Bees in Difficulty
Many people will know of the varroa mite which is spreading havoc amongst present day been colonies. Back in 1949 it was a disease called foulbrood which wiped out one beekeeper’s Market Lavington hives. Let’s let school pupils John Izatt and Bert Cox tell the story, as they did in that Summer 1949 issue of ‘Lavington Forum’.
A number of us had been discussing the loss Market Lavington bee keepers had suffered through the foul brood and that led us on to discussing some of the problems of the bee-keepers but we found none of us knew enough about the work to be able to say much about it.
We therefore decided to see Mr Elisha and find out what we could. Accordingly we went along to his house and were lucky enough to find him at home: in fact he was already out in the field near the hives and kindly agreed to answer our questions of which we had a formidable looking list.
Mr Elisha told us he had been keeping bees for over thirty years, and for all that time he has stuck to the Italian breeds as he thought they were the best honey-makers for this district.
There are forty two stocks of bees in Mr Elisha’s colonies – 18 stocks forming the Market Lavington Colony and the remainder forming a colony at Easterton. We learned that a colony means a full establishment at one place.
Foul brood was responsible for the destruction of the Lavington colony but fortunately the disease did not reach Easterton, so Mr Elisha still has a nucleus from which to build up a new colony here.
Foul brood seems to be a bacteria which attacks the newly hatched grub, and at present there is no known cure. All the bees making up the colony have to be destroyed as otherwise they would carry the disease wherever they went, rapidly spreading it from stock to stock throughout the country.
The disease struck Mr Elisha’s colony before any swarms had taken place this year, but during the swarming season last year a swarm settled on the highest branch of a nearby ash tree and Mr Elisha had to saw off the branch to retrieve the bees as otherwise they were out of reach.
Bee keeping is one of Mr Elisha’s ways of making a living but he enjoys the occupation, and foul brood or no foul brood, intends sticking at it.
This article also contained a sketch of Mr Elisha.
We have seen a couple of Mr Elisha’s hives before on this blog. The photo dates from the 1920s, before John and Bert who wrote the article were born. Click here to see the hives.