On the 24 November we were pleased to welcome Keith Hooker to talk to branch members and share his passion for bees and pollen.
Keith has had an interest in bees and been a beekeeper himself for many years, especially while working as a fruit farmer when he kept bees for pollination in Chartham. He lamented the loss of many hedgerow flowers, a reduced biodiversity which had greatly affected the bees, and urged the beekeepers and gardeners present at the talk to increase the number and diversity of floral nectar sources wherever possible.
He pointed out (as we are all well aware after last spring/ summer) that weather is the biggest deciding factor on the outcome of the beekeeping year. He emphasised the value of willow in early spring in getting the hives started and bemoaned the decline of orchard fruit since the 1960s and the rise of oil seed rape since the 1970s urging us all to gather the seeds of plants that we know are popular with bees (with the possible exception of Himalayan balsam) and scatter them widely to make up for the lack of variety.
Keith explained the detail of how bees pollinate flowers and how the proximity of the hives to the blossom could affect the seasonal crop in various ways. He also explained some of the planting rationale within orchards for maximum cross pollination, which was fascinating.
Keith then shared with us some of his own data, collected while studying honey and bumble bees during foraging flights.
The venue was a University of Kent lecture theatre which was outstanding but as the weather was atrocious the audience was disappointingly small. Those of us present though enjoyed the talk very much and our thanks go to Keith for an interesting talk that kept us fully entertained on a dark, wet and miserable Saturday afternoon.