We were then able to set up further bait stations near to where it had disappeared and we started getting flight times of 1 min 40 sec, very close now. By now we had pretty much ran out of time so we left a couple of new stations and will resume tomorrow. Our Northern Irish colleagues are flying home Friday afternoon and so we are determined to do our best to try and locate the nest in the morning.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Asian Hornet volunteer week - day 3

So today we met up at the Jersey Department of the Environment for a brief and to let the weather clear up then headed over to Gorey on the East Coast where we had set up bait stations the evening before.

Bait station set up in Gorey
We found and marked some hornets at several bait stations, however by timing their flights established their nest was around 800m and from the direction they were heading we were pretty sure they were from the nest we found yesterday. After a couple of hours it was decided to abandon the area. As a check someone will likely return later in the week once that nest has been removed. At one of the bait stations it looked like one of the hornets that had been marked yesterday in the vicinity of that nest even turned up !

Marked Hornet at bait station
In the afternoon we headed to St Aubin on the south coast where about half s dozen bee hives were getting ‘hammered’ by hawking hornets. We witnessed this hawking and just how agile and amazingly efficient predators these Asian Hornets are, very quick and ruthless.

Hives that are being heavily hawked,
the Beekeeper is concerned they
have been weakened and some
won’t survive winter
At this location when tracking last week they noticed hornets coming from two directions to the hives, meaning two nests. They had concentrated on the larger nest which was tracked over several days and finally destroyed yesterday morning.

Hornets had been going mad for this
 Portuguese plant
We have now split into two groups and our group comprising myself and two Northern Irish bee inspectors have have been tasked with tracking the remaining nest...... by ourselves !! So we set up initial bait stations and will head over there tomorrow once the weather clears.

These are the heavy duty suits required to remove hornets,
they even have to wear helmets under the hood
We finished the day off by going over and witnessing the nest we found yesterday being destroyed. I have to confess that I felt very sad and sorry indeed for these highly impressive and spectacular apex predator creatures and that it was owing to us that they were being killed.

Three powder cartridges are fired
into nest with a lance
However, having witness them hawking hives so effectively I have no doubt that without controlling them as we are doing here bee keeping as we know it would be pretty impossible on this island.
Nest being poisoned
Next update tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Asian Hornet volunteer week - day 2

So owing to rain first thing, today started at 10am meeting at the Jersey AH action group base at the Jersey Department of the Environment. We were brought up to speed with the methods of catching, trapping, marking and releasing hornets together with all the necessary equipment. The latter comprises Queen catcher, marking pens, walkie talkies, traps, bait, compasses, stop watches and even fly fishing feathers that they glue to hornets to aid tracking visibility when near to the nest !

Equipment and Fly fishing feathers for sticking to hornets, they are cut down to 1cm long.

We then set off to continue tracking a nest they have been hunting for the last ten days in the Daisy Hill area.

Monitoring flight paths.
We monitored open bait stations catching and marking hornets in a similar manner to Queen bees and logged return flight times and directions of flight in order to hone in on the nest. From leaving and returning to initial bait stations we determined that the nest was approximately 350m away. We then set up a series of further bait stations in the direction of the nest. By lunchtime we were joined by two bee inspectors over from a Northern Ireland which made us a sizeable team.

Catching and marking
As we closed in on the nest we trapped hornets after they had filled up at the last bait station, carried them in the direction of the nest and then released them with spotters following their flight path through binoculars.

Hornets in the bait stations...can you spot the marked hornet?

We eventually located a large nest high in an oak tree in someone’s front garden and organised for it to be removed by pest controllers in a couple of days. The nest will have taken two and s half months or more for the hornets to build but had remained underscored by the owners of the house or their neighbours.

This is the front garden the nest was in and a close up of the nest in the tree.

We then headed over to the coast where there have been hornets reported at a small town on the East Coast. We spotted hornets flying and set up a series of bait stations and it will be our task tomorrow to try and locate this nest.

Bait station set up in advance of
tomorrows work.
The day ended at 6.30 pm, with the clock ticking at this time of year as new virgin queens are hatching and starting to fly there is no respite!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Asian Hornet Volunteer week - day 1

Stewart, one of the Grantham District Members, has gone over to Jersey to spend some time with the Asian Hornet Action Team and learn more about how they are dealing with this threat that has come to our shores. Over the week he will be sending photos and updates.

So day one started by landing at Jersey airport at four in the afternoon. After driving over to and meeting my hosts for the week it was off to the weekly Asian Hornet action meeting at six pm.

This was not what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I did expect but this is no amateur effort, what I found was a extraordinarily professional, thorough and organised meeting headed by a full time AH coordinator and a group that was lead by some extremely experienced dedicated individuals using technology to coordinate, plan and demonstrate what had happened over the last few weeks, what and where they needed concentrate efforts on this week and to plan for how. I was blown away by how excellent and professional this all was and as a newbie, quite honestly the amount of information, maps and tracking data to take in blew my mind.

I’ll be blogging all week so I won’t go into too much detail here but essentially their excellently coordinated effort revolves around trapping, marking and releasing hornets at numerous bait stations then recording in which direction they fly and timing their return to establish direction and distance to nests. This is then honed over several days, sometimes longer by establishing flight paths from each bait station. They then move more bait stations along these flight paths closing in on the nest and plot all the flight path data ( this is where the technology comes in) to locate the nests approximate location and once this has been done it’s down to a manual search of a much smaller defined area.

After a couple of hours it was then off to the pub with the AH coordinator and three Scottish bee inspectors who are also over here for the week learning, again the amount of information he discussed over dinner was incredible and it left the head guy from Scotland, who is tasked with setting up their AH protocol and systems rather daunted.

Thank you Stewart for the update and we look forward to keeping up with you throughout the week.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Grantham District spend a morning with St. Sebastian's E.Y.F.S.

One of our members was a former teacher at St Sebastian's School in Grantham and was asked if she could go in to class and talk to the children about bees. Jenny asked if I could go along with her to support as she is new to beekeeping and I was more than happy to lend a hand.

We started the morning off in class talking to the children about the importance of bees and what they do and also showing them some of the equipment that we use as beekeepers. The children were all very well behaved and had some great questions to ask us. (Image blurred for data protection.)

Jenny lives literally just around the corner from the school so after having a chat with the children and talking to them about respecting the bees  we then got them suited up and took them around to see a real live hive. the Children were divided into groups and there was a summer house right near the hives, (just to the left in the photo you can see the corner of this) where the children could safely observe us doing a hive inspection if they didnt feel confident about being very close to the bees.

As is usually the way with children they were a joy to be around and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being close to the bees and seeing the eggs and larvae. They even got to see some bees hatching out and a close up look at the queen just before we marked her green. (Please note...childrens faces hidden for data protection)

It was a wonderful day followed by a lovely e-mail from the teacher thanking us and hoping that the experience can be repeated in the future. We also got some wonderful cards from the children thanking us for visiting them....

Amazing artwork and writing for 5 year olds...wouldn't you agree?? 

I am looking forward to being able to carry out more visits like this in the future.