bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, April 25, 2004

British BeeFest excels again

British beekeepers were treated to a great BeeFest yesterday at the Stoneleigh Spring Convention run by the BBKA. The sales stands and exhibitions are enough to attract beekeepers from all over the country, but there was also a terrific lecture programme [slow-loading pdf file].

I managed to hear Professor John Bryant of Exeter University explain how genetically modified crops are simply the latest manifestation of crop breeding and that the method should hold no particular fears — he suggested that society should perhaps be trying to regulate the sought-after traits, rather than the method.

All very convincing, except perhaps that it ignores the relative speed of producing GM crops and the attitudes of some of the commercial enterprises pursuing their profits. The word Monsanto is probably a sufficient call to arms for anyone concerned about the potential negative impacts of GMs.

Celia Davis gave a wonderful overview of swarming including lots of recent research data. Can we expect to see synthesized pheromones to help in swarm control? Israeli researchers have identified two queen pheromone components that are crucial in inhibiting swarming.

Professor Francis Ratnieks of Sheffield University spoke about conflict in the beehive and worker policing. He showed some marvellous video footage of workers gobbling up eggs just laid by fellow workers.

The 2005 Stoneleigh Spring Convention will be on Saturday 16th April. You'll sting yourself if you don't go.


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