Many thanks and congratulations to the CMG for setting up the recent Zoom meeting for CMG members, and in particular to Andrew and the 3 speakers, Caroline, Gareth and Harriet for an enlightening evening’s review of their work in trying to improve the water quality and environment of the streams and rivers both locally and throughout Wales. Andrew in particular deserves thanks for taking on the potentially nerve wracking task of hosting the event which was well “attended” and seemed to work with no real glitches, at least from this remote perspective. Anyone unable to attend the actual meeting will be able to watch the presentations in future, since Andrew and helpers have also managed to record them to be uploaded to You Tube in due course.
Whilst members won’t necessarily all have rivers or streams associated with their meadows, we all have a lot of rain falling on them which will eventually run off and through drains or ditches quickly end up in one of the myriad of streams which featured in one of Caroline’s lovely monochrome slide of the maze of water courses which cover the whole of Wales. The startling statistic that diversity and numbers of freshwater species has declined by 76 % since the 1970’s was a reminder of how we all need to be careful of how our water and other run offs are managed.
Since many members will have an interest in this wider diversity of life associated with our meadows, I thought I’d include a link to a resource which I’ve only recently discovered, which is a potential mine of interesting information and viewing over the long winter months ahead, relating to bees. Mainly, but not exclusively, honey bees. This is the on line record of You Tube Videos from the National Honey Show archives. Click here, https://www.honeyshow.co.uk/lecture-videos.php for the full list.
This event takes place annually in the UK and attracts a truly international attendance. Needless to say this year’s physical event had to be cancelled, but there were still a few on line presentations, which will be made available in due course. One in particular which highlighted the problems with the adulteration, fraud and contamination in the global honey supply system confirmed why buying only locally produced honey is a good idea.
However delving back into the archive of talks demonstrates that this is much more than a show just about honey! There’s even a talk by Dave Goulson about Bumble bees (2015), and a fascinating talk from 2019 about the science of how bees actually manage to fly, by Simon Rees – there are many clever anatomical and aeronautical tricks involved in this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UKo3NKuLkk&feature=youtu.be
But there are also many talks by some of the world’s experts on honeybee knowledge and ecology – in both managed and wild colonies. Indeed this is how I discovered this resource, since I was searching for You Tubes by Professor Tom Seeley from Cornell University. Seeley has spent nearly 50 years studying bees and recently published the first definitive review of how wild colonies survive and thrive – in the forests of New York State ( The Lives of Bees – The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild).
I’d often wondered just how many, if any “wild” honey bees still existed in our upland neck of the woods, and so inspired by his research into how swarming colonies manage to select from the typically 20 or so potential new home sites that they will check out, I’d constructed 4 different variants of boxes last winter. They were all a little different, but equally all met his top 5 criteria for suitable future nest sites and I set them out at various points around our small holding. Fingers were firmly crossed that after smearing a little beeswax/lemon/geranium oil mixture around the entrance to alert scout bees to their presence, one or two might pass muster with any scout bees in the area. In the end all 4 were taken up by swarms between April and July this year (one was taken up twice, after a first small swarm failed in wet weather early on). So it seems that our local Welsh bees operate along the same selection criteria as Seeley’s American bees. And I even managed to video 3 of the swarms arriving which was a bonus – rather poor screen captures from the videos below …
I mention all this since I see a virtuous natural circle in having opportunities for a range of pollinators close to our meadows – firstly it provides enhanced nectar and pollen foraging opportunities for them on many of our meadow flowering plants like dandelions, clovers, trefoils, Cat’s ears and knapweed. Secondly the end result of improved pollination will be better seed set and hence establishment of these flowering plants for all of us still trying to restore meadows to more floriferous communities. So a win win situation. And that’s aside from whether any honey that they might produce, might have a more complex flavour.
So I hope that a few readers might enjoy delving into this fabulous free archive of talks and learn something more about the amazingly complex life story of the honey bee. The talks are all professionally filmed and edited and of a high quality of production. Most of the speakers I’ve listened to so far are top notch, though as a starter, I’d maybe recommend Seeley, Mattila,(2017) or Tarpy (2016) for quite science based, though very clear and fascinating talks; and Palmer if you’re interested in more of an insight into conventional hive management techniques. The talk on drones by Flottum (2017) is also very amusing and instructive – particularly for any male readers. Big eyed drones off to try to meet a virgin queen in their special drone congregation areas below…
Thanks Julian for this piece – Rachel