Bees in the House

A debate on funding for bee research took place in the House of Lords on 27th November. The Hansard record can be found here.

Presence of Nosema Ceranea confirmed in the UK

by Andy Wattam, Eastern Region Bee Inspector

Ladies and Gentlemen

Please be advised that the presence of Nosema Ceranae has been confirmed in several areas of the United Kingdom. From a Regional Point of View - I would reaffirm the request in my newsletter, that we wish to investigate and sample any cases of 'abnormal' or extreme winter losses of Bee Colonies. In this way we can really get a hold on what is happening to our bees and build up a some baseline scientific data.
Confirmation of Nosema ceranae in England and Wales

Three hundred and nine samples have now been tested for the presence of Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae using real-time PCR. All positive results were confirmed using published assays for the detection of these pathogens. Positive results have therefore been confirmed using 2 methods both based on the detection of species specific DNA. Of these samples 31 samples testing positive for N. apis (10%), 14 for N. ceranae (4.5%) and 3 (1%) testing positive for both Nosema species. N. ceranae positives were confirmed across seven counties of England (Cornwall Essex, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire, Hereford and Worcestershire, Greater London, North Yorkshire) and three in Wales (Glamorgan, Pows, Dyfed).

N. ceranae infections have been reported not to show typical signs of Nosema infection. Therefore we recommend beekeepers check their colonies for adult bee diseases. Treatment using the usual veterinary medicine is effective against Nosema infections in honeybee colonies. It is also important to treat effectively against Varroa mite infestations.

We will carry out a more detailed survey to estimate the prevalence and impact of both Nosema species across England and Wales. Samples of DNA extracts from the European foul brood study, imported bees and historical samples stored in the NBU labs will be rescreened.

National Bee Unit, CSL, November 2007

Lew Ellison

It is with great sadness that I must bring you news of the death of Lew Ellison who died this morning. Although not a member of HBKA, Lew attended our AGM every spring with a full table of beekeeping wares for sale. He also advertised in our newsletter every month (LE Services).

Anyone who visited Lew's 'shop' (a large garage at his home) was always made to feel most welcome as he was keen to talk about beekeeping and give advice on the equipment that he sold.

He will be greatly missed.

Vale: Phillip Manning 1925 – 2007

by Peter Mathews

Phillip took up beekeeping in 1982, shortly after retiring from I.C.I where he was employed for many years as a research chemist. He brought with him a keen interest in natural history together with a disciplined scientific mind. His meticulous attention to detail made him a model beekeeper. His hives were always immaculate and benchmark for cleanliness. But, with his strong traditional views, he didn’t keep anything other than WBC hives.

I first met Phillip and Anne a few years later when I attended a ‘bee meeting’ in his beautiful garden in High Oaks Road. The month was June, the day hot and the sky blue. All this was before oil seed rape, varroa and wax moth had appeared on the scene. A gentle examination of his hives was rounded off with tea and huge quantities of cake on the terrace. They were wonderful days.

By ’86, Phillip had taken on the job of treasurer for the Welwyn association. Shortly after he took on the same role for HBKA. I have been unable to find a precise date, as everyone seems to be of the firm opinion that he had always been treasurer. Certainly, he held the position for something like 20 years until his retirement in March of this year. By the ‘90’s he had also taken on the chore of printing the newsletter on a hand cranked Gestetner. This involved waiting for the ink to dry on side one before printing off side two. This lasted until stencils became unavailable. Few people can really appreciate just the amount of time involved.

Phillip was a wonderful person to work with. He was never one to shun his duties, ceaselessly asking others if they needed help. Phillip could always be relied upon. During the course of this year he was still collecting swarms, helping with the Welwyn Street Market and he co-ordinated the Welwyn honey stall at Bee World in September.

Phillip demonstrated many ‘old fashioned’ qualities ever polite, courteous, reliable and always considerate and respectful of others. How often he reminded us of the ‘proper’ way of doing things. He was also an extremely modest man, never seeking the spotlight or looking for recognition. He just got on with the job. Phillip combined great dignity with warmth and friendliness, a rare quality. Perhaps, I most admired his skills as a diplomat, bringing calmness and common sense to a heated argument.

Phillip had numerous other interests. He had a large and beautiful garden, and was very much involved in the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. He greatly enjoyed playing bowls and was a keen bridge player. During chance conversation, I also discovered we shared an interest in caving, and that we had several friends in common from his younger days whilst at Sidcot school on the Mendips.

Phillip died suddenly on the evening of Monday, 19th November following a heart attack at the age of 82. Our heart felt condolences go to Anne, his children Alan, Susan and Gillian and other family members. He will be greatly missed.

The Prime Minister's response to the petition

The Prime Minister has responded to the petition that I mentioned in August. The response is as follows:
Honey bees are important pollinators of crops and wild flowers and make an important contribution to sustainable agriculture and the environment. The Government recognises the importance of a strong bee health programme in England to protect these benefits and takes very seriously any biosecurity threat to the sustainability of the apiculture sector.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has not reduced its expenditure with the National Bee Unit (NBU), and funding for this year remains at the same level as in recent years. In the 2007/8 financial year, Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government are providing the NBU with funding of £1,518,000. There is an ongoing review of expenditure on all Defra programmes, including bee health, and it is not possible to give long-term commitments on the continuation of funding into the distant future for any particular programme. In addition, work is underway to develop a bee health strategy. This is being discussed with all sectors of the industry and should help establish priorities and clarify the roles and responsibilities of government and the industry. The strategy will also determine whether the current approach to disease control is the most effective use of resources or whether alternative approaches might yield better results in terms of disease protection, including any response to potential new threats. That review will include consideration of resource implications and the role that industry has to play in working in partnership with government. In the event of any resultant proposals to change the provision of the NBU's inspection services, there will be further consultation.

In addition, the budget for Bee Health Research and Development in 2007/08 is £192,000, which is comparable to previous years. The R&D programme underpins bee health policy and covers work on all exotic and statutory pests and diseases of bees. This year the programme is focusing on the development of a system for the monitoring and surveillance of Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida (Murray)) and assessing the effectiveness of the shook swarm technique for the control of European Foul Brood. A 3-year PhD studentship studying bee viruses will also start this year. Defra is collaborating with other funders to optimise the outcome of the research programme. The inaugural meeting of the Research Funders Forum will take place early in November.

Defra is aware of the press reports about the serious situation in the USA in respect of cases of abnormally high levels of colony loss described as Colony Collapse Disorder. However, despite continuing press speculation, we do not have evidence to suggest that there is something similar happening in the UK. Scientists and inspectors at the NBU are monitoring the situation and are in contact with experts in the USA and in Europe to learn about developments.

It is not unusual for some colonies to be found dead or absent at the end of winter. If beekeepers report such cases in England and Wales to the NBU they are routinely investigated. The very limited number of cases of high losses for which there is no ready explanation is being investigated in depth by the NBU and bee inspectors. The figures from inspections strongly indicate that colony losses in 2007 will not be significantly higher than the 11.1% recorded in 2006, reflecting the upward trend since 2001. The NBU's research and apiary assessments suggest these losses are primarily due to Varroa and inappropriate control. Uncontrolled mite populations can lead to an increase in the associated secondary pathogens like viruses or Nosema.
So everything will be ok.....!

Down Your Way - News from the Regional Bee Inspector

by Andy Wattam

Well, all that can be said is “What a season”. Looking back to the opening words of my Spring Newsletter “With the good weather in the early part of March – Seasonal Bee Inspectors were able to make a good start”, everything looked so promising, but sadly went downhill afterwards.

Most beekeepers in East Anglia are reporting a bad year from the perspective of Honey Production (although not all), and this is reflected in the comments received by colleagues in other regions. It also seems to have been a very testing year for queen mating, superscedure and late swarming leaving small unviable colonies.

Please don’t think that as Bee Inspectors we are immune to the trials and tribulations suffered by other beekeepers, because we have all suffered some unusual things this season within our own apiaries.

From my own beekeeping records I note that the summers of 1984, 1987 and also 1988 were not good in this part of the country.

I started with bees in 1984, which was a bad year, so I would say to all of those beekeepers that have started their beekeeping this year – please stick with it and use it as experience for the future. Despite the poor weather – levels of inspections within our region are higher than last year, and are the highest levels of colony inspections and beekeeper visits since computerised inspection records began at the National Bee Unit in 1994.

On all of the Inspectors travels this year one thing, which has been very consistent, is beekeepers comments regarding their difficulties with the control of Varroa. Many of our call-outs by beekeepers where disease has been suspected have culminated in colonies either weakened or collapsing with varroa.

I cannot emphasise enough that the only way to control varroa (like any other type of parasite or disease) is to monitor it’s levels and be familiar with how it works. Much useful information is contained within the ‘Managing Varroa’ booklet produced by ourselves. Many thousands of these have been given to beekeepers but it is still apparent from the questions and queries we receive (whose answers are contained within the pages of the booklet), that they in many cases have not even been opened and read.

Winter Losses of Colonies
Any beekeeper who sustains abnormally high losses of colonies from now onwards which are ‘inexplicable’ please get in touch. A free visit will be made if you desire and an investigation carried out, with samples gathered for analysis at the National Bee Unit and advice offered where possible. Most of the samples gathered from dead colonies last winter showed that causes of death were mainly attributable to viruses.

My feeling is that it is essential that we continue to look at dead-out colonies and gather ‘baseline’ data to find out exactly what is happening with our colonies. Primary contact should be Andy Wattam, as the Seasonal Bee Inspectors are not employed at this time of year.

Continued online…… Click here to download and read the full newsletter.

Eastern Region courses run by the National Bee Unit in 2008 can be found by clicking here.

Courses in other areas (which may differ somewhat) should be discussed with your nearest Regional Bee Inspector, the contact details of whom can be found here.

NE Herts news by John Hill

At the time of writing this contribution, in mid-November, the colder, wet weather has only just arrived. Whereas last week, (Nov 11th), the warm climate had sustained the wasp population to such a degree that some ‘robbing’ was taking place in the apiary. The wasps were also in considerable numbers at the premises on a climbing ivy plant, (the name of which I know not), and were busily nibbling the profuse number of berries that the aforesaid plant was displaying. Not a bee in sight though! There was some hive activity however! But now with the continuous drenching we have endured over the past two days or so, I suspect that the wasps’ days are numbered. About time too, for this past summer has been a more successful one for the wasps than my bees, (as far as my hives are concerned). However, the latter insects have grown in numbers (and strength?), following intensive feeding and treatment....Fingers crossed for survival!

At our November meeting, we had a good turnout of 18 members to listen to Martin Buckle from the Beds. Assocn. who explained the intricacies and nuances of judging honey for Competition; and coupled with explanations of his experiences, gave the attendees a very entertaining evening. After the refreshments, Martin displayed his skills of wax manipulation by showing the audience his creations in wax of various subjects from a Railway Engine, a Windmill and various wonderful wax flowers. Thank you Martin for your talk!!

Our first meeting in 2008 will be in February, (second Tuesday, viz 12th), which, (hopefully) will be a talk by a Local Naturalist (sorry, not a Naturist!!), on a suitable topic to be decided, and then in March 2008 we shall be holding our AGM and Honey-tasting Competition. April will be a “Spring Preparation” evening, a review of the past season and what 2008 might bring. I should like to say at this point that 2008 will be my last year as Secretary, “Hooray” I hear you say, .…but by this time next year “I think I shall had enough”, and it’s time someone else had a ‘chance’, …that is if you want me continue in ‘08, (you can always vote me off earlier,!…please!).

Now, …we are holding a Christmas Party at Boxwood this year on December 14th (Friday) at 7.30 pm. Cost each £3. Bring your own food! Savoury or sweet, You must, please ring me up first to let me know what dish you would like to bring to ensure that we get a good distribution. Last year we had too many sweets! Free drinks … up to a point!!! (☏ or e-mail… Note: I prefer the former but my answering machine at present is Kaput!

The answer to last month’s teaser was quite simple. (Re: “a share of Potatoes etc.”). The answer, course, is “Mash Them”.!!! Now here’s another:-

This is a ‘logic’ teaser:
Some hairy bees are fat,
All fat bees are yellow,
Some yellow bees have 6 stripes
Some bees with 6 stripes are fat.
Therefore some hairy bees definitely have 6 stripes!
Is this true or false?
And to finish here’s a slice of John Betjeman, I leave you to guess the title:-
Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all”

Overwintering Nucs and Small Colonies

by John Mumford

The long cold wet winters that I remember when I first started keeping bees seem to have gone, and the overwintering of Nucs and Small Colonies (less that 6 Frames), has, with a little TLC become quite easy.

"There is no problem in beekeeping that can't be solved, by either putting something into, or, taking something out of a Nuc, and, Nucs rarely give problems." Wedmore 'A Manual of Beekeeping' par 1057.

While a Four frame BS Brood Frame Nuc is OK for Summer use, and also Winter with extreme care, a Five frame BS. Brood Frame Nuc makes overwintering much safer.

It is important to have young, well mated Queens that will continue to lay well into the Autumn, and will start laying again early in the Spring. Queens producing rubbish bees are not worth keeping.

A small colony, is a small colony. When conditions are right, a small colony will expand at an incredible speed, and it will survive the coldest winter weather, providing that it has sufficient of the right stores, in the right place.

A weak colony will rarely survive, even in the mildest winter. The cause of weak colonies can be Queen related, Diploid Drone, Chalk Brood, or Sack Brood etc., or there may be other disease problems, EFB (god forbid), Nosema, or Varroa. Since using Thymol treatments Acarine, a major cause of a great many overwinter losses, is a thing of the past. The old beekeeping adage of taking Winter losses in the Autumn should be applied, and any weak colonies should be put down. Uniting up weak colonies should NOT be done unless both colonies are healthy, and reasonably free of Varroa and the Viruses that Varroa move around within the colony.

Nucs are best made up in late May, or early June, when most colonies can stand the loss of bees and brood, and Queen Cells are plentiful. Just two frames of bees and brood (not too much brood), a frame of stores containing fresh pollen, and a ripe Queen Cell. The Nuc will need to be moved away a mile or so for a couple of weeks so that the bees don't desert. Then it would be unwise to move it back until the Queen is mated and laying. However, if frames of brood (sealed and unsealed), are put over a Queen Excluder above the supers of a strong colony for a couple of days, then the bees on these frames will be young nurse and house bees. These frames can then be used to make up Nucs, and if the bees are pinned in and not released until the evening when other colonies have stopped flying, most of the bees will stay put. If any bees do desert before morning, then they are unlikely to bring back their friends and start robbing. Making up Nucs is an ideal opportunity to move tatty old drone filled combs from brood chambers.

Making up a Nuc with the old Queen from a colony that is making swarm preparations, and leaving two unsealed Queen cells, (one to be broken down before emergence), in the main colony is good beekeeping practice. And if a colony has swarmed, making up a Nuc with one of the surplus Queen cells, is a form of insurance, in case the Queen cell left in the main colony comes to nothing.

The queen emerging from a ripe Queen cell should be mated and laying in about 14 days after the Nuc was made up, weather permitting. And it will be another eight days before the new brood is ready for capping, by which time all of the original worker brood will have emerged. This is an ideal time to apply an effective Varroa Treatment since all the mites will now be on the bees!

The new Queens first brood will not begin to emerge until about 5/6 weeks after the Nuc was made up. The Nuc will now be at its weakest strength-wise and robbing (mid/end of July) must be prevented at all costs. In a normal August pollen and nectar is in short supply and any necessary feeding should be done with the utmost care. Feed only in the evenings using a 1lb honey jar with 5 or 6 gimp pin holes in the lid, but not more than twice a week. Use 50/50 wt./wt. syrup, ie. 1kg. of sugar to 1 litre of water, made with white granulated sugar. If any syrup is spilt then it must be washed away quickly with plenty of water.

At the beginning of August the Nuc should have a minimum of two HALF frames of brood, and two half frames of stores. (Feed if not). Half the stores should be open, and half of the stores sealed. Bees canít help themselves when it comes to feeding. But they will only store in combs that they can cover, and if over-fed, the bees will fill up the cells that should be used for brood rearing, and there will be less bees to go into Winter.

In September the Ivy yields an abundance of Pollen and some Nectar. This time is most critical! A young Queen will now show what she is worth! The Nuc should have a minimum of two well filled frames of brood, this brood represents approx. 5,000/6,000 bees, which together with the existing bees will be sufficient to take the colony through winter. The bees should be covering at least three frames, and providing that the bees are healthy and they have been given an effective Varroa treatment the Nuc is in an ideal condition to survive Winter.

The end of September is the time to prepare the Nuc for Winter. The heat loss from a Normal plywood crown-board is wasteful and a strain on the bees. Cut a piece of 25mm thick polystyrene insulation board to cover the whole of the crown-board. Cut a hole 135mm x 85mm in the polystyrene to coincide with the position of the feed hole ,and make up a cover to go over the top of the Candy Box. (500gr. margarine tub). see photos. From now on the block of Candy MUST be checked every week and replaced as necessary, regardless of weather conditions. It doesn't take long! The Candy soaks up surplus moisture in the Nuc and helps keeps it dry, and the bees donít have to forage for so much water to break the candy down.

In the Spring, Nucs expand very quickly, (bees do best when kept tight), and they will need to be transferred into a full brood chamber about mid April, before they get too tight and start swarm preparations. A decent 4/5 frame Nuc will fill a brood chamber by the end of May and in a reasonable year will get a super of honey by the middle of June.

Candy Recipe : - Put the water from a 'full to the brim' 1lb honey jar into an 8" saucepan. Heat the saucepan and slowly add 2kg of white granulated sugar stirring constantly. When the mixture has come to the boil - turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes. A crust will start to form on the top of the mixture. Start stirring until the mixture begins to thicken and turn a milky colour. Pour out into 3 No. 500gr. Margarine Tubs. Keep the candy in a cool dry place with a lid on.

I spoil my bees and add some honey to the mix. For every tablespoon of honey added, half a tablespoon less water is used. Old fermenting honey won't hurt since the heat drives off any alcohol and kills any yeast.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

Just a few brave souls turned out in the cold weather to attend our November Winter Meeting to talk about Varroa. Varroa has been the biggest single cause of so many colony deaths in the last couple years. I trust that those who missed the meeting did so because they have everything under control, and that their bees are in safe hands!

There was some debate at the meeting about whether we should be leaving control colonies, (colonies not treated), so that our bees have a chance to develop a strategy for coexisting with Varroa. Unfortunately it’s not the Varroa per se that do the damage. It’s the Viruses, that the mites transmit from bee to bee, and bee to larvae, that cause most of the colony deaths. Some colonies seem to be able to cope with a much higher mite population than others. This is most probably because those colonies have less Virus problems.

I got called out on 29th of October to a couple of non-members colonies that had lots of crawling bees with deformed wings. I put on some Grease Pattie, and a strip of Apistan for good measure. When Apistan resistant mites were first found in SE Herts the number of resistant mites in different Apiaries was very variable, and so was the degree of resistance within colonies of the same Apiary.

Anyway, after we had had a cuppa, and a chat, we had a quick peep at the removable tray under one of the colonies. The tray was covered in dead mites. I’d forgotten just how effective Apistan could be, and I won’t claim that the knock down was all due to the Thymol! As I sit writing this report I have been told that the mite drop counts are less than a tenth of what they were just three weeks ago. I now have great hopes that the colonies will come through winter OK.

Although we will never again be able to rely on Apistan as a single treatment, because there will always be some resistant mites around. And if we don’t test for resistant mites, we won’t know just how many there are. But if 50% of the mites in a colony are resistant to Apistan, then 50% are not, and they will be killed by the Apistan very quickly. The resistant mites then remain, and if not killed by some other treatment, will breed mostly resistant mites the next year.

As a short term, one off fix, if you are in a hole, and need to reduce Varroa mite numbers quickly, Apistan could be a life saver, and well worth the expense, but only if it works.

I would prefer now, to keep Apistan up my sleeve and not see it abused. And only use it in emergencies, not routine. Just in case one day I find myself needing to do another quick clean out of Varroa mites late in the season, when other treatment may not be so effective.

The AGM is at 8.00pm on Thursday 14th. February 2008 at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall where members attendance would be appreciated. We will need to talk about Subscriptions, and Newsletter Distribution, and of ships, and sails, and sealing wax, etc.

Have a Happy Christmas, and Best Wishes for 2008.


by Derek Driver (SE Herts)

The article by Roy Cropley on solar wax extractors was not only excellent but also timely. I have always recommended to new beekeepers to make this essential piece of equipment and winter is the ideal time. They are so simple to construct, anyone can do it, and to encourage any new beekeeper I have two aluminium double glazed windows they can have for free! Other costs can be kept down by using second hand wood, etc.

With three ladies in my home I found the ideal filter is to use old stockings or tights, its best with cappings, you fill the tights until they look like legs and most extractors take four legs. First any honey runs out and then the wax, golden yellow in colour. The honey & wax will separate with the wax on top and when it’s all cooled down only the dross is left in the stockings. The blocks are so clean & good in colour you could even use it for shows. Depending on the sun you can produce a pound or two of rendered wax per day, for only the one off cost of construction.

If you’re renewing a third of all you comb per year, which is the least all beekeepers should be doing, then you cannot be without a solar wax extractor!!! Sometimes when I’m going through other people’s hives I silently cringe over the amount of black comb I see. Remember, you cut down a lot of potential health problems with new comb and what a joy it is to pick up a newly drawn frame full of wall to wall capped brood.

So don't wait until summer when your working like mad with your bees, MAKE IT NOW!

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

Thanks to Eileen and support team, Philip, for giving us an insight into the Anatomy of the Honeybee. We all learnt something!

Our next Meeting is on Friday 7th December at 8pm at the United Reformed Church, Watford Rd. Chiswell Green. This is the meeting where we taste the year's honey crop, followed by a Social Evening. Please bring a jar of liquid honey, with your name on a label on the lid, and a plate of finger food for us to share. If you have no honey come and enjoy other peoples and dream of years to come. Please bring your spouse or partner to join us, they are most welcome.

A date for your new diary ,our AGM is on Friday 25th January 2008 at 8pm at the above address. See enclosed flyer for further details.

SE Herts Harvest Supper by Derek Driver

When I first joined our group the harvest supper was very different to the present format. Then you paid in advance and sat on your seat through out the meal and the chairman always started with grace! But that was 35 years ago and times and people change Now days we bring a jar of honey to try and win the skillman shield, and there is the raffle and a light hearted quiz, both with lots of prizes.

The meal now days is a wonderful buffet where members help themselves and this years starters were a choice of salmon and cottage cheese or pate followed by a range of cold meats, various salads and all sorts of goodies! Then there was the cheese board, one member said it was the best Stilton he had eaten for years. Home made apple pie and German cheese cake plus a meringue with plenty of tea or coffee rounded off our evening. Oh. I forgot to mention the welcome glasses of sherry when we arrived. One of the nicest things at these events is that members and their partners move around and chat. Every ones relaxed and with such gregarious people we all have a splendid evening.

Varroa by Derek Driver

Two years ago I was asked to talk to a group in Essex and show them my Varroa records which covered my knock down rate. Many were surprised that with two doses of Apiguard followed by Thymol patties one could knock down, in some hives 2500 plus, and at the end of treatment have a zero weekly count.

Now all my supers are off in August and that's when I start treating and feeding. Some people claim they get a poor knock down with Thymol products but then told me they don't start treating until October or even November!! (even people in Herts) I thought by now, most people understood that Thymol products need a reasonable temperature to be effective, such as the average we get in August & September but it appears some still haven't learnt the lesson.

When I asked why they treated so late I was told that honey was still coming in. Frankly if these people think they are going to get full supers in September and October they must be on a different planet to me. Any honey which comes in at this time goes straight into winter stores.

There are others who say you must not feed too soon because you restrict the brood nest. Well I've always found bees stop taking down feed when THEY decide they have enough stores and if you've knocked down 2500 mites out of your brood nest Then those dead mites will not be damaging your young winter bees and therefore a smaller brood nest is viable.

I realise that some people are trying all sorts of concoctions, all unapproved and some of which are dangerous to us humans. There may come a day when a jar of English honey is tested and residues of a banned food substance will be found, the affect to our beloved hobby could be catastrophic. We will not be able to blame Varroa, just ourselves.

BuzzWorks - Hitchin Bee Centre by Robin Dartington

The group continues to meet each Saturday to build the Bee Centre – joined now by John Symes, bringing us to six regulars drawn from Stotfold in the north down to Barnet in the south. There is always a job to do!

Eight colonies are set aside for the move. Somewhat disturbingly however, three of my colonies (of 20) have dwindled to nothing since supers were removed in August, leaving combs full of winter stores but only a fistful of bees and a small patch of sealed brood. These are similar symptoms to those for CCD as reported in US. Let us hope it is some minor local problem, not indication of a major problem in Hertfordshire.

The site plan develops steadily, each revision getting us closer to a convenient and economical layout. WREN only grant projects open to the whole public at least 104 days a year. As mentioned earlier, the Plant Nursery failed the test – so its public availability has been upgraded to allow visitors to plant seeds of bee plants that they can later plant out in the garden. Some children, especially flat dwellers, have no opportunity to garden in any way and can miss out on a vital experience while growing up. A smaller area is still provided as the service area (eg dustbins). The Demonstration Platform is now proposed as a Market for sale of both honey and allotment surpluses, strengthening the bond with the allotment gardeners. The museum is upgraded to a ‘Discovery Centre’ – ambitious, as designing an interactive bee gallery will take more time and a further grant but fun to do and it will turn the site into a true ‘visitor attraction’.

Success with the grant depends crucially on showing wide support from the general public, in addition to specific groups such as schools and beekeepers. So a petition has been launched in Hitchin’s historic Market Place on Apple Day. Leafleting 200 nearby homes attracted the local herbalist and a special needs teacher to offer help over approaching the church and Guides groups – one step leads to another. Local shops, community centres and schools will also be asked to collect names from visitors / parents.

We would now like to ask Hertfordshire beekeepers to express individual support by signing the petition at winter meetings. We are not asking anyone for money, only support for opening the site to the public in 2008. If preferred, please email saying simply: ‘I support opening ‘BuzzWorks’ in 2008’ and giving your name and address. The Brochure is available by email or post for anyone who wants to check the details of the current proposal and the Site Plan is shown below.

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

Our next meeting is on MONDAY 12th November (the only available date) at 8 pm at the United Reformed Church, Watford Road, Chiswell Green.

The subject 'Anatomy of the Honey Bee' will be revealed via the microscope and monitor. See picture on Page 2 in October's Herts Bees. This should be a very interesting evening.

The December meeting will be at 8pm on Friday 7th December at the above address. This meeting will be 'Honey Tasting' followed by Social Evening. All you need to bring is a 1lb jar of liquid honey produced by your bees.* If you have no honey please come to taste and enjoy the many different flavours produced by other people's bees. On 12th November I will be giving basic advice about how to prepare honey from granulated to liquid. Or, you can hear an expert honey judge speak at the North Herts Meeting on 13th November - see October's edition of Herts Bees for details.

* Along with your jar of honey please bring a plate of finger food which we will share together. Your spouse/partner are welcome to join us.

Please remember to return your membership renewal forms by 16th November to qualify for the £10 reduction!

National Honey Show by John Mumford

The National Honey Show normally marks the end of the beekeepers year, a time to catch up and meet old friends, and look around the bee book stalls for something to read over Christmas.

The number of entrants, and the number of entries this year were about the same as last but it seems that the standard of some of the entries could have been better - only a VHC in Class 1 out of 13 entries! It has been a difficult year for beekeepers generally and honey takes have been very variable in Quantity and Quality (water content too high!).

There are moves to try to find a new venue for the Honey Show but nowhere is going to be perfect. It takes me just half an hour to get there by car and the easy parking is entirely FREE. The food and beverages are at Motorway Prices, but there are ample provisions inside to consume your own, and if you get bored with the Honey Show then the RAF Museum is Free and very interesting.

William S. Mundy stepped down as President after 50 years in the job and was presented with a Certificate to acknowledge his valuable contribution to the show. Dr. H. R. C. Riches (Middx.) was then elected as the new President.

South East news by John Mumford

The Harvest Supper was well attended, and I trust enjoyed by all. Many Thanks to those who helped with the organisation and preparation of the event, and to those who donated Raffle Prizes. The Skillman Shield went to Gordon Lake for his Jar of honey.

The Winter Meeting to be held on Thursday 15th. November at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall will be centred around Varroa, Varroa related problems, and Varroa Treatments. Our newer members, and those who completed the Beginners Course in the Spring and now have bees of their own have asked for more information on the subject.

As I sit writing this report I am looking out over the remains of a heavy overnight frost - Autumn is definitely here. There is nothing much beekeepers can do from now until the Spring to assist their bees except put on blocks of candy if it is necessary to feed, but once started they have to be continuously renewed.

North Herts news by John Hill

Once again, bees tucked up for the Winter apart from a final ‘dribble’ of Oxalic Acid Solution in December? They seemed to have gained some strength in the last two months or so, and they certainly took the feed syrup down with enthusiastic gusto! Let’s hope the forthcoming Winter months are not too severe, and Varroa don’t get the upper hand in early Spring. Things tho’ never turn out to be as you expect them to be..… such is life!! (Keep taking the tablets!).

We had an extremely good turn out at our first meeting of the Autumn period, when 20 members listened to Andy Wattam, the Regional Bee Inspector, give a lively talk on “Integrated Pest Management Relating to Bees”. This title sounds an awesome one, but the review that Andy gave covered, in a very light-hearted manner, was a complete gamut of the examination and treatment of the various diseases and pests associated with our “hobby”. His ‘Rogue’s Gallery slides were of high quality and very informative. All who attended, I’m sure, were extremely grateful for Andy coming all the way from Loughboro’ on a rather ‘dirty night’ to entertain us and share his knowledge with us. Considering that the postal-strike was in force, which preventing members receiving their ‘Newsletter’ in time, the turn-out was commendable,... (thanks to the many ‘phone calls our Chairman made).

Now to Details of our next Meeting: As usual on the second Tuesday in the month, viz: November 13th at the Friends’ Meeting House, Letchworth, at 7.30 p.m. start we are welcoming Martin Buckle from Beds. Association to talk to us about “Bottling, Labelling, and Exhibiting Honey”. Members are especially asked to bring in a sample of their produce for “constructive criticism”. “Bring a Jar and Learn a Lot”!! It is hoped too that at this next meeting we shall have some information about the Christmas Party,... at a ‘straw poll’, held at the October meeting, there was quite a response for one!!!

After the November Meeting, there will be a break until after the New Year, with the next one to be held in Letchworth in February 2008 (the 12th to be exact). So mark the date in your new diaries.

Now the answer to last month’s ‘Teaser”...the blunder in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:---- ‘The identical twins Viola and Sebastian are different sexes. This is impossible!!!

Here’s this Month’s teaser. “A mother only has five potatoes, but six children to feed. How can she feed them equal amounts of potatoes without any using fractions?”

Now here is a couple of verses by Walter de la Mare from his poem called trees, there are four short verses but I relate here the first and last:
Of all the trees in England,
Her sweet three corners in,
Only the Ash, the bonnie Ash
Burns fierce while it is green

Of all the trees in England,
Oak, Elder, Elm, and Thorn,
The Yew alone burns lamps of peace
For them that lie forlorn.
I must admit I do not understand the meaning of the last two lines, I would be interested to learn from anyone who reads this to advise please. Perhaps it is because the Yew of course dwells in Churchyards where people ‘lie forlorn’? But why ‘burns lamps of peace’?

Bee students?

Someone from the Royal Veterinary College near Potters Bar has approached HBKA to find out whether some of the students could visit our apiaries to learn about bee health problems. Foot & Mouth and Bluetonge have made farm visits impossible. He was wondering if any HBKA members would like a visit by 2 or 3 final year students who would look at preventive measures or alternate treatments to bee problems. The format would be that the students would visit for an hour or so (at the convenience of the owner) either on a Monday afternoon /evening or on a Tuesday. They would use the resources of the college to examine /identify the problem and send a report to the owner by the following Tuesday. The owner may attend the presentation the students give to the relevant staff on the Friday following the visit.

If you are interested then please contact me for further details.

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

I hope all your colonies are now settled for the winter. Time to take a breather before you start with the lectures which will be at the United Reformed Church, Watford Road, Chiswell Green, St Albans at 8.00 pm. 26th October. The topic is "Swarming", come and listen, and give us your first year's wisdom on the subject!

Me And My Solar by Roy Cropley

The best and easiest way of recovering wax from old combs is by using the solar wax extractor. Like all aspects of beekeeping it is open to criticism but I would not be without one. The question arises whether it is worthwhile trying to get wax from old combs. Since a comb starts life with only an ounce or so of wax that is all each old comb will produce.

Old comb should be replaced regularly. A good start to the year is to put the bees on to foundation and feed with sugar syrup. Without all the work of dealing with old pollen, solid honey and millions of bacterial and disease pathogens the bees will soon build up a strong colony. Some beekeepers extol the virtue of old combs and boast their age. We are told not to use old combs from an unknown source but our own could quite well be unreliable. The modern thinking is to get rid of them and replace them with new. Some work is involved but it will soon repay itself. When the old brood chamber is replaced at the end of March some brood will be lost. I find this hard to bear but it is worth it. Gone will be most of the varroa together with the other nasties that plague our bees. There may be combs from colonies that have died out. I don't use those again but recover the wax.

Each beekeeper will have a way of disposing with old wax. One man tells me he puts it in a dustbin so it goes to landfill - not something I approve of. Another has a bonfire.. And it can be buried in the garden.

I put my old combs, four at a time, into a piece of net curtain and into the solar wax extractor. Then I pray for sun. It is fascinating to know that sometimes in the summer we go for days without sunshine. And then we get a spell when I can refill the extractor more than once in a day.

I am always amazed at how clean the wax is even from old black combs. It comes out a beautiful yellow colour with a pleasant smell with little pollen and propolis. The residue of moulted skins and pollen, called slumgum, still contains a fair bit of wax which is not economic to extract. This burns very well on the coal fire. There are firms abroad that will buy it.

When there is wax in the recepticle it is removed when cool; I pour boiling water over the upturned container. I get lots of misshapen bits of wax, some small. The important thing is their colour. I wash the honey from the wax and let it dry. Some solars have mild steel or tinplate parts which soon go rusty and impart a greenish colour to the wax. Stainless steel or aluminium are best.

It is a mistake to leave the solar wax extractor for several days and allow the collected wax to heat and cool several times. This gives an inferior wax, dark in colour and of poor texture. It is still usable but not so good as that obtained after each day of sunshine.

I not only recover wax from my own old brood combs; I also buy wax from other beekeepers. For best quality blocks I pay £1.50 a pound, more than the firms that buy wax. I exchange wax for foundation with the firm KBS run by Peter Kemble in Hastings who produces the best foundation in the country. I sell his foundation at about 30% less than catalogue prices. Sometimes I am asked if I want wax which has gone mouldy. My answer is yes. I will melt it in rain water, filter and allow it to cool in an insulated box for several hours. The block will be free of honey and pollen. It is not attractive to bees and will not go mouldy. Wax moth do not attack clean wax. Wax chandlers store theirs outside. I am often offered wax complete with mouldy pollen and wax moth. If the bees have had nosema or any other disease this will not be present in the foundation made from it. Even AFB spores which are not killed when the foundation is made are rendered inactive. Bees cannot contract any disease from foundation. A few beekeepers spread alarm by saying that medication used to treat varroa finds its way into foundation. My answer is 'Not Proven', And when you see how a shook swarm works foundation if fed there is no case to answer.

If you have a solar then use it. Empty the recepicle each time it has collected any wax. Don't worry about shape or size; the important thing is not to leave and honey in the pan to reheat. Find all the old wax in your shed and we can put it to use. You can trade directly with KBS, or see me at the Essex Conference or call on ☏.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The September Association Apiary Meeting I am told was well attended, and the bees found in fine fettle. Laying Queens and plenty of stores should see them through the most severe winter. They have now been given their Thymol Treatment. One is showing signs of a high mite population (deformed wings) but I’m sure they will come through OK. I am now half way through extracting their honey which will be about 100lbs. Any members wishing to purchase some honey in tubs or jars should give me a ring. The surplus is not bad for such a difficult year with so much swarming going on. I was bringing bees back from the North York Moors and so unable to attend the meeting myself.

I was please to get such a good response to my request for help with the Bee World event. Phil Amer, John Dockerill (a new member who has no bees at present), Andrew Watters, and Janice Nicholson who is of course a Barnet member, together with those who didn’t let me know they were coming. I trust they all had an interesting and enjoyable day. Denis Osbourne did a very good job of the organizing the event and I am obliged to Alan Lewis for the loan of his Workmate to hold the Observation Hive.

The committee are proposing to run another beginners course at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall on Sundays 17th and 24th February and 2nd, 9th, and 16th March from 2.00pm till 4.00pm. Anyone interested should contact Derek Driver for more details.

The Harvest Supper is on Saturday 13th October at 7.30pm for 8.00pm with carriages at 11.00pm. It is free to members and their partners, and to members children. Visitor £3.00 each. Raffle prizes would be appreciated. Bring along a jar of your very best honey (unlabeled) and compete for the Skillman Shield. Please let Derek Driver (☏) or myself know if you will be attending so that proper provisions can be made.

Erratum – Counting Varroa Mites
I am trying to get to grips with some new technology - a new Computer - with an awkward Word Processor and American Spellcheck, and must correct the piece in last months news letter. Anno Domini I suspect is also partly to blame. The 5th paragraph should read:
“So, if we make an average daily mite count over days 6, 7, and 8 after the treatment is first applied, and we make another average mite daily count over days 18, 19, and 20 after the treatment was first applied and the treatment is refreshed on day 13, the second average divided by the first average will give the SURVIVAL RATIO.”

BuzzWorks (previously the Hitchin Bee Centre) by Robin Dartington

The summer has flown by – and missed the UK almost completely. But it has been a bumper year for honey in Hitchin and the surplus will be useful to raise money for good works. My planned 16 colonies seem to have grown to 29 so there will be surplus bees for the Bee Centre.

The outer shell of the Bee Shed is finished, the interior now needs painting and fitting out. The working group has grown with the enthusiastic contribution of Elaine from Letchworth who wants to take up beekeeping. Her son, Edmund, also wants to become a beekeeping apprentice – a young back is always welcome when it comes to the heavy work!

Elaine putting on the paint

The grant manager has visited and the Museum/Exhibition and Bee Garden appear to fall within the guidelines but not the Plant Nursery, which will now be added to the privately funded Bee Centre. An Operational Plan is needed to show how the obligation for the Museum to be open to the public for 104 days a year will be met. The Council will also need to extend the annual lease, so applying for the grant will be delayed to the end of the year. More time on developing a design is never wasted, but it will be a rush in the spring to get ready for opening at Easter.

A higher quality Museum and Exhibition will take costs of Phase 2 to £20,000 – but the grant lady did not blink. The job is to steer the design closer to the guidelines, not go for cheapness. Luton’s Bee Gallery is an invaluable precedent, to which Beds BKA contributed £2,200.

We have a new name,

Hitchin’s Community Bee Garden
“where people enter and enjoy the busy world of bees”

It will stand until someone comes up with better! Any ideas, anyone?

Proposed Museum building, 5.4m square

Bee gallery, Luton - by Beds BKA

Wax Moth Bait by Ron Pitt

A bait for trapping wax moth and other undesirables was printed in BBKA NEWS Feb. 2004 p.8 as follows:

1 cup each of water, sugar,vinegar in a lemonade bottle and mix well. Cut a 25mm dia. hole in the bottle just below the shoulder, add a banana and hang head high near the hives.

I tried it this year from Spring to late August and found the contents to be:- 14 wax moths, 12 hornets, dozens of wasps and dozens of various flies all in one gungey mess. It works!
Ron Pitt (Welwyn)

Welwyn news by Peter Mathews

The next Apiary meeting on Saturday 6th October, will be at Peter Folge's parents 23, Canonsfield Road. Welwyn AL6 0PY. Please RSVP to Peter if you wish to attend. The format will be more social and dealing with questions that have occurred during the summer. (☏)

The summer continues to surprise with a swarm at the beginning of September and full supers during the middle of the month. As to when varroa treatment and feeding can be fitted in is an open question. I am hoping to get away with some fast work this month.

A new apiary site has been offered to us. This is in the Danesbury/Potters Heath area of Welwyn and is set in an apple orchard. Let me know if you are interested in putting your hives there. At the time of writing, I have yet to inspect the site. However, I am assured that the location is quite secure and will need key access (provided).

North Herts news by John Hill

“It’s all over bar the shouting”, I suppose that is an apt saying as far as the end of the beekeeping year of 2007 is concerned. (Wondering where the expression comes from?... I’ve just looked it up in Nigel Rees’s recent book “A Word in Your Shell Like” (£8.99 Collins), a book of curious Phrases, and it says that it is of sporting origin, generally attributed to the shouting aspect of the crowd in appealing against the referee (in Boxing), the earliest use of the phrase was used was in 1842).... Now back to “them bees”,..... it’s been a ‘funny old year’;... some of us have had reasonable-to-good yields of honey and others, like me and FE who missed the rape and field beans, have had what can only be described as a disastrous time. Although during the past month or so, the two/three colonies of mine have increased in numbers quite markedly, and have taken down large amounts of syrup feed. I treated them with Thymol/sugar/Pura mixture, as advised... the bees didn’t seem to have taken much notice of it, and now have had a second treatment after two weeks. So much for science! No sign of Varroa whatsoever,.. even before treatment with the “miticide”. The latter means “any drug or agent that destroys mites”, (according to my dictionary ,....found by accident, the word not the dictionary!).

Andy Johnston’s meeting at Shillington was well attended by about 25 beekeepers from both Herts. and Beds. associations. What could be described as a very lively session or two transpired as a number of hives were opened to display the various features and idiosyncrasies of Andy’s techniques. Quite a number of attendees were literally covered by the inquisitive “inhabitants”.

Some wonderful refreshments followed, prepared by Val,... thank you both for making the event so worth while, ... “feed the mind and the body”.

By the time members read this, the event “Bee World” will have happened, and I hope will be reported elsewhere,... I should warn North Herts. members that we are organising next year,!!! So I hope quite a number of you attended!

I can now mention the details of our first two Winter/ Spring meetings at The Friends’ Meeting House, Sollershott East, Letchworth, at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday October 9th, and November 13th. 2007. Our new Chairman, Graham Beasley has been very active in persuading the attendance of two well known speakers to come and give us the following talks and promote discussion and to share experiences etc.
  • Tuesday , October 9th. Andy Wattam, the East Region Bee Inspector will give a talk entitled, “Integrated Pest Management, (with reference to EFB and Oxallic Acid Treatment)”.
  • Tuesday, November 13th. Martin Buckle, from Beds. Association, will speak about “Honey, ... it’s Bottling and Presentation for Showing”. Members are asked to bring samples for, what might be called “Constructive Criticism”!!!
PLEASE NOTE: Members from other areas are cordially invited to both these meetings, as always.

Let’s hope we get plenty of support for both these talks as both speakers are coming some distance to be with us, and I’m sure we are in for two very interesting evenings.

I’ve ‘blathered’ on rather a lot, and I know you just can’t wait for the answer to last month’s puzzle!.. and with space at a premium, I’d better “get on with it”. The answer was “Four”. If you want to know how to get to this you will have to ring me!!!

Here’s a difficult one! What major scientific blunder did Shakespeare include in “Twelfth Night”?

Now finally:
“Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward. Laughter means they trust and like you!” Attrib. to Carol Channing,... Star of US cabaret. b 1921.

Eva Crane dies aged 95

Eva Crane (12 June 1912 – 6 September 2007) was a researcher and author on the subjects of bees and beekeeping. She spent decades researching bees, traveling to more than 60 countries.
Eva Crane's Wikipedia entry

30lb honey buckets for sale

...from the Potters Bar area. Please contact the Herts Bees editor for the seller's contact details.

Foul brood or not foul brood?

by Paul Cooper

There was a strong, pungent, bitter smell from two of my five hives when I did an inspection at the weekend. So I called in Peter Heath (Seasonal Bee Inspector) given the recently reported outbreak of EFB near Lower Stondon in Bedfordshire. Anyone who suspects a notifiable bee disease should call in a bee inspector as you cannot be too cautious.

Thankfully Peter confirmed that it was just the smell of the Ragwort nectar that my bees had been collecting. He advised that I should have started varroa treatment sooner (end of July) but apart from this my bees are in good health.

NE Herts news by John Hill

Another Summer nearly gone, and what have we beekeepers to show for it? At least the colonies seem to be increasing in size and creating some food for the Winter, but the ‘Boxwood Bunch’ have not produced much crop worth extracting, although a couple of supers need some attention, mainly from swarms. The ‘indigenous’ colonies are just about pulling themselves together, but it’s getting rather late in the season, and we’ve now come to treatment time. I’ve had a go at making some Thymol ‘Patties’ this time. F.E. managed to get some crystals from Thornes (all done in a rush,.. the making I mean.. which beekeeper plans ahead?) Well, fortunately I decided to heat the fat in the kitchen, and to mix it with the sugar and Thymol outside on the lawn!! Organic Chemistry was my bete noir!! Good job I did, ... because the Thymol smell is very penetrable, and afterwards my clothes all smelt as though I just emerged from a heavy day on the ‘ointment’, and had to commit all my clothes to the wash, even down to my vest!! The ‘patties ‘ I created by scraping some on to ‘fairy-cake’ , greaseproof, papers ...32p for 100!! The paste was quite mouldable but I had to add about 30 grms more fat that the recipe amount of 200 grms to make it so. Let’s hope it does some good,..BUT don’t make in in the house unless you want to smell like a refugee from a chemical factory! I put 3 patties per hive, directly on top of the brood box (moving any sealed crop first!).

I missed some of the Summer meetings due to holiday and trips to family etc. but F.E. gave me some notes, which I repeat below verbatim:-
“At Roman Gorski's apiary meeting (a first for the North Herts Beekeepers), 13 visitors turned up, including welcome guests from St Albans. The rain stopped as we arrived, and started again as we were leaving. Somebody must love us! However, the conditions were not propitious for opening hives, so Roman showed us some of the more even-tempered colonies amongst the 30 or so at his crowded apiary. Despite this, several stings were suffered as a result of bees chasing us, presumably from the less well-tempered colonies.

There was plenty of evidence of good husbandry born of years of devoted experience. There was a wide-ranging discussion of many aspects of beekeeping, which was followed by a very agreeable tea which had been prepared under trying and windy conditions.”
I did go the Nortonbury meeting, along with about 15 attendees, including some new prospective members, also in attendance was Peter Heath who led the practical aspects and contributed markedly to the discussion.... “Thank you Peter, from all who went along”. We had some wonderful ‘al fresco’ refreshments.... shades of camping. The ladies did some very smart cakes and sandwiches,” thanks again”. About five members had their hives inspected, and all were thriving and in good order,....(the bees I mean!). One hive was abandoned tho’ and was rather overcome with moth and other intruders,... No bees!!!

There was also a meeting at Pat Veasey’s apiary, but unfortunately I cannot report on it as I wasn’t there and it’s rather along time back too. But no doubt the refreshments were excellent, as usual,...let’s get our priorities right!! Thanks to Pat and Jennifer.

Well, at the time of writing , our last meeting will be in two days. Andy Johnston is having a joint meeting with Beds, group. I’ll report next time.

Just space for last edition’s puzzle answer: "There is one sec. between two strikes, therefore it will take 11 secs. for the clock to strike 12 times".

And a little more! "If one half of 24 were 8, what would one third of 18 be?"

Did you know that the word........"Uncopyrightable" is the longest word in ‘common use’ with no letter appearing more than once. Here’s another long word of 45 letters which is in some dispute because it is really a made up word........ "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis", which is a lung disease,... perhaps our bees could get it?!!!

West Herts news by Brian Norman

(The following was filed for publication in the July/August edition of the newsletter but missed the deadline. Then, because of the long gap, it got mislaid for the September issue. Apologies once again West Herts members.)

I think the less we dwell upon the previous weeks weather the least said the better. Croxley has the benefit of being surrounded by numerous lime trees that require a rather humid atmosphere to fully develop their flowers and nectar flow. A bright interval in the weather allowed the meeting on Saturday 7th to continue so that members could examine the colonies, especially the nucs that were laid down in April.

The queen right nucs showed good signs of brood, in full brood crescent pattern, with the queen calmly moving about the frames. With a full flow of nectar now keeping the foraging bees busy therefore enabling the colonies to make up for the June gap thereby replenishing their stores.

The largest colony was recovering from a departing swarm but upon a closer inspection of the brood area it was apparent that a few east swarms had also departed. The new queen was not yet visible but one queen cell still remained intact amongst the many hatch cells.

The progress of the societies new shed continued apace, with the old shed now being fully cleared, with the societies treasures now carefully sorted and stored until the new shed is erected. At the next meeting we hope to lay the necessary base of blocks and wooden joists to give a firm foundation.

Besides the general clear up we now hope to plan for next year's programme of colony rearing for the purpose of assisting new members in having their own colony with a know pedigree.

Hitchin Bee Centre news by Robin Dartington

Work has continued through the summer on constructing the Bee Centre – the lawn, fence and bee shed. Choosing to make the Shed from planks, rather than buying ready-made, was brave – it has produced a building exactly as needed but nailing up under site conditions has been laborious. Still, almost there now. Expenditure on materials to date has been £1,450 – the final cost after installing 8 hives will be a bit over £3,000. That is my limit for investment in this scheme as a ‘social entrepreneur / non-profit developer’ – so continuing the plan to develop a Meeting Room/Exhibition, Community Bee Garden and Bee Plant Nursery will depend on obtaining grants in advance. The new association will also have to get support to buy out the facilities already created for the Bee Centre or be burdened by debt, with consequent need to be more ‘commercial’ in its operations than originally intended.

Obtaining guide prices for the major grant application to be made at end September must start in earnest. Work will include: tree surgery; earth moving; water supply; supply/erection of log cabin (Meeting Room/Exhibition); Exhibition design/install; design/build of garden; design/build of horticultural area (Plant Nursery).

Jif Smart, a Hitchin-based gardener, has been identified to design, build and later maintain the garden. John Cliff, a Hitchin-based Horticultural Therapist, will design the Plant Nursery – and hopefully use it later for a project with disadvantaged people. Gillian Sentinella will advise on design of the Exhibition – she was involved when Beds BKA invested over £2,000 a couple of years ago in creating a Bee Gallery at Stockwood Park Luton - soon to close when the Museum is upgraded to a Discovery Centre (incorporating a new Bee Gallery) with a £6m Lottery grant.

There was no response to the invitation in July ‘Herts Bees’ to join in pre-design research, or to suggest additional sites worth visiting, so the group continues on its own.

Peter Bracey caught working on the Bee Shed

Some strong colonies finally did well in 2007 – Robin Dartington’s best

SE Herts news by John Mumford

Peter Dalby volunteered to host the July Apiary Meeting when no-one else had made their apiary available to fill the vacancy. I was then very disappointed when Peter rang me on the Friday evening before the meeting to say that no-one had phoned to express their intention to attend the meeting.

I was in favour of cancelling the meeting, but Peter said he had people from other divisions who had said they they would like to come and he didn’t want to disappoint them, so the meeting went on. As always Peter had a lot of different things to show us, and as always Barbara had prepared her usual array of refreshments. Eventually just four members turned up after phoning Peter on the Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Now I don’t think that is acceptable! When someone puts themselves out to host an Apiary meeting they should not be put under the added stress of not knowing how many people will attend till the last minute, in order that proper provisions can be made and lots of food doesn’t go to waste. Please be more considerate and appreciate that these events are for your benefit and the costs are borne by the person hosting the meeting.

The ‘Bee World’ event on 22nd September starts at 10am with setting up from 8am. SE Herts will be providing an Observation Hive and I would like a little help at sometime during the day. Any Volunteers? See elsewhere in this Newsletter regarding Produce for Sale and other details. Those manning the exhibits will get free entry but ALL others will have to pay the normal entrance fees.

The next Apiary Meeting will be at the Association Apiary on Sunday 9th September at 3.00pm. The Harvest Supper will be held on Saturday 13th October at 7.30pm. The Next Committee Meeting will be held on Monday 3rd September at Heaton Court.

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

I know many members are experiencing a dilemma of when to start treating for Varroa and feeding. The unusual late nectar flow has confused the normal timings. It just goes to reinforce what long standing beekeepers have said all Summer 'Beekeeping is a life long learning experience'.

Some new beekeepers are extracting honey, if you need a small number of jars I may be able to help (phone ☏). While you are extracting please put aside one or two jars of honey to enter our low-key honey tasting/ judging evening on 7th Dec. We look forward to sampling the many different flavours.

The other meetings plan for the autumn are aimed at giving a more in-depth understanding to some of the subjects covered in the Beginners Course at the beginning of the year. Your Committee have decided not to run a Course in 2008, but are welcoming new enquirers to attend the Apiary sessions each week and come to the evening meetings.

The meetings are at United Reformed Church, Watford Rd. Chiswell Green St. Albans at 8 pm.
  • 26th October - Swarming
  • 12th November - Anatomy of the Bee
Please join us, put these dates in your diary now.

Unused honey jars - free

We have two boxes of new unused honey jars of 1 lb size left over from our past bee keeping in Hertford some years ago. There may be as many as 24. If any of your members are interested in them perhaps your member could phone us on [email Editor for details]. We live in Tring. We would not expect payment for them. Mrs. P. Yates

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister... Increase funding for research into honey bees at the National Bee Unit and other institutions.

The honey bee is an often overlooked but absolutely vital part of the environment and agriculture. Bees are said to be worth about a billion pounds to agriculture and horticulture but their role in general pollination and the environment is beyond measure. Recent reports from the USA and UK about massive losses in bee colonies indicate that urgent research needs to be done to understand and counter this trend along with combating the rise in antibiotic resistant varroa mites and other threats. However research funding to the National Bee Unit and other institutions by DEFRA has been cut hugely in recent years with the loss of many jobs and the consequent dispersal of knowledge. This petition urges the Government to put significant extra money into the relevant organisations that study bees and work with beekeepers both commercial and amateur to ensure that this essential creature is protected and encouraged.

Click here to 'sign' the E-Petition

Microscope Fair

I am not a beekeeper, but I belong to the Quekett Microscopical Club - a long-established society for amateur (and some professional) microscopists.

You might be interested to know that the Club is having a "bring and buy" fair called "Microscopium" at St Stephens Church hall, Watling Street, St Albans on Saturday 20th October, 10.00-16.30. If any of your members was interested in acquiring a secondhand microscope or related equipment at a reasonable price, this might be a good opportunity.

Presumably you have an e-mail system for passing on this kind of information to members. With thanks.

Yours, Mark Shephard

Country File BBC 1 Sunday 29 July 11am

Media interest in bees and beekeeping continues at a high level. Our Research Colloquium, which as you will read shortly in BBKA News was a great success and has contributed a further impetus. As a result, Country File has filmed a short feature on bees and bee research which will be transmitted this Sunday, 29 July at 11am BBC1. It features input from ourselves, Defra/NBU and Sheffield University and hopefully will make our case for more research funding. Please inform your members of this broadcast which I am sure will interest them.
Best wishes
Tim Lovett

Disease Alert

Please be advised that the following disease has been identified:

This is located in the following 10km Map Square(s):

Square Number: TL13
Square Name: LOWER STONDON (Beds / Herts Border Square)

Beekeepers and Bee Farmers in this area should be vigilant and examine their colonies carefully and advise us if they have any concerns. If associations have new members within this area of whom we may not be aware - please advise us.

Priority Inspection Visits of apiaries will be continued in the area surrounding those where the disease has been confirmed.

Your help and cooperation is, as always greatly appreciated in completing these visits as swiftly as possible.

Useful Contact Details:

Peter Heath - Seasonal Bee Inspector: 01279 843177
Andy Wattam - Regional Bee Inspector: 01509 881092
National Bee Unit: 01904 462510 - E-Mail:

Thymol Varroa Treatment

100 grams Thymol crystals (handle with care - avoid skin contact)
200 grams PURA or other pure vegetable fat (no additives, preservatives or emulsifiers)
700 grams Castor Sugar
(sufficient for about 12 colonies)

Melt the PURA in a saucepan and allow it to cool until warm to the touch. Put the castor sugar into a plastic container and thoroughly mix in the Thymol crystals until all lumps are broken down. Add the sugar/Thymol mixture to the melted Pura and mix thoroughly until the mixture is the consistency of a paste.

If well sealed the mixture may be stored in the bottom of a refrigerator for up to 12 months.

On a piece of grease-proof paper about 10cm x 15cm spread the mixture so that it is about 5mm thick and place on top of the brood frames. The Crown board should allow a bee space above the paste. All ventilation should be closed except a 10cm wide entrance. Refresh the mixture very two weeks until the drop falls below 2-3 mites per week.

The ambient temperature needs to be above about 15C unless the hive is insulated. Expanded polystyrene works well (about 25mm thick) and can be left on all winter.

Note: do not apply the Thymol treatement when supers are still on. It is also advisable to remove excess winter stores in the spring before the bees transfer it into the supers.

Hitchin Bee Centre - the debate part 8

By Oonagh M. Gabriel

I have been asked to comment on the ongoing debate on the Hitchin Bee Centre. Having read the dialog so far and feel I am treading on eggshells.

I can only base my comments on the articles that everyone else has seen and I have not seen the site.

Robin’s response, to Frank’s comments, says that North Herts committee was told the same day as Hitchin Council contacted him. Those involved should note that it was Hitchin that contacted Robin and not the other way around. I have not seen anything saying why Hitchin contacted Robin rather than North Herts BKA.

Derek Driver says ‘why not centrally in Hertford’. Why not, but it was Hitchin that offered the land not Hertford and Hitchin is not exactly Lands End. In essence the project appears to be a good idea but it will not run itself. If Robin, through lack of support, is left holding the proverbial baby then there should be no great surprise that he favours the Dartington hive. I wonder if William Broughton Carr suffered the same criticism as Robin is enduring now. If I had found myself in the same position as Robin I would have favoured the Jumbo Langstroth. Then there would have been those who would have said we must have Nationals. (Terrible hives: time we moved into the 21st century!).

The concept of the long, deep hive is not new. I have a few reservations on its design but, if you do not intend moving your hives about and follow the management techniques as recommended it is a very good hive.

Regarding the siting near allotments, I have visited an apiary south of the river that is actually on some allotments and I was given to understand that there have never been any problems. Maybe they have just been lucky. I admit to some concerns in these litigatious days but, I repeat, I have not seen the site. Perhaps eight hives is overkill but, again, I have not seen the site.

If it appears that Robin is pushing ‘his hive’ who can blame him? There would be no reason why other hives could not be on display but all working hives would have to be the same design. We all know the problems that mixing the different sizes and shapes can cause. If Robin is left doing all the management he is going to want his favourite hive, as I would want Jumbos.

I know nothing of fund raising but it appears that Robin was not asking for actual money just the support of a parent organization in order to apply for grants.

It is a great pity that a good initiative is in danger of floundering through what appears to ‘an outsider’ to be a clash of personalities.

I was at Stoneleigh at the weekend, on Exam Board business. Here is a photo of the BBKA apiary. Oh look, there’s a Dartington!

Hitchin Bee Centre - the debate part 7

Robin's comments on Peter Folge's letter (see debate part 5)

Peter touches a cord when suggesting Herts Exec moves beyond administration into improving bee keeping in Herts. And his target of raising better queens - breeding the Herts Bee - is spot on.

Using only queens that produce large, quiet non-swarming colonies does more to make bee keeping satisfying than any other decision a bee keeper can take.

I would happily allocate space on my 2 acre site for a mating apiary that could be flooded with top quality drones and would take the trouble to suppress drone rearing in any of my own hives with less than perfect queens. No doubt there will be negative comment about spreading diseases. Peter Heath would need to be involved.

Hitchin Bee Centre news by Robin Dartington

Holidays have interrupted work on completing the hives enclosure with the equipment shed. Building a shed from scratch is much more fun than buying one - but takes longer!

Application for grant from Landfill Tax will be made on 28 September to cover Phase 2: Community Bee Garden including Exhibition Room. The council, as landowner, will sign the application, adding gravitas and saving VAT.

The summer will therefore be occupied with research, design and costing, starting with visits to similar local sites. North Herts has an observation hive at Standalone Farm, Cambs. on display in a listed stables. Bedfordshire a display in Stockwell Park, Luton. South Bucks
has hives at the Rural Life Museum and at the Community Orchard in Milton Keynes. There is a new observation hive at the Science Museum, Kensington, shaped like a tree.

If anyone wants to join in the research or to suggest other places of interest, please contact robin.dartington (at) or phone ☏.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The meeting at Richard Ludwell’s Apiary on Sunday 17th June was very well attended. Richard showed us two of his colonies in Jumbo Langstroth hives and two in normal Langstroth hives, the large frames make inspections quicker and created much interest. Pat had prepared some very nice Chocolate ‘Muffins’ and we all went home well satisfied. Many thanks to both Richard and Pat for a super afternoon.

After the promising start to the season in April, May turned out to be a DAMP SQUIB, and June to date hasn’t been much better. I swear the supers on my hives are getting lighter by the day not heavier.

Swarming has been a big problem for some this year and some new Queens have started to lay before getting mated because they couldn’t get out.

I took Garry one of our beginners out to look at a swarm I had been asked to deal with. When we arrived we were both a bit ‘Gobsmacked’ at it’s massive size. It was one of those biggys you only get on very rare occasions, hanging some 15ft. up in a Laburnum tree overhanging the pavement. When we went back in the evening to collect it I wasn’t sure if it would all go into my Smith brood box in which I had fixed a couple of frames of foundation (to stop them moving about in transit). It turned out to be a rope round he supporting branch and a big shake job. Now the books tell us how delicate Queens are, and that they should only be handled with the utmost care. The way that swarm hit the pavement and scattered all over the place was a bit scarey. We put the hive down beside the biggest clump of bees not having a clue as to where the Queen might be, or if she had survived the crash, and were thankful when they all began marching in like little toy soldiers, that is apart from a stubborn lot the size of a football that preferred to stay up the tree. We left the hive there to pick up the stragglers and when we arrived back the next evening the bees were all in the box and doing just fine. Some careless beekeeper has lost a very nice lot of bees and I’m glad. If all goes well then Garry is into beekeeping big time, and has a good yarn to tell! I suspect the bees will benefit from a dose of Thymol a couple of days before the swarms first brood is capped.

Please don”t forget the Broxbourne Council Open Day at Bishop’s College on Saturday 7th. July. If you have any hive produce for sale then contact Derek Driver on ☏. Produce must have have labels meeting the current regulations.

The next summer meeting will be at one of Peter Dalby’s Apiaries on Sunday 15th July (see enclosed map and details).

There is no Newsletter in August so I am reminding you now of our last summer meeting at the Association Apiary on Sunday 9th September.

SE Herts will be providing a Observation Hive for the HBKA ‘Bee World’ event at Capel Manor on 22nd September, a little help from members would be appreciated.

Remember to keep Saturday 13th October free for the Harvest Supper at the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall. The evening is completely FREE to members and their partners, and is a great opportunity to swap ideas and experiences.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Monday 3rd September at Heaton Court.

St Albans news by Anne Wingate

Thank you to all the members who attended the Good Bee Husbandry day. Members attended from all Divisions except Barnet and SE Herts or did you not sign in? There were 48 beekeepers including some from Bedfordshire BKA.

We all learnt something and were lucky to have real specimens of EFB and AFB to look at and smell! Andy and Peter were impressed by the turn out, but still felt beekeepers did not realize the ever increasing responsibility DEFRA are passing on to beekeepers. I see Barnet BKA are holding their own Bee Disease workshop on 21st July.

St. Albans members will be pleased to hear that Andy was impressed with our Apiary, set-up and standard of equipment. Keep going. We do need a satellite Apiary, any suggestions of possible sites please let me know.

Our next meeting is 3pm on Saturday 7th July at the Apiary and the subject will be 'Preparing for Winter'. The Beginner Beekeepers will need to purchase white sugar after this meeting. All will be explained !

Welwyn news by Peter Mathews

Many thanks to everyone for helping to make our Apiary Day a big success. We were more, or less, on schedule excepting the last few visits. Huge thanks to everyone being at the right place on time. And, special thanks to Fizzi, Christine and The Folges for providing refreshment stops.

We had 14 people involved including 5 new or prospective members. I lost count of the number of hives. Varroa levels were very low, which is good. But, so were the number of strong colonies, largely because of varroa related winter losses through incorrect treatment last autumn. We will all do better this year, maybe.

The award for Best Hive again goes to Peter Hills......this was very strong, with lots of honey and the quietest, best behaved bees seen during the day. Peter is amongst a minority of small beekeepers to invest in a quality queen. The value of doing this was well demonstrated. Perhaps we should learn?

The most interesting colony was mine. This had two queens. The old light queen was in the process of supercedure as she was crippled and unable to lay. On the same frame we saw the new dark queen with recent brood and eggs following a gap of 2-3 barren weeks.

Diary Dates
Saturday 7th July - Apiary Meeting at Raffin Green at 10.30am ; Welwyn stand at 'Ayots Horticultural Show', Ayot Green, 2 - 5 pm. We need helpers for our stand during the afternoon.

West Herts news by Brian Norman

The apiary now has a few new members colonies and all are at differing stages of development and a recent inspection gave the new members present an opportunity to study the progressive stages of development in the new colonies. A colony from the previous year has expanded to give a small surplus of honey with a few Queen cells in the half brood chamber. A couple of frames with Queen cells were taken to make another nuc with the objective of making another young colony.

The previous meeting went well with the clearing out of old equipment and a few pieces were bought by members. There are still a few hive pieces left and if members are handy with woodwork skills they can be modified to suit a need.

North Herts news by John Hill

Unfortunately, this month’s contribution has had to be written well before the end of June because of an impending holiday, so I hope that readers will understand. In fact I can only report on the one meeting held at Robin Dartington’s Apiary at Letchworth. About five NH members turned up plus ‘an interested prospective’ member, but Robin had a number of “admirers/disciples” with him and it all made for an interesting afternoon. We examined about six or so hives, all with varying aspects of bee husbandry evident. One queen met her demise due to an unfortunate “slip” with a super box., but we did manage to mark about three or four queens with Robin’s special “Humbrol” paint, and we had to wait quite a while for it to dry. The hives were Robin’s ‘specials’ and there were many variants of occupancy, ranging from colonies on many/ few frames, and nucleus boxes perched on one another. Thanks to Robin for a great tea served ‘al fresco’ by his many ‘helpers’. We all went home replete, and the weather was extremely kind too.

As far as the bees at Boxwood are concerned ,we’ve had all sorts of problems, …artificial swarms that didn’t take, absconding bees, no queens, (even when frames of eggs and brood were introduced from alternative sources). Plenty of swarms to collect, …however, and lots of activity, BUT STILL VERY LITTLE CROP!! At mid June there seems to be some encouraging signs, but I think the bees have missed the ‘nectar boat’ and we shall have to treat very soon. Not much Varroa to be seen at this time. Still, I expect all will change in the coming month!!

The Hitchin Bee Centre seems to have attracted a lot of “blog” attention, to say the least! I don’t intend getting embroiled in the discussion, but I would say that many facts have been distorted, and certain ‘faits accomplis’ were very evident in the printed matter that has appeared during the past month… There’s a saying… “Don’t confuse me with facts once I have started the job” …(‘Nuf said!!).

The meeting in July will be on the 14th, at Nortonbury apiary, where about six members have their hives. Please note the time …14.30 hrs. It is hoped that the Bee Inspector, Peter Heath, will put in an appearance, and lead the proceedings. At this point in time I do not yet have the date for Andy Johnston’s meeting in mid August… (There could be some frantic ‘phone calls?…).

The answer to last month’s puzzle regarding the clock, and how many times the minute hand passes the hour hand between noon and midnight, was surprisingly,… Ten times. "Go on check it!"

Here’s another for your consideration:- “A clock takes five seconds when striking 6. How long will it take when striking twelve?”.

So, finally:
The men that worked for England
They have their graves at home:
And the bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a fallen star,
Alas, alas for England
They have their graves afar,

And they that rule for England,
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas for England
They have no graves as yet.
G. K. Chesterson. 1874-1936.