The following is the rest of the article I wrote for the NH Beekeepers Association’s Winter Newsletter:
The Highlands seem to have a similar winter climate to NH. They get snow. They feed sugar water to their hives until mid-Oct, and then do emergency feeding with fondant or candy boards until spring. The Borders have milder winters – but no forage, so they feed sugar water throughout the winter. I heard varying winter loss numbers, but I would say the most common was 10-15%.
When I asked beekeepers about their biggest challenge/issue, the answer was always Varroa. They use a variety of treatments – including IPM, but oxalic vapor was the most common. With their weather, I can see that Mite-Away or other treatments that depend on certain temperatures for dispersal could only be used for a very limited time. I also learned that to use products like Amitraz, they must have a veterinary prescription.
They do not have small hive beetles currently, but they anticipate the bugs will eventually make it to Scotland so they are doing a lot of education for the beekeepers.
American Foul Brood (AFB) and European Foul Brood(EFB) are taken very seriously in Scotland and the entire UK. Law prohibits the use of any anti-biotics in hives so they do not have many treatment options. In England and Wales, if a beekeeper suspects they have either EFB or AFB, they are required by law to call the bee inspector. In Scotland, it is voluntary to call – but most do from what I can tell. The bee inspector comes out to check out the hives and brings a field test kit (aka Lateral Flow Device Kit). They sample some larva and put them in a container with some ball bearings. They shake it up, drop in a few chemicals and it tells you if you have EFB/AFB (there is a kit for each disease). The inspector then decides what will be done with the hives. If it is a very mild case of EFB, they will do a shaken swarm and then sterilize the hive. If it is more severe, the hives are burned. All of this is done under the supervision of the inspector. This apiary is then flagged as “red”, and the inspector will come again the following year to inspect it. Unfortunately, I did not get to ask how common EFB and AFB are.
They have both local bee clubs and the national beekeepers association much like we do in the US. They are laser focused on education. The national association has worked with the equivalent of our community colleges to develop an accredited beekeeping course. They have a formal training program that starts with Junior beekeepers and ends with honey judging : https://www.scottishbeekeepers.org.uk/images/education/exams/The%20SBA%20Education%20System.pdf .
The two most interesting conference talks were by Dr. Robert Paxton, head of the Zoology at Martin Luther Universität, Halle-Wittenberg, and Dr. Jamie Ellis, University of Florida.
Dr. Paxton described the research his team has done on deformed wing virus (DWV), and how they have been able to show a direct correlation between DWV and hive loss. They looked at many other viruses (including Nosema Cerena), but none had the direct correlation that DWV did. DWV is very interesting because Varroa is ~90% efficient in transmitting DWV to honeybee pupae. This research was done in conjunction with research groups from around the world, including the Bee Informed Partnership. In controlled experiments, they also found that bees that did not have DWV lived ~40 days; those with DWV-strain A – lived ~18 days and those DWV-strain B – lived 14 days.
Dr. Ellis (some of you might recognize the name from his regular articles in ABJ) talked about beekeeping in the US. It was very interesting to hear the reactions in the room when he talked about the migration of colonies to the almond pollination or that the biggest commercial beekeeper in FL has 60K hives. Since most beekeeping in Scotland is either backyard hobbyist or very small-scale operations, the sheer scale of some of the US operations was hard for folks to imagine.
There was also big honey and wax show with entries with everything from baked goods to candles. The most amazing thing I saw were flowers made of beeswax. When I first saw them, I thought they were a silk flower decoration! I talked to someone about how they make them, and apparently, they warm the wax, roll it out and then use molds made for creating frosting flowers to shape them
We found everyone we met in Scotland to be very friendly. Not surprisingly, the beekeepers were as curious about our management practices as I was about theirs. Our trip reinforced how much beekeepers, whether local or from another country, have in common, and how curious and willing to share experiences we all are. I guess another way to say this is – We never get sick of talking about our bees!