December 2009 / January 2010

Editorial by Paul Cooper

Welcome to the winter edition of Herts Bees.

This will be the last edition until February. By then the queen will be starting to lay again and the colony's demand for winter stores will begin to increase and hence may be prone to starvation.  More on that in the next edition.  Meanwhile all we can do is check that our hives are mouse and woodpecker proof and suitably weighted down if they are exposed to strong winds.

There is not much news this month except for updates on the winter meetings and plans for your AGMs.  If you need to know when they are happening then please check the online calendar for details of all meetings across Hertfordshire.

Have a very Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

The Letchworth Greenway was opened in 2003 and at an interesting talk last Tuesday we learned of the miles of hedgerows and thousands (27,000) of trees that have been planted along it so far, and of the picnic sites and education areas created. More woodland, hedgerows and community orchards are planned, and this winter the wide field margins of the Letchworth Farms Estate will be sown with wild flowers. All bees in the area should be very pleased as well as other insects, birds and small mammals.

Volunteers wanted at Willian Apiary

We are lucky enough to have been given an apiary site on the Greenway which is in a wonderful place from the forage point of view, but at present is not sufficiently separated from the public along one side. To remedy this Letchworth H.F. will provide us with plants for a mixed native hedge. When they arrive help will be needed to put them in. Although we can't set a date until they come, if you would like to be involved please give me a ring on 01462 623826.

N. Herts Christmas Party

The Christmas party is almost upon us. If you missed the last meeting and would like to come, or need directions to Boxwood give me a ring. (number above)

Next meeting

February 16th 7.30pm at Howgills. Roger Patterson's talk “A New Approach to Beekeeping” should be entertaining and, he says, will include something about nucs.


March 16th – usual time – usual place

Hope to see most of you at Boxwood but to those unable to come all the very best of Christmas wishes and a happy New Year.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

Honey Show held on 27th November at the United Reformed Church Hall, Chiswell Green, St Albans. 

With 43 people attending our Honey Show and Social, 15 jars of honey to taste and judge, lots of gorgeous food and plenty of time to socialize - we had a really good evening. Competition for the Cup resulted in:

1st  Anne Wingate  -  2nd  Stuart Thorne  -  3rd  Andrea Hill

Our Chair - Eileen Remnant also presented certificates (and badges) to Peter Swinn and Maureen and Stuart Thorne who had passed the Basic Beekeeping Examination in 2009.

We are indebted to Philip Remnant for his professionalism sorting out the entries and providing scoring sheets and final report.

And finally a big thank you to Anne Wingate for all her efforts making our Honey Show such a success. 

Beginners Course 2010

St Albans Division will be holding another Beginners Course starting in February 2010. The course is oversubscribed but 30 applicants have been lucky.

Waitrose Community Project

St Albans BKA were recent beneficiaries in the St Albans Branch of Waitrose Community Project. The collection which took part in June 2009 resulted in a cheque for £292 being received by Anne Wingate and Christine Aitken at a presentation party in October. The money will be used towards producing nuc's for our Beginners. 

Anne and the representative of St Albans Branch of Waitrose

AGM on the 22nd January 2010

St Albans and District BKA members are invited to the AGM and Wine and Cheese Social on Friday 22nd January 2010 at 8.00pm at the United Reformed Church, Chiswell Green, St Albans.

The Minute Book will be available 15 minutes before the meeting if you wish to read the Minutes from the AGM 2009.


  1. Apologies for absence
  2. Approval of last AGM Minutes
  3. Committee's report
  4. Approval of 2009 Accounts
  5. Election of Officers
  6. Any other business

We already have nominations for the committee, but if you wish to become involved in your Association - please feel free to offer.

After the short business of the evening we are delighted to have Garri Wiest, one of our members, to give us a talk on beekeeping in Portugal entitled:

O Mel produto tradicional da Beira Litoral, Portugal.

As well as keeping hives at Ashridge, Garri also manages some at his home in Portugal and learning about Portugese methods of beekeeping should prove fascinating.

Please don't stay away because this is the AGM. Make the effort to join us, hear what your committee have been doing on your behalf and let us know what you would like us to do for you in the future. This is your Association and your involvement can help to make us stronger.

We intend that the business will be completed quickly and then we can listen to what promises to be a very interesting talk from Garri followed by plenty of time to talk 'bees' over a glass of wine.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The November Winter Meeting talks on ‘Honey and Pollen Yielding Plants’, given by Derek. and one on ‘Pollen’ given by Roy  turned out to be most interesting. Alas not many turned out to learn about these vital necessities of bees, and how these essential ingredients are gathered, stored and used.

I have quite a bit of Association honey in 30lb tubs going for a song, at £2.00/lb. to SE. Herts members. The tubs belong to me and are returnable!

Our next Committee meeting will be at 8.00pm on Thursday 14th January 2010 at 13 Heaton Court.

Please take note that the AGM will be at 8.00pm on Thursday 11th February at Pinewood School - I have sent out travelling instructions to all members on previous occasions; but if you need a further copy please give me a ring. We don’t want to hear any feeble excuses for your non-attendance do we!

I trust you and your bees will enjoy the Festive Season, and wish you all a Prosperous and Happy New Year.

BeeBase and Healthy Bees

BeeBase is a web based information tool for beekeepers in England and Wales run by The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) which is an executive agency of Defra. Beekeepers registered on Beebase can request a free apiary inspection visit from their local Bee Inspector and receive information and advice on disease recognition, control and colony husbandry and apiary management.

Many beekeepers have already registered so if you keep bees and have not yet signed up please do so. Registration is free of charge. The BeeBase website is at

Fera's Healthy Bees Project Management Board recently agreed the first phase of the husbandry and education programme. The programme includes making available and funding formally recognised ‘train the trainer’ courses to beekeepers who regularly provide training to other beekeepers. As a result the Board is offering two invitations for a train the trainer course to members of HBKA. The closing date for nominations to take up these courses is 7th January 2010 so if you are interested then please check the website or contact you division's secretary.

History of Taylors Bee Hives?

My name is Andrew Rogers ( and I have recently learnt that my great grandfather Henry Cuthbert Rogers worked for the Taylors Bee Hives in Hertfordshire as a tin smith. I was wondering if you could tell me anymore about the Taylors or the people who worked there my family still live in the area.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Varroa Problems? (part 2)

by John Mumford

I am still getting reports of colonies that have disastrously high Natural Mite Mortality drops and are still throwing out bees with tatty wings. These high mite drops are a sure sign that the colony will almost certainly die over winter.

It seems that Thymol has lost some of it’s effectiveness, or is it just the way it is being used? And I wonder how much longer it can be relied upon as a sole Varroa treatment. With 15 or so generations over a single year the natural selection, (survival of the fittest), of Varroa populations to change is very rapid.

With the very warm weather we have been having, (my bees still collecting pollen in late November), the bees are almost certainly still raising brood and therefore so are Varroa mites.

I put a single strip of Apistan in a colony of mine on 18th of October, the next day there were 500 or so mites on the tray. The number of mites then went down to 80 per day over the next 5 days and by the 31st. October there was only 15 mites per day. On 6th November the number of mites reduced to 0 per day. They are now dropping just 1 or 2 per week and if that is just natural mite mortality there can’t be many mites left in the colony. I counted 1800 mites dropped over a 19 day period.

I am informed, (thank you all), that Pura can still be obtained from Morrisons and Netto, and because Thymol is such a good remedy for Acarine infestations anyway I  will continue to use the Grease Patties for that reason alone.

Top Bar Hives

by Paul Cooper

As I mentioned last month, I am starting a project to investigate the pros and cons of a top bar hive. The literature claims all sorts of advantages not least of which is the greater tolerance to disease, especially varroa, due to the brood cells being the size the bees choose rather then being based upon the size of the foundation pattern.  I will need to consider how to extract honey (using a press rather than a centrifugal extractor) or just use it as comb honey. Oil seed rape is widespread where I live so comb honey will have to wait until later in the season otherwise it will set in the comb.

The picture is courtesy of

So there is lots to consider, not least of which is which design to use as I will be building it myself this winter. There are plans available online as well as lots of websites offering advice and guidance. Here are a few to look at:

I will provide you with an update each month in Herts Bees and hopefully next month some pictures of my new top bar hive.

For Sale and Wanted

Jars For Sale

Hi Sir/Madam,

I recently came across your Bee Keeping website and wondered if there are any jars that I can quote you on?

We are a glass wholesaler based in Lincolnshire, so we are handy if you need to collect or we can arrange a delivery through our haulier.

If you would like a no obligation quotation, let me know the quantity and a delivery postcode if applicable, and one of our sales team will email you within 24 hours.

Please visit our website for more information:

Kind Regards,
Pattesons Glass Ltd

T: 01472 751333
F: 01472 751029



November 2009


Winter is almost here, mouse guards are in place, all the varroa mites have been knocked down, winter stores are full and chicken wire is in place to stop the pesky woodpeckers. Let's hope so!

This is a full edition this month with lots of interesting articles and photographs.  Please keep them coming.

Next month's edition covers December and January so if you have any meetings or events arranged for January or early February then please make sure you send them to me by the end of November.  The calendar is always up to date so please check that for forthcoming events.

Paul Cooper

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

A good group of beekeepers new, old and prospective met last Tuesday (20th) to exchange news on summer successes and failures, swarms caught and swarms lost, honey harvested (in some cases lots of honey) and to hear Robin's report on Buzzworks. It was particularly good to be able to welcome the new members.
Hitchin Apple Day on Saturday was a much better day than the forecast suggested and although a little damp at times a steady flow of people visited the NHBKA stall to taste some honey direct from Graham's super, ask questions and buy honey. Potential new beekeepers and new sites for hives also materialised.
Now the clocks have gone back and the temperature is dropping it really feels as if winter is coming. Time therefore to put on mouse guards and woodpecker protection. Hungry woodpeckers are not easily deterred and as you can see from photo they are quite able to peck through thin metal.

This queen excluder must have provided a handy perch whilst pecking.
Christmas Party
Tickets for the Christmas party (December 12th) will be available at the next meeting or from Graham or me (£3) and please let us know if you will be bringing a sweet or a savoury dish.
Next meeting
November 17th, 7.30pm at Howgills is a talk by Letchworth Heritage Foundation's Ecologist Elizabeth Towler. The Heritage Foundation own a lot of land in N. Herts and their farming practices and land use obviously make a difference to our bees.
Future meetings
We are hoping to have the well known beekeeper and lecturer Roger Patterson at our February meeting – watch this space.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

2010 Membership Forms have been sent to all members. Please return promptly and therefore claim your discount! David Brown, our treasurer, needs your details and money to make certain insurance cover and Bee Craft deliveries are not disrupted. 

Honey Show on 27th November at 8.00pm at the United Reformed Church Hall, Chiswell Green, St Albans

This is an informal evening where members bring a jar of unlabeled clear honey along and we all taste and judge and present a cup to the winner. All members and their families welcome to attend. Please bring a plate of food. Drinks will be provided.

We are also intending to present certificates to all those who passed the Basic Beekeeping Examination back in the Summer.  

Winter meeting

An informative illustrated talk was given on 23rd October to a large audience of St Albans members (and Barnet too) by Pam Farley of The Woodland Trust which has recently bought nearly 350 hectares (over 850 acres) of land near Sandridge, St Albans. Here they plan to create England's largest new native wood by planting 600,000 trees. After covering the origins and aims of the Trust she went on to explain the acquisition and management strategy for the new Heartwood Forest. With this project right on our doorstep there were many interesting questions asked.

The evening ended with a lively question and answer session covering problems some members had experienced throughout the last beekeeping season. 

A reminder of our AGM on the 22nd January 2010. More details in the next newsletter.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

Our last apiary meeting for 2009 was held on 3rd October at which we had a brief look at the remaining hives to remove queen excluders and ensure the bees had enough stores for the winter.  This was followed by a very pleasant chat and exchange of information and ideas.  At the same time we enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea plus a slice of delicious honey cake, kindly made by Mrs Clavey, wife of our hard-working Treasurer, Andy. 

I hope I will be forgiven if I am repeating things that I have said before, but throughout the summer the informal tuition at apiary meetings has been excellent.  This was provided by all our very experienced beekeepers and, particularly from our Apiary Manager, Bob Whittingham.

At the moment we have no dates for our hoped for, winter talks. 

Welwyn news by Leslie Tamara

The last two events arranged for the end of this year are the Applecroft  School Christmas Bazaar and the Christmas Party for the Welwyn Division.

The Applecroft Christmas Bazaar will take place on Saturday 14th November between 11.00 and 14.30.  The Applecroft School  is located on Applecroft Road, Welwyn Garden City, AL8. 

This year the Annual Christmas Party will take place on Saturday 5th December in Welwyn Garden City. Further details will be circulated soon.  All members of the Welwyn Division are cordially invited.  This event will provide a good opportunity to meet new members of the Association and to discuss individual successes, problems encountered throughout the past year and plans for the coming new beekeeping year.

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

We had an interesting end-of-season wrap-up meeting on 3rd October at Pat & Tony O'Connor's house in Sawbridgeworth.  Not many turned up but those that did were very grateful for Pat and Tony's hospitality.  There were no bees to look at but we did some useful planning for next season including initial thoughts for a one-day introduction to beekeeping course to be held in February/March 2010 in the Bishops Stortford area.

The BSBKA AGM has been set for 17th February 2010 and will feature Robin Dartington talking about BuzzWorks. The meeting will be held at 10 Redricks Lane, Sawbridgeworth, CM21 0RL at 19:30.

SE Herts news (pt1) by Derek Driver

The thanks go to all those members who helped organise and provide such a lovely Harvest supper for our group on October the 10th. A lot of effort went into this event and everyone who attended appreciated all your efforts. So well done! A number of members couldn’t make it but next year I hope everyone will mark their calendars when they receive our new programme, and come to this most enjoyable festive event. One couple came all the way from Northampton so that shows you how good it is.

This brings me to our 2010 program. Your committee after racking our brains develops the year’s program by the first week in January, but we need fresh input from our members, especially our newer ones. Our outdoor meetings are provided by those generous members who welcome us to their apiaries , and for winter meetings your committee does its best on speakers and topics, BUT WE NEED FRESH IDEAS AND INPUT FROM OUR NEWER MEMBERS! So tell us what you would like, and if it’s possible we’ll do our best to include it. Remember, don't wait for the AGM , contact us before January.

SE Herts news (pt2) by John Mumford

Many thanks to all those who helped, or took part in the BEE WORLD Event at Capel Manor on Saturday 19th. September. Barnet & West Herts Divisions took no part, and I had no acknowledgement or response to my correspondence to them on the subject.
The day seemed to go off OK and Julie Ryan our Capel Manor contact is keen to find a beekeeper who would supply honey for sale in their shop. And with the increased publicity given to beekeeping recently, Julie is also keen to have a ‘Special Event Day’  next year devoted entirely to Bees, Beekeeping, and Bee Hive Products, where members of the Public can experience bees at close quarters.

  1. Bee World: Bishops Stortford - Susie Brickwood and Dennis Osborne Extracting Honey
  2. Bee World: North Herts - A magnificent Display of Flowers and Hive Products compiled by Brian Fairy
  3. Bee World: SE Herts - Derek Driver and Andrew Watters inspecting the Observation Hive
  4. Bee World: St. Albans - Christine Aitken and her helpers on the Pollination Stand
  5. Bee World: Welwyn and District - Phil Jepson on the Sales Stand
  6. The Wasp Trap attracts all sorts of nasty insects
The Harvest Supper went very, very well at the new Pinewood School venue. So well that it went on till after 11.00 pm. The Harvest Supper is a great opportunity to meet fellow beekeepers in a relaxing environment. A place to establish friends and contacts for mutual help next year perhaps.
Many thanks to Daphne, and of course to Jo, Sam, Adrian and Ross for all the goodies a wonderful effort. Oonagh provided a nutty crossword to keep everyone moving around, and Danny Nicholls judged Adrian Lloyd’s excellent jar of liquid honey the winner of the Skillman Shield for 2009. The raffle was well supported and made £43.00.
The next Winter Meeting will be at 8.00pm on Thursday 12th March at Pinewood School when Derek and Roy will give a talk on Pollen and Pollination. (Ed. do you mean November?) 

Sterilisation of plastic hives is approved by FERA

by Robin Dartington

A commonly heard objection to Omlet’s new plastic version of the long-deephive, the ‘beehaus’, was that it would have to be destroyed if infected with foul brood as the plastic could not be flamed. The same objection has been made to tiered hives made of polystyrene, even though those have taken over the European market. The re-issue by FERA of the procedures if foulbrood is found has confirmed that hives and accessories can in fact be sterilized with disinfectants:

Brood boxes, supers, queen excluders and other bee-keeping equipment, which has been thoroughly cleaned of all waxand propolis, can be effectively sterilized by using commercialdisinfectants (e.g. bleach, Virkon S and others). It is important that the manufacturer’s instructions are complied with.

Comb should still be burnt. Sterilization would seem to apply also to plywood hives that have been painted internally. Painting reduces the amount of propolis the bees feel is needed to create a sterile nest, and makes it easy to clean of wax and propolis by scrubbing with washing soda in hot water – some of the advantages you get from plastic. It is however only safe to paint hives internally if they have permanent mesh floors to avoid condensation.

The document can be read or saved from screen - see page 30 (page 34 of the pdf) of ‘Foul Brood Disease of Honeybees and Other Common Disorders’, FERA2009 at

Reflections on becoming a new BKA secretary

by Christine Aitken of St Albans BKA

Nine months ago when I accepted the position as secretary of St Albans division I knew it would be a steep learning curve. My predecessor Anne Wingate, who had knowledgably steered us and HBKA for so many years, would be a hard act to follow. It has been an interesting gestation.

We started the year with our beginners course. Lots to organise but with an amazingingly helpful committee and enthusiastic membership it was a success with twenty-two staying the course and ten taking up our ‘Hives-for-all’ scheme at our association apiaries. Quietly we got on with mentoring our beginners and looking after our own bees.

Then BANG the full force of media coverage on the plight of the honeybee hit us. Bees and beekeeping were suddenly on everyones agenda. Personally I already had quite a full calendar of talks to clubs and an annual school visit organised. Requests for ‘someone to explain the issues’ to W.I. Clubs started to arrive and many schools thought their children would ‘really benefit’ from a talk and visit. One St Albans school produced 210 children for me to speak to! It was a long afternoon……Various environmental events and local shows requested our presence - but we were already committed to three such events in June/July.

I hardly dared answer my telephone as sometimes as many as three calls daily were of interested people anxious to start beekeeping ‘NOW’. They needed to save the planet. Suddenly people started to notice wasps, bumblebees and honey bees and didn’t know the difference. Swarm calls in abundance and I visited many interesting people and places. Surprisingly, Sunday 4th October, after a phone call from Herts Fire Brigade, found us in St Albans High Street, outside the Clock Tower collecting a colony of bees which had fallen to the pavement after spending the last three months building up nicely on a branch of  a tree. The Council had been made aware many times that the bees were there but failed to inform anyone. Thank goodness no-one was standing at the pedestrian crossing when it fell to the ground. Nurtured it will hopefully become a beginners colony next spring.

My Inbox daily contained at least two requests for information on how to take up the interest in beekeeping which had long been in their thoughts. Apparently ‘…the (article/T.V./radio) programme said you could keep bees anywhere’ and ‘…it would be so good for the children to have bees in the garden.’

I soon put together a standard e-mail suggesting they do some reading (and I suspect Amazon soon ran out of ‘Bees at the bottom of your garden’). I explained how St Albans division help prospective beekeepers by inviting them to our apiary site on a Saturday afternoon, don a bee-suit and watch our beginners and their mentors look at their colonies. Our apiary on most Saturday afternoons bulged at the seams and invariably there were not enough bee-suits to go round. The beginners course waiting list for 2010 very soon filled up and there is a very long cancellation list too.

The press obtained my details from HBKA website. Could a young lady reporter from the local newspaper join us for a fun day out looking at bees? A photographer wanted to take pictures of beekeepers at work to add to his portfolio. Another lady (comparing us to Bedfordshire Beekeepers) complained bitterly that St Albans BKA did not have a website of information and HBKA website was poor and what we really needed was her husband to design a proper site for us. I tried to explain that we were all volunteers and caring of our bees came before a website and would her husband do one for free - but she wasn’t listening.

With Capel Manor, and our stand to organise, the season was drawing to a close. There were winter meetings and beginners course tutoring arrangements to be confirmed and just when I thought it was safe to put my head above the hive roof…I answered the phone and  was asked by a nice man from Endemol Production Co. if I was up for taking part in the game show ‘Total Wipe-out’ with a trip to Argentina, a prospective prize of £10,000 and was I available for late October to early December? Yes it was genuine and no I wasn’t too old to take part and as there was such a lot of interest in bees lately the BBC had requested beekeepers to participate in a programme! As I picked myself off the floor, I suggested and it was agreed to put this request on the St Albans BKA blog. I am patiently awaiting to hear if we have any brave souls out there.

So here I am, nine months on from taking up the challenge to follow in the footsteps of Anne. An interesting year was 2009, beyond my expectations and I think I am ready for the challenges of the next two years. With my statuary three years completed in 2012 then it is over to someone else in the division. Are you up for it?

BBKA Forum Report

by Peter Mathews

HBKA were represented by Robin Dartington (BuzzWorks) and myself. I was impressed by those coming from Sussex, Durham and other far flung places. Most of the meeting was devoted to Education & Training, and some brief notes are contained in the attachment. The aim of the Forum is to generate informal discussion in advance of the Delegates Meeting for directing the BBKA for 2010.

  1. Twickenham introduced the idea of open voting for the ADM card vote system. Voting is normally by a show of hands, ie one delegate one vote. For very close, or contentious issues, a card vote may be requested. The voting is then based upon the number of registered members represented by their delegate. The airing received mixed support. Whilst the proposal may be more open, the present system can hardly be described as undemocratic.
  2. Unlicensed Medicines - summary of present position. There are potential problems with people importing unlicensed medicines through internet sales. Products include varroacides such as Apivar and Apivar Live. These may have short term benefits for individuals, but may be ineffective long term unless introduced in a proper fashion.
  3. Tim Lovett will appear on Radio 4 'Gardeners' Question Time' to be broadcast 16th October.
  4. Tim described the background to BBKA walking out of the 'Healthy Bee Plan' meetings with FERA. Helen Crews replied on behalf of FERA. She apologized for the way BBKA had been treated, but explained that most of the decisions were made before FERA was formed so that she inherited a done deal.  Although the door is still wide open, there seems little point for a BBKA presence at meetings if they are being ignored in any discussion.
  5. Education will be the principal focus for the BBKA over the coming years, see attached.

Note the next Herts Exec Meeting is scheduled after the BBKA Delegates Meeting. This means we will not have an opportunity to discuss the agenda.  This will appear in the December 'BBKA News'. I will indicate my voting intentions then, but please feel free to draw our attention to any issues of concern.

Varroa Problems?

by John Mumford

I remember as though it were yesterday, the 21st September 2004 when I met Peter Heath our SBO at High Trees Farm. Peter needed to inspect some colonies due to a local outbreak of AFB at Standon. And I was there because the beekeeper was in hospital having his gallstones out.

I arrived a few minutes before the 2.30pm appointment to find Peter with the rear doors of his van open, sitting having his sandwiches.  It was a grey, chilly, and very windy afternoon and after our initial greetings Peter said to me, "it’s not a very nice day for it John!", and added, "do you think we ought to put it off till another day, it’s a bit windy!". Now my philosophy has always been that if it has to be done, then do it, and do it quickly. They weren’t my bees anyway! 

The beekeeper had suspected there was something wrong with his bees and had asked Peter to do a CSL. OP Resistance Test on three of the colonies.

I was given charge of the smoker and stood upwind of the hives to shelter the bees as much as possible while Peter did his stuff. It’s an experience to watch Peter handle bees, and several times he said, with a little urgency, "keep them down John". The bees were as good as gold. No sign of AFB, but all the signs of a heavy Varroa infestation were plain to see (bald brood, starved brood, tatty wings), the lot. Peter duly collected the samples of bees for the CSL Varroa OP Resistance Tests as he went round.

Peter phoned me that evening, and my heart sank as he confirmed that he had found up to 65% OP Resistant Varroa Mites in one sample, and how he was lining the mites up in rows of ten to make counting easier.

Next day I started phoning around to find an alternative treatment. Both Oxalic and Lactic Acids were expensive and difficult to get, and for best effect depended on a broodless period. I didn’t think the bees wouldn’t survive that long anyway!

I had a recipe for Thymol Grease Pattie, and some Thymol Crystals somewhere, and so with no experience to go on we decided to give it a try. One badly infected colony was the first to get a Pattie - 70 mites dropped in the first hour - it worked! The rest of the colonies received Patties and we couldn’t wait to do a mite drop count the next day. The next day we had difficulty counting the 500 or so mites that had dropped overnight. Most of these colonies survived the winter.

Peter did a lot of mite counting that Autumn and in the following weeks he established that resistant mites were widespread but the amount of resistance was variable from one apiary to another, and even from hive to hive within apiaries. A lot of bees died that winter, and so did their mites.

This year I was late in putting my Grease Patties on. I had noticed that one of my colonies was dropping more mites naturally (35 per day) than I would normally expect. They got a Grease Pattie on the 5th September. By the 13th they were dropping 100 mites per day and I thought everything was OK. On the 28th they were still dropping 80 mites per day, and it was then I saw a bee with tatty wings drop out of the entrance.

I remembered that I had an old packet of Apistan somewhere in the garage. I eventually found the re-sealed packet with just 3 strips and a 2006 expiry date. On the 4th October with nothing to lose that colony and two others, (how can a beekeeper have favourite colonies), got one strip of the Apistan each, right in the middle of the bees. Next day there were 220+ mites on the floor. By the 12th the mite drop was 60 per day, and on the 18th, 14 days after putting the Apistan strip in, the daily mite count was down to 8, (1074 mite drop in 14 days).

It appears that Apistan has regained some of its effectiveness, but it should not be relied upon as a sole treatment just in case the mites in that particular hive still have a high degree of resistance. When Apistan works, it works extremely well, and no Varroa treatment could be easier to apply. It is NOT temperature dependant and so can be used at any time of the year when honey supers are not present.

I now have a fresh supply of Apistan to treat my other colonies. It doesn’t matter how the mites are killed, providing the treatment doesn’t harm the bees or leave unwanted residues in the hives. I doubt if this 'GET OUT OF JAIL FREE' card will still work so well next year.

I have heard quite a few reports this Autumn about high residual mite populations in colonies that have had a Thymol based treatment, and that some colonies have dropped over 2000 mites when Apistan has been applied. Varroa mites have never developed 100% resistance to Apistan, only just sufficient resistance for the residual mite population to kill the colony and themselves in the process. It’s a poor parasite that kills its host. If a Colony has 20% OP Resistant Varroa Mites the other 80% are removed quick sharp with Apistan.

The efficacy of Thymol based Varroa treatments are temperature dependant. And the method of application is perhaps even more important than treatment itself. I have always thought that a 4 week treatment of Apiguard is not sufficiently long for good Varroa Mite Control.

Varroa Mites per se don’t kill bees it’s the viruses that the mites transmit from bee to bee that do the damage. A small mite population with a lot of virus will do more damage than that of a large mite population and no viruses. Just a few particles of ABPV injected into a bee will result in the death of the bee in a few days. These bees are unable to fly; they crawl away to die and are not normally noticeable at a casual glance. At this time of year they are probable taken by wasps and birds anyway.

Managing Varroa and Foulbrood and Other Common Brood Disorders

by Andy Wattam, National Bee Inspector

Ladies & Gentlemen

This is to let you know that the NBU Advisory Leaflets entitled Managing Varroa and Foulbrood and Other Common Brood Disorders have been reprinted due to demand and old stocks running out. They have not been vastly changed, as a more thorough review of all advisory material is on-going.

Printed copies can be obtained by letting us know how many copies you would like and we will arrange to get them sent to you direct from the National Bee Unit.

Alternatively they can be downloaded as PDF documents from Beebase to your PC: 


Also the handover period from myself to your new Regional Bee Inspector Keith Morgan is complete and you are now in Keith's hands, or vice versa perhaps.

Keith's contacts are as follow, and they are different from his previous ones:

Telephone: 01485 545838
Mobile Telephone: 07919 004215
E Mail Address:

Trouble with an extractor

by Peter Folge

I just had an Electric 15 frame Lega Stainless Steel Honey Extractor delivered personally by Johnathan from Maisemore Apiaries to my door this morning (ordered from their sales items as advertised in BeeCraft). All looked well until I asked to have it up and running. I was assured all was OK but insisted it would not take too long. Hmmm...

Firstly electric extractors now have a safety catch to stop the machines being opened while in use. This did not line up correctly or work very well at all. It was mentioned this could be by-passed which were my thoughts also.

Once up and running I decided to try fitting my national frames... Guess what..... The cage was far to big and all the supers fell through. Not a good start!

It was suggested that he would take the cage back to the Maismore workshop and have the cage cut down to size. Although a little hesitant I offered to pay half until the work was completed. He was not too happy and wanted full payment.

Of course his fault for selling unchecked? equipment; he ended loosing a sale and taking everything back. From his  point of view a very long waisted journey. He also told me he had quite a few cages coming back already!

Luckily I had not parted with any cash.

If he knew about this why is he selling these items wrongly described? 

Anyway be warned any new members buying extractors look else where.

Please can anyone advise me which electric extractors are to be recommended?

Please pass on this message. Many thanks.

Editor's note: the above views are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Herts Bees or Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association.

Comments over the BBKA News, October 2009

by Peter Folge, Welwyn Beekeepers Association

Having ripped open the plastic sleeve I couldn't wait any longer to thumb through the green pages of this month's magazine as it fell through the letterbox this morning. The Front Headlines said it All!

I was somewhat dismayed to read the written response the BBKA had over the fallout with DEFRA (National Bee Unit). It is long time due that the BBKA commit themselves to something positive but now we are told to wait until the next ADM for a decision to be made how the BBKA will announce their own long awaited project and in which way they will use some of their funds.

Andy Wattam (National Bee Inspector)'s article further back in the News was also an interesting read and much to the point.

Quoting BBKA, "£370K remains uncommitted of the original £2.3M. FERA decided to commit the bulk to increasing the number of inspectors, a disease survey, and promotion of BeeBase."

"The HBP (Healthy Bee Plan) will deliver little if any worthwhile outcome for bees and beekeepers."

Unfortunately I already have to disagree with last of these statements. The BBKA are underestimating the help the increased Seasonal Bee Inspectors have already been. This year's increase actually only reflects the number of inspectors that were lost in the 1980s when the government cut back funding.

Because of this, the remaining inspectorate could not cope and could never catch-up with the amount of visits required in order to keep beekeepers and apiary inspections up-to-date; this has led to a number that had not been visited for more than 10 years. Once disease AFB & EFB has been confirmed this could tie down an inspector to the surrounding area for many weeks at a time and if further disease is found during  the six week follow up inspection, this would mean inspectors must concentrate on all surrounding apiaries in a 10km radius once again. Now just image one of these beekeepers is a honey farmer of 200+ colonies. These all need to be rechecked if cross contamination is suspected.

The HBP involves inspectors visiting new and existing beekeepers and not just examining their hives. It's much more. Inspectors spend time to show/explain and even teach some newbies the correct ways and methods how to apply treatments. Unfortunately some existing records are never fully completed and this makes in years to come tracing beekeepers who have either moved away or ceased keeping bees a real headache and time and expense to update. So if you have registered and never updated then please do so.

This all takes time but in no way can even the BBKA or other beekeeping associations cover such a vast area from county to county like the inspectors do.

Remember inspectors should be approachable and not to be afraid of. Don't forget nearly all inspectors are beekeepers normally with many years of experience and expertise.

FERA has been promoting BeeBase and getting beekeepers to register online. This helps inspectors to get in touch. Do not forget you can also request a visit from your nearest SBI.

Oh...all I wanted to say is, "What happened to this month's Magazine???

I was really wanting to read the article "How Pure is the Wax in Your Hive" and looks like somebody printed twice the beginning, no middle and an end. Not much of a read then! Thanks a bunch! That's me ready for a night cap.

BBKA and Bayer

There has been some renewed criticism of the BBKA policy of engaging with Agro - Chemical companies following a recent incident in Germany associated with a product marketed by Bayer. BBKA's policy is one of:

constructive engagement with such companies to ensure that the products are sold with the correct instructions to farmers in relation to when and how to spray to ensure that honey bees are not affected

BBKA acknowledges that not all its members agree with the policy but say that the majority of members do. The Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers Association are trying to overturn BBKA's policy at the 2010 ADM and are campaigning to try and force BBKA to withdraw from all pesticide and insecticide endorsement.

HBKA will be represented at the ADM and therefore your views on this matter should be passed up through your divisional officers for discussion at the HBKA Executive.

Top Bar Hives and Varroa Control

by Martin Edwards (

Following a recent question from @AmethystDragon on Twitter I asked a few of my beekeeping collegues what their opinion was on the assertion that using top bar hives led to a substantial reduction in the infestation of bees by Varroa mites.

The question had been prompted by this article on Warre Beekeeping.

Although most people felt it unlikely to make a big diference to the incidence of Varroa there is some logic to the assertion and there is a connection between this and the work of an Italian beekeeper who claims that increasing the space between frames to give a wider "Bee Space" shows a significant improvement. (Can't find a web reference for this at the moment will update later).

The theory is that top bar hives in which the bees build natural comb without wax foundation as a guide tend to use a wider space between combs. The mites travel around the hive after hatching by being transfered from bee to bee. A wider bee space may lead to fewer interactions between the bees as they pass each other over the comb and therefore statistically reduce the ability of the mites to spread.

This is only a theory and I have not been able to find any scientific peer reviewed work to back it up - anyone reading this who does know of studies please contact me and I will update this with relevant links.Natural comb building is of course what happens in nature and there is evidence that wild colonies have been known to exist quite happily in inaccessible places when they will almost certainly have picked up mites whilst out foraging or robbing hives. This is one of the reasons that wild colonies are very important for research. Whether it is a genetic or a behavioural trait it may well hold the answer to keeping bees that are more resistant to Varroa and disease.

On a practical note. The use of top bar hives presents particular management and manipulation issues. Modern beekeeping practice requires colonies to be regularly checked for disease and most swarm control techniques requires the regular manipulation of combs. Comb without a wooden frame around it is very delicate and on a hot day could easily break whilst being examined. Extracting honey from natural comb almost certainly will require cold pressing equipment or heating to melt the wax the later being significantly detrimental to the flavour, aroma and beneficial qualities of the honey.

This I suggest would lead to the advice that one should learn beekeeping on the more usual framed system and then start experimenting with top bars once a significant level of skill and knowledge of bee behaviour and husbandry has been gained.

This is not to suggest that keeping bees in the Warre way should be dismissed out of hand. I believe that there may be substantial benefits to this system if applied properly and with the appropriate regard to disease control. I and many of my collegues are sceptical that it is the answer to varroa problems but any system which gets as close as possible to the natural environment for the bees themselves is worthy of serious consideration and should be supported by all Associations in a spirit of collaboration and research.

Editor's note: I am intrigued by this type of hive and have decided to build one for next season. I will provide monthly updates in Herts Bees on its progress. Designs are readily available on the internet including this one at: 

White House Honey

Michelle Obama had a large bee hive installed near the garden, and it produced plenty of honey. Enough, in fact, that she was able to give each of the wives of the heads of state attending the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh a very attractive jar of "White House Honey." Click here for pictures.

Wanted and For Sale


Experienced beekeeper wishes to aquire secondhand National Hive. Please contact Peter Reeves at

For Sale

The following items are still available for sale:

  • 2 Langstroth Colonies (9 5/8” brood chamber + plastic queen excluder + 9 5/8” super + open mesh floor + inner cover + felt roof + plastic division board feeder)
  • 15 Langstroth Brood Chambers / Supers (9 5/8”) – treated, assembled, and painted

Due to urgent need to sell, will negotiate on prices.  Contact: Philip Swinn 01707 692000 or 07531 794806

Wanted and For Sale

Items For Sale

  • Taylor's tinplate electric 10 frame radial extractor £80
  • Taylor's tinplate 6 frame Hand driven tangential extractor £45
  • The electric extractor is in excellent condition. However being tin plate these extractors should not be used for commercial purposes.
  • There are also tin plate settling tanks which definitely should only to be used as antiques for display stands etc. £7.50 each.
  • 70 x 25kg (Rowse) plastic storage buckets which could be converted into settling tanks by adding a tap. £2.00 each as new.
  • There are also two uncapping trays: large electric £20 & small £6

Contact: Jo Far, Breachwood Grn. 01438 833170

Items for Sale

For sale due to overseas move:

  • 9 Langstroth Colonies (9 5/8” brood chamber + plastic queen excluder + 9 5/8” super + open mesh floor + inner cover + felt roof + plastic division board feeder)
  • 29 Langstroth Brood Chambers / Supers (9 5/8”) – treated, assembled, and painted
  • 4  5-frame Langstroth Nucleus Hives with inner cover & open mesh floor
  • 1  Langstroth Mating Hive (3 removable divisions on open mesh floor)
  • 1  Open Mesh Floor for Langstroth Hive
  • 3  Roofs with felt covering for Langstroth Hive
  • 1  British Standard Nucleus Colony with inner cover & open mesh floor
  • 1  British Standard Nucleus Hive with inner cover & open mesh floor
  • 2  WBC hives (empty) with various bits & parts
  • 2 Jumbo Rapid Feeders
  • 5 Warnholz Mating Hives

Due to urgent need to sell, will negotiate on prices.  Contact: Philip Swinn 01707 692000 or 07531 794806 

Apiary Sites

There is now the possibility of an apiary site in Breachwood Grn (7 miles from Welwyn) that can be used and has a dry storage shelter and can comfortably site 10+ hives.

Orchard site in Harthall Lane, Bedmond, Herts available for experienced beekeeper. Good access to site. For details contact Bob Poole Tel: 07714 256403.

The National Honey Show

The 78th National Honey Show is just weeks away. It is the UK's gold-standard honey show - the equivalent of Wimbledon for tennis players. It will be held in Weybridge, Surrey from 29th to 31st October. There are almost 250 classes and beekeepers come from all over the world to enter so it is truly an international show. Why not book a ticket now to see the best of the best?

What's on?

Apart from the world class honey show there will be a full programme of workshops and lectures throughout the event and a wide selection of trade stands with lots of equipment and books to buy. You can see the line-up and download the show schedule on the NHS website and you will receive all the details in the programme that comes with tickets purchased in advance. Advance tickets plus the 2009 schedule of classes and show entry application are available now.

How much does it cost?

You can become a member of the National Honey Show for £10 (or £11 via PayPal) and then entry for the duration of the show is free. Admission for non-members is £12 per day. Accompanied children of 16 years and under are free and additional family members over 16 years living at the same address can come in for £5 each. On Saturday admission after 12 noon is £5 for everyone. You can join by contacting the membership secretary, Mrs Sandra Rickwood, 19 Kenwood Drive, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, KT12 5AU. Alternatively, email or telephone 020 33 55 8716 and leave a message. You can also pay on the door but it is better to get an advance ticket and avoid the queue.

The official closing date for show entries is 1st October but late entries will be accepted until 24th October on payment of a £5 late entry fee.

How do I get my entries to the show?

Exhibitors delivering personally to the show must bring their entries on Wednesday 28th October between 2.30pm and 6pm. You hand them over to a steward who will stage them for you. You could use a courier or post. In this case your entry must arrive at St Georges College after 21st October and before noon on 28th October. Why not persuade one member of your association to bring all the entries from your association to the show. You could split the fuel costs. Don't forget someone will also need to collect them on Saturday 31st October after the show closes. Thornes have, once again, kindly agreed to take exhibits to the show on your behalf. You can drop your entries at any Thornes branch south of the Scottish border i.e. Wragby, Windsor or Stockbridge. Jeremy Burbidge of Northern Bee Books has kindly offered the same facility to anyone who can deliver to him (by Monday 26th October - please call him before you visit) at Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire HX7 5JS (tel. 01422 882751 -

Where is the show?

The show is at St Georges College, Woburn Hill, Weybridge, Surrey, KT15 2QS

Opening times: Thursday 29th October 2.00pm to 6pm, Friday 30th October 9.30am to 6pm, Saturday 31st October 9.30am to 4.45pm.

If you apply for membership before the show you will receive a programme which includes maps and directions.

Friends of the Bees launch

by Phil Chandler, director of Friends of the Bees, author of The Barefoot Beekeeper (

Dear Beekeeper,

Those of you who have been visiting the Natural Beekeeping Network site at will know that a new charity has been formed to help protect the interests of bees, and to promote more natural beekeeping methods. We are pleased to announce our official launch today, and invite you to visit our website at

Friends of the Bees is a new, UK-based charity founded to conserve and protect bees, to educate people about bees and to research and promote more natural beekeeping methods. Friends of the Bees was inspired by the Natural Beekeeping Network – a growing, worldwide movement of over 1500 beekeepers in 160 countries who are developing more natural ways to look after their bees. Nearly half the membership is in the UK. Many of these beekeepers started down the path of 'natural beekeeping' after reading The Barefoot Beekeeper, a book written by Friends of the Bees director Phil Chandler.

He says, "The recent stories of honeybees being in decline have made many beekeepers look more critically at the way they treat their bees. We don't want to have to medicate them or put synthetic chemicals into our hives – it goes against all our instincts and detracts from the public's perception of honey as a natural, unadulterated product. We are working with the Soil Association to match organic farmers with local, natural beekeepers, so farmers will have the benefit of bees on their land, and the bees will have the benefit of the greater biodiversity found on organic farms. Where we differ from traditional beekeepers is that we are less concerned with honey yields and more with the wider implications of helping to maintain a valuable species in the best possible health. You cannot do that by making them dependent on drugs."

Friends of the Bees is a way that everyone can become involved with bees – and not just honeybees, but also the other native species, including bumblebees and mason bees, which are also very important pollinators.

"We expect to be promoting the work of other organizations working along similar lines, such as Bees for Development, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the Global Bee Project, who have all expressed support for our aims. Co-operation is important if we are to make a real impact."

Natural beekeeping events and courses will be available from spring 2010 in a number of locations, starting with Embercombe in Devon. Please help us make this a big success by becoming a Friend of the Bees for as little as £1 per month - please see our website for details.

Thank you for your help and support!

Bee-eating hornets spreads north in France

As if varroa, small hive beetle and EFB weren't enough to worry about, we now have an article by Lizzy Davies in The Guardian (26 Sep 2009, Page 23) that reports:

For five years they have wreaked havoc in the fields of south-western France, scaring locals with their venomous stings and ravaging the bee population to feed their rapacious appetites. Now, according to French beekeepers, Asian predatory hornets have been sighted in Paris for the first time, raising the prospect of a nationwide invasion which entomologists fear could eventually reach Britain.

Claude Cohen, president of the Parisian region's apiculture development agency, said a hornet nest had been found this week in the centre of Blanc Mesnil, north-east of the capital.

If confirmed by further testing, the find will raise fears that the spread of the bee-eating Vespa velutina is no longer limited to the Aquitaine region near Bordeaux, where it is believed to have arrived on board container ships from China in 2004, and the surrounding south-west.

To read more goto The Guardian website.

Foulbrood Disease Alert

by Andy Wattam, National Bee Inspector

Ladies & Gentlemen,

I am providing this information for the time, until your Newly Appointed Regional Bee Inspector Keith Morgan gets to grips with the intricacies of the job. As you know in the past I have provided a list of 10km Squares on a regular basis within Eastern Region only where Foulbrood has been found. The information is now available directly from Beebase, and also shows the whole country - split down into individual counties with the number of cases. This is updated on a daily basis.

Beekeepers and Bee farmers in these areas should be vigilant and advise us of any colonies which they are concerned about. Priority Inspection Visits of all known apiaries and beekeepers within a 5km radial sweep of the affected apiary(s) continue and Inspections will, subject to weather conditions continue until as late into October 2009 as is feasible

If you have moved colonies into, or out of these areas since your last visit from the Bee Inspector - please advise us at your earliest convenience. Your help and cooperation is, as always greatly appreciated in completing our visits as swiftly as possible.

Useful Contact Details

Keith Morgan - Eastern Regional Bee Inspector: 07919 004215 - E-Mail:

National Bee Unit: 01904 462510 - E-Mail:

Contact for Seasonal Bee Inspectors:

Andy Wattam, Food & Environment Research Agency, National Bee Inspector, Willow House, 4,Lincoln Road, Bassingham, Lincolnshire, LN5 9HE.

Office Telephone: 01522 789726 - Mobile: 07775 027524 - Email:

NBU Web Site: FERA Web Site:

Editor's note: For those without the internet, Beebase just reports that EFB has been found somewhere in the following 10km squares:

  • centred just north of Welwyn Garden City
  • centred on Rickmansworth
  • centred on Barnet
  • centred between Brentwood and Billericay
  • centred on Runwell (Essex)

10km accuracy is not very helpful but there is a desire to publish more accurate location data.

Queen Bee

No lesser personage than Her Majesty the Queen is the latest celebrity to cotton on to the benefits of beekeeping, it seems.Further to the report in this monthʼs Bee Craft about urban beekeeping, it appears the Crown Estate has added a rooftop hive to its property in Londonʼs Regent Street. It is unclear whether HM will don ʻwhitesʼ herself, but apparently she does already have a hive producing fine honey in Windsor. (Article courtesy of Bee Craft)

Buglife report on neonicotinoids

by Robin Dartington

Does anyone care to read 45 pages? insecticides report.pdf

Neonicotinodites are the most potent insecticides ever invented. A few parts per billion disrupt insects nervous systems. It is hot stuff at present, the Co-op have banned all use on their farms, whilst BBKA accepts sponsorship from Bayer. Private Eye are probing for chances of a fight.

Editor's note: The mode of action of neonicotinoids is similar to the natural insecticide nicotine, which acts on the central nervous system. In insects, neonicotinoids cause paralysis which leads to death, often within a few hours. However, they are much less toxic to mammals and under the WHO / EPA classification these compounds are placed toxicity class II or class III. Because the neonicotinoids block a specific neural pathway that is more abundant in insects than warm-blooded animals, these insecticides are selectively more toxic to insects than mammals.

Would anyone care to review the report for the next newsletter? Please send me your copy by 20th October.

Tragedy in the hive

Recently Catherine from Welwyn wrote to Peter Folge:

Dear Peter,

I hope all is well with you. I have had a disaster in my large colony of bees and they have all died. On 1st Sept I went to give the 3rd thymol treatment and thought the bees looked a bit lethargic - it was a cloudy day. [They were a very active big colony and had lots of brood. I have thought for sometime that they were over crowded and had given them an extra super and I knew they were a bit short of food stores.] I decided I wouldn't give the 4th treatment but would begin feeding. On 5th September I went to feed only to find 80% bees were dead I removed the thymol, fed them, tipped out the dead bees - thousands. I hoped the remaining 20% would survive but no all are dead. There are dead emerging larvae & I think the brood is dead. The other hive is OK but has no brood, some has recently hatched. I think what has happened is that they were overcrowded the weather was bad and they were short of food so a lot bees remained in the hive some probably died falling to the floor and obstructing the air flow through the varroa floor . The entrance had the mouse guard in. I suspect this allowed the thymol fumes to build up to levels which became toxic to bees resulting in more drowsy bees on the floor compounding the problem. Lots of lessons learnt and a sad story. Could be referred to as colony collapse but I think there is an explanation. I shall be much more careful with thymol treaments in future perhaps feeding before treating? I hope the others survive the winter and we can build up again next spring.

Best wishes,

Peter wrote back:

Dear Cathrine,

Sorry to hear about your loss. I have had 3 nucs abscond this year but I did overdose all colonies with thymol crystals. The nucs were on solid floors not open mesh and one was placed in a full hive body with a queen excluder between floor and brood chamber. When I came to inspect all bees were gone and queen was left behind and died.

Open mesh seems not to have a problem. Absconding occurred every time there was no food left for the bees.

In your case it looks like the bees starved! This happened to an artificial nuc I made up last year and I knew needed feeding. I left it one week to find most were already dead. Overcrowding is not a problem at this time of year as bees should not swarm and numbers dwindle down fairly quickly. A large colony without any food reserves will die in a couple of days and still needs adequate ventilation.

We unfortunately continuously have to learn and adapt our methods even if it means doing things the hard way.

Just make sure you feed your other hive 2-3 gals (9-14 litres). This should get them through winter. Since July there has been little to find and the bees have been consuming stores.

All the best wishes.

New to beekeeping?

by Derek Driver, SE Herts

I’m sure I’m not alone in being concerned whether or not all those people who started beekeeping in 08 and 09 will still be with us in 2011? I know that the equipment supply companies have had record sales this year but how much of this equipment will be for sale over the next season or so, as some of the newcomers give up.

When I hear of newcomers pushed into receiving nucs from outside the county which had chalk brood and at higher prices than they would have paid in the county, I’m aghast! In addition some nucs which have been brought from outside our county have been found with foul brood!

Some newcomers have never had even a basic course and I’ve been amazed at some of the questions they have asked me, such as “what are those bigger bees in the hive?” and no they didn’t get their bees from me nor were they members of our division. One shop informed me that a man, who only acquired bees this spring, (God knows from where) had walked in with a jar of granulating honey, offering to supply, next year. The lid was dented and dirty both outside and in, the honey also contained foreign bodies! And the label broke trading standards regulations. Fools like this give the wrong impression to the public.

What can we more experienced beekeepers do? We can start by making sure all our newcomers do a basic course, ensure all nucs are purchased from within the county and from reliable, disease free apiaries, and of course at reasonable prices. The least we can do is to try and start our new members on the right path, because although we can help as much as we can, we cannot hold their hands for ever, but at least by giving them the basics, they stand a chance of becoming a decent beekeeper in the future.

Comments from new members would be welcome.

Ernest McCormick Senior Judge and President of Lancashire & NW BKA

by Sheila Myron Hon. Secretary Liverpool Beekeepers

I am sending this email to you all as Ernest judged at shows around the country and knew many beekeepers.

Mr Ernest McCormick was until recently a long standing President of the Lancashire and NW Beekeepers Association, and was also a well known and respected Senior Honey Judge.Mrs Gill McCormick has asked me to let beekeepers know that on Tuesday, 8th September, Ernest had a massive heart attack and died around 8am at Whiston Hospital. His funeral will be on Tuesday, 29th September, at 3.30pm, at the St Helens Crematorium on Rainford Road near to its junction with the East Lancs Road and the Rainford Bypass. I can send a map if requested. Gill would be very happy to see former beekeeping associates at the funeral.

I know that Ernest became allergic to bee stings and had to give up his bees prior to 1969, but then went on to study and become a senior judge. Can anyone fill me in on the details of his beekeeping and treatment for the allergy, or his days as a judge, as I didn't start beekeeping until 1986 and don't know his 'early life'. I would be very grateful for any information.

Thanking you all. No flowers please but donations to the British Heart Foundation.

Rothamsted shares £1m of research funding to address honeybee decline

Scientists at Rothamsted Research and Warwick University have been awarded £1M by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with Syngenta, to research the decline of honeybees.

UK government figures suggest bee numbers have fallen by 10-15% over the last 2 years; the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) quotes a figure nearer 30% for 2008.  Since the declines were first reported a number of factors have been suggested.  Most scientists now believe that a complex of interacting factors is the most likely cause.  

Lead researcher, Dr Juliet Osborne said: “Bees living on agricultural landscapes have a lot to deal with!  They must respond to sudden changes in availability of food – pollen and nectar – whist dealing with a variety of diseases, parasites and other stresses.  This project will provide us with a unique insight into how disease and food supply affect the survival of bees in farmed landscapes.”

The team will use a combination of field work and computer modelling to look at how the bees’ behaviour outside the hive, while looking for food, interacts with what is affecting bees in the hive – factors that have historically been studied separately. The ultimate aim of the project is to build a model that will allow us to understand how bees may respond to diseases in a changing farmed landscape.

Dr Peter Campbell, Syngenta said: “Honeybees are important pollinators for many crops, garden and wildflowers. They are essential both for food security and sustainable agriculture and horticulture. This work will substantially improve our understanding of the many factors affecting honeybee health. A main outcome of the project will be a predictive tool that can help beekeepers, farmers and other landscape managers to improve honeybee health.”

Professor Janet Allen, Director of Research, BBSRC said: “We are all concerned about the decline in honeybee numbers and the effect this could have on our food supplies. It is highly likely that there is no one cause of the drop in numbers which makes this project absolutely critical.”

As funders, the research councils and Syngenta are stepping up to the plate in the fight against declining honeybee populations. In addition to this project, Syngenta have also launched Operation Pollinator, a 5-year €1M  programme in seven European countries (and the USA) to boost pollinating insects by providing wildflower strips. And Dr Osborne’s project is one of four honey bee-related projects funded by the research councils in recent months, with a total investment of £2.1 million.  For example, BBSRC is also funding a project led by Professor Ian Jones at Reading University, who is researching Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), which is associated with colony collapse disorder and exacerbated by varroa mite infection. And the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is funding two projects: Dr William Hughes of the University of Leeds is investigating the effects of genetic diversity on transmission and evolution of infection of honeybees by the fungal parasite, chalkbrood and Professor Mike Boots of the University of Sheffield is looking at the evolution of virulence in viral diseases that infect honeybees via varroa mite.

BBSRC also manages the Insect Pollinators Initiative – a £10M joint funding source under the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership. This is a joint initiative from BBSRC, Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Wellcome Trust and the Scottish Government. Projects funded under the initiative are due to be announced in July 2010.

Plan Bee update

To help reverse the worrying decline in the UK bee population, The Co-operative has launched Plan Bee, a 10 point plan that includes action on pesticides, actions on farms, funding research and inspiring individuals to make a difference. If you are into social networking then you can follow @planbee1 on twitter.

Plan Bee has teamed up with dogwoof to produce a film call Vanishing of the Bees which will be hitting the cinemas on the 9th October.  A trailer and introduction has been put on You Tube.

Vanishing of the Bees

Imagine half a million adults skipping town and leaving their children behind. Picture an opened suitcase filled with bundles of cash at a bus stop and yet no robber wants to snatch it. The apiary science mystery known as Colony Collapse Disorder displays these very symptoms. Not only do the bees abandon their hive, but the queen and the brood as well. Unnatural. Unheard of. Even the predators that usually raid the hive for honey stay far away. At first, this occurrence sounds like an urban legend or an exaggerated tale. Except it's not. The situation is both dire and all too real. Bees are disappearing all over the planet and no one knows why.

See a screening of The Vanishing of the Bees + Q&A
 with director Maryam Henein alongside Alison Benjamin and 
Brian McCallum (co- authors of A World Without Bees) on Saturday 10 October at 6.15pm (Q&A after screening).
 Tickets:  £12 / £10 Cinema Club Members. Following the Q&A authors Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum will be signing copies of their recent publication A World Without Bees in the foyer.
 Tricycle Cinema, 269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JR. Box Office: 020 7328 1000.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

Capel Manor

Three new beekeepers who have just completed their first season, Linda, Joan and Gabriella helped with manning our ‘BeeWorld’ stand at Capel Manor on Saturday 19th September. Alongside our theme of ‘Pollination’ there was a display to help those who were thinking of taking up beekeeping. Information on HBKA Divisions, how to get started and the costs involved were displayed. Sadly the E-coli scare seemed to have kept people away and attendance was lower than usual. On behalf of Eric Margrave and myself, a big thank you to all our members who supported us on the day and made it an enjoyable event. And thank you to John Mumford of SE Herts for co-ordinating the event.

Winter Meetings

Two meetings are planned at the United Reformed Church Hall, Watford Road, Chiswell Green, St Albans:

23rd October at 8.00pm Our speaker for the first 40 minutes or so will be Pam Farley from the Woodland Trust who will bring us up to date on the Heartwood project, no doubt there will be lots of questions. This might be a good link both for us and the bees in the years to come. After the refreshment break we will have a Q & A session and general discussion related to the past season.

27th November at 8.00pm Our Honey Show is an informal evening where members bring a jar of unlabelled clear honey along and we all taste and judge and present a cup to the winner. Last year a nearly-new beekeeper won top prize! Everyone also brings a plate of food which makes for an enjoyable evening. All members and their families welcome.


Forms will be sent out shortly. Please return promptly and therefore claim your discount! David Brown, our treasurer, needs your details and money to make certain insurance cover and Bee Craft deliveries are not disrupted.

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

I am pleased to announce that Bishops Stortford membership has doubled this year.  A warm welcome to all new members. In fact the demand from new members for more meetings has been so strong that we have added another meeting to the programme on 3rd October at 2pm. The meeting will be held at 10 Redricks Lane, Sawbridgeworth, Herts, CM21 0RL and the topic is "Final Preparations for Winter".  See you there.

We recently had three very interesting group meetings during August and September. The first was at the apiary of Jane Moseley near Widford.  As a beginner Jane is learning fast and is already selling nucs!  After the inspection we held a "Honey Show". BSBKA's version of a honey show is a rather low-key affair where everyone sits around a long table, tastes each other's honey and then, by a form of vocal consensus, declares a winner. I think we will do this again next year.

The second meeting was as guests of Jane and Richard Ridler across the border in Essex.  They showed us some of their 18 hives at an out-apiary and then took us back to their home for fascinating talks about making soap, beeswax polish, cosmetics, propolis tincture, selling honey, etc.  It was a most interesting group meeting and we thank Jane and Richard for their hospitality.

The third meeting in September was at the home of Alan Lewis who had, rather honourably, discharged himself from hospital just to host this meeting. He gave an interesting lecture on all aspects of beekeeping (a six week course compressed into an hour!) and then proceeded to demonstrate his new "bee railway". This consists of runners linking two hives that enable him to simply slide a stack of supers to one side while he inspects the brood box. Anyone with back problems should ask Alan for a demonstration of this clever device.

Welwyn news by Peter Folge

The last apiary meeting finished on a beautiful September's day. Bees behaved themselves and now we should all be in the process of making Winter preparations for our bees. Varroa treatments should be well underway if not already finished and we should commence feeding. During the meeting I explained how to test that the colonies have adequate weight - (honey reserves) by hefting hives and examining individual frames. We checked for eggs and young brood indicating that a queen is present. We learnt to feed bees if in doubt; rather feed more than too little, too little will result in the loss of the colony. I also pointed out that before thymol treatments (Apiguard) begin, make sure bees have good food reserves otherwise they may abscond due to the thymol vapours. I lost two nucs because of this this year. One had a queen excluder fitted so that the queen could not get out and she was found left behind with brood - dead!  Note that 'absconding' has never happened to me on an OMF (open mesh floor). I demonstrated fitting a mouse guard and mentioned the types of pest protection - netting helps keep the hives safe while bees are inactive.

I would like to thank all our members for a fantastic year and let's hope all of us have another good year next season especially for all our beginners. Please don't forget - member subscriptions will be sent out towards the end of the month or most likely beginning next; to be returned early November if you wish to subscribe to Beecraft. Some of you have outstanding credit notes from unfulfilled beecraft payments from this year.

We can't let the year end here without a further get together and thank you for all your support with our "Harvest Supper" in October (details to follow shortly) and possibly a smaller Christmas get together late November - early December?

In the meantime and comments, views or suggestions are always welcome.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

Following a visit from Peter Heath, Bee Inspector for our area, we are pleased to hear that the "Stand Still Order" has been lifted from the bees at our apiary with no further signs of EFB. It is hoped to have some "Association" hives brought here at some stage.

Throughout the summer we have seen a gradually increasing interest from "would be" beekeepers. Our first apiary meeting in September was quite crowded with a total of seventeen members and interested parties!

Lindsay and Diane have been very busy throughout the summer, not just by looking after their own bees, but supplying kit for members new and old. Like many other local beekeepers Diane and Robin attended Thorne's recent bee equipment sale, at Oakley Green, Windsor, and managed to purchase a good supply of equipment. We are certainly very fortunate in West Herts to be able to purchase reasonably priced equipment locally and it is much appreciated by everyone.

Plans are afoot to possibly pilot some winter talks for members and, if these go ahead, they will be held at Croxley Green Community Centre.

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

After a good summer for bees and honey the autumn seems to be too dry for the plants to produce much nectar and the bees are taking down huge amounts of sugar (or Ambrosia if you went to Andy Wattam's talk) I think they must be using it rather than storing it as our hives still don't feel very heavy.

The N. Herts winter programme of meetings and talks begins on October 20th with a welcome to all new members (or just interested newcomers) and a review of the season, followed by an update from Robin on the progress of Buzzworks and it's new offshoot Honeyworks.

In November (17th) Elizabeth Towler, ecologist for Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation is our guest speaker. LGCHF own most of the farms around Letchworth and they own three of our apiaries. They have excellent policies for encouraging biodiversity with wonderful hedgerows and wide field margins sown with wild flowers. Elizabeth will be able to tell us more about their philosophy and future plans.

Christmas Party
The best meeting of the season is of course the N. Herts BKA Christmas party. John Hill and his wife have been our hosts for many years and have very kindly agreed to put up with a lot of noisy beekeepers again on December 12th at Boxwood. Not to be missed!

Sometimes there seems to be a long gap between Herts Bees Newsletters and dates can change and meetings, particularly in the summer can be missed so we have been discussing how to improve communication between N. Herts members apart from by the regular Newsletter. Luke Adams, Secretary of Herts BKA has offered to set up a yahoo group for us which would seem an easy way to improve things. I will send out e-mails to all those whose addresses I have to ask if you would like to be included. Anyone whose e-mail address is not yet on the N. Herts list but would like to be included or has any comments or alternative ideas please contact Graham or me.

N. Herts Beekeepers will be having a stall at Hitchin Apple Day on October 24th in Hitchin old Market Place. Any members wishing to sell honey or wax products or prepared to spend some time talking to the public about beekeeping please contact me.

October 2009


As September draws to a close we are experiencing a long warm and dry spell. Colonies have been consuming higher than normal quantities of winter feed as brood comb was not being filled during July & August due to the cool and wet weather.  The warm weather means that the thymol-based varroa treatment, that we should all now be using, is functioning correctly at its minimum working temperature of 15°C.

This month's Herts Bees contains the usual reports from the divisions (many thanks to the contributors) as well as news about honey bee campaigns such as Plan Bee and the Natural Beekeeping Network.  EFB seems to be striking a number of locations across Hertfordshire and Andy Wattam explains what is being done to stop the spread.

The possibility of HBKA doing bulk buying has been raised a few times over the years. When it was last tried I understand that there were problems with the storage and collection of items and hence bulk buying wasn't continued. However, if there is interest in trying again then there are probably sufficient members that could coordinate it on behalf of HBKA.

To gauge the level of interest, please let me know:

  1. whether you would take advantage of a bulk purchase?
  2. what sort of supplies would you want (e.g. foundation, jars, thymol crystals, Apiguard, etc.)?
  3. if you would be prepared to help to run the scheme?

Bedfordshire runs a very successful scheme for a limited selection of goods, with two members, one in the north and one in the south of the county acting as stockists.  Maybe we could learn from their experience or even participate in their scheme.

Please send me you thoughts and comments. It won't happen unless there is sufficient demand.

How much have you been selling your 1lb (454g) jars of honey for? The price at Bee World was £4.50. Sometimes 12oz jars sell for a similar amount!

Please check the calendar for winter meetings in your area. If there are any events that are missing then please email me. The next two month's worth of events are sent out each month with the printed calendar.

Finally, Herts Bees is now on twitter!  Follow us @hertsbees.


Colonies For Sale

1 x National Hive with deep brood frames, varroa mesh floor, roof, crown board, Queen excluder and 1 x super. Plus new Queen (July 2009). £200
1 x National Hive with shallow brood frames, roof, crown board, Queen excluder and 1 x super. Plus new Queen (July 2009). No varroa mesh floor. £175

If interested please contact Eddie Wood on 01707 335273

Fighting the Varroa mite with 100% all natural Follicel

All natural Follicel has proven to be successful in eliminating sea lice from Salmon and Trout and following this success has also dealt with headlice amongst children and their parents. With no chemicals it is a product which does not have side effects.An American beekeeper who used Follicel emailed the following report: "After spraying the bees, the following day we caught approx. 300 bees in a half quart jar. We only found 2 mites after the treatment, and it did not affect the bees whatsoever. Can you give me the prices for buying in bulk?"We are offering sample bottles of Follicel free of charge or you can purchase 500ml bottles of Follicel at the special price of £9.50 postage paid which is a 50% discount on the normal price. See our website

Regards & thanks

Jack Marcovic
Follicel Division,Harlow Lubricants Ltd, 405 HendonWay, London NW4 3LH
T:- 020 8203 9493
F:- 020 8202 0033

Omlet’s "beehaus" lands in BuzzWorks

The first example of the new plastic beehive from Omlet, called the beehaus, has now joined the eight hives in the BuzzWorks apiary. A nuc from BuzzWorks was lent to Omlet to provide flying bees for the Press Launch in the Royal Parks allotment in St James Park and that hive was then filmed on Omlet’s roof. The picture has flown round the world, as far as Bejing and San Francisco. Now the bees have returned, still in their new home.
The Omlet beehaus at BuzzWorks
The beehaus is being promoted as a hive for urban gardens and roof-tops. It is modeled on the Dartington Long Deep hive, which was developed around 1975 when I was keeping bees on the roof of a London house. National boxes blew off too easily, in particular spare supers and the spare brood boxes needed for artificial swaming – so I fixed two brood boxes together and then knocked out the dividing walls.
Neither I nor BuzzWorks is involved in marketing the new hive and it is displayed for educational purposes. Anyone who would like to try it for themselves is welcome to get in touch. The bees seem to have no problem with the moulded plastic and may use much less proplis as they seem to ‘read’ the hard plastic as already hygienic and not in need of varnishing over. The hive is certainly lighter and easier to operate, and looks very good if you like ‘modern’. Omlet’s Eglu chicken coup has brought home produced eggs into many families – hopefully the beehaus will lead to more home-produced honey. The one problem may be the difficulty newbies may find in getting training on using a beehaus as courses run by associations tend to stick to what tutors are used to. We will do what we can at BuzzWorks.

From a grateful teacher at The Russell School Chorleywood

Hello! I know this is very late, but I've just realised I didn't thank you for a visit to The Russell School from one of your members last term. Ted Applebey came in July and was absolutely brilliant! The children loved his talk..and him!

I hope you have had a productive summer. I have just finished Alison Benjamin's 'A World without Bees' (given to me by the children at the end of term!!) and am hooked!!

Thanks again.

Soil Association's campaign to save the honeybee

The Soil Association is running a campaign to help save the honeybee by asking the Government to ban neonicotinoid pesticides as they are though to affect the bee's nervous system so that they cannot navigate. It is thought to be one the causes of colony reductions in recent years.

If you wish to support the Soil Association's campaign or learn more about neonicotinoid pesticides then please visit their website:

Silver Spoon British Sugar at Trade Prices for beekeepers

Members of UK beekeeping associations are now welcome to shop at any of Booker's 173 trade-only Cash and Carry stores. Booker's price for granulated sugar is about 60p per kilo. Booker is a trade-only wholesaler, and each member should register individually with their local store. When registering, each member should present their current BBKA membership card if in England, or their current BDI insurance certificate or local BKA membership card in Wales, or a letter from their local BKA secretary or local BKA membership card in Scotland. There are no Booker stores in Northern Ireland. They will then be registered and able to shop straight away. A membership card will be sent by post within 14-21 days. Payment is by cash or debit card when leaving the store.

Members can visit to find their nearest Booker store. This new arrangement has been approved by Booker head office, Northampton in discussion with Conwy BKA, North Wales. Booker contact: Melanie Balmer. Conwy BKA contact: Peter McFadden