May 2009


April has ended warm and dry. The oilseed rape is in full bloom and colonies are very busy. Supers are being filled and swarming has started - I received the first phone call from a concerned member of the public on 20th April. What was the earliest swarm you heard about this year?

This month's newsletter is full of news about research and new funding. We have a message from our Chairman and newly appointed Bee Inspector. For those that are curious about the intricacies of capitation fees, there is an article from our Treasurer who explains it all.

Stoneleigh took place as usual in April and was as busy as ever with all the bargains selling out by about 11am. It was worth the trip though.


Some good news for a change! An initial survey of N. Herts beekeepers shows that almost 90% of colonies came through the winter and nearly all of those are in an average or strong condition. What a lovely contrast to the doom and gloom on the radio and television! However, some bees seem to have got a little over-exuberant and I have heard of 4 swarms locally by mid April, so be warned!

Our last winter meeting was a slide show by Frank Everest, mainly for beginners but of great interest to the more experienced too, especially Frank's recording of a queen piping. How on earth does a small insect make such a loud noise?

Our first eagerly awaited Apiary visit of the season is this Saturday at Graham's. Lets hope for good weather.

One more date for your calendar is 18th July at Standalone Farm, David and Janet's bees, at the usual time of 2.30pm.

Finally, a correction with apologies to all concerned: the winner of second prize at our honey tasting in March was John Hill.


Mid-April saw the end of theory sessions on the 2009 ‘Beginners Course’ run by St Albans Beekeepers Association. By the time you read this, the beginners will have met their mentors at their first practical session and be getting that all important hands-on experience under a guiding eye.The new apiary site at Oaklands College is up and running with several colonies working the surrounding fruit trees. Depending on preference, some of the beginners will be at Oaklands and some at the Prae Wood apiary.

The next meeting for ALL members is 3pm on Saturday 16th May at Prae Wood apiary when the subject will be ‘Swarm Control’. The regular Saturday 2-4pm sessions have started at both apiaries, - learners and enquirers are welcome at either location.

Acquiring a new apiary site has meant that many farmers and landowners in our area have been approached over that last 18 months or so. Some already had hives, others welcomed the approach and showed interest in having a few hives but not to permitting access for more than a couple of beekeepers and their cars. The Committee is concerned about the nuisance factor that owners of existing or potential out-apiary sites may suffer from beekeepers looking for sites. Therefore, the Committee has decided to list ‘places where people have out-apiaries already’ and ‘out-apiary sites not to be contacted’, so that multiple requests to those landowners might be avoided. Don’t be surprised if you get a call for details.

There are 2 new dates for your calendar. St Albans Committee have agreed to participate at ‘Oaklands Open Day’ on 13th June and at ‘Larks in the Park’ on 28th June. This is in addition to our being at ‘Earthworks Open Day’ on 5th July 2009. As usual we will have an observation hive and sales of honey, candles etc. These events give us a good opportunity to meet the Public and present beekeeping in a positive way. Please offer to help for an hour or two on these days.
Photo 1: marking the retirement from committee posts of Eric Margrave and Anne Wingate; although both are still very active in the field of mentoring our beginners (and not so new beekeepers) and upkeep and organisation of the association apiaries at Prae Wood and Oaklands.

Photo 2: 25th April the day our 2009 cohort of beginners from the winter theory sessions met their mentors. Most were set up with a nucleus of bees in their new ‘hire a hive’ 14 x 12 National by the time we went home. Welcome one and all.


We recently conducted a survey amongst Bishops Stortford members to determine what losses had occurred this winter. Out of a total of 18 colonies, 6 are in excellent shape, 7 are average, 1 is very weak and 4 have died out. Of the ones that are doing well, most were given candy over winter or from February onwards. The weaker or dead colonies lacked adequate feed or (in one case) suffered from mouse infestation. These results will be compared with the results from other divisions.

There have been two apiary visits since last month - to Susie's and to Pauline's. Both meetings had new members turn up and it is clear that Bishops Stortford membership is on the rise again with numerous enquires from potential members about beekeeping. Increasing the frequency of our apiary visits to every three weeks will help. We welcome all new beekeepers.

The next meeting is on Saturday 9th May at 2pm at Jenny's in Widford. Details of this meeting and all future Bishops Stortford meetings are on the Herts Bees calendar.


Reminder - Our Api Tour with Peter Heath is Saturday, 6th June; further information from Sue Parkins, telephone 04138 821689. We will be hosting a stall at Hertford Castle Fun Day next day on the 7th, Sunday afternoon.

This year there has been a huge increase in the number of people interested in keeping bees. The regular Welwyn members' "First Saturday of the Month" Apiary meetings are now over- subscribed and at present no new members can come along to get "hands-on" training from experienced beekeepers. Overflow sessions will be arranged on an occasional basis. Please only come to one or the other.

Whilst the increase in interest in beekeeping is to be welcomed it is important that all new members and also those with two or three years' experience receive ongoing, concentrated "expert" encouragement and training. We have some ideas for further events - watch this space!


PLEASE TAKE NOTE ! The Committee have decided to change the venue of the Harvest Supper and the Winter Meetings from the Hoddesdon Baptist Church Hall to Pinewood School. This will save a considerable sum of money that can be spent on other things. A map showing the whereabouts of Pinewood School is enclosed with this Newsletter. If this arrangement proves to be un-popular with the members, then we will revert back to the Baptist Church for 2010.In case the directions I gave for getting to Garry Barnett’s Apiary in the April Newsletter were at all misunderstood a Map showing his Apiary Site is enclosed with this Newsletter. We will still Meet and Park in the Car Park at the top of Elbow Lane.

There seems to be a fairly widespread outbreak of Nosema in the district, indeed I have one colony confirmed with the disease and I suspect a couple of others have it also! I have several colonies with two and three super on already ( Mid April), and a few that are not building up as I would like.

Nosema is endemic, and normally only becomes a problem during the Winter and Spring months when the bees are confined to the hive for long periods or in the Summer when the bees are stressed and are forced to void inside the hive. The symptoms generally disappear during the Summer months as the bees can fly most days and the weakened bees die out in the field, but the infection continues unseen.

Amajor cause of the spread of Nosema is bees robbing out a hive in the Spring where the bees have died of Nosema during the preceding Winter.

The Nosema spores survive on the combs to continue the infection during the following winter. Fumidil ‘B’ is the recommended treatment but it must not be used on colonies during the Spring and Summer if they are producing honey for human consumption. Combs can be fumigated using Acetic Acid but must be well aired before returning them to the bees.

Queens can become infected and defecating inside the hive, pass the infection onto her workers. Infected Queens can’t produce the eggs necessary for the colony to reach it’s full potential, and such Queens are often Superceded. If a Colony has gone Queenless over Winter the most likely cause is Nosema, and the combs should not be used until they are thoroughly sterilised

The most effective treatment involves a COMPLETE COMB CHANGE, a CLEAN HIVE, a NEW QUEEN, and a FULL DOSE of Fumidil ‘B’ in the Winter Feed. Anything short of this treatment could mean that the disease will continue year, after year, after year.


Dear HBKA Members,

Looks like there will be a lot of early swarms this year. I have already had mine try and swarm today, 23rd April. This is a reason why queens should be clipped. You may loose the queen if not found, but you will have a chance to look through your colonies and destroy/remove excess queen cells. If in doubt leave two sealed cells. Better still; once these cells are sealed make a nuc by taking out one queen cell with a frame of brood and one with food. Shake bees in, at least twice as many bees in as needed. DO NOT Shake the queen cells this can damage them.

I will make an artificial swarm tomorrow late afternoon when I get back from the NBU (National Bee Unit) Conference. Bernard Diaper (BDI) was there talking about our Bee Disease Insurance. We should actually over-insure to take into account nucleas and swarms during the summer. Mini mating nucs are not insured or colonies that are without proper structure - in other words nucs/hives quickly thrown together without brood or headed by a laying queen; this however does not mean a full established hive will not be covered going through a broodless or queenless period.

The NBU wishes to encourage all beekeepers to fill out an online survey about winter losses (can be downloaded and printed off if need be: This is important and I urge all of you with bees or had bees to do this as soon as possible! This info will go into the national records and again is entered anonymously.

If we have bees we should enter/register our details on beebase. I have three apiary sites and these have all been entered. No concern is needed as these sites remain private and unmarked to the public and other members. Only NBU bee officers like myself will be able to use this information and keep an up to date record of sites. This is important so that we can organise routine (yearly) inspections. As there are many new beekeepers, disease can spread very quickly from A to B, especially if we are not aware of potential disease threats. I know many of you are aware of this but we need to keep this in mind when addressing all new beginners. More associations will be closing their doors to interested parties as we are not able to cope with the continuing huge influx. Beekeeping at present is Recession Proof!

A growing concern is EFB (European Foul Brood) which is rising rapidly. I will highlight what to look out for at our next apiary meeting in May (brochures should be available especially regarding varroa). Peter Mathews has outlined another overflow apiary meeting this weekend on Sunday 26th April 2pm Raffin Green. Please attend one of these but NOT BOTH!

I will be out over the next couple of weeks with Peter Heath furthering my field experience. Don't worry I do have 27 years beekeeping experience but most of the work requires plenty of paper work and using some new field monitoring techniques.

One last thing. If you have bees and are concerned that they are struggling or something is not right please get in touch as the quicker the diagnosis the greater survival rate and the greater the honey gathering potential.

Your Bee Inspector & Chairman, Peter Folge


Juliet's Bumblebee Lecture was well received and I found it very interesting and quite a few questions were offered at the end. It was interesting to learn that the so called bumble bee nesting boxes scored quite unfavourable with the bumbles and simpler home made contraptions worked well. Although there were only a few beginners I found Roger's Lecture a little too involved for the beginner and needed rushing through at the end. Although I understood him well further clarification would have been required. An excellent day on the whole and thanks for all the members who helped with the raffle.

And finally....

Our dear Anne Wingate. She formally stepped down with a token of appreciation from the Herts members. A signed card, flowers and a thankyou speech was given by Oonagh for all the years hard work that was given since the early 70's. It will be hard to live up to her reputation.


by David Brown HBKA Treasurer

This is the first full year of the new BBKA capitation process and I thought a word of explanation would be useful.

The Primary capitation date is now the 1st April. Capitation payments, for all members on the division membership lists at 12.00pm, become payable for the year from the 1st April to the 31st March. The Second capitation date is the 1st September. Capitation payments, for all members on the division membership lists at 12.00pm, become payable for the half year from the 2nd September to the 31st March. Capitation payments for members registered after the 1st September are zero until the following 1st April.

Late in March BBKA issue a capitation invoice to Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association for those registered members on the BBKA list, split by division. I then forward that list to the divisional treasurer.

The divisional treasurer updates/amends the list as appropriate, using BBKA standard form, and then forwards the required payment to me together with the amendment form. The HBKA members list is then amended/updated and payment is forwarded to BBKA together with any amendments to the list.

In late August the same procedure is followed for the second capitation.

HBKA capitation follows the same process.

Prior to issuing the capitation invoices BBKA checks with HBKA, and through them the divisions, that the list of registered members is up to date.

Remember that our members do not receive the benefits of BBKA membership until they have been registered with BBKA. So do not wait for the capitation process before registering your members. Contact Pauline Gibbs the new membership secretary as soon as you have any changes to your membership list. I had several last minute requests for member registration this year as it was realised they needed a BBKA membership number to take advantage of the lower entrance fees to Stoneleigh.


One of the people interviewed in the BBC programme "Who Killed the Honey Bee" (BBC Four, 23rd April) was Norman Carreck who previously worked at Rothamsted before the bee unit was closed. I was pleased to see that he now works at Sussex University which is a new facility called LASI - Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects.

There are four projects:

  1. Breeding disease-resistant hygienic honey bees. This will provide breeder queens to beekeepers. Hopefully we should begin to see bees that clean off the varroa mite or remove infected brood cells.
  2. How good is the British countryside for honey bees? Decoding the waggle dance to determine where worker honey bees are foraging.
  3. Learning from other countries. Testing and developing European and North American varroa control methods under British conditions and extending knowledge and good practice to beekeepers.
  4. What is killing British honey bee colonies? Monitoring hives for pathogens and other causes of mortality.
As a recent speaker at HBKA AGMs we wish Norman good luck at the new laboratory and hope soon that we will all be benefiting from the team's research.

(Correction: since this newsletter was first published I have been notified that the Bee Unit was not closed and is currently led by Dr Juliet Osborne and staffed by an additional 4 members of staff and 2 students. More on their work in the June newsletter.)


by Tim Lovett, President, BBKA

Over the last year or so, following on from our Research Colloquium in July 2007, the BBKA has been putting together a comprehensive programme indicating the research needed to help deal with bee health challenges and threats. “Honey Bee Health Research Concepts” was published in late February and is now available on the BBKA web-site as a 515KB PDF.

It sets out why and what research is needed and lists 30 projects under 12 programme areas with indicative costings of £8+ million. It is not intended to be prescriptive nor exclusive but should be an engine for debate in determining the setting of priorities and commissioning of projects. Its publication is timely given the announcement of funding by Defra and we look to it playing a major role in the allocation of those funds. The document covers areas as broad as varroa and nosema medication, through queen rearing, bee genetics, pesticide effects, habitat loss, bee nutrition and on to medicinal honey. ‘Research Concepts’ represents a broad programme which attempts to confront the issues; it is to be hoped that researchers will take up the cause and bid for the funding now available.


by Andy Wattam, Eastern Regional Bee Inspector

Ladies & Gentlemen

The National Bee Unit are conducting a national survey to obtain information on current honey bee husbandry practices. We intend to gather this data regularly and use it to monitor trends in UK beekeeping and help with beekeeper training. The survey takes approximately 5 minutes to complete and will be of great value to beekeeping in the UK. Follow the link below and you will see in blue 'Start Answering This Survey' centre of page.
All your answers are strictly confidential and will only be used for the purposes of this study. Please mark your responses where indicated and enter values or comments where appropriate.
We hope to get the best possible results out of this survey and to make this the most comprehensive survey of beekeeping practices ever completed in the UK. The survey is anonymous so please be honest - I am going to give it a try tonight. If you know of beekeepers who would like to complete the survey but don't have access to the internet - please let me know and I can get a paper copy to them.
Many thanks again and kindest regards.


by Andy Wattam, Eastern Regional Bee Inspector

Ladies & Gentlemen

Please could I advise you that we now have 3 additional Seasonal Bee Inspectors starting work in our Region. They are currently undergoing both Regionally based training, combined with National Training this week at Sand Hutton. This will be followed by a period working alongside and being mentored by an experienced Inspector until they begin work on their own - within their own designated areas.

Sylvia Pettitt: Sylvia is based near Newmarket and will be responsible for Mid & West Suffolk (Including Ipswich), and also Cambridgeshire. Experienced Mentors: Mike Willis & Keith Morgan

Peter Folge: Peter is based near Knebworth and will be responsible for West Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Experienced Mentor: Peter Heath

David Bonner: David is based on the Leicestershire / Warwickshire Border and will be responsible for Leicester City & Leicestershire with the exception of Northern Areas such as the Vale Of Belvoir / north of Melton Mowbray area. He will also work the Leics / Warwick border areas which we have previously covered for Western Region also. Experienced Mentor: Andy Wattam

As soon as these new Inspectors have completed their training I shall advise you of their contact numbers and e-mail addresses. If your area is not one of those mentioned then it is likely that your usual Inspector will remain the same.

Kindest regards.


by Hilary Benn MP, Environment Secretary

It was very welcome news that The Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced that DEFRA and its Funding Partners have agreed to increase their investment into tackling the decline in Honey bee and other pollinators to £10 million pounds.

This significant news was somewhat overshadowed during his interview on Radio 4's Today programme when he proclaimed that "No evidence has been found that insecticide causes problems for bees." Would someone please tell him that bees are insects. If you missed the item you can listen to it again on this BBC webpage during a piece which also includes an interview with Tim Lovett.


Len Dixon, who wrote last months article on Queenlessness, is editor of Herefordshire BKA and not Reigate. Apologies.

No comments: