Talking and listening….

The talking bit of the title refers to the first talk of the winter season, given by Ben Hopkinson of Alnwick Beekeepers Association. Ben gave a hugely entertaining and informative talk about his Beekeeping Safari with Bees for Development


Ben and a few other beekeepers travelled to Vietnam, and toured widely over a two week period, visiting different local beekeepers in a variety of climate settings. People there keep Apis Cerana, and also Apis Mellifera, and what was notable immediately was the no protective clothing was used, or needed. Maybe the warm humid climate keeps all bees docile. We saw some images of the notoriously aggressive Apis Dorsata too, but Ben had not encountered them in person.

People were using varied styles of hive, many home made from materials at hand. Some were concrete, so it’s just as well they don’t use supers ! Honey is harvested as it is sealed.

Ben was obviously deeply affected by the generosity and welcoming nature of the Vietnamese people he met. It seems there was much superb food cooked for the guests wherever they went, and there was also a little mention to be careful of little shot glasses of rice wine for toasts…..not as innocuous as one might think perhaps 🙂

What was also wonderful was Ben’s knowledge of the social and political history of the country, and how resilient it’s people have been throughout it’s colonial past.

He has also travelled in Turkey on a similar safari, so perhaps we can persuade him back next year to talk about this one.


The listening part of the blog title refers to the offer we received from Arnia of a monitoring system for the bees in Saltwell Park. They are part of a project monitoring air quality in urban settings. Once I find out more I will post a blog in detail.

Various kinds of hive data can be viewed remotely, which can perhaps give an early warning of issues a colony might be facing. Of course it won’t replace good inspection techniques, but it will be interesting to see what we can do with this data.

Simply put it consists of a microphone at the hive entrance, a couple of sensors to measure brood nest temperature, and a set of scales. Information is sent back to a server and the resulting data can be viewed online.

Samantha from Arnia will be dropping off the equipment for us, so if there is one more warm day we might be able to install it this year. If not then we will wait until spring.


Our friends at the NEXUS site have offered us the use of their data fro projects, and we will be closely collaborating with Newcastle Uni BeeSoc who have also just taken delivery of a system.

Who knows, this might just feed into our Ideas Fest potential project…… watch this space.

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