December 2010 / January 2011

Editorial by Paul Cooper

May I wish all our readers a very Happy New Year.

What a cold December it has been - the coldest for over 100 years. Let us hope that the bees are tucked up and keeping warm.

The next issue of Herts Bees will be published at the beginning of February so please send me your divisional meeting date for 2011 by the end of the month.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

St Albans & District BKA wish to send many congratulations to Jane Moseley, Secretary of Bishop's Stortford BKA who has just been appointed BBKA Operations Director/General Secretary. Jane is currently Honorary President of Hertfordshire Beekeeping Association.

Our Honey Tasting Social on 26th November 2010 saw a really good turnout of members and their families. See separate report written by Richard Peterson.

Winter meeting 

4th February 2011 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our AGM. The minutes of the 2010 AGM will be available to view prior to the start of the meeting.

Your committee have worked hard during a difficult 2010 and have all agreed to stand for another year. Please come and support us and learn how your Association proposes to move forward and encompass beekeeping in the future.

There will be our usual Wine and Cheese Social afterwards which is a perfect opportunity to meet fellow members.

Prae Wood Apiary 

The problems associated with the Association Apiary are slowly being resolved. Our landlord, the Gorhambury Estate, have erected anti-personnel fencing on the roadside boundary of the Apiary which unfortunately leaves the site very exposed.

We have been fortunate in having a generous offer from Gristwood and Toms, a well established tree planting company whose head office is in Shenley, of 400 whips of beech, hawthorn and holly to plant as hedging along this boundary fence. They have also offered advice and help in the planting and Luke Adams, who has his apiary on their land at Shenley, is co-ordinating a working party to shortly carry this out.

It will take some years for the site to be less visible from the road and in the meantime the committee are considering how best we maintain this site, accommodate the increased interest in beekeeping and ensure the safety of our hives. 

Wishing all our members a happy and peaceful Christmas and an enjoyable beekeeping 2011.

Welwyn News by Peter Mathews

Heinz Folge
We were greatly saddened to hear of the death of Heinz Folge during a family holiday in Austria. He died peacefully in his sleep aged 85. He leaves his widow, Gertrude and son, Peter. Although Heinz was never a member of the association he was a well loved figure at many of our local events. He and Gertrude also hosted garden meetings over many years. And, I am quite sure he helped on our stall at more Welwyn Street Markets than any of our members. We will miss his anecdotes and stories delivered in his heavy German accent. Our thoughts are with his family in their sad loss.

North Herts news - December 2010

Last Tuesday Richard Smith described to us the intricacies of producing a beautiful jar of honey. With the aid of slides he took us through the various stages from extraction to creaming (with the aid of an electric drill and a paint stirrer), bottling and labelling. The creamed or soft set honey in the sample he brought was delicious and I shall be on the lookout for some fine seeded honey next year to try to do likewise. Graham brought along some very nice bramble honey for us to try which someone described as being like a liqueur.

Christmas Party

John and Miriam Hill have very kindly offered to once again allow us to invade their home, Boxwood, for the N. Herts BKA Christmas Party. This will be on:

December 18th at 7.30pm at Boxwood, Walkern, Stevenage, SG2 7AB

There will be a small charge of £4 to cover sundries. Will everyone please bring either a sweet or a savoury dish. There will be a raffle so any offers of prizes will be gratefully received. Please contact Helen or Ray to let them know you are coming : or 01438 236811

February meeting

We don't have a meeting in January, so the next winter meeting will be February 15th at 7.30pm at Howgills when Chris Woodward, Environmental and Pest officer from Stevenage will talk to us about insects and possibly more exotic creatures he comes across in the course of his work. NB We haven't got a volunteer to make tea and coffee at this meeting so if you haven't had a turn yet please get in touch with me (

Oxalic acid

If you have only one or two hives and are thinking of giving an oxalic acid treatment this winter Graham can provide suitably small quantities. Contact Graham 01438 369770.

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

A few of us met at the end of November to review the Course in a Case that Jane Moseley had kindly organised. We have decided to run a course commencing the first week in March and lasting six weeks.  Our apiary meetings will commence a week or so later and the course attendees will be invited to come along for some hands-on experience.

The course will be held every Wednesday from March 2nd - April 6th inclusive, 7.45pm - 10pm at the Main Hall, Bishops Park Community Centre, Lancaster Way, Bishops Park,Bishops Stortford, Herts, CM23 4DA.  The Community Centre, is situated next door to Tesco Supermarket. Free Parking!

Please contact Julia Saunders ( who is handling the bookings.

BBKA's new Operations Director / General Secretary

I am extremely please to be able to announce that Jane Moseley, HBKA's very own Honorary President and Secretary of the Bishops Stortford Beekeepers Association, has just landed herself the job of Operations Director / General Secretary for the British Beekeepers Association. This is fantastic news and I am sure that every beekeeper in Hertfordshire will join me in congratulating her.

She was selected for the job from nearly 90 applicants. As BBKA put it:

Jane probably better reflects the changing demographics of our membership and will bring a new and fresh look and energy to this challenging role.

Many congratulations Jane!

Record attendance at Honey Tasting

DESPITE the fact that the thermometer didn’t rise above one degree Celsius all day over 50 members of the St. Alban’s Beekeepers’ Association put in what must be a record attendance at this year’s ‘Honey Tasting’ held at the United Reform Church Hall, Chiswell Green on Friday, November 26.
The evening followed its usual format with the jars of honey being displayed anonymously on a large central table and the spectacle was a joy to behold. Everyone is then invited to taste them all and mark them with a score of one to five. There were 25 jars put up for judging and the standard was in fact so high that it made selecting extremely difficult and in order to make a judgement between some it was necessary to deduct marks for things like presentation to help make a decision. All the honey was of extremely good quality being in the main very ripe and I would guess they all had a very low water content.
There were many varieties ranging from the more standard flavour of honey as gathered from our apiary which mainly consists of what comes from arable farm land being largely from rape, beans and the adjacent hedgerows to some very delicious pale varieties which I understand emanated from lime trees. At the other end of the spectrum there were a few very dark treacly jars which were either from the chestnut blossom or honey dew. One of these jars of honey dew honey had, we learned later, been flavoured by the bitumen on a garage or shed roof from which the bees had collected the honey dew. This is probably an acquired taste and could perhaps catch on.
The winner of the cup was again from the Wingate family. David, as opposed to Anne, who had won it previously, so the cup can again reside in the same place on their sideboard for another year. Second was Caroline Moore and third Maureen Thorne. This event was followed as usual by a sumptuous buffet which was supplied by the members who brought along a dish, either savoury or sweet, and this was followed by a cup of the ‘beekeepers best friend’ a cup of tea.

Solar Extractor

by Peter Mathews

This is aimed one of our new members who asked me last January if it was too early to putting on supers. Well, this is what you should be doing in January:-

After a year or two of keeping bees you should be in a position of collecting a lot of surplus wax. Do not throw this away it is valuable! Most people render wax down to trade in against new foundation. This should provide you with more than enough, so that you will rarely need to buy in.

If nothing else you should get yourself a solar extractor. This is simply an insulated box in which you put spare wax; it sits in the sun, the wax melts and runs off into a suitable container. All the usual suppliers will have something in their catalogue, at a price. If treating this as a business proposition then you will be looking at a fairly lengthy payback time. On the other hand if your bees are highly productive and you are getting a good price for your honey, then you may see it as a good investment.

As solar extractors work well even if poorly manufactured, most people make their own. The main box is probably easiest made out of marine ply. Don't bother with fancy joints, just use strips of baton to screw the sides together. Just ensure exposed edge are well protected against the weather. The window should be doubled glazed for maximum efficiency, and the whole thing lined with insulation. This could be expanded foam, felt etc. But, 2" roofing insulation board is very easy to work with. The most difficult part is making the inner tray. Commercial units are made in stainless steel with welded joints. An old cooking oil container, made of tin plate, from your local take away is free and easily worked with tin snips and a soldering iron. Make sure all cut edges are folded back to avoid cutting yourself.

I am reminder by a winning entry at the National Honey Show by John Nailard of St Albans which he built out of material retrieved from skips. The body was a high density polystyrene packing box, the window was triple glazed polycarbonate sheet and the tray knocked up from an old oil drum.

You can go on to refine your wax and use it for candle making etc, which is worth more than a trade in. But, for now rough filtered wax will be very acceptable to KBS, Maisemore, Thornes etc. This little project should keep you quiet until the end of February!

My First Bees by Derek Driver

I started beekeeping by accident, my brother in law rang me one day and said he had just done a beekeeping course at Taylors of Welwyn and a few days later I saw an advert in our local newspaper of a beekeeper selling all his bees and equipment due to retirement. Thinking my brother in law would be interested I arranged to meet him at the beekeepers cottage, in Nuthampstead. In the dark however I couldn’t find the cottage and went into the only pub there and found the local postman enjoying a pint. I soon found the cottage and the beekeeper welcomed me like a long lost son.

He said my brother in law had been and gone but had made the beekeeper promise to save a hive for me!!! I cannot print the descriptive thoughts that went through my mind of my brother in law when I received those words. However I was taken into a barn which was filled with stacks of boxes called “supers” and shown “frames and queen excluders” the aroma from these were intoxicating.

I departed with a wooden box tired up with string and with grass stuffed into a hole in the front, and £10 lighter in the pocket. I drove away, conscious of the beekeepers last words ringing in my ears, “drive slowly boy”! The date was the 30th March 1974.

My learning curve was steep and I joined the local group which was the South East Herts beekeepers association, whose area was Hertford, Ware, Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, Cuffley, Goffs Oak and Cheshunt. A Mr.Ratcliffe was the chairman but soon there was a new chairman called Neville Woodward. I discovered the bees I had brought had AFB and the bee inspector for the county, Frank Croll also a member of SEHBA then joined Neville in taking me under their wing and became my joint mentors. This involved lots of apiary visits and on one occasion when Frank invited us up on Sunday for tea I left our children with his wife and mine whilst Frank and I walked over the fields to his bees.                  

He started to remove cover boards and examine the bees but as neither of us had any hats or veils just short sleeve shirts and I was reluctant. Of course one stung me above the eye and by the time we returned for tea it was shut. 

Within a few years of their tutorledge a young Clive De Bryn took me for my Basic exam although it wasn’t called that then, and I started to win various prize cards at our SEHBA division show and at the County Show. In those days there was fierce competition From John Mumford and Geoff Wilcox, from our association, who also won many prize cards, Geoff being especially expert in the various types of mead, even winning at the national.

Over the years I have realised how much enjoyment and friends I’ve gained from beekeeping, although I have never thanked my brother in law, But He did get his just deserts. Many years ago when I asked him to help with those lovely black bees we used to keep. The ones that always met and greeted you a hundred yards away and continued their welcome by bouncing off your face mask whenever you were in the apiary.

All he had to do was put a clearer board on a hive whilst I lifted the super clear. Well the next thing that happened was that I heard him yell, and I saw the clearer board flying through the air and him running across the field, then through the hedge, waving his arms like a Whirling Dervishes.

When I caught up with him he was in his car and about to drive off. His description of my bees cannot be printed and he never helped again. Now days the bees we keep are pussycats compared to those old black bees, and I often wonder how today’s newcomers would cope with those type of bees?

Bee scientists to force killer mites to self destruct

Defra news release -

Scientists may be able to halt global honey bee losses by forcing the deadly Varroa mite, lethal in the freezing weather, to self destruct.

The blood-sucking Varroa is the biggest killer of honey bees world-wide, having developed resistance to beekeepers’ medication. It is particularly destructive in winter as depleted colonies do not have enough bees huddling together to keep warm.

Now researchers from the Government’s National Bee Unit and Aberdeen University have worked out how to ‘silence’ natural functions in the mites’ genes to make them self destruct.

Dr. Alan Bowman from the University of Aberdeen said: “Introducing harmless genetic material encourages the mites’ own immune response to prevent their genes from expressing natural functions. This could make them self destruct. The beauty of this approach is that it is really specific and targets the mites without harming the bees or, indeed, any other animal.”

Dr Giles Budge from National Bee Unit, part of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), said: “This cutting edge treatment is environmentally-friendly and poses no threat to the bees. With appropriate support from industry and a rigorous approval process, chemical-free medicines could be available in five to ten years.”

Environment Minister Lord Henley said: “Bees are essential to putting food on our table and worth £200m to Britain every year through pollinating our crops. This excellent work by UK scientists will keep our hives healthy and bees buzzing.”

The process uses the Nobel Prize-winning theory ‘RNA interference’, which controls the flow of genetic information. So far the ‘silencing’ has worked with a neutral Varroa gene, which has no significant effect on the mite. Scientists now need to target a gene with the specific characteristics that are perfect to force the Varroa to self destruct.

Tests by other scientists have shown the treatment can be added to hives in bee feed. The bees move it into food for their young, where the Varroa hides.

Varroa facts

  • The Varroa mite, like a brown crab, is the biggest global killer of honey bees.
  • It originally attacked the Asian honeybee but jumped to the European honeybee, which has a poor natural defence.
  • The mite injects viruses, suppresses the bees’ immune system and feeds on blood.
  • Beekeepers use chemical controls but can never eradicate it and over the past decade the Varroa developed resistance to some medication.
  • If untreated, or given inappropriate chemicals, it can take just 1,000 mites to kill a colony of 50,000 bees.
  • Honey bees are worth £200m to the UK economy a year through pollinating crops
  • The Varroa mite entered the UK in 1992.
  • Honey bee populations have dropped by 23 per cent since 1992, potentially costing the economy millions of pounds.
  • In 1992 there were 23,767 beekeepers and 151,924 colonies. In 2010 there have been 21,000 beekeepers, and 116,500 colonies.
  • In summer an average colony has 30,000 to 50,000 honey bees.


  1. Photos of the Varroa mite are available from Defra Press Office.
  2. The full report is available at:
  3. RNA interference (RNAi) was discovered by Professor Andrew Fire who won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for it: For more information go to:
  4. The Food and Environment Research Agency supports and develops a sustainable food chain and healthy natural environment, and protects against biological and chemical risks. The National Bee Unit advises beekeepers, supports industry, and controls serious pests and diseases to minimise economic and environmental impact.
  5. In 2009 the Government launched the Healthy Bees Plan, a 10-year strategy to protect and improve the health of honeybees in England and Wales. To help start it, Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) contributed £2.8million up to 2011.
  6. In June 2010, Defra and WAG announced £2.5million of funding for the Insect Pollinators Initiative for research into understanding and mitigating the biological and environmental factors affecting insect pollinators.
  7. In October Defra announced support for the British Beekeeping Association to increase the number of quality trainers for beekeepers across England and Wales. This is to teach amateurs the skills to care for bees and guard against pests and diseases.

National Bee Unit Update No. 7

A note regarding the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), and the NBU’s current activities concerning this exotic pest threat.

The NBU is very aware of the recent arrival and spread of Asian hornets with the EU (France), the implications of this to beekeepers, and their understandable concerns. To bring you as up to date as possible, earlier this year the Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) requested the NBU to produce a formal Risk Assessment for the Asian hornet with respect to beekeeping in the UK (i.e. England, Scotland and Wales).

The draft assessment has been completed (in Sept. 2010), by the NBU and members of the Applied Entomology team at Fera. It considers in as much detail as possible, based on available literature, available scientific evidence and personal accounts, all feasible pathways of entry into UK – how these are regulated and potential volume of movement along each pathway (i.e. relative risk posed). It discusses likely impacts on honey bees and other insect prey sources (which may for example be important pollinators), possible methods of control, and implications to human health and amenities, should the Asian hornet be found over here. It also lists some actions that would be useful now to help “keep the hornet out”.

This lengthy document is currently under review by peer(s) in the field and by the Non-Native Species Risk Analysis Panel (NNRAP). In the meantime, the NBU is liaising with our colleagues in the NNSS to discuss what can do now to further raise awareness and the priority with which likelihood of entry should be addressed. In the immediate future we will be working on a Contingency Plan. A “Species Alert” for V. velutina has been posted on the front page of the NNSS website. We are working together to produce an identification sheet for V. velutina which will be made available through BeeBase and the NNSS website. In the meantime, BeeBase already posts a certain amount of information about V. velutina.

The NBU’s team of 60 Appointed Bee Inspectors carries out an annual apiary inspection programme across the eight beekeeping regions that comprise England and Wales. In a typical year the NBU’s Inspectorate makes between five and six thousand apiary visits, inspecting between 24,000 and 29,000 colonies. In 2009, however, ~40,000 colonies were inspected. Inspectorate personnel are already aware of the threat posed by the Asian hornet, and are clearly in an excellent position to educate the beekeeping community accordingly. However, other media and avenues of dissemination are being explored for use by, for example, garden centres, fruit and flower importers etc. The Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate (who monitor imports of fruit, flowers, and soil-bearing plants etc. that provide potential hibernation niches for mated hornet queens) will also be trained (January 2011) to identify and report any finds to the NBU.

The NBU is currently requesting that members of the public who suspect they have found an Asian hornet should a notify us immediately, providing as much information as possible. If possible, they should send us a sample for examination to confirm identity.

Kind regards,

National Bee Unit

BBKA Strategic Review 2011 and its relationship with the plant protection industry

by Martin Smith (BBKA President), 16th November 2010

As an educational charity, the BBKA is primarily concerned with the health and welfare of honey bees and seeks to educate, inform and influence all parts of society including beekeepers, the public and industry about honey bees. Over time, a number of arrangements has been made between the BBKA and third parties, who have been attracted to entering into relationships with the BBKA for a variety of reasons, but all of which have been agreed on the basis they will deliver benefits to honey bees. It is necessary to review strategically the appropriateness of these relationships from time to time to ensure that they continue to be relevant, effective and indeed do deliver the intended benefits.

Usually such arrangements have meant the granting or licensing of the use of the BBKA logo (which is a registered trade mark) on the literature and goods of the third party. The BBKA strategic review intends to assess the options and opportunities available to it to develop its brand name and to develop others.

One such strategic relationship has been the BBKA policy of actively engaging with the plant protection industry in an attempt to improve stewardship of pesticides and agricultural practice to minimise damage to honey bees and to ensure that the views of beekeepers are taken into account in the development of pesticides and their application in the field.

This relationship started in the 1980's and has taken a number of forms, including sponsorship of the BBKA’s presence at the Royal Show and more recently, the BBKA has agreed to allow its logo to be used on four synthetic pyrethroid based products. These products on the basis of evidence provided and in conjunction with the stewardship activities of the supplying companies, appear to offer reduced risks for harm to honey bees when used correctly. The BBKA has received modest payments for these endorsements part of which covers the costs of administration and meetings held to engage with the companies. Positive developments that have come from this policy have included the inclusion of the BBKA 10 point guidelines into the UK Pesticide Guide, the so-called ‘Green Book’, published by BCPC and most importantly, significant reductions in bee colony losses attributed to pesticides, from the 100 or so per annum in the 1990s to the current negligible figures.

The four products currently subject to BBKA endorsement are today of declining commercial importance and the development of new classes of pesticide and application techniques means that the relationship with the plant protection industry should be reviewed. The way in which the BBKA will engage with the industry as a whole and individual companies will vary, but an example of the wider approach to be pursued is the co-operation over the production of the recently published Crop Protection Association (CPA) leaflet ‘Bee Safe, Bee Careful’ which bears the BBKA and NFU logos.

As a first step in the overall review of strategic relationships the BBKA Trustees have decided that it is time to broaden the range of engagement with the crop protection industry beyond the narrow focus of endorsing certain products; rather to contribute more directly to the development of new regulatory criteria for pesticide approval with the Chemicals Regulatory Directorate (CRD) and to further support the industry in the general move to improve countryside stewardship. For example, this might include promoting specific initiative such as nectar bars, tree planting and restoration of hedgerows.

Following discussion with the companies involved, the BBKA Trustees have decided that endorsement and related product specific payments will cease as soon as practically possible.

The Trustees do not preclude accepting funds in the future from either the crop protection industry in the guise of the CPA or individual companies nor other organisations involved in horticulture and agriculture, which are beneficiaries of honey bee activity. The Trustees have no specific funding proposals in mind at present, but for the sake of clarity do not wish to be constrained by any notion of working with one particular industry on a 'free' basis, whilst accepting funding from individual and other corporate members to fund its activities. For example the Trustees may wish to invite companies to fund a future research colloquium, to exhibit at the BBKA Spring Convention or make a contribution to the BBKA Research Fund.

As part of its strategic review the BBKA is developing a range of other products, including literature, a distinctive house style, sponsorship, logos and devices and wishes to be able to further develop these to maximise their impact and financial benefit. It is essential that any that any contractual arrangements made meets the requirements of the BBKA strategy for the coming years, with the overall aim of encouraging society to take measures which will help honey bees.

November 2010

Editorial by Paul Cooper

Another winter is almost here so make final checks that mouse guards are secure and the chicken wire is in place.  Heft each hive to get an idea how much they weigh when full of winter stores.

Next month will be a double edition covering December and January so please send me your news for December through to mid February.

North Herts news by Christine Philips

After Frank had explained the intricacies of artificial and shook swarms at our first winter meeting last Tuesday (with the help of various cardboard boxes and a rather fat wooden queen) we were treated to an antique quiz. This had been threatening to make an appearance for several years and wasn't advertised in case no-one turned up! It was concocted in the old days when beekeepers knew a thing or two, and amazingly some people knew the answers to some of the questions, even though there were several on skep beekeeping. Graham claimed chairman's privilege and read out the questions and, more importantly, the answers. It was enjoyed by all, and as Derrick said, everyone has now spoken at a bee meeting. Thanks go to Derrick for organising it.

We also discussed the money paid to the BBKA by some large chemical companies for allowing them to use the BBKA logo on their products, and the proposition put forward by Twickenham and Thames Valley BKA asking for this to stop. All present voted to support this proposition and I have forwarded your views to the Hertfordshire committee, but we are just one of eight Hertfordshire divisions and so have a very small voice.

The N. Herts Christmas party was discussed and one idea put forward was to have a bonfire party this year (if a suitable venue can be found) - sort of winter solstice festival! If this idea appeals to you or if you would rather keep to a more traditional event please let Graham know. Or come to the next meeting and help to decide.

Next meeting :

November 16th at 7.30pm at Howgills - a talk by Richard Smith - "Honey from Hive to Jar"

St Albans & District news by Christine Aitken

Winter meetings 

26th November 2010 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our Honey Tasting Social. This is an informal evening where members bring a jar of their own unlabeled clear honey along and we all taste, judge and present a cup to the winner. Everyone also brings a plate of food which makes for an enjoyable evening. All members and their families welcome. 

4th February 2011 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our AGM. We intend to hold our usual Wine and Cheese Social afterwards. 

We had a good attendance for our first winter meeting of the year on 15th October. Emma Wright, a PhD student working at Rothamsted in Harpenden, gave us a very interesting, humorous and enlightening presentation on the current research she and her colleagues are doing on 'Interactions between honeybee diseases and bee behaviour'.

Also at the meeting was Christopher Snow, a 3rd year veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, who as part of his animal husbandry project is looking at the various methods employed by beekeepers to control varroa levels in their hives in order to maximize productivity levels of the bees. He distributed confidential questionnaires to interested members and has offered to send a final report to us.

Both he and Emma stayed on for the review of the beekeeping season which was a lively question and answer session.

Beginners course 2011

Preparations are well under way thanks to Eileen Remnant who once again is co-ordinating.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

On Sunday 3rd October, Andy Clavey, with the three members who keep bees at the Apiary, set about extracting two of three supers removed from the new Association hives. They assembled in Lindsay and Diane Bruces' bee proof utility room and the Association extractor was used. Diane later bottled up 41 x 1lb jars. The flavour was very good. The honey in the third super had crystallised but will no doubt be used on one of the hives for winter stores.

This month we had the last of our apiary meetings this year. It was nice to see nearly all the West Herts BKA Committee members there along with other members new and long-term! After a hectic week it is easy to think - can I really spare the time to attend an apiary meeting? However, once there, I am swept along in the peaceful "away from it all" atmosphere. The jobs at home are forgotten, that is, until I look at my watch and see that nearly two and a half hours have slipped by and it's time to say goodbye.

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

Don't forget our Harvest Supper at the Nags Head in Little Hadham at 8pm on Friday 12th November.  If you have not booked then please contact Jane Moseley to see if there are any spare places.

A new bee-suit for Christmas?

We have negotiated a 10% discount for members of HBKA from All you have to do is enter the code BKS100 when you make your purchase.  The site also contains gloves and smokers for sale and will have other tools for sale by Christmas.

The BBKA Forum

by Jane Moseley

Now if like me you are thinking what the heck is the BBKA Forum, I will endeavour to explain in very simple terms. Each County sends 2 representatives to discuss topics of interest/concern as proposed by the County Divisions & BBKA at a one day meeting. These findings are then presented back to the representatives and submitted to the BBKA for action.

Chaired by Brian Ripley, BBKA Chairman, the meeting opened on time with a keen start straight into the subject area of Commercial Chemical Endorsements which had been raised by the Twickenham division. The result of the debate was mixed and nothing was really determined.

We moved on then to the Course in a Case, which you may have heard me banging on about. Well this is a comprehensive detailed Bee Keeping Course, in a Case hence it’s name, which has been developed to provide each Division with quality materials that enable us to provide up to date current information at a Basic level. Heavily subsidised the course is both in printed and electronic form and the Bishops Stortford division will be using this material in its forthcoming course in the new year. Additional materials are being created - to take BeeKeepers to the next level and the first of these should be available at the ADM (Annual Delegates Meeting) in January.

BBKA has funding from FERA specifically for the training of trainers but works with Government Departments on the Healthy Bee Board in addition to developing it’s own courses. Through the FERA funding BBKA hopes to push through 400 trainers through the programme between November and March, when the fund may well be cut. So if you want to take advantage - do so now! See the next edition which will have a big education theme for more info on what’s going on and available education wise. We then broke out into discussion groups to discuss the materials and how it can be delivered to improve standards throughout the year to all members.

In the current environmental climate it has been determined that Research is vital to enable us to improve the health of our Bees. The question asked of attendees was what’s the best way to spend the meagre £63k of funds within the BBKA Research fund. We were asked to consider Applied, Case Awards, Scale and Topics for Research. Unanimously every break out group determined that Bee Keepers in the field could take part and that we should use our extensive membership intelligence as a resource for research undertaking and analysis.

Message below from Brian Ripley, BBKA Chairman

Dear Secretary

Can I take this opportunity for thanking you for any help you gave in encouraging members to complete the honey survey, we needed 1000 responses to make it credible and we received 1386 which was excellent and will allow careful analysis. As it is getting nearer to Christmas could you pass the following information to all your members as an email, or flag it up in your next newsletter so that we can reach as many BBKA members as possible well before Christmas. 

Ideas for Christmas that help the honey bee

Look at the choices on to order call 0871 911 1818 and quote 'BBKA 7'.

We have arranged a discount just for BBKA members on stationary for sale on the Adoptabeehive web shop, with 20% off all cards

Christmas cards, set of eight, two different snowy beehive scenes
Price to BBKA members £4.76 (saving £1.19 on each set)

Rainbow notelets, set of seven, honey bees on colourful flowers
Price to BBKA members £3.68 (saving 92p on each set)

Gold print wood cut skep cards, set of six
Price to BBKA members £4.48 (saving £1.12 on each set)

All profits from the sale of these cards go towards the research and education fund to support the honey bee. For example money from BBKA sales has recently been awarded to Ron Hoskins to help develop his varroa resistant bees.

To take advantage of this offer you must order BY PHONE 0871 911 1818 (calls cost no more than 10p minute) and quote 'BBKA 7 member offer' . ‘Adoptabeehive’ and ‘Spread a little Sweetness’ sets would also make an unusual present and help the honey bee, and can also be bought online at or by calling 0871 911 1818.

Small Hive Beetle - new brochure

Dear Beekeeper,

Please download from here the new National Bee Unit Small hive beetle brochure.

This has been developed and updated by the National Bee Unit, incorporating information on risks from the recent Defra funded Pest Risk Assessment and containing new information about contingency planning.

We hope that you find  this leaflet a useful addition to your beekeeping information.

Kind regards,
National Bee Unit

Breeding the Honeybee

by Richard Alabone (courtesy of Essex Beekeepers Association)

Of all animal species in the world, the honey bee is unique in that the multiple mating of queens creates colonies of half sister workers, fathered by drones of dubious parentage but all from the same geographical area.

Too much in-breeding reduces virility; therefore the inevitable cross mating, within the geographical area, is a good thing.

We know that honey bees have remained virtually unchanged for at least 50,000,000 years and this has been achieved by their unique method of avoiding in-breeding which will destroy a good strain in a few generations. Apis Mellifera avoids in-breeding by queens flying several miles to be multiple mated, which has resulted in at least 12 identifiable races, that have bred into 12 different geographical areas to best fit the climate of those areas. This gives beekeepers a wealth of breeds to choose from to make crosses, some being dreadful, while others are very satisfactory.

We all know that plant and animal breeders have made dramatic improvements in output by crossing natural breeds, and bee breeding is no different in that respect. Honey yields can be increased by a factor of 10 by careful selection of crosses. The only problem being that in so doing we have now compromised the individuality of all the different breeds due to the bees own method of avoiding inbreeding. But bees will probably survive another 50,000,000 years despite our intervention.

This makes "pure-bred queens" difficult to produce and the best that can be done is to carefully select breeder queens and only mate them with good drones of the same strain. This is known as line breeding. As a result of multiple mating, the control of suitable breeding is a very inexact science, unless horrible instrumental insemination is used.

We buy pure bred yellow Italian queens from Hawaii, where queens are cheap to produce, which would not survive in this country unless pampered by the beekeeper. This race of Apis Mellifera has the hereditary factors best suited to survive in Italy.

A bee more suited to our climate is the Buckfast, sometimes regarded as a pure breed, but is in fact a carefully contrived first cross originally produced by Brother Adam's beekeepers at Buckfast Abbey in Devon. It is highly prolific and hard-working because it is a cross of two separate races. This high degree of virility is almost never achieved in bees of a single race because there is always too much inbreeding.  Brother Adam showed that the first cross of two races produced very different offspring, and by the crossing of two line-bred carefully selected strains the desired characteristics could be achieved to give a user-friendly breed capable of much increased honey yield. This was achieved by crossing, the highly selected European bee, bred at Buckfast Abbey over many years, with the bee from Carnica in northern Yugoslavia which has a range of important characteristics like, remarkably good temper, calmness on the comb and resistance to brood diseases.

Today we can buy "Buckfast strain" queens raised in this country which are prolific but sometimes very aggressive due to the difficulty of having pure strains to cross. Other bee breeders are more honest and sell them as "user friendly", or as their own breed.

Carniolan bees were once known here as the "best bee" but they have disappeared into our mongrel population in this country, while they are still line-bred in Germany as I read in Brother Adams book "Breeding the Honey Bee". I make no apology for using his title, as this article was based on his book, published by Northern Bee Books.

For me the interesting thing is the fundamental question of what makes a bee what it is, or for that matter what makes me what I am. We know that heredity plays a part in some way, and although scientists in their wisdom have rejected it, the answer is the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This is what formed the distinct bee races within the species. Scientific opinion dictates that it is the DNA which is the building block of the species, but biology is not able to explain this, with some biologists believing that there must be an information transfer mechanism between members of all species that dictates species form and instinctive behaviour. This mechanism has been given various names, but for me the obvious one is telepathy, which is very occasionally experienced by humans, and is that same mechanism which dictates growth, form and shares instinctive information between the members of every species. DNA is only the key of each species, rather than the complete description, ensuring that only species information is received, but blending with the acquired characteristics of heredity which is recorded in DNA.

I am aware that this all raises more questions than it answers. Some of the answers are on my website:

Government announces support for backgarden beekeepers

Britain’s backyard beekeepers are to be helped to avoid the problem of winter bee deaths by 400 Government-backed volunteer teachers.

Soaring numbers of people are taking up the hobby amid concern over honey bee decline. But due to challenges from pests and diseases, inexperienced beekeepers are losing more colonies over winter, so better skills are needed.

400 experts across England and Wales are to be trained to teach beekeepers good husbandry as part of a new project under the Government’s Healthy Bees Plan. It will be run in partnership by the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) and National Diploma of Beekeeping Board (NDBB), and jointly funded by Defra.

For more information click here.

October 2010

Editorial by Paul Cooper

Another beekeeping year draws to a close.  As well as the usual divisional reports, there is an extensive report from our busy-bee president, Jane Moseley, notes from the recent HBKA Exec meeting, details of the Honey Show and advice, if not too late, from the National Bee Unit on how to prepare colonies for winter.

After a few warm days in September, autumn is finally here with wet and windy weather at the start of October. If we do have any sunny days the bees will be out collecting the last of the season's pollen and nectar from ivy flowers which seem to be in great profusion this year, at least in east Herts.  Hopefully you should now have completed the varroa treatment and also finished feeding your bees if using syrup.  Now is the time to put on the woodpecker protection (a wrap of chicken wire) and fix the mouseguards across the entrance.

Welwyn news by Peter Folge

We had our last apiary meeting of the season on September 11th. Our guest Jane Moseley from Bishop Stortford Div. (Herts President) attended. The weather looked like rain but held off until we had finished. Perfect timing! I have been very pleased with this year's apiary attendances; we averaged over 15 members at every monthly meeting.
Varroa treatments should have finished and feeding well underway. I have recently started leaving a super of stores (without queen excluder) on for all full sized colonies. After hefting and finding some of these to be quite light, these have had a supplementary feed to get them through the winter months. Few inspections will have been made since the end of July and ideally colonies should now be left alone and the last inspection should have been carried out to make sure brood is healthy - eggs and larvae present. This will make sure that colonies go through the winter in the best condition possible. The Beekeeping season seemed very short this year with a late start and what seems to be an early finish. I am pleased to say all new beekeepers that wanted bees received either a nucleas or swarms. Many newly seasoned beekeepers acquired their first honey crop and sold their produce at local event
Early in the year interest was shown by some of the Welwyn Beekeepers regarding finding, identifying and collecting wild mushrooms. I was surprised by the number of books that came along to a Welwyn meeting. I therefore decided to try something a little more radical later in the year and on Sunday (26th Sept) I organised a “Fungal Foray” in our local 'Mardley Heath' woodlan
Expressed interest was keenly shown and a merry band of ‘Hunter Gatherers’ arrived with welly boots and waterproofs. We found an array of different fungi including edible and a few poisonous varieties. Baskets and bags were filled and having spread out our spoils of the day and pictures taken, some very tasty Boletes ended up being taken home for the dinner table. (Mind you I have not heard from that member since!) It was suggested that we should organise this event again and include one or two other events to end the year.

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

Winter meetings will be held as usual on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm at Howgills, 42 South View, Letchworth, SG6 3JJ

  • October 19th - The subject of this meeting is a closely gu :arded secret. Come along and find out more!
  • November 16th - Talk by Richard Smith "Honey from Hive to Jar"
  • December Christmas party? - To be discussed at October meeting.
  • February 15th - Talk by Chris Woodward " Insects in Your Garden"
  • March 15th - AGM, honey tasting and second hand beekeeping bargains.
  • April 19th - Talk / discussion on bee diseases.

Events at which N. Herts BKA will have a stall to promote beekeeping and to sell honey:

  • October 3rd at Codicote Garden Centre
  • October 23rd. Hitchin Apple Day in the old market square

Bishops Stortford news by Jane Moseley

5 Queens, 10 Jars & 1 Councillor

Our last Apiary meeting of the season included all of the above. A healthy turn out of about 20 members congregated at my house ready to inspect my 5 colonies. We split up into 2 groups with Dennis & Paul leading the inspection of a group of 3, while I led the inspection of the remaining 2. It actually turned out to be quite exciting as all 5 Queens were spotted despite 3 of the 5 not yet being clipped or marked. Comments were made about the health of the colonies which I put down to my use of BeeVital HiveClean, which everyone was very interested in. I have been using it since taking the honey off at the end of July and used before the supers went on and the Bees seem to think it’s OK.
Following our inspection we retired to the patio and tea. My mother - my wonderful assistant - was responsible for registering honey entries and blinding them. After tea and cakes we did our tasting - not the ideal, but hey if the honey tasted good following cakes 'n' tea/coffee it was definitely going to be a winner. The Winner - John Dockerill - was awarded his Bees Knees Honey certificate by our visiting celebrity - Local Councillor Colin Woodward. Colin is in full support of BSBKA and ways in which we can increase the number of BeeKeepers within the region. I am pleased to report that our Course in a Case has arrived and now the fun will begin as we create our first ever course to take place in the new year, a somewhat daunting yet exciting prospect. We have support of the other divisions within the county for which I and the other members are most grateful. BSBKA have no further apiary meetings scheduled for the rest of the year at this time, although we are to have our first ever harvest supper with dates to be confirmed.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

At our apiary meeting on 18th September, we were delighted to welcome Jane Moseley, President of the Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association. Members old and new were able to chat with her and she joined in the teaching session which is carried out around the beehives. The meeting was once again well attended with about twenty people present

In last month's news I mentioned the "starvation swarm" which Diane Bruce had just collected. I have since learnt that it had originally swarmed in a compost bin but after a while it swarmed on to a nearby fence, being unable to survive any longer in the bin due to a lack of fodder in the locality. I was most impressed to hear that this small swarm, after only a few weeks, was (with a little help from Diane) already increasing in size with fresh brood on several frames. Through their hard work and dedication, Lindsay and Diane have supplied ten new colonies to beekeepers this summer!

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

Winter meetings

  • 15th October 2010 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall. Speaker will be Emma Wright of Rothamsted. After the refreshment break it is proposed to have a review of the beekeeping season with a question and answer session. These are always lively discussions and with so much knowledge amongst our membership - there is a lot to be learned by us all.
  • 26th November 2010 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our Honey Tasting Show and Social. Our Honey Show is an informal evening where members bring a jar of their own unlabeled clear honey along and we all taste, judge and present a cup to the winner. Everyone also brings a plate of food which makes for an enjoyable evening. All members and their families welcome. 
  • 4th February 2011 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our AGM. 

Apiary thefts

As reported in last months HertsBees nearly all colonies have been removed to other apiary sites. Concerns over security issues at Prae Wood had been ongoing with our landlord for some time prior to these thefts. He intends to rectify this matter over the winter months.

Beginners course 2011

The waiting list is now over 50 and as we can only take around 25 on the course there are unfortunately going to be some disappointed prospective beekeepers. 

Around the Apiary

Varroa treatments and winter feeding now completed it is time to protect our hives for overwintering. Mouse guards and anti-woodpecker protection are essential.

Presidents Report by Jane Moseley

A Whirl Wind Tour.. from Welwyn to Barnet via Croxley Green.

September has been busy but fun, I have met lots of lovely people. So in order to report back fairly I am keeping 2 of this months reports back for the next newsletter

A Peek Inside a Bee Inspector’s Hives!

It all started on the 11th September with Welwyn Group. I had missed one of their earlier apiary visits and wanted to be sure that I got a site visit in before everything moved indoors. Obviously nothing is straight forward and their meet coincided with our meet, which I was hosting so it was to be a full on Bee Day.

When I arrived at the Apiary site I was happy to see more idylls of the Hertfordshire countryside. Beyond the gate was a lush paddock with the farmhouse and out buildings bordering on two sides. Despite the shiny new gate there was the feel of a Victorian farm as a wide variety of of domestic fowl were running around doing their thing - Geese, Ducks, and a whole host of chickens. Peter was there ready and waiting with all his Bee paraphernalia neatly boxed up in his boot and a warm welcoming smile.

I don’t know why but I had this notion that Peter had done all the exams to become a Bee Inspector and hadn’t been keeping bees for more than 10 years because he looks so young. Don’t ask me where I got this idea from - it just came to me in my meeting him previously. Any way you could have knocked me down with a feather when he told me he’d been keeping Bees for over 25years! Gob smacked I was and still am.

Due to the weather forecast and the grumbling weather - dull overcast and a tad damp - not many of the local group had turned out to see Peter do what may well be his last inspection of the season.

The objective of the meeting was to ascertain the food stores for each of the hives, remove Queen Excluders where appropriate and to ensure that the Bees were ready for winter. Having already been treated for Varroa with thymol it was just a question of checking the brood levels and the feeding as required. Having left them with additional honey stores this year to see how they fared and of the 7 hives we inspected 3 required feeding. A young visitor popped by with his Mum to check out exactly what goes on at an Apiary visit and both were provided with veils so that they could get a closer look.

Others in the group already had their wood pecker protection sorted and were ready for Winter.

Welwyn is a strong group with over 60 members and have 2 Apiary sites with a third having been offered. Earlier this year the administration of the group was redefined and has enabled the group to work more cohesively and has strengthened their operations and given them a greater sense of organisation and direction.

Top tip from Peter - clean your tools in soda crystals - flipping brilliant it really does work!

It’s a Bee World

The Capel Manor open day is co located with the City Farms event which draws in people from all over London and SE Herts. It is an event supported this year in whole by SE Herts. Honey was for sale, course information available, a colouring station and an Observation Hive - complete with wasps. The latter with the wasp inclusion was a big attraction for the children in attendance, they thoroughly enjoyed that whole bee on wasp action, which seemed to be very long lasting.

In support of SE Herts I hauled over my extractor and a couple of supers which weren’t all ready and had fun doing demos with children of all ages dipping their fingers and getting truly sticky. At 2.15 I had to leave to get to the next .....

Location Location Location!

As we all know the siting of our Hives is a key consideration at the planning stage. Well South West Herts were in the right place when it came to Apiary sites back in the day.

I pulled into Croxley Green to discover that they had a wonderful Steam Fair on the Green. Nestled in a walled garden gathered a group of folk beneath the shade of the trees in the dappled sunlight with a kettle on a gaz stove. Robin the Chair introduced me and we were away inspections ahoy, split into 2 groups.

A group apiary site with 2 divisional hives which has been within there since the group started. While watching and listening to the advice being given by Frank’s mentor Brian. I learnt that the man I was speaking to was SW Herts Presidential representative, and what an interesting man Brian is with a family steeped in Bee Keeping, he is the 5th/6th generation to keep Bees with over 50 hives. To hear someone make reference to ordering jars by the pallet and sugar by the ton for personal use was an eye opening notion. I look forward to catching up with him again for my legacy book.

New members to the group benefit from the mentoring system they operate, this is a pattern that has emerged throughout the county Apiaries. Potential Bee Keepers were in attendance and enjoyed the experience immensely. Secretary Diane was the holder of the Apistan strips which were ordered as a division and then members could buy at the price of £5.00 per hive, a brilliant system I thought. This results in the site all having the same treatment which can be changed year on year according to the results -simple, effective and intelligent.

I had such a good time, I am going back!

THANK YOU to everyone for their hospitality and warm welcome.

Next Month......

Education Education Education! - a full report on my time at Buzzworks

Later that week I stopped by Buzzworks and met with Robin and his team. Now I have to say that a year ago I had no real idea who or what Buzzworks was or is, but when I was informed by a fellow BSBKA member I became intrigued to learn more. So in my capacity as Honorary President I had perfect excuse for a nose around.

Reaping the Reward - time spent with Barnet

Brilliant blue skies welcomed Suzy Perkins, the Honey Show Judge, and I to the Barnet Honey Show. Barnet is the largest of the divisions with 100+members a fact reflected in the entries to the show - 47 honeys and a full selection of bakes, wax and mead.

Notes from the September HBKA Exec Meeting

by Paul Cooper

As editor of Herts Bees I get to attend the HBKA Exec meetings as an observer.  So what follows is not a formal record of the meeting (for that you should speak to your divisional representatives) but just some key points that I noted that may be of interest to a wider readership.


It was reported that urban bees this year have produced a good honey yield; rural bees less so.

"More beekeepers means more swarms. This gives beekeepers a tarnished image". If this is correct then as responsible beekeepers we must have better communications with our neighbours to inform them of this natural process.

As the awareness of beekeeping increases amongst the general public, so local councils are keen to offer their sites (such as allotments) to local beekeepers.  However, most of us have back-garden apiaries or communal apiaries and therefore there is not much uptake of these offers. Hives on allotments could be prone to vandalism or be of concern to allotment holders. It was suggested that the National Farmers Union could be approached as farms hosting an apiary can help local farmers with funding.

Small hive beetle has been found in Hawaii so no more importing of Hawaiian bees.

Spraying has commenced in some areas for the Oak Processionary Moth. Contact your local authority for details.

The Little Allotment Company is interested in bees, along with pigs, ducks and hens on allotments. Visit their website for more details.  You can advertise honey sales at your apiary at the Urban Honey Collective for £4 per year. Or you can advertise for free if you live in Hertfordshire by emailing me.


There are 358 recorded members of HBKA. But as each of the eight divisions has quite a few members that have slipped through the net and are not recorded on the BBKA register, it is therefore estimated that there are over 400 members in HBKA. We have pretty much doubled in size over the past few years.

Please update the BKA (Editor: and the HBKA) website for details of your local swarm officer.

Bee Craft magazine is available at discount if taken as part of the group membership. Contact your local secretary for details.

Membership fees are due on 1st April and 1st September.  Can the late payers please contact David Brown. Also, please complete your Gift Aid forms if not already done so.

HBKA has received some very generous donations over the past few months so a Donations button has been added to the website incase anyone wishes to make further donations in the future.

Other news

The recent thefts from the St Albans apiary led to some prevention suggestions, e.g. screwing down the base to the frame and branding or giving a distinctive mark to the hive parts. See last month's newsletter.

Bee World went extremely well at the County Show.  At the date of the Exec meeting the Capel Manor event was still to happen.  The next division on the rota would determine what would be done next year.

EARS - Beekeepers in East Anglia today are buzzing with excitement, as a £100,000 bee research project gets underway. Public appreciation for the plight of honey bees has never been higher. Pollination contributes £165,000,000 to the agroeconomy, yet beekeepers report up to a third of their colonies have died in each of the last two years. Member associations of The East Anglian Bee Forum decided to do something for themselves and have obtained funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to investigate the interaction of honey bees and varroa – a parasitic mite implicated in significant UK bee loss. The beekeepers from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk, Peterborough, Huntingdon, Essex and Suffolk have committed some £16,000 over four years to support a PhD research studentship at Sheffield University, with the balance of £100,000 from BBSRC.  Hertfordshire BKA has been approached to provide sponsorship.

Hertford & Ware Division

Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association has created a new division covering Hertford & Ware. Dr Michael Cook is the chairman of the new division and he can be contacted at or on ☏ 01992 423092.

The National Honey Show

The 79th National Honey Show, the U.K’s ‘gold standard’ honey show, is just weeks away. It will be held in Weybridge, Surrey from 28th to 30th 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. Speakers include Kim Flottum, Editor of Bee Culture, from U.S.A. and Dr Mark Goodwin whose research team carries out most of the honey bee research in New Zealand. Workshops (which should be booked in advance by 23rd October) cover a wide range of subjects including wax modelling, skep making and tips on passing the BBKA Basic Exam. You can see the line-up and download the show schedule on the NHS website Advance tickets 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 for non-members after 12 noon is £5. 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. A programme and show schedule is available on request.

The official closing date for show entries is 1st October but late entries will be accepted until 22nd 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 27th 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 to The National Honey Show, c/o “Facilities”, St George’s College, Addlestone, Weybridge, KT15 2QS. Postal entries must arrive at St Georges College after 20th October and before noon on 27th 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 at 4.30pm on Saturday 31st October, immediately 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 Wragby by Monday 25th October or at Windsor or Stockbridge by Friday  22nd October. Jeremy Burbidge of Northern Bee Books has kindly offered the same facility to anyone who can deliver to him. (By Monday 25th October and please call him before you visit.) Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire HX7 5JS (01422 882751 –

Where is the show?

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

Opening times: Thursday 28th October 1.45pm to 6pm Friday 29th October 9.00am to 6pm Saturday 30st October 9.00am to 4.30pm

How do I get there?

By road: from junction 11 of the M25 (marked Chertsey) follow signs to Weybridge. At the roundabout, take the third exit, A317 to Weybridge. Turn left at the next roundabout into the college.

By rail: Trains leave from Waterloo station to Weybridge. Then, either take a taxi or a connecting train to Addlestone – the college is ten minutes walk from the station. Please make sure in advance that there is a suitable connection. or 08457 48 49 50.

Public transport advice: or 0871 200 22 33

The show programme, which is available on request, (see above), includes maps and directions. See you there!

National Bee Unit - Preparing Colonies for Winter

As we approach the end of the summer season the National Bee Unit has created an advisory document called 'Preparing honeybee colonies for winter' (click to view). We hope that this is of use to you as a beekeeper and the document will also be available on BeeBase for future reference. Please send us your comments as feedback is most welcome.

Kind regards, National Bee Unit

Husbandry Survey for 2010

Many apologies to those beekeepers who already received this email in June. If you have completed the Husbandry Survey for 2010 many thanks for doing so and please do not re-complete. We are once again conducting a national survey to obtain information on current honey bee husbandry practices and would be very grateful if you could take 10 minutes to complete it.  The survey will be of great value to beekeeping in the UK. All answers are strictly confidential and will be used only for the purposes of this study. The survey can be found here:

It can also be found in the 'Recent News' section on BeeBase: Please note, however, if you use Google Chrome as your internet browser that the survey may not load properly and you may need to switch to a different browser to be able to successfully submit it.

Kind regards,
National Bee Unit

Bee Keeping - A Novices Guide (Advertisement)

by David Wootton

As a relatively new bee keeper myself I found that many books written for new bee keepers, were written by experts who assumed the reader knew something. As a professional photographer, I have photographed my bees and bee keeping in general and felt that a book with photographs explaining different aspects would be useful to the novice.

I was aided in writing the book by my mentors, a husband and wife with 30 years experience of bee keeping. The book is published 15th October and is being printed to the highest standards on 170gsm high grade white satin paper. Printed in the UK the quality is superb with the images really standing out on this paper.

I am self marketing the book and you are able to view pages from the book on the website

The website give full details on the book, enabling the viewing of the first 22 pages and enables viewers to order the book online.

I hope that you find the book of interest and will be willing to pass information re the book and the website to your association bee course tutors and prospective new bee keeping members.

September 2010

Incorporating news from July & August

Welcome to Herts Bees after a summer break.  This newsletter is long overdue but hopefully worth the wait.

How should I summarise the summer?  It was late (frosts in May), a good honey flow in June/July, cold & wet in August (again) and a good year for all insects including bees, wasps and earwigs! I hope you had a successful beekeeping season and are well into your winter preparations of treatment and feeding.

It was disappointing to hear of the hive thefts in St Albans. The measures some people will go to!

Capel Manor is happening on 18th September. Please go along and support South East Herts who will be putting on the show. 

Finally the way that articles are submitted will be changed to ensure a more timely publication in Herts Bees. Articles should appear within a day or so of submission. A monthly summary will still be circulated. 

Paul Cooper

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

Winter meetings

15th October 2010 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall.

Speaker will be Emma Wright of Rothamsted. After the refreshment break it is proposed to have a review of the beekeeping season with a question and answer session. These are always lively discussions and with so much knowledge amongst our membership - there is a lot to be learned by us all.

26th November 2010 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our Honey Tasting Show and Social.

4th February 2011 at 8.00pm at Chiswell Green United Reformed Church Hall is our AGM.

Apiary visits

During the summer months our Saturday afternoon sessions at Prae Wood Apiary have welcomed many interested visitors. Some have made it a one visit only, realizing the commitment needed, but quite a few have found it so fascinating that they wish to learn more. They have put their names on the waiting list for our beginners course (Feb/March/April 2011) in the full knowledge that we are over-subscribed but that they may be lucky when the time comes to book themselves on the course.

Apiary visits are now ended until next Spring. 

Membership of St Albans BKA has now reached - 80

It is gratifying for the committee that all our hard work over the past few years is now paying off. Declining membership over the last twenty years meant that about eight years ago we were down to 23 members. At this point the momentous decision was taken to actively encourage new members. Richard Peterson focused us on the possibility of doing a course and the committee decided to run with it.

A Beginners Course was put together by Eileen Remnant and all the committee were encouraged to learn to become tutors. We applied for a Lottery Grant and purchased a projector and laptop. David Brown arranged for us all to have instruction in creating Powerpoint presentations which was a steep learning curve for most of us.

Over the years we have perfected our technique, learned much and are still learning, moved with the times and embraced all that has been thrown at us. Our 'Hives for All' scheme, again made possible by a grant, gives our beginners a hive and Nuc of bees for their first year at our apiary, plus a mentor. All members on this scheme have gone on to purchase their hive and colony from us at the end of the year (we then have the funds to replace these items for our next intake the following year).

By encouraging our early beginners to become tutors and very importantly 'mentors' at our apiary sites for our beginners in their first year of beekeeping we have produced an amazing group of younger members with loads of enthusiasm and new ideas.

And now we are proud to announce our membership has reached 80 and still climbing. Granted the BBKA initiative and media coverage has been a real Pandora's Box but without the dedication of the committee past and present we wouldn't be in this healthy position.

We now have a vibrant, growing association - so a big thank you to everyone who has made this possible. 

Around the Apiary

Varroa treatments are now in place at our apiary sites and winter feeding will commence shortly. Reminders regarding this and woodpecker guards will be posted on the St Albans BKA 'blog' in due course.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

August has been an interesting and busy month. In the middle weeks of the month I heard about two swarms which were collected in the Oxhey area, and another one collected by Diane Bruce which was a "starvation swarm". When I heard this I did not know what this was so Lindsay Bruce kindly explained to me (and I apologise to the readers who already know this) that bees will swarm at this time of year if there is not enough food in the hive. They take the queen with them and go in search of a location where they can find more food!

Once again there were two good apiary meetings this month. At our most recent meeting a fast clearer was put on one of the Association hives and, after half a day, three supers of honey were taken off. Some of this honey will be given to Croxley House by way of payment for use of their grounds, and hopefully the rest will be made available for new members to purchase.

Bishops Stortford news by Jane Moseley

The most recent meeting was at Tony and Pat O'Conner's house. It was a good meeting with 26 people present and plenty of cakes and tea!

Next Apiary Visit - Saturday 11th September.

What will you see - 5 Hives all of which have done OK, have tried artificial swarms and just recently have been trying out no sugar syrup - just honey stores, but it is time to reduce them down and get them ready for winter - even though 4 of the 5 are rammed to the rafters with Bees and food!

In addition to the Hive inspection we will also be having a honey tasting so be sure to bring along a jar of yours to share with the rest of the group - the range of flavours was amazing last year, obviously followed by Tea and Cake!

So that I can get my baking started and dust down me best china, I'd be most grateful if you could let me know if you will be coming - tel: 01920 463645, email:

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

David Massey and John Brooksbank held a very interesting open day at their apiary in Charlton on Saturday 17th August. The Charlton site is on waterworks land and has been used by N. Herts beekeepers since 1943. There are plenty of trees and shrubs and surrounding fields supply extra forage, the only drawback being the occasional need for the waterworks to flush out their pipes which causes the site to flood. David and John were well prepared, with a shelter in case of rain and even a toilet tent! Tea was made and cakes eaten. It was a pity that apart from David and John's  families only two of us turned up. The date was on the calendar part of HertsBees website, but perhaps the lack of a July newsletter or perhaps just August holidays prevented more people coming along. So here are some photos to show what you missed.

John makes his own foundation. If you look carefully you can see the newspaper he uses instead of wires to strengthen it.John's homemade smoker

First indoor winter meeting:

October 19th at 7.30pm at Howgills, South View, Letchworth.

3rd October - Another chance to talk about bees and sell honey at Codicote Garden Centre.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

The HBKA will stop sending Divisions printed copies of Newsletters in 2011, but will continue sending it out by e-mail. This will increase divisional costs which for us will mean an increase in subscriptions for 2011. The committee propose to increase subscriptions to cover the increased costs, and give those who receive the Newsletter by e-mail a discount. All this will need to be decided at the next AGM.

The beekeeping season is nearly finished for 2010. Just the last of the honey extraction to be done and the storing of empty supers protected from the dreaded wax moths, ( frost will kill all stages of wax moth). And any feeding necessary should be completed by the end of the month. And most importantly Varroa control.

At the association apiary meeting on Sunday 5th. September we took three well filled supers off, and Tom Dawson kindly took them away to extract the honey - thanks Toms. We put the Varroa treatment on the one hive and straighted up another that had been taken over by a swarm. Roy Cropley marked and clipped the swarm Queen, but they will need about 6-Killogrammes of sugar in syrup form to ensure they get through winter.

We have a couple of events coming up which need some attention.

1. Saturday 18th. September 2010 : -

SE Herts will be heading up a show at Capel Manor with help from the Bishops Stortford Division and we aim to put on the following stalls.

At the moment I don't know at what time we can start setting up on the Friday afternoon, however we can get on to site at 8.00am on the Saturday. The Show will be open to the Public from 10.00am till 5.00pm on Saturday.

We will need some volunteers to man the stalls ! - Please let me know if and what time you can give - please don't just turn up on the day - it make me look a right twitt when one minute there is no-one around and the next minute those who have volunteered for a slot are swamped with casual helpers.

Please let me know on 01992 624639 If and what times you can do - I can then make out a rotor.

  • A Sales Stall  - Honey will be sold at £4.50 per Lb. & £2.50 per ½Lb. The association will deduct 10% from all sales.
  • An Observation Hive.
  • A Honey Extraction Stand by Bishops Stortford.
  • A Candle Rolling table.
  • A Childrens Bee Picture Colouring Table.

  2.  Saturday 9th. October 2010 : -

Possibly the most enjoyable event in our calendar. Daphne Rooke who has headed up the groups who have done the catering for many years, has decided that "enough is enough", and it's time for someone else to take over, (I know exactly how she feels).

So we need a volunteer to head up a catering group, and volunteers to help out. Daphne has indicated that she is prepared to give all advice necessary to her successor.

So members, members partners, and members children. get it all for FREE ! Visitors will be charged £5.00 per head.

Please let my know what help you can give!

Presidential reports

by Jane Moseley

July 2010

....and all for 12 Jars of Honey

Following Christine’s clear instruction the Apiary was found nestled in woodland minutes from the City Centre. As the traffic roared past, an air of calm descended as everyone gathered in the late afternoon sun. We congregated in a semi circle, surrounded by beautiful trees with lush green grass beneath our feet and all eyes focused on Eileen who was opening the meeting with a talk about Varroa. The presentation was packed with information and resources were distributed as reference items with encouragement to access them on line rather than wasting association resources on printing. One of the Key issues raised was that of co-ordinating the Varroa treatment within the apiary so that all Hives were treated at the same time, something that was unanimously agreed.

St Albans Prae Wood Apiary has been on the existing site since offered by the Gorhambury Estate for a 12 jars of honey a year, which still standstoday. The apiary is protected by trees and there is a small clearing where the Hives are situated but is now almost at capacity. A second site has been acquired which expands their offering to both new & existing members, which is key as this chapter grows year on year.

Although some members keep their colonies off site, new members are encouraged to take part in the Hire a Hive scheme that St Albans offer,which supports new members with a Mentor and the opportunity to buy the colony after your first year, which definitely seems to be working for everyone.

One of the concerns raised before tea & cake was circulated, was theft. This appears to be a growing problem and it was suggested that the Hives be branded so that another BeeKeeper would know that they were being sold stolen goods. An ongoing debate for their recently launched website which appears to be going well and being used by the members.

As the homemade scones, ginger cake and other yummies appeared miraculously from their on site hut along with steaming cups of tea the meeting dissolved into groups chatting about their personal Hive concerns, before drifting offto attend their particular Hives. From the road it looked as though a top secret experiment was taking place.

A thoroughly enjoyable and informative afternoon. Thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome

Apologies to West Herts & Welwyn - due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to attend your meetings BUT I will be coming soon!

August 2010

August is a funny old month, people on holiday, awareness of the changing seasons as summer draws to a close. As honorary President I have failed in getting to see as many groups as I had hoped this month due to personal commitments, that said September is already packed with dates in the diary for meetings I hope to attend.

I did manage to get along to the Hatfield Country Show, where Welwyn Beekeepers were spreading the word and selling their wares. While there I managed to have a chat with Peter Fogle, their Chair, about how the group is now flourishing and they have applied a clear structure to their group which now has nearly 60 members. Having a clear structure to their branch has been the making of the group in Peter's view and they have just been invited to take on a second Apiary site. 

Interestingly I noted that Welwyn are selling their honey for £4.50 per lb, I think this is marvellous and is the rate that we should all be charging.  I don't know if anyone from the county has entered the Honey Show, if so do please let me know as I'd love to check it out when attending the event in October.If you have Good Luck with your entry.

Sorry it's short this month but am sure that you are all too busy with Varroa treatments, holidays and the like to be reading this from me.

Bee-ware, thief!

There have been an increasing number of hive thefts this year. The St Albans group lost two complete hives in August from their Prae Wood apairy and as a consequence have moved all remaining hives to the St Albans group's other site. This was clearly not a random theft as both hives were full of bees and must have been stolen by someone that knows how to handle bees. The police have been informed.

One way to discourage theft of hive parts is to personalise them as Inga Armstrong has done with a rather interesting design. The technique is called pyrography and if anyone is interested then contact Inga via the St Albans group.

Has the World Gone Mad?

by Derek Driver

Recently at a dinner, the lady next to me mentioned that she belonged to the W.I and her group had bought a new hive for one of their members. Intrigued, I asked, how many colonies did the recipient have? The reply was, none. I then said, oh, she’s going on a beekeeping course? No, was the reply. Now I was puzzled, so I then asked why did the W.I. buy her anew beehive? Back came the reply, to help the bees of course!! This set me thinking as over the last few years there have been reports of individuals and small groups receiving cash ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds, “to help the bees”!  I was reminded of when I was twenty and in the civil service. (Not for long) There were individuals who with Machiavellian delight would write wonderful eloquent reports on major schemes / projects, ticking all the political correct boxes, including of course "education, education, education" thus persuading the finance department to fund these projects, none of which these individuals believed in. Surely all funds gained by members, should be sent to BBKA, to be totally spent on research for the benefit of every beekeeper in Britain and not just be used for the benefit of the few, who know how to tick all the correct boxes ?

Tree Bumble Bee, or New Garden Bee

by Peter Mathews

These bees, which were first reported in the New Forest in 2001, seem to be increasing numbers in a big way. They favour settling in elevated locations like trees as their name would suggest. Last year  Welwyn had a dozen or so calls from people with bees in their bird  box. These were identified as the tree bumble bee. From some of the calls, you would think it was our fault that they had bees rather  that blue tits.

Tree bumble bees are readily identified by the 'ginger' patch behind  the head and white tail. Many web sites are out of date and give them scant mention. The BBC Gardeners' World site doesn't mention  them at all, whilst others describe them as rare.

So far this year they have been the most common bumble bee reported.  Admittedly, we only get reports of bees that are in obvious places.  The tally of 'bees in soffits' reported in the Welwyn area so far  this year is estimated at over 60 calls. I have fielded 11 in one  day. All appear to be tree bumble bees. Members are reminded that  they should not get involved. Removing the colony would almost  certainly involve some building work such as lifting tiles. You are uninsured and are at risk! Any damage caused would be your responsibility.

BBKA Membership Cards

by Peter Mathews

You should have received your 2010/11 membership card together with the June "BBKA News". If you have "BBKA News" and no card, you probably tossed it in the bin with the letter and envelope! If you have neither then contact your branch Membership Secretary who will chase this up for you. If you are a recent member, then your membership may well be 'in the system'. With so many new beekeepers everyone is struggling to keep records up to date. [Note - BBKA registration is not included if you have only local, or social membership]. Keep your card in a safe place as you will need it for BBKA web access, discount from Stoneleigh, Booker etc. More importantly you will need it should you have to claim on your insurance. Do not lose it ! [ You know who I'm talking about !]

Can you help me? I have a swarm. In Spain!


As editor of Hert Bees I receive some interesting requests from members of the public. I recently received an email from Paul Hickling who now lives in Spain. Paul writes:

I used to have a house in Albury many moons ago and a menswear shop in Bishop's Stortford (Donald Hickling) and have lived in Spain since I left Albury in 1977 where I have a restaurant ( I wonder if you could give me some advice. We have a large bees nest above one of our doors that has been there a couple of months and I don't know what to do with it. Needless to say I can't get any information here. Questions: if I just leave it will they eventually go away? Can I take some honey and if so, how? Whilst we can use another door to get in the house it is inconvenient but in no way do I want to hurt them. If you can help me I would be most grateful.

I gave them some advice about smoking them, being extremely well protected and the possibility of taking some honey but when he sent the picture (top-right) I advised seeking the help of an expert as the bees seemed well established. The next email from him contained a picture of an improvised bee suit and his thanks for helping him obtain some wonderful honey for his breakfast. The suit is made from a ski suit & gloves, some wide-brimmed hats, nylon netting and lots of sticky tape.

If anyone is going on holiday to Malaga then I'm sure Paul Hickling would welcome a fellow "beekeeper" into his restaurant.

Monthly Tips

Feeding Reminder

Bees are fed a substitute for nectar which is made by mixing and dissolving white sugar in hot water. Make sure all the sugar is dissolved. For autumn feeding mix one kilo of sugar with half a litre of water (2lbs:1Pint). For spring and summer feeding mix one kilo of sugar with one litre of water (1lb:1 Pint). The Winter feed requires a higher ratio of sugar to water. If winter feeds have too high a water content the bees might not be able to dehydrate it enough to prevent fermentation before winter sets in. Another way to feed in the winter months it to use baker's fondant (the soft icing on cakes) as this won't ferment and the bees can eat it straight away. Never use unrefined or brown sugar as this causes dysentery in the bees. There is no evidence that refined beet sugar is any better or worse than refined cane sugar. Sugar syrup has no smell to the bees, so add a little honey to make it more attractive and give it an aroma. A honey and water mixture can also be used as feed but be careful the honey you use is from a known and trusted source or you could infect your bees with foul brood or nosema spoors. Liquid feed is given to the bees in containers placed above the brood box from which the bees can help themselves. Access to the syrup is restricted to prevent the bees from falling in and drowning. Never put an open container of syrup in a hive or you will lose hundreds of bees. Most beekeepers use purpose made containers made of plastic and holding approximately one litre (2Pints) of syrup.Ensure the bees can’t enter the hive under the roof or you will encourage robbing. The feeders should be put on in the evening when the bees have stopped flying. Doing this allows the initial excitement of the bees to subside over night and reduces the risk of robbing. Reduce the entrance size to allow the bees an advantage when fending off robbers. Also, be careful not to spill syrup around the outside of the hive. Remember, pure sugar syrup has no smell and it is possible that bees will ignore the food just above their heads. To avoid this problem either dribble a little syrup into the brood to provide a trail to the feed or add honey or do both! 

Autumn Feeding

We are getting closer to that time of year when we feed our bees. It may still be a little way off, but thinking ahead can save you money on sugar. One of the benefits of BBKA membership is that we qualify for membership of Bookers Wholesale Stores [N.B. you will need to show your BBKA membershipcard!]. Bookers are far cheaper than the supermarkets. The downside is that they don't have a branch in every town. There are branches in Watford, Tottenham and Luton. If you leave things to the last minute, you end up either making a special journey, else going to Sainsburys etc. Plan now, and drop in when next passing that way.

For members with only a couple of hives, trekking over to Bookers may not beworth the petrol. Pound Stretchers are currently selling sugar at 59p/kilobag - this compares with about 97p in the average supermarket and may be abetter alternative. This is a special offer and price may go back to the previous price of 69p/kilo.