March 2010

Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association AGM

27th March 2010

Memorial Hall, 11a Lower Green, Tewin

12:00 AGM
12:30 Lunch
14:00 Skep Making by Ray Smith (Bedfordshire BKA librarian)
15:00 Rothamsted bee research by Juliette Osborne (Pollination Ecologist)

Editorial by Paul Cooper

When is spring going to start? With this prolonged cold and wet winter we're having, it is all the more important to ensure that colonies have enough food. The queen is laying more so as to have plenty of adult bees when the spring flowers come into blossom. So bees need pollen (often collecting from catkins at this time of year) and honey stores which, if depleted, can be supplemented with fondant/candy.

Details of the HBKA AGM have now been published. Please come along even if it is only for the afternoon talks about skep making and the research being performed at Hertfordshire's own bee research establishment in Harpenden.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

As I type this there is at last a feel of spring about the garden, despite the fact it is still somewhat cold! 

The WHBK Association are springing into action with their AGM which is to be held in the dining room at Croxley House, Croxley Green, WD3 3JB, at 8pm Monday, 1st March.   This is the one event in our calendar at which the majority of members, associate members, potential members all get-tougher and is well worth attending.   

Having heard that we can get a discount on sugar at Bookers Cash and Carry, I thought readers might be interested to hear something my elderly cousin told me recently.  During the Second World War, her mother kept bees, and the Government gave her 80 lbs (she was not 100% sure about the amount) of sugar per hive, each year.  This must have been a great incentive to beekeepers!

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

The Bishops Stortford division held its first meeting of the year and AGM on 17th February.  We had an excellent turn-out as the group continues to grow in membership.  Our chairman (Dennis Osborne) and treasurer (Pauline Gibbs) were re-elected and Jane Moseley was elected as the new secretary.  The apiary visits for the year are:

10 AprJohn Dockerill
01 MayPauline Gibbs
22 MayJulia Saunders
12 JunAlan Lewis
03 JulDennis Osborne
24 JulPaul Cooper
21 AugTony O'Connor
11 SepTBA

Addresses will be published nearer the time.

Our invited speaker was Robin Dartington of BuzzWorks. He gave a fascinating and inspiring talk on the development of the project and showed many pictures of its progress. It is providing a valuable education resource for north Hertfordshire and Robin welcomes any visitors from across the county.  Please call before going. BuzzWorks needs more space so a second project has been started called HoneyWorks at another allotment site in Hitchin.

Alan Lewis organised an Introduction to Beekeeping talk in Bishops Stortford on 19th February. We had quite a few interested members of the public and expect to see some of them at future apiary meetings.

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

At our last meeting Roger Patterson, in his talk “A New Approach to Beekeeping” described his method of maintaining a support colony for every four hives in an apiary. This could be used to provide a replacement queen or extra brood or stores – whatever is needed – and seems a good plan, although the talk was a little confusing, especially for newer members and beginners.

Beginners evening

Graham will be holding a beginners evening at Howgills at 7.30pm on March 2nd. All beginners are welcome and there is no charge.


The AGM will be on March 16th (sorry it said February 16th in the last newsletter) at Howgills starting at 7.45pm with last year's minutes available from 7.30pm. There will also be a table for second-hand equipment sales and after the tea-break the N. Herts famous (infamous?) honey tasting so please come along bringing a jar of honey and any beekeeping bits and pieces no longer needed.


If you were one of the winners last year or in previous years and still have a cup gathering dust somewhere PLEASE RETURN YOUR CUP in time for the AGM.

April meeting

April 20th will be our last indoor meeting of the winter. Our topics will be record keeping and swarm control. Andy Johnston has kindly agreed to talk to us about the former (how many of us keep adequate records, including a vetinary medicines record kept for five years?)

As for swarming, some bees decided to be up and off in April last year. Maybe they will be a little later in 2010 but we need to be prepared, so come with suggestions, advice, old wives tales, myths or magic and we can have a discussion on the best methods of thwarting their natural instincts.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

St Albans Division has a large programme of apiary meetings, events and open days planned for 2010. This in addition to our beginners course and mentoring of our new beekeepers will be challenging for the committee and our apiary beekeepers so we shall shortly be contacting all members to request a couple of hours help in 'meeting the public' at these events. Those who took part in past years have found it rewarding and great fun. Please support us in our efforts to promote beekeeping.

BeeWorld has been held at Capel Manor Horticultural Institute during their London City Farms Festival Day for the last seven years. St Albans Division arranged the first one, it has come full circle and it is our turn again to organize the event. This year however we are attending a different venue. We will be at the Herts Show on the weekend of May 29th/30th at the Redbourn Showground. HBKA spent many successful years at this venue in the past and new management and a new interested public could make this a really good place to get our message across. The co-ordinators for BeeWorld 2010 will be Marian Whittaker and Luke Adams who will be contacting the secretaries of each division shortly.  

We are having the Apiary clean-ups on 20th March at Prae Wood from 10 - 12 and at Oaklands from 2 - 3pm. 

The first meeting of the season will be held at Prae Wood Apiary on the 24th April at 3.00pm when the topic will be 'Swarms' followed by a Q & A session. 

HBKA  AGM reminder it is on 27th March at Tewin Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Tewin, Welwyn.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

Our 63rd. AGM was attended by 17 members and 6 non-members and went off OK. Derek Driver resigned from the committee and therefore gave up the Chairmanship after 7 years in the post. Tom Dawson was then chosen by the incoming committee to be our Chairman for 2010.

Roy Cropley was unable to finalise the accounts: -  this is mainly due to the recent change in the BBKA Constitution and the way affiliation Fees are now determined. The BBKA Register is not well maintained which leads to all sorts of other problems (no BBKA News and no Beginners Packs). On the up side we did however make a profit of more than £500.00 on the year. A copy of the accounts will be circulated once they are complete.

NOTE    I have to take all members who don’t pay their subscriptions before 31st March from the BBKA Register and they then loose all BBKA benefits.

Full Annual Subscriptions are to remain as last year - £20.00 with a £2.00 discount if paid before 31st March - Associate Membership remains at £5.00. Members who didn’t attend the AGM should find a 2010 Subscription Remittance Slip with this Newsletter.

The speaker for the Winter Meeting at Pinewood School at 8.00pm on Thursday 11th March has not yet been confirmed, but if he can’t make it we propose to have a ‘Beekeeper’s Question Time’, with questions from the audience.

The bees continue to battle against the cold weather, and I was pleasantly surprised a few days ago when the bees did get out and have a fly around at how well they have done. The 4-Frame Nucs have done very well, and I hope to have a few Nucs and Colonies for sale around mid April - yes the weather will improve!

The next Committee Meeting will be at 8.00pm. on Thursday 25th March at Andrews Lane.

February 2010

Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association AGM - 27th March 2010

The AGM will be held on Saturday 27th March 2010 at the Tewin Memorial Hall, 11a Lower Green, Tewin, Welwyn, Herts, AL6 0JX. The agenda and speakers will appear in the next edition of Herts Bees. Please put the date in your diary.

Editorial by Paul Cooper

A belated happy new year to you and your bees.

The controversial issue that was published in the first version and then removed from the second version of the December 2009 newsletter was discussed at length at the HBKA Exec meeting on the 12th January.  It has been decided that Herts Bees will not get drawn into national issues such as, for example, the debate that can be summarised as beekeeping using "natural, chemical-free" methods vs beekeeping using "approved treatments for bee diseases", especially where they are critical of the BBKA of which we are all members. If you are interested then there are plenty of websites available to follow some of the more "controversial" beekeeping methods but it is not the place of Herts Bees to promote them.

Herts Bees will focus on local issues and on giving advice and guidance to beekeepers, especially our newer members. I will occasionally throw in other articles (such as the one below from BBC News) where the content is relevant and newsworthy but is clearly not just promoting a particular campaign.

The original article did cause Dr Juliet Osborne of Rothamsted to write an email to me strongly defending the research work that they are doing. I want to take this opportunity to thank her for the response and to say that as Hertfordshire's local bee research centre, HBKA members should show their support for the work at Rothamsted and make their Open Weekend a success by going along on 22nd / 23rd May and talking to her team. 

And now to the bees.  It has been a long a cold winter and so the winter stores will be depleted. Now is the time to think about giving them a spring boost. I have found that a block of candy over the feed hole of the crown board is consumed rapidly if stores are low or if there is too much solid oilseed rape honey. There was a recipe in a recent Bee Craft magazine that works for me and I have just added it to the Tips section of this website.

The Herts Bees calendar is looking a little empty so please send me your meeting dates for the year and I will update it.

Don't forget the AGM on the 27th March.  See you there.

Bee World has moved

The St Albans branch are organising Bee World this year and have decided on something different.

Bee World this year will be at the Herts County Show on 29th/30th May near Redbourn.


In the past the co-ordinator would find out from each division what they are prepared to undertake, how much room and tables they require and how many stewards they think they will have, there will be no change except that with a 2-day show it is unlikely that each division will be able to man their stand for both days so we are proposing to allocate a set number of tables (say 3 or 4) and have them manned by whichever division is available for which day.

As Bee World will occur sooner this year than usual we will be in touch with each Division after the Herts AGM concerning the issues.

News from the BBKA ADM

by Peter Mathews

I have just noted here those items of either immediate interest or where detail may not be reported elsewhere. Otherwise see the next BBKA News for better coverage.

Our new BBKA President is Martin Smith. The only choice, but an excellent one!

Unlike 2009, all candidates for the Executive and Examinations Board gave a short presentation to introduce themselves. Whilst this still left a difficult choice as they were all excellent candidates, it was a big improvement on printed notes and a 'pin'. This also obviates the need for any choice at our HBKA Exec meeting - which is just as well, as most candidates are little known to us.

Other News

  1. Queen Rearing.  Some comments on lack of progress on queen rearing. It was pointed out that BBKA is not a research body, and doesn't undertake this work. BBKA only acts as a facilitator. However, the BBKA is using some of its research fund to co-sponsor research at the University of Sussex for 3 years at £12k per year. This will examine 'hygienic bees' with an aim to understanding the heritability of desired characteristics.
  2. 'Beekeeping Course In A Box'. This will be available from the end of February. Associations will be entitled to one unit free of charge, but will be required to provide feedback on how it is used. Further boxes will be available for purchase at £75 each.
  3. BBKA Research Fund - At £63,000 this is very modest, and more than half has been allocated qv (1). At this level it can only cover joint sponsorship or feasibility studies. Donations to the fund from associations, divisions or individuals would be very welcome. [NL]
  4. Members are urged to enter the Spring raffle. Top prize is an incredibly expensive bottle of whisky.
  5. New Holland Tractors are the latest sponsors of BBKA with a special interest in helping combat bees losses. Clearly, sponsoring beekeeping is seen as a very good and green thing to do.
  6. BBKA calendar. With 2011 in mind, photographs of beekeeping subjects would be welcomed by BBKA Enterprises.   [NL]
  7. One change to the BBKA Basic Exam is that candidates should have kept bees for at least a year. It was noted that some associations sponsor exam candidates.
  8. No change in capitation is envisaged before 2012. Currently this is £14.
  9. BBKA are planning a new web site, and David Aston would like to hear from anyone who would like to help on this from a design perspective. [NL]


These will be reported in full elsewhere, but some personal views...........

The Propositions with full wording are published in BBKA News and the website (if you are keenly interested)

01/ For  pro-rata capitation - failed

02/ For joint collection of capitation and BDI - failed

03/ To end endorsement of pesticides - failed

I expected this to be a very close vote following all the recent publicity supporting the proposition. But, the source of this publicity may have antagonised members to vote against.   Surprisingly, the membership vote against (ie for the current approval policy) actually increased from that of last year. Briefly, there were two views i) the use of the logo is bad for the image of BBKA  and ii) farmers and other users are enthusiastic about the use of clear labelling which helps in their decision to use more bee friendly products. Herts voted against the proposition, but asked the Exec to consider a middle road of exploring a new labelling scheme with a new logo introduced specifically for this purpose.

04/ retain skills of retiring officers - failed. Existing processes already handle this.

05/ That BBKA rejoin the Fera Healthy Bees Project Board - failed

  • BBKA has made every attempt at collaboration in the course of 6 meetings with Fera
  • BBKA relations with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, as a comparison, have been excellent
  • Fera have not revealed any of their budgets or finances.
  • Lord Davies is angered at the Fera position and made clear that it is intolerable.
  • BBKA have used BBKA contact information to e-mail members re the C&G train A Trainer Courses. This was done without permission.
  • Fera have also approached members directly for consultancy work.
  • Fera have already funded some ill conceived projects:- a) The C&G Trainer course is not what members want - we need a bee specific courses aimed at divisions rather than counties. b) a sociology project to investigate why people take up beekeeping! c) NBU are not publishing results of their work carried out in the course of the project, because they have no target to do this!
  • One view considered that this proposal was effectively a vote of no confidence in the Exec.
  • BBKA are getting much support from the Opposition (Conservative Party) and things could change with a new government.

09/ Display material - carried. This will be made available.

Hope you can follow all this which is in a hurried note form. But, things are happening.

Happy to answer any questions.

SE Herts news by John Mumford

With the Winter almost over it’s time to start preparations for a new beekeeping season. My bees have come through winter in fine fettle. They are strong, and have not used as much stores as I had expected, but  that will all change as soon as brood rearing get started. I still have one colony dropping more Varroa mites than I would like so I need to get that sorted before I have to start putting supers on.

Our 63rd AGM will be held at 8.00pm on Thursday 11th February 2010 at Pinewood School. All information has bee sent to members in the normal manner.

Are we to continue to arrange Apiary Meetings to which nobody attends?

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

Some serious woodpecker defence. Picture by Jane Moseley.The Bishops Stortford AGM will take place on Wednesday 17th February at 19:30 at Little Acorns, 10 Redricks Lane, Sawbridgeworth, CM21 0RL.

Our guest speaker is Robin Dartington who will be talking about his highly successful initiative called BuzzWorks in Hitchin. He is also the person behind the Dartington hive and the design of the Beehaus from Omlet. Come along and be inspired.

Also, the Bishops Stortford group decided that rather than running a course (and all of the hard work and commitment that requires) we would give a talk giving an introduction to beekeeping. Anyone that is interesting in taking up beekeeping can then attend our regular apiary meeting and learn hands-on from the 'experts'.

Alan Lewis has very kindly organised the talk which has been advertised locally:


Due to the great interest shown in beekeeping I propose to give an introductory talk on Bee Keeping, outlining the work, enjoyment, interest and general requirements. There will be a demonstration of the equipment. After the talk and demonstration there will be a break for tea and I will answer any questions.

Doors will open at 7 pm on Friday the 19th of February at Markwell Pavillion, Castle Gardens, Bishop’s Stortford, CM23 2EL.

There will be a token charge to cover the cost of the hall. The meeting will close at 10pm

Speaker A. G. Lewis (07749262144)

North Herts news by Christine Phillips

Woodpeckers have been busy at Nortonbury this winter. Somehow they have managed to get inside chicken wire and make small holes in many of N.Herts' hives. Fortunately the bees seem to have survived and on the one sunny day recently when the temperature climbed to an amazing 8C several hives had bees circling, stretching their wings and presumably emptying their bowels. A welcome sight after the long cold winter. I hope they don't get too active though before the fresh spring pollen and nectar is available to them.

Next meeting

To get us thinking about how to be better beekeepers this season Roger Patterson will be at our February meeting (16th) with some suggestions for a “New Approach to Beekeeping” It should be an interesting and entertaining talk. Roger is a well known beekeeper from W. Sussex and is also involved with BBKA, BIBBA and BDI.


Our AGM for 2010 will be on February 16th at Howgills at 7.45pm.  Minutes of last year's AGM will be available from 7.30pm.

May I wish everyone a very happy 2010 with good health and plentiful honey. Hope to see as many of you as possible at Roger's talk on 16th at 7.30pm at Howgills. Anyone who hasn't been to Howgills before please give me a ring for directions – 01462 623826.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

AGM on the 22nd January 2010

Attendance was 29 members and 8 visitors.

John Garbutt was elected Treasurer for 2010 and Luke Adams and Richard Peterson were re-elected to the committee. The other officers Eileen Remnant and Christine Aitken and the committee of Marian Whittaker, Robin Moore and Andrew Copley remain as 2009. David Brown will co-opted at the next committee meeting in February.

Garri Wiest, one of our members, then gave us a fascinating talk on beekeeping in Portugal entitled:-

"O Mel produto tradicional da Beira Litoral, Portugal."

The evening ended with a wine and cheese social. Thank you to Eric Margrave for organizing the refreshments.

Beginners Course

Our Beginners Course with 26 participants starts on February 12th 2010.

BeeWorld 2010

St Albans Division is scheduled to co-ordinate BeeWorld at Capel Manor in September 2010. Other HBKA divisions will be contacted shortly and new ideas and suggestions for the event will be very welcome.

Welwyn news by Peter Folge

If we look hard enough we will soon start seeing the days growing longer and the bees will start responding and commence with some brood rearing as fresh pollen becomes available. Next Month we must begin to monitor our hives to see if they have adequate food reserves to get them through the last stage of the winter.

There have been some members concerned about finding dead bees outside and around the hives...just make sure entrances are kept clear so that bees can get out as small entrances can soon become blocked!

It is quite normal to find some bees here and there.

Another thing to watch out for is dampness under the roof especially after all the rain and snow. This can be a real problem if roofs are not water tight. Also be on the guard as 'clued up' woodpeckers can damage a hive in no time. Mice can also move in especially through unprotected entrances.

There have been some reports coming in of some colony losses. Possible causes could be down to colonies going into winter in a poor condition or colonies that have entered winter with not many bees or stores. Beginners it seems are being tempted to open hives to see if all is well and I would like to stress that it is better not to intervene just yet...If colonies were fed adequately in the autumn and treated for Varroa in August and the hives feel heavy to the touch by hefting, this is a good sign. On a warmer day, a quick rap with the knuckles on the side of the hive should give a clear indication if all is well inside.... If the bees respond with a short roar/buzz which dies down quickly this is excellent. If the sound persists this could mean queenlessness and if you hear nothing well....

I have just had a quick look yesterday (Jan 26th) and have found a couple of colonies with less than a handful of bees and these did go into winter as a very large colonies. Again is there any reason? They were adequately treated and plenty of food is still in the hive but the bees have gone? Where? Another colony started buzzing and the noise from within did not die down - possibly queenless?

... Could these deaths be Nosema ceranae? Certainly no sign of many dead bees anywhere?

I am going to take a hard line this year. I will let the bees be and not pamper them with extra feed in the spring... If they make it then they are suitable candidates and perhaps more resistant to our UK weather conditions rather than all these other, possibly imported strains, not adapted or so disease resistant as our locally raised bees. This is the stance I took many years ago and after their autumn feed and treatments colonies were left well alone until beginning April. Like so many others I hardly ever lost a colony over winter it was a very rare occurrence, which now seems a much greater than ever before.

It will be interesting to see if beekeepers who have been treating with Fumidil B (for Nosema) have a better over wintering rate than beekeepers who have not? (I personally do not want to go down this route and have not treated for 15 years or more).

If you do loose a colony make sure you block the entrance to prevent access to other bees until a thorough diagnostic inspection can be made.

If you have any queries please to not hesitate and contact a local representative first.

Before I forget; a quick reminder - Welwyn subscriptions if not paid, are due in by February next month. If not received you will unfortunately no longer receive any further correspondence from the Welwyn beekeeping Association. I would therefore like to thank everyone for their support last year who helped renew interest in our division and we look forward to some new and interesting social events that we will be introducing this year.

I look forward to seeing you all again this year,

Best Wishes for 2010.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

By the time you read this it will be over four months since our last apiary meeting and the thought of those very pleasant Saturday afternoon apiary meetings, last year, seem to be a distant memory now!

On my first hive inspection this year it was a cold day and the bees were not venturing out. I opened the top of my small brood, which was a swarm or possibly a cast which we collected early in July, to ensure they had enough candy.  I was pleased to see the bees busy inside having survived the cold weather so far! I tried to listen to my larger hive which I did not want to disturb unnecessarily as it had plenty of food on it, but there was a tractor in the neighbouring field so I could not hear. I have since been advised by a very experienced beekeeper that, if one puts one's hand over the top of a hive, in cold weather, it should be possible to feel warmth coming up from an active hive. I will test this out on my next visit!

We will be having an AGM in the next month or so and members will be notified as soon as the date is arranged.

BuzzWorks news by Robin Dartington

A year has passed since the last progress report on developing BuzzWorks, Hitchin's Community Bee Garden. We had then started to spend the £25,000 construction grant from WREN and the water supply was in, the huge poplars reduced to half height and the log cabin for the Discovery Centre erected.  The construction phase ended last November with the Bee Flower Garden built and planted by Sam Thomas, and the Demonstration Shelter, General Store and Compost Toilet built by Brian Fairey and Peter Bracey.

The framework for an educational exhibition on the world of bees has been installed in the Discovery Centre by our sponsor, Jordans Cereals,  including splendid observation hive holding four 14x12 frames.  Hexagonal frames (595 high by 520mm wide) hold 68 full and half-sized information panels - these now need to be re-worked to increase the educational content so that local schools can use the site for topic teaching themed on bees at Key Stage 2.  The panels are arranged in 7 chapters, the importance of bees, where you find bees, anatomy, the bees’ nest, pollination, products of the hive and current problems facing bees.

BuzzWorks works in partnership with North Herts District Council who won us a Green Apple Regional Gold Environmental Award in 2009. This is a national scheme and we are told competition is strong, so winning even before we are complete was encouraging.

Work in 2010 will focus on devising video clips, models, microscope slides, quiz sheets, games, cabinet displays and further information folders plus colouring sheets to allow children of all ages to engage fully with the information available across the whole site. A £1,000 grant has been obtained from the county council Locality Budget for a feasibility study prior to full design and production under another grant - we are applying for £10,000 from Awards-4-All towards the £16,500 we estimate is still needed to make BuzzWorks fully fit-for-use as a museum open to the public.

The hives at BuzzWorks thrived in 2009 perhaps a little too well. The number of colonies has swelled to 10 plus 4 nucs, more than the site limit of 8 – despite selling 4 nucs at attractive prices. The apiary is both crowded and unsuitable for giving the public more than a first experience of a beehive. So we have obtained another site from the council, a ? acre of derelict allotments for HoneyWorks Beekeeping Training Centre.  The first job has been to clear 1/3 acre of trees.  The core group of 7 BuzzWorks members has swollen to a list of 25 volunteers who can be called on to help.  In addition, local tree surgeons donated 3 days, the Probation Service has used the site for training and the volunteer force from the adjoining Nature Reserve cut & laid a hedge on the common boundary.  Now we need to drag out roots, scoop a large pond, plant hedges and sow with wildflowers – hopefully with a grant from Fiskars Orange Thumb.  The apiary will take 20 hives of various sorts, some from BuzzWorks, some rather derelict spares, three free samples from hive suppliers (including an Omlet beehaus), two already made for us by the Probation Service workshop and private hives brought temporarily to site by newbys.  We will start some sort of training this summer – it will all keep us busy. Adding the Picnic Area, the Training Building, Store, Apiary Shed, Toilet and Gazebo as the heart of an open-air exhibition of beekeeping through the ages will have to wait – one thing at a time.

The invitation to anyone interested in joining/contributing to any of the work remains open……


HoneyWorks - sweet labour


National Honey Show – St Georges College, Weybridge, Surrey. 28th - 30th October 2010

It's a bit early to be thinking about the National Honey Show isn’t it?  Well, not really, especially if you are new to beekeeping and joined your local association after 1st August 2009. Is that you? If so, you can get in free! To get your free ticket you need to ask your association secretary to apply on your behalf to the NHS General Secretary. Your secretary will need to supply your name, address and your email address if you have one. The NHS is run entirely by volunteers. Using email helps simplify the administration. The cut off date for applications is 31st July and time rushes by when the season starts so get that application in now.

This year the show will be bigger than ever. The trade stands will all be together in a brighter hall and there will be a proper lecture theatre with tiered seating. A full programme of workshops and lectures with world class speakers will run during the show and there will be a wide selection of equipment and books to buy.

Whilst you wait for the active season to start, why not have a look at the NHS website? You will find lots of information about the show and notes on a wide range of beekeeping subjects; all written by experts in their fields.

Beekeeping Survey

Our local bee inspector (Keith Morgan, Food & Environment Research Agency, Regional Bee Inspector, Eastern Region) has asked us to complete Defra survey on beekeeping.

Defra has commissioned People Science and Policy and East Malling research to conduct a study to better understand beekeepers' husbandry practices and how these are influenced by the advice available to them. Beekeepers’ opinions and experiences are a very important part of the study, which will help to improve advice and training for beekeepers, including the work being undertaken to raise beekeeping husbandry standards as part of Defra and Welsh Assembly Government’s Healthy Bees Plan.

We would like to gather views from beekeepers across England and Wales, both from those who are entirely new to the craft as well as from those with years of experience.

The survey can be found by clicking here.

BBKA Annual Delegates Meeting

by Peter Mathews

Proposition /03 - "The BBKA shall cease to endorse pesticides and insecticides as soon as contractually possible"

There are some sharply divided opinions on this proposition which was originally discussed in 2003 and 2009. On both previous votes, delegates agreed to support the current policy. Under the standing orders it should not have been on the agenda this year, but a petition organised by Twickenham saw it being discussed again.

Back in 2000, BBKA set up a farmer education programme. As part of this programme  BBKA were asked to provide independent guidance on 'bee friendly' insecticides . In the current approval process products are subject to independent testing. Test results are reviewed by the BBKA Technical Committee. Those products meeting requirements are then approved by the BBKA. Suppliers are then allowed to use a form of words agreed by BBKA together with use of the BBKA logo in return for a fee. There are only 4 approved products, all pyrethroids (similar to what we ourselves were using to control varroa!). The total income from fees is £17,000 pa,  equivalent to £1 capitation.        [N.B. The BBKA does not endorse these products in the normal sense of the word.]

One of the Herts BKA divisions discussed this and agreed unanimously to support the proposition to 'cease endorsement'. Following discussion at the Herts Exec Meeting, the body of opinion was firmly the other way i.e. against the resolution. Further discussion at the ADM resolved two main views:-

  1. The association of the BBKA logo with insecticides is bad for our public image.
  2. Delegates with farming connections regarded the use of the logo as providing strong guidance for farmers in selecting a 'bee friendly' spray.

One of the strong arguments against the proposition was that we have suffered no major losses from spray for many years. If we were to withdraw product guidance then farmers might be expected to use the most effective products, which are not 'bee friendly'. The use of the logo in this way is very popular with farmers. One failing in the proposition is that it offered no alternative to the current policy.

The BBKA Exec were themselves divided on this, and expressed no view or opinion. They were happy with either outcome and simply wanted a clear decision from delegates.

Herts BKA voted against the proposition with an informal request that the Executive explore alternative methods of approval with the possible introduction of new labelling and a new logo introduced specifically for this purpose.

Voting for the current product approval policy [ie against the proposition] was 9,829 (7,255) and votes against 4,588 (4,056). The 2009 votes are given in brackets. Thus, the proposition failed, attracting a smaller percentage of the vote than last year.

Bigger Boxes?

If you are thinking of moving to a National Deep brood box ie 14" x 12" then you may have delivery problems. Thornes tell us they are completely out of, and working flat out to supply orders. They have been completely surprised by a big increase in demand for the larger brood box. It would seem most of the orders come from Hertfordshire! They hope to be fully stocked again by next month.

If you too are thinking of getting a larger brood box, then you might want to consider a Modified Commercial brood box instead. The MC is only a few mms different in size from National and you can use your old National supers. Just beware of top or bottom bee space. Foundation size is 16" x 10" giving a very useful brood area. Interestingly, the Commercial/National combination is very popular in Essex. It just goes to show the marketing effects of your local guru.

New Beekeepers

by Derek Driver (SE Herts)

Recently, talking to a group of students on Barnet’s Beekeeping course, I advised them to visit as many apiaries as possible. So they could see various types of hives and management styles, plus experience all sorts of bees and to handle short lugs, long lugs, and various sizes of frames. By doing so their knowledge and experience would greatly increase and assist them in managing their own bees.

Many seemed to be surprised when I mentioned that in our division everyone had their own apiary and this was also the position for most beekeepers. Although I understand why one or two groups allow new beekeepers to place their hives on association sites. To allow them to stay on year after year is in my opinion not good practice. There comes a time when newcomers must stand on their own. Experienced members I’m sure would be only too willing to advise and assist if asked, with regard to assessing a new site.

Most members unfortunately seldom attend other divisional meetings so may I make a plea that in 2010 everyone does their best to visit another divisional meeting. Its always interesting to see how other groups work and meet members to discuss common problems and solutions. Beekeepers are a friendly crowd and only too wiling to help new members.

I understand from Barnet members that this year they intend to “break out” and come to other divisional meetings, so if you see a new face at your next meeting then ensure they are made most welcome. You never know it might be me!!

I do hope Barnet’s secretary will keep us all informed via the newsletter, of all the meetings they intend to have this year. Once we get out of this ice age I’m sure our bees will make up and go like the preverbal clappers! So may I take this opportunity to wish everyone the best of beekeeping for the forthcoming season.

Defra Beekeeping study

Defra has commissioned People Science and Policy Ltd and East Malling Research to conduct a study to better understand new beekeepers' husbandry practices and how these are influenced by the advice available to them.  Beekeepers’ opinions and experiences are a very important part of the study, which will help to improve advice and training for new beekeepers, including the work being undertaken to raise beekeeping husbandry standards as part of Defra and Welsh Assembly Government’s Healthy Bees Plan.

I am contacting you as secretary of the Hertfordshire beekeeping association to ask for your help with this work.  We would be very grateful if you could publicise the study among your members. We are looking for beekeepers with all levels of experience; however we are particularly keen to hear from those with less than two years experience. Answers will be treated in confidence. People can register to take part by going to

The study will be running until the end of February 2010.  We are asking:

  • beekeepers with less than two years experience to take part in a questionnaire of approximately 20 minutes; and
  • beekeepers with more than two years experience to register for either a short telephone interview or to take part in a questionnaire of approximately 20 minutes.

We would be very grateful if you are able to help us with this work. If you have any questions please reply to this email or call Alan Worley on 0203 102 8137.

Kind Regards, Tara

BBC News - Bee decline linked to falling biodiversity

by Richard Black, environment correspondent, BBC News website

The decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity, research suggests.

Bees fed pollen from a range of plants showed signs of having a healthier immune system than those eating pollen from a single type, scientists found.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, the French team says that bees need a fully functional immune system in order to sterilise food for the colony.

Other research has shown that bees and wild flowers are declining in step.

Two years ago, scientists in the UK and The Netherlands reported that the diversity of bees and other insects was falling alongside the diversity of plants they fed on and pollinated.

To continue reading, please see the full article at

Bees Abroad

by Veronica Brown


Bees Abroad UK Ltd

tel: 0117 230 0231

On 21st March 2010, Bees Abroad UK Ltd will be hosting a Welcome Day at the National Beekeeping Centre at Stoneleigh Park. For the last 10 years Bees Abroad have been beavering away quietly in a very hands-on way with a variety of projects in developing countries. We help to set up businesses and market honey as well as train beekeepers. We also spend a lot of time raising funds for our projects. All of this takes a lot of effort but Bees Abroad works on the principle that a shared load is a lighter load. We need help in all areas of our work.

So we are holding a Welcome Day for potential volunteers to come along,
at no obligation, to learn more about Bees Abroad and its projects. Meet those involved and talk about sustainable beekeeping and how you can help in ways big and small.
The one-day event will consist of seminars and discussions. Topics will include: Creating a sustainable beekeeping project, the work we do at home and the work we do abroad. Please would you be kind enough to print the attached flier or forward this message to your members who perhaps may be interested in coming along. We need to know numbers by 14th March 2010.

Annual Bee Market and Auction

by Graham Elliott (WSBKA)

With the new beekeeping season fast approaching the West Sussex Beekeepers’ Association is again organising a Bee Market and Auction for the benefit of members and non members. The event will take place at Chichester College's Brinsbury Campus in Pulborough on Saturday 24th April 2010.  A copy of the Auction flyer and entry form is attached.  For further details visit the new West Sussex BKA website or contact me by email or phone 01403 752493.

Paynes Southdown Bee Farms ( will again be in attendance.  Any orders placed with them online before 24 April may be collected from their stand at Brinsbury. Please ensure you indicate collection will be from Brinsbury when placing your order.