Behind the veil: Malcolm Haynes
This time we focus on Malcolm Haynes. The term “stalwart” again comes to mind – we are lucky in having so many stalwart members of our Association! Malcolm has always been active in the Association – I know this from looking back through many years of the magazine, and he has served in various official capacities - as show manager, Branch chairman, and now as Secretary. He runs the Association website, and is the contact person for the Association, and thus a very influential figure.
Why did you hit on the idea of taking up beekeeping?
It all started a long time ago, and I suppose it was similar to how many beekeepers start in the craft. In the Summer of 1974 I was visiting a Summer Show similar to Nantwich or Romiley whilst visiting my parents, and in one tent was a honey section complete with observation hive. It was absolutely fascinating; there were the bees working away and they were able to fly from the observation hive so they were seen doing things naturally - bees dancing, different colours of pollen on their legs, queen laying and with drones present so the whole colony was represented.
I followed this up by locating the address of the Stockport Branch given in the library in Stockport - which turned out to be Derek Lockett’s out-apiary at Whitely Green. Enquiries at a local cottage led me to a house at the top of the lane which was the home of Cedric Titterton who helped Derek with his bees at that time. Both Derek and Cedric were away at a bee meeting, but later in the following week Derek contacted me and I turned up at his apiary next time he opened the hives. Handling a frame which Derek had passed to me resulted in a sting from a trapped bee (I wasn’t wearing gloves) and apparently a comment such as ‘oh dear, I’ve been stung’ from me - though Derek remembers my comment somewhat differently. I wasn’t put off by this and, with no after-effects, I started going to branch meetings the following Autumn and Winter and joined Cheshire Beekeepers in 1975.
How did you start?
My first hive arrived in June 1975, from Jim Barrow of Wilmslow. He used to host the first of the outdoor meetings and supplied equipment as well as colonies of bees. This colony was one of marvellous temper; the bees were quiet on the combs and so good you could almost handle them without protection; not that I did. It was at this time that I met Jim Tucker who was the local foul-brood officer for the branch. He checked the bees over, gave them a clean bill of health and so my adventure in beekeeping started.
That Summer was idyllic. The bees worked well, I read a lot about beekeeping, attended branch meetings and made copious notes and also had a taste of honey to whet my appetite for the following year. In 1976 I increased from one to two colonies; I was forced to by my only colony swarming. Through inexperience I failed to read the signs but making notes helps much in identifying where improvements in techniques can be made. 1976 produced 42 lbs of honey!
Looking through my notes, I see that I used to feed my bees with sugar syrup, treat with Frow mixture against acarine ( why I don’t know, it was just done at the time and I never saw evidence of acarine), raise the crown board on matchsticks to give ventilation; none of these I do nowadays. The only thing I do now is to fit mouse guards.
Who or what influenced the way in which you keep bees?
You meet so many beekeepers over the years, but Jim Tucker undoubtedly was the biggest influence. He could always be guaranteed to have an answer to any question, since he was a master beekeeper - though sometimes you had to wait a while for the answer.
At about this time there were a lot of one-day shows at various Manchester parks plus a 3-day Manchester Show, and Jim used to go to all of them with an observation hive: demonstrating and selling honey - taking up most of his Summer week-ends. I remember on one occasion at a Manchester Show asking him a question as we were setting off to the Show Office. There was no response to the question until we got back to the honey section some half an hour later, when all of a sudden he gave his considered reply. By this time I had almost forgotten the question!
How did your beekeeping develop?
I’ve tried various techniques over the years, such as the standard method of artificial swarming (Pagden method) and Ron Brown’s two-queen system, which I still use on occasions. In fact it is the main method I use to raise new queens. It is a system whereby, when artificially swarming, you put the queen in a brood box on the floorboard and the rest of the brood in a second brood box on top of the supers above a double queen board. The bees fly from this top box and raise a new queen, or, if you want, several queens and you split the frames at the top into a number of nuclei with a queen cell in each. With one queen at the top and bottom and a common scent, the workers can be allowed between the 2 brood boxes. You can get a lot of honey but it can be hard work if you don’t have another beekeeper to help. At the end of the season you either put the brood-boxes on separate sites - if making increase - or simply put the top one on the bottom one to form a double-brood colony. There is no trouble uniting as the bees have a common scent.
Are there any high points or disasters you want to tell about?
I’ve had many high points and also disasters over the years - too many to recount - but if you make notes of what actions were taken at the time and the result, you can learn; also if you keep bees in partnership with someone else you can always blame your partner-beekeeper if things go wrong, Beekeeping is also more interesting if there are two people working together.
I’ve been privileged to serve both the County Association and Stockport Branch over the years in a number of positions - Stockport Branch as Show Manager from 1982 – 1985 and Branch Chairman 1989 – 1996; County Association as Show Manager from 1984 – 91 and from 1992 as Honorary Secretary. In the process I’ve had the pleasure of receiving The Canon Evans Cup and Honorary Life Membership of the Association - both great honours.
What about the future of beekeeping?
Provided we don’t lose our bees I think the future could be good, particularly with the influx of new members to the craft. Hopefully, research projects will be set up to overcome difficulties and to help us change with the changing demands of beekeeping. When I started, there was no varroa or open mesh floors or dusting with icing sugar. With acaricide-resistant mites now prevalent we have had to adopt new techniques. Gone are the days when you just added supers and took off the honey. The BBKA have improved the lines of communication and new techniques are now disseminated fairly rapidly, as well as more beekeepers studying for the BBKA modules.
How do you see the future of the Cheshire BKA?
We have had a lot of new members join the association - which is good for any society. More members are now studying for the BBKA Modules and whether or not you take the examinations, you learn a lot. I took the modules over a 4 year period from 2002 to 2005 using the correspondence course via the BBKA and largely by myself. Graham Royle now runs study groups over the Winter period - which I think is better, as there is interaction within the members of the group. The value of the education programmes is in learning and keeping up to date which leads to the improvement of your own beekeeping which can only be good. This is the main advantage of belonging to an Association. Working in isolation is never good, particularly at a time when there is rapid change and this applies as much to the craft of beekeeping as to any other hobby or occupation.
Malcolm Haynes was talking to Pete Sutcliffe