I HAVE just read the article “Bees suffer significant decline in bad winter” (The National, Aug 4). The last paragraph refers to the “unsolvable queen problems after winter”. The word “unsolvable” indicates a paucity of common sense or worse!

I am a retired semi-commercial honey producer and bee breeder, having managed 60 to 80 colonies of bees single-handed for some 45 years. I have read widely within the apicultural discipline and have a fistful of beekeeping qualifications.

I edited the Scottish Beekeeper magazine for some 10 years and was continuously in proverbial hot water for tackling controversial issues concerning bees, which contravened the accepted wisdom of contemporary beekeeping.

The solution to the problem of high numbers of dead colonies and failing queens could be solved within years if the powers that be would accept the critical importance of the honey bee and support intelligent apicultural husbandry. Political will is the key: at this present time the factor limiting honey bee colony survival rates is the economic consideration of only overwintering the number of colonies the individual beekeeper can afford to feed – well!

If a hobbyist beekeeper overwinters, say, six colonies of bees and suffers a 50 per cent loss, his live colony count in the spring is, of course, three colonies. Consider this same beekeeper having the funds to instead of overwintering six colonies, overwintering 12. It is a no-brainer that if he suffers the same previous order of loss he will have twice as many survivors as in his original count. The secret – also a no-brainer – is to encourage beekeepers to overwinter more colonies by subsidising or donating sugar to beekeepers to enable them to carry out this simple regeneration procedure. More sugar, more bees: the golden rule in beekeeping is: “only over-winter the number of colonies which can be fed well”.

Another no-brainer, if the authorities had a real commitment to the wellbeing of the honey bee, is related to the need in some years to augment the depleting stores available in the hive to the bees in prolonged poor springs. Instead of merely exploiting the bees for their honey, a number of colonies could be set aside in apiaries and fed sugar syrup continuously throughout the active year and the comb honey produced by these “sacrificial” colonies harvested and stored in dry, controlled areas. These combs, which would, of course, contain natural pollen which the foraging bees would by default entrain in this honey comb, could then be fed as “natural” instantly available food to colonies in the apiary which indicated food shortages – this is already being done successfully, individually by intelligent, well-funded beekeepers.

Disease management is another no-brainer! At present individual hobbyist beekeepers are being forced to pay extortionate prices for proprietary treatment, for which there are much cheaper alternatives. There is of course the elephant in the room: pesticides. This controversial issue has been twisted and turned by the industry due to the massive profits, and many scientists are in denial relative to the damaging or otherwise effects of these substances. The lethal effect of the neonicotinoids was demonstrated unequivocally in the Upper Rhine region of Germany in 2008, when 11,500 honey bee colonies and countless other non-target beneficial insects were poisoned by aerosol drift from “air drain” seed planters sowing corn seeds. I have only touched the tip of the problems besetting beekeepers on the ground, which might be able to be attenuated if the politicians were to ask the right beekeepers the right questions and cut the red tape!
Eric McArthur

One for all and all for one is key to economic success 

MICHAEL Fry’s article urging that small and medium firms be freed was very welcome and went in exactly the right direction (Firms must be freed to give them the chance to thrive, The National,

Aug 4). A small point of pick up – in my opinion – is that classical economics predicts exactly our circumstances. Politicians and others are kicking the can down the road. This simply delays our rendezvous with destiny.

Prosperity relies on our collective motivation. All of us wish to achieve our dreams, right down to opening and running a hairdresser or daily market stall – just as important collectively as someone who wishes to invent a global video game.

All for one and one for all. The secret of success.
David Campbell

I FAIL to see any constructive meaning in Michael Fry’s article. It states how badly consecutive Westminster politicians have handled the UK economy. It refers to countries such as

Denmark and Norway as examples of workable economies; it speculates on the Scottish Parliament’s ability to affect change after independence because of its extremely limited relationship with the business sector under present restricted devolved conditions; and it gives the opinion that business in Scotland couldn’t cope with necessary reforms after independence.

Every economy is dependent on its medium-sized businesses because they pay the lion’s share of corporation tax, so why would an independent Scotland be any different? Fry’s article states that the right-wing plans of Westminster have been failing us since Thatcher yet it warns against taking a different approach. It says that despite all efforts Scotland’s financial health is still seemingly lower than the rUK and states this as a veiled warning about expectations even after mentioning the failed Westminster policies which have undoubtedly held us back.

All of this under the headline “Businesses that can help an independent Scotland’s economy grow must be freed up to thrive”, which kind of implies someone was planning on restricting that business. Who has hinted at such actions?
Terence Donnelly
via thenational.scot

THE Wee Ginger Dug’s point that the demonising of the potential Scottish influence on a future British Government won Cameron his majority is as much a factor among certain English voters now as it was then (No honour in a system that rewards pals and paymasters, The National, Aug 3). They would never countenance Scotland being directly represented within a coalition government and it might well be that many of this persuasion voted to leave the EU.
Peter Gorrie

WILL Scotland be involved in the coming drafting of legislation on EVEL? (Also, Scotland is a sovereign nation: shouldn’t we decide who is allowed to stay here?)

There has been with the Brexit vote a huge change in the circumstances of the devolved nations: they will be poorer than they now are. Brexiteers have decided to leave the EU without due thought and diligence; they have not thought of the aftermath of exit from the EU: as they didn’t with the wars in the Middle East they got involved in.

Can we persuade Westminster to pursue a consensual drafting of legislation? Then perhaps we can keep them from acting without thought or care for our future.
AC, Aberdeen
via text

IN The National yesterday we had a photo of Maggie the campervan with Embo School and the schoolhouse behind, and a view from the Embo shore looking towards Beinn Bhraggie (Breathtaking beach views, The National, Aug 5). The other day we were told Maggie spent the night in Grannie’s Hielan’ Hame in Dornoch – it’s really in Embo village. Can someone tell Stephen McTaggart please? There’s only three miles difference between the metropolis of Dornoch and Embo village but we’re still showing our “Independent State of Embo” sign from the day when we declared UDI. Maybe Scotland could learn something?
Catriona Grigg