I had a cup of tea with John Chapple last weekend. Any yes, some biscuits were involved. Viennese whirls, to be precise.
On his second cup, John offered the simple observation that the high level of honeybee colony losses was largely due to 2 years of horrible weather, which has dramatically reduced the overall health and well-being of colonies, so that opportunistic infections have taken a heavy toll of the debilitated bees. In my view, John is the best bee-mentor in London, so I listened intently….
He likened this elevated mortality in bees to pneumonia (defined as an inflammatory condition of the lung caused by various bacterial, viral and fungal infections) in England the 19th century. Then pneumonia was the major cause of death, with the health of the general population at a lower baseline and the absence of medicines to counter the root causes.
So for those beekeepers who have lost (and continue to lose, by all accounts!) colonies this year, do not despair – your beekeeping basics are sound. Our bees are being brought low by diseases to which they would not normally succumb.
“Keep Calm and Carry On” was the rallying call in another, now distant, crisis. To combat the current manifest of maladies and affliction in our bee-hives, I would propose the antidote which worked for me last weekend, swapping bee-stories with John Chapple: “Break Out the Tea and Biscuits – and Talk Bees !”
And today I heard a whisper that John has been invited to make a comeback to the London Beekeepers’ Association, headlining a couple of courses this summer, to add some much-needed expertise and experience to the line-up. JC’s second coming to the LBKA would certainly be an occasion to relish – definitely time to “Break Out the Tea and Biscuits – and Talk Bees !”