Michael Minter

Michael Minter

From the early days to present

Unwittingly my first contact with beekeeping was at my great uncle’s fruit farm in Kent which had bees on it, in addition I liked honeycomb. In October 1974 Val and I went along to our first Branch meeting, and picked up the rudiments at the Branch meetings that year, which contained many “beginner-friendly” talks. In May 1975 we acquired a small colony from Bill Burgess (CBKA President) and a WBC hive from the Wirral Branch. Eventually I got more adventurous and acquired out-apiaries at Gayton, Poulton Lancelyn, a site near to Clatterbridge Hospital, another in the grounds of a lovely house overlooking the Dee estuary and I also took over an apiary in upper Heswall.

For many years we took our bees for the heather at our 17th Century cottage near Beddgelert which we had restored and later to a closer private site adjacent to the Llandegla moors. I work the Blakeman/Cheshire double brood-box system and apart from my initial purchase from Bill Burgess, and another colony later on from Roland Ayliffe, I do not buy in nuclei, queens or colonies. I breed my own queens, usually by artificial swarming. Apart from a few purchases at Wirral Branch auctions in the early years, I have made most of my own equipment. I also made lightweight WBC lifts that fit over National Hives and which are useful in the winter.

By 1987 I was running nearly 30 hives including nuclei and had the use of several temporary sites in Wirral. It was at the apiary I had taken over in Heswall that during the 1987 Christmas I found one of the colonies there had AFB. Typically 1987 was the year I had allowed my BDI to lapse!! At least I was able to heed my wife’s advice and devote more time to my expanding engineering consultancy. One thing I have noticed of late is that Queens seem to have a shorter life span, don’t seem as prolific and for any that are replaced late in the year there is a great risk of the new queen failing during the winter. I now unite any colonies in Autumn that show signs of having a poor Queen.

Liverpool Garden Festival

Having prepared the initial design and construction programme for the Liverpool International Garden Festival I was asked in 1984 by Phil Deeley, one of the Landscape Architects, to organise a Bee Garden for the Festival.
I arranged a committee comprising Wirral and Liverpool members and we organised and ran a Bee Garden at the Festival. We planted approximately 300 bee-friendly plants supplied by the Merseyside Development Corporation and had several different types of hives on display. Arthur Gillett organised several National hives complete with bees and Harry Holland made a Lych Gate structure to support two observation hives which Ken McMorine stocked and we kept running throughout the several months of the Festival - a record duration. I still have some of my computer rotas for members who had volunteered to man the garden during the period of the Festival.

Committees & BBKA Delegate

By 1980 I was Chairman of the Wirral Branch having been parachuted into the position the year before by my wife who was already on the committee. I handed over to Harry Holland in 1992 but continued to serve on both the Wirral and County Committees. From 1993 until 2007 I was the Cheshire delegate to the BBKA, a post I held for fourteen years handing over to Sydney Hollinshead in 2008 and was then made an Honorary Member.

My thoughts about the future of beekeeping

Although we must continue dealing with varroa with our present weapons I am sure the future will be varroa tolerant bees and the use of natural or non-chemical treatments, many of which we see at the moment. However I do worry about the long-term effect of some of the pesticides currently in use in agriculture, those yet to be developed and those we have used for varroa control. I sometimes think they may be a greater risk than varroa. I still remember the DDT disaster and its long term effects are still with us. It was going to cure everything caused by nasty insects such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Personally I think the greatest risk is from systemic insecticides, particularly those of the neonicotinoid group. Misuse of similar seed dressings have already caused disaster in France and Germany, and unless such insecticides have a 12 month self-destruct mechanism I think they will just build up in the soil and ground water each time they are used. Some treated plants exude extra floral nectar creating risks highlighted by Buglife. Whilst the amounts of pesticide contained in such nectars are very small they will build up in the wax the bees produce. Although bees will not necessarily be killed, what is the effect on the fertility of our queens and drones? For further information go to www.bitsandbees.nl/Expo-Paths-Paris.pdf