Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Oilseed rape abandoned in cabbage flea beetle ‘hotspots’

Oilseed rape abandoned in cabbage flea beetle ‘hotspots’

Monday 22 February 2016 11:27
Cabbage stem flea beetle on leaf
Oilseed rape has shifted from a “black gold” break crop to economic and agronomic “problem child” for growers in the eastern counties.
This move to the riskiest crop in the rotation looks set to prompt many in cabbage stem flea beetle hotspots to abandon it altogether next season.
Between 1984 and 2013, the rapeseed area has increased from 300,000ha to 750,000ha, and provides an ideal break for the number-one cash crop, winter wheat.
A mix of tight rotations and rising insecticide resistance has allowed cabbage stem flea beetle pressure to build to unprecedented levels, particularly in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
However, this pressure was largely masked by neonicotinoid seed treatments, which help the crop establish under adult beetle attack in the autumn, from the early 1990s until they were banned in December 2013.

Warning signs

For Prime Agriculture agronomist Andrew Blazey – covering Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex – warning signs of a major problem appeared in spring 2014 when significant damage from flea beetle larvae was evident.
“You could see small, stunted plants in backward areas, caused by larvae moving into the stems and damaging secondary racemes,” he explains.
This betrayed the presence of an already high background pressure before the insecticide seed treatments were even banned and, in autumn 2014, the “perfect storm” rolled in.
A neonics ban, combined with a warm and dry September, meant crops were hit hard by adult grazing and plants struggled to grow away from the attack.
Mr Blazey says this caused about 10% crop loss locally, with some growers losing up to 100% of their area. However, the real nightmare came in spring 2015.

Spring damage

With 50% or more of the variable costs already invested in crops, including £62/ha in extra insecticide applications to control flea beetle and peach potato aphid, the stakes were already high as plants began to go backwards.
“Spring flea beetle damage is much worse than autumn damage in my opinion – at least with autumn damage you can see when you should bail out.
“But if you have crops starting to die back in the spring, despite insecticide treatments in the autumn, it’s a real kick in the teeth,” he says.
As a consequence yields suffered, patchy and open crops allowed blackgrass to thrive and caused uneven ripening, but the propagation of flea beetle is something Mr Blazey describes even more “frightening” going forward.


With ideal growing conditions and armed with derogation for neonics use, growers in his area lost just 2% of the oilseed rape drilled last autumn.
But despite the seed treatment and three pyrethroid sprays, the frightening propagation of flea beetle has continued this spring; as huge larvae numbers are again decimating crops in hotspot areas.
Mr Blazey says oilseed rape is now causing serious agronomic challenges and hindering the aim of achieving a sustainable farming system across his clients’ acreage.
“The patchy crops are letting us down in terms of blackgrass and broadleaved weed control, and even with seed treatments, the problem is now too far gone.
“If we don’t get the yields this year, I think many of my growers will call it a day [with oilseed rape] for the time being,” he adds.

Crop losses

One grower that has already made the decision to move away from oilseed rape is Cambridgeshire-based James Peck.
The 2,225ha of land PX Farms manages is split between fenland around Wisbech and Emneth, and heavier land further south near Cambridge.
While oilseed rape is not grown on its black soils, it has been an important part of the rotation on its heavy land since the early 1980s.
So far, there had been no historical oilseed rape losses for the business, despite using conventional, home-saved and non-neonicotinoid-treated seed.
However, that soon changed when Mr Peck took on a 173ha farm near Bourn, west of Cambridge, in 2012, which had been in continuous wheat for 27 years.
In autumn 2014, he introduced oilseed rape as a break, coinciding with the first season neonic seed treatments were unavailable.
“After four insecticide sprays [to control flea beetle] and before going for the fifth, something just didn’t sit right with me, so I put some Roundup in the tank and sprayed it off,” explains Mr Peck.

Counting cost

The whole block was replaced with conventional winter barley, which did not perform well enough to cover losses from establishing the failed rape crop, which totalled £301.45/ha.
Mr Peck decided to plant oilseed rape on the block again in 2015, but this time with neonic-treated seed obtained under the derogation.
While some of the crop survived the adult flea beetle onslaught, a further 73ha was lost. Mr Peck estimates the total cost to the business over the two seasons was in excess of £87,000.
“As our business is based on a model of contract farming for other people, so we need to ensure we do a good job and make a profit. We just can’t afford these crop and financial losses,” he explains.
As a consequence, the farm’s winter wheat and oilseed rape rotation on its heavy land will now be replaced by a more diverse sequence of crops that includes white mustard, peas and sugar beet.
“The plus side means there is more diversity in the rotation, but the negative is that we are doing less for the bees, as a major food source is taken away,” explains Mr Peck.

Big decisions

Across the county border at Eyeworth, Bedfordshire, grower and AHDB chairman Peter Kendall says the fall-out from the flea beetle epidemic will mean some big cropping decisions for those in hotspots this autumn.
He has already cut back his oilseed rape area since the neonicotinoid ban following crop losses of his own and says the industry has a “massive problem”.
“Growers may take the view that there is no competition when choosing a break crop, but we need to be clear on the severity of the situation.
“Some may need a number of years away from oilseed rape to get flea beetle numbers down,” says Mr Kendall

Is oilseed rape worth the risk?

With depressed prices, now might a good time to “leave oilseed rape behind for a period” according to AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds lead analyst, Jack Watts.
Between 2011 and 2013, the rapeseed price at the Erith-based ADM crush hovered at £350-£400/t and provided good financial returns, but it has since plummeted to about £250/t.
Mr Watts has used typical yields and costs to calculate the effect of current low prices and potential crop losses on net margin and it clearly illustrates current financial risks for growers.
While many areas unaffected by flea beetle will not be exposed to as much risk, those in the hotspots will look at the figures with fear, with net margin squeezed as losses increase.
“As a starting point, you are losing £200/ha before you have even started to integrate any lost area or yield. Where is the incentive to take that risk?”
Mr Watts says taking an “agronomic break” from oilseed rape could be worthwhile to reduce pest pressure and placing growers in a better position to take advantage of better prices in the future.
However, Mr Watts acknowledges the difficulty of finding a viable alternative, with the danger that minor break crop markets could be overwhelmed.
For example, just a small proportion of the large oilseed rape area shifting into bean markets would be proportionally significant and supply is already a problem for beans as a result of the three-crop rule and greening.
Mr Watts says that if growers cannot find viable break crops, they will have to turn to spring cereals to do the job economically.
“They are interesting as a break from oilseed rape and also a blackgrass control perspective, too.
“Many are turning to double spring cropping of spring wheat, followed by spring barley for that purpose. It is certainly something to consider if you aren’t willing to take the risk [on oilseed rape],” he says.

All contributors were speaking at the recent British Crop Production Council (BCPC) Pests and Beneficials Review 2016 in Cambridge, titled “Can we continue to grow oilseed rape in the UK?”

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Flower to Batteries

Scientists recently discovered that pollen could prove to be a viable alternative to graphite in lithium-ion batteries.
When it comes to materials you’d expect to be present in your battery, pollen is probably on the far end of the list. But a new discovery may soon change things.
While we mostly associate pollen with hay fever, scientists were recently researching something entirely different. Instead, they were looking at how they could use pollen as an alternative to graphite in lithium-ion batteries. Early results for this research suggests that nature-derived pollen structures could be used as an efficient and renewable alternative to graphite.
In addition, further data also seems to indicate that it is capable of delivering a far superior battery performance.
“I started looking into pollens when my mom told me she had developed pollen allergy symptoms about two years ago,” said researcher Jialiang Tang. “I was fascinated by the beauty and diversity of pollen microstructures. But the idea of using them as battery anodes did not really kick in until I started working on battery research and learned more about carbonisation of biomass.”
Image credit: WikiMedia
Image credit: WikiMedia
Batteries are composed of two electrodes, a positive end (the cathode) and a negative end (the anode). By connecting these two ends with a wire or any other conductor, electrons flow along the circuit formed and produces the current of electricity needed to run our devices.
Digital devices like smartphones and notebook computers use lithium-ion batteries, which have utilized graphite as its anode since its inception in 1991. Now, researchers are looking for new materials that could replace graphite as its limitations become more and more apparent.
“Our findings have demonstrated that renewable pollens could produce carbon architectures for anode applications in energy storage devices,” said one of the team, Vilas Pol.
Source:Purdue University image/ Jialiang Tang, Kay J. Hagen
Pollen. Source:Purdue University  Jialiang Tang, Kay J. Hagen
The researchers were interested in experimenting with two kinds of synthetic pollen that they obtained from natural sources: bee pollen and cattail pollen. “Both are abundantly available,” said Pol. “The bottom line here is we want to learn something from nature that could be useful in creating better batteries with renewable feedstock.”
Using natural samples of each variety of pollen, the researchers processed them in a chamber filled with argon gas at a high temperature by performing a procedure called pyrolysis. Bee pollen, which is a mixture of the differing pollen types obtained by bees, contains varying shapes in contrast to cattail pollen, which all have the same shape.
Ultimately, the end result of the pyrolysis results in pure carbon in the shape of the pollen particles. Further heating in the presence of oxygen opened up pores in the structures that increases their energy-storage capacity.
Tests conducted by the scientists showed that charging for 10 hours resulted in a full charge, and that more than half of a full charge could be achieved in just one hour. Comparisons between the two showed that Cattail pollen outperformed bee pollen with a high capacity of 590 milliamp hours per gram in testing at 50 degrees Celsius and 382 mAh/g at 25 degrees Celsius.
“The theoretical capacity of graphite is 372 milliamp hours per gram, and we achieved 200 milliamp hours after 1 hour of charging,” said Pol.
While the research may be preliminary, the scientists seek to study pollen in a full-cell battery with a commercial cathode. Further research is needed to see if their idea could actually be practical and commercially viable for consumer use, but it’s promising early work.

sipa honey bees resources

Here we will share useful documents, spreadsheets and videos to provide guidance and advice for beekeepers.

We will add more sections over time to include health, feeding & nutrition, husbandry and general management. Scroll down to see more.

General Management

Colony Inspection sheet.

Here is a colony inspection sheet that we designed and use ourselves, hope it's usefull for you.
 Email with ' inspection sheet ' (without the quote marks) in the subject line, you wil recieve the inspection sheet by return

Honey Bee Health

Free Bee Health phone app for Iphone or android produced by the Government of Alberta Canada
The Bee Health app is based on current scientific knowledge to address honey bee diseases and pests. It is a handy resource to help beekeepers to detect, diagnose, manage and treat honey bee diseases and pests. It includes pictures and treatment options which will aid beekeepers in adopting appropriate pest management. Although we don't have bears here in the UK !

Either search your App store or go here for more info & to download  

Feeding & Nutrition

Syrup Calculator Spreadsheet.

We developed this tool to easily calculate correct proprtions to produce sugar syrups of differing strengths & volumes used for supplementary feeding.

It will also calculate the amount of stores contributed from feeding heavy syrup. Choose to work in either Imperial or Metric.

Email with ' Syrup Calculator ' (without the quote marks) in the subject line, you will recieve the spreadsheet by return.


Learning how to perform an Artifical Swarm can be daunting for new beekeepers, but It's an essential skill that should be mastered. Here is an excellent youtube video showing the process.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Bee Improvement For All

Epping Forest BKA 

pleased to offer

one-day course 

13 March 2016

Copped Hall, Epping

for more details please contact 
Tickets and information 
From the secretary

Friday, 12 February 2016

Beekeeping - Bailey Comb Exchange 2012

Why Undertake A Bailey Comb Change?

The key reasons are:
  1. Change old brood comb
    • Combs should be changed regularly as they become damaged and mostly because used it may contain the causative organism of many bee diseases, such as Nosema, European and American Foul Brood as well as pesticides
    • The National Bee Unit advise that brood comb should not be used for more than three years and that used comb should not be used in a different colony but rather be rendered or disposed
  2. Convert hive from one size to another, eg. National to 14×12


  1. Prepare a clean brood box filled with frames of foundation
  2. Place this box over current brood box
  3. Feed with Thick Sugar Syrup (1/2 litre of water to 1 kilogram of sugar; see link on Feeding), unless there is a strong nectar flow
  4. When the bees have drawn out some of the foundation, find the queen and place her on this comb
  5. Place queen excluder over the old brood box and under the new, trapping the queen in the upper box
  6. If possible, arrange a new hive entrance between the two brood boxes and close off the old, thus helping to reduce the amount of pollen stored in the old lower combs
  7. After three weeks remove the old brood chamber
  8. The brood will have hatched and the comb can then be rendered to recover the beeswax

Diagram Of Bailey Comb Change

Bailey Comb Change
Bailey Comb Change
Diagram from FAQ 5, Replacing Old Brood Comb, National Bee Unit, FERA

Monday, 8 February 2016

Ted Hooper Memorial Lecture - 17 April 16 - 2pm

Ted Hooper Memorial Lecture 
Coach House, Marks Hall, Coggeshall CO6 1TG

Sun 17th April 2016, 2pm 

120 tickets available, first come first served.

Tickets are £8 each


Clive de Bruyn
Clive de Bruyn FIBKA Snr., BBKA Snr., N.D.B.
Clive has been a beekeeper since the 1960’s. He is one of the best-known and respected beekeeping authorities in Britain and Ireland. Based in Essex, where he runs over 100 colonies for queen-rearing, honey production and pollination. He is a prominent member of the Bee Farmers’ Association, where he has been the Education Officer since 1982. As well as being a bee farmer Clive has studied, worked and presented papers within an international forum for many years and done much work in third world countries. In addition, he has written several books including the indispensable “Practical Beekeeping”.
Margaret Thomas

Margaret Thomas
Margaret holds a NDB Certificate; The National Diploma in Beekeeping, it is the highest UK qualification in Beekeeping. Margaret is also Secretary of the NDB Organisation and is an examination moderator for both the NDB and the BBKA . She is also a member of the Bee Farmers Association, having been a Bee Farmer in Essex, prior to retiring to Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland. She still keeps bees and is active in the education of Scottish Beekeepers, running workshops, giving talks to local associations and is one of the examiners for the SBA Basic Beemaster.
She has written the Diseases chapter in the latest (5th edition) update of Ted Hooper’s “Guide to Bees and Honey”
Margaret is on the Executive Committee of the SBA.
Lecture Title : Learning with Ted

Bee Improvement for All One Day course - Epping

Epping Forest BKA 

pleased to offer

one-day course 

13 March 2016

Copped Hall, Epping

for more details please contact 
Tickets and information 
From the secretary

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Paynes February Newsletter

The season is almost here......

February Newsletter.

The new beekeeping season is approaching now and so far the Winter has been mild and the bees have remained very active.   Of course, a lot can happen in February and in March so the Winter months many not be over yet for the Bees.

We have a few final sale items available still if you need any more equipment before the new season starts.   remember, dont wait till you need equipment to get it - have it ready to go beforehand as the bees never wait for us beekeepers during the summer!  

Full List available here
First big show of 2016 is Bee Tradex on 5th March in Warwickshire.   We will be there with plenty of equipment, bargains and smiles.    Come and say hi.
Mmmm, these look tasty and they are easy to make too.
Now taking orders for Queens which will be ready for Mid April.   We have a good choice available, all with different attributes but which are all suitable for the UK climate.  More details available here
Copyright © 2016 Paynes Bee Farm Ltd, All rights reserved. 
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Our mailing address is: 
Paynes Bee Farm Ltd
Paynes Bee Farm Ltd
Wickham Hill
HassocksWest Sussex  BN6 9NP
United Kingdom

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Monday, 1 February 2016

Essex Beekeepers Annual Conference - date for your diary

Date for your diary

Conference Saturday 5 November 2016
Hosted by
Romford Division