February 2011

Hertfordshire Beekeepers AGM
Saturday 26th March, 11am to 5pm
Memorial Hall, 11a Lower Green, Tewin
11:00 AGM
12:30 Lunch (please bring your own or visit the nearby pub)
14:00 Talk 1 - tba
15:00 Talk 2 - tba

Editorial by Paul Cooper

It is February already and hopefully we've seen the last of the bitterly cold weather. Catkins are out (at least here in East Herts) and they supply useful protein in the form of pollen for a growing brood. I saw a green woodpecker in my apiary this morning and as they are probably hungry it was a useful reminder to check that the chicken wire is still secure. It is a good time to give the bees a spring feed and a tried and tested recipe for candy/fondant can be found in the tips section of this website. I hope that all your colonies have come through the winter without any losses.

I have been wondering over the past few months whether the monthly Herts Bees newsletter has run its course? I don't know and would welcome your views. One thing that I am clear about is that it is increasingly difficult to find relevant material to put into the newsletter that is not readily available elsewhere through many different sources. I know that not everyone uses the internet but for those that do it provides access to a wealth of news and information about beekeeping. If you do not use the internet there are various magazines available and, as Peter Mathews reports further down, the excellent BBKA News is soon going to be published monthly.

In terms of local news, our local divisions are making greater use of email, twitter, blogs and local websites. I see very active email discussions taking place and the divisional websites that have been created are excellent. (Note, if your local website is not linked from the Contact Us page then please let me know.)

So if Herts Bees is not able to compete with national news & information and has been replaced at the local divisional level by email, websites, etc, then what is the role of a monthly Herts Bees newsletter?

I have thought about this for a number of months and have decided that I can no longer fulfil the role of editor of the monthly Herts Bees newsletter and I am sorry to say that the March newsletter will be my last. I will however remain responsible for the rest of the website, such as the contact details, beekeeping tips, honey map, calendar, etc.

So if you have some fresh ideas for the HBKA newsletter or feel passionate that it should not cease then there is a vacancy for someone to step-in and take over from me. If you are interested then please let me know or come along to the AGM and find out what it entails.

There is an alternative to a monthly newsletter and I will be creating space on this website for the divisions to post news and other information that they feel has wider appeal across the county. Then if a division still wishes to distribute a printed newsletter, someone could print a copy of the posted items once a month for local distribution. I will be notifying the current newsletter contributors how they can post items themselves.

Finally please don't forget the Calendar. This is our county-wide diary of all events and meetings so please use it and make sure that it is up to date. If your division cannot yet update it then please contact me. Alternatively if you want me to update it then please just send me details of your local activities during the year. Remember that we want cross-pollination, i.e. beekeepers from other divisions to come to our meetings, so the Calendar is the one place that you can waggle dance.

North Herts news by Graham Beesley

Christine Phillips has asked me to write something for North Herts Beekeepers contribution to February’s Herts Bees. Christine, Colin and Andy are overwintering in New Zealand with their son, a resident there, who is also a beekeeper.

She writes:

It really didn't seem like Christmas here - nice to be warm and see the sun though.
 We have been looking at Nick (son's) bees. Lots of nice placid yellow bees, five supers on in some cases and no varroa! That's how beekeeping 
should be. It almost seems too easy.

Well, I’m not sure what I can report. Our Christmas party, which John and Miriam Hill kindly offered to host at Boxwood, was cancelled on the day due to a heavy fall of snow. I favour Jennifer Veasy’s suggestion that we re schedule with a barbecue at some time in June.

Thanks to our members Chris Humphries and Nick Brett Who alerted members with hives to the fact that green woodpeckers are creating carnage at our association apiary at Nortonbury. They seem to have developed the facility to attack hives even though they have been shielded with chicken wire. I guess the long cold spell must have made them desperate in their efforts.

Our next evening meeting, the first for 2011, is on 15th February at 7.30 at Howgills, the Friends Meeting House, Letchworth. Our speaker for the evening is Chris Woodard, Stevenage Borough Councils head of pest control, who is a specialist in all things creepy crawly and should have some interesting anecdotes to tell.

West Herts news by Margaret Tighe

Now that the days are gradually getting longer we can start to look forward to a new season of beekeeping. With this in mind he WHBK Association is holding their AGM at 8pm on Wednesday, 23rd February 2011.  It will be at the same venue as last year, namely, the dining room at Croxley House, Croxley Green, WD3 3JB.   This is the one event in our calendar at which the majority of members, associate members, potential members all get-together.  There will be tea and coffee after the meeting and this is a great opportunity to chat with fellow beekeepers.

Bishops Stortford news by Paul Cooper

AGM - 9th February at 8pm

Each year the member of Bishops Stortford Beekeepers Association come together to determine the future path of the group and elect the Executive members, who will run the group on their behalf.  In addition to the usual administrative stuff, we will be planning the schedule of apiary visits for the year, receive an update on the beginners training course and discuss bulk buying. There will also be a guest speaker.  I hope to see you all there.

Training Course

The beginners course starts in a few weeks time and we have got quite a few confirmed bookings so far. Please contact Julia (juliaesaunders@yahoo.com) if you want to attend.  It will be held every Wednesday from March 2nd - April 6th inclusive, 7.45pm - 10pm at the Bishops Park Community Centre next door to Tesco supermarket.

St Albans news by Christine Aitken

We start our Beginners Course, with 24 participants, on the 9th February 2011.

St Albans Beekeepers’ have a full programme of  ‘Meet the Public’ events lined up for 2011 as well as our usual Apiary meetings at Prae Wood and winter meetings at the United Reformed Church Hall. The programme will be posted on the SABKA website as well as the HBKA website and those members without email will receive a paper copy.

Apiary Clean-up Day is Saturday 26th March. We meet at Prae Wood Apiary for a 10am - 12pm session. Following on from the hedge planting working party earlier in the month it is planned to clear new areas where we can site the returning hives. This will be a large task so plenty of volunteers please.

Oaklands Apiary session is from 2pm - 3pm.

Prae Wood Apiary

It is intended to move hives back into Prae Wood in the Spring. As this is our main teaching apiary, Richard Peterson is preparing a new hive location map to incorporate existing apiary members and prospective new beekeepers on our ‘Hives for All’ scheme. Apiary members will be expected to mentor the beginners. The same expectations apply to Oaklands Apiary.

As seen in the January 2011 newsletter of the St Albans and District Centre of the National Trust:

National Trust news from Shaw’s Corner, Ayot St Lawrence by Sue Morgan, House Manager

We were part of the National Trust ‘Bee Part of it’ project, which introduced bee keeping to properties throughout the country and gave new hives to established beekeepers. Our beekeepers Anne and David Wingate, won second prize in the National Trust Honey Competition. Their success will come as no surprise to any of us who buy and sell this fabulous product. We know that people make the journey to Shaw’s Corner especially for the honey….

So no wonder David won the Cup at our November Honey Tasting Social. Congratulations to you both.

Barnet news by Linda Perry

Barnet beekeepers held their first ever Christmas social in December which was very well attended. We combined this with a honey tasting competition, congratulations to the winners.

We have now begun our beginners course. We have approximately 20 very keen and enthusiastic people who turn up on Saturdays to learn all about beekeeping. Our theory course will run until March/April when we hope the weather will be ok to start doing some apiary visits. We have Alan Byham coming to do a session on Varroa and bee diseases/ pests for all members on February 19th. We have just set up a new association apiary at some local allotments so it will be interesting to see how the colonies develop there. One of our other apiaries had very bad woodpecker damage this year – a reminder of the need to protect well for the winter period! It is too early to judge how our bees have overwintered but hopefully our autumn preparations and feeding have given them the best chances!

Varroa still a problem in the 21st century – IBRA conference report

by Pete Kennedy, St Albans BKA
The International Bee Research Association (IBRA) held a conference at the University of Worcester on Saturday, 29th January, on what is considered by many as still the greatest threat for beekeeping:  the parasitic mite Varroa destructor.  The event was well attended with over 180 delegates registered and the lecture hall packed close to capacity.  No surprise considering the quality of speakers invited.
  • Dr Stephen Martin (Sheffield University) led the packed programme of talks by summarising what is known about varroa biology and offered some hope in how current US work on sequencing the varroa genome may further aid our understanding of its biology.
  • Dr Joachim de Miranda (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) followed and spoke about the long association between honey bees and their viruses, and how the arrival of varroa changed this relationship.  An EU-funded project is currently underway developing a diagnostic device (similar to that used for AFB and EFB) to help beekeepers and researcher test for 6 common viruses in their colonies.
  • Dr Max Watkins (Vita (Europe) Ltd) spoke about chemical control of varroa, costs & effort involved in developing & registering a new product, and the benefits of using a registered vs unregistered (often not fully tested) products.  On a question of whether varroa could develop resistance to thymol, he explained that it is theoretically possible but none has been seen so far.
  • Prof. Keith Delaplane (University of Georgia, USA) focussed on IPM approaches to deal with varroa.  Emphasis is on utilising a variety of control tactics acting on different stages of its life history.  Although they may differ in effectiveness, it is the combination and/or rotation of approaches that is important.  Chemicals are still part of the arsenal, but utilised within a programme of tactics as a last resort based on thresholds, thus reducing side effects and residues.
  • Dr. David Chandler (University of Warwick) explained how commercial growers of greenhouse crops have used IPM for over 50 years and now rarely resort to chemicals.  Despite parallels between greenhouses and bee hives, being controlled environments in which chemical resistance by pests is an issue, he emphasised the in-depth knowledge and variety of control options needed.  He presented work on entomopathogenic fungi, from around the world, as a promising option within varroa IPM.
  • Norman Carreck (IBRA & University of Sussex) reviewed progress in breeding honey bees for varroa tolerance but emphasised caution:  Some examples of untreated colonies surviving have on closer inspection been due to isolated changes in the varroa mite rather honey bee tolerance.  The COLOSS project is currently testing 16 strains across 16 countries to evaluate them under standardized test conditions.  Work at Sussex is using DNA markers to guide efforts in breeding for hygienic behaviour.
  • Dr Jochen Pflugfelder (Swiss Bee Research Centre) concluded the day by summarising research directions and priorities identified at recent international research workshops focussed on varroa.  The number of such recent events draws attention to the continuing problem varroa still represents in the 21st century.
In the words of Keith Delaplane, the 1-day IBRA conference offered a “good bang for the buck”.  A book based on the conference will be published in April.  If you are interested in research related to bees, then why not check out IBRA’s website (www.ibra.org.uk) and consider becoming a member.

Statement from the BBKA on Neonicotinoid Pesticides

The BBKA shares the concerns expressed relating to reports of possible harm to honey bees that may be caused by the neonicotinoid group of pesticides. It calls for an urgent review of all the available data on the effects of these compounds. The BBKA has consistently urged for more research into this group of compounds as evidenced in its paper Honey Bee Health Research Concepts (Jan 2009) and earlier papers submitted to Government. The BBKA itself is funding research on pesticide residues in bee colonies at Keele University.

This urgent review, based not only on existing literature but also encompassing any new and as yet unpublished data, should involve a thorough re-evaluation and up to date risk assessment of these agents and their effects on honey bees by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate in the UK and competent European authorities, the outcome of which must lead to appropriate action.

Martin Smith
24th January 2011

BBKA ADM report

by Peter Mathews 

A few notes from today's ADM. These are very brief and more details will appear on the BBKA website and 'BBKA News'


  1. Increase in capitation of £1 pppa. This was CARRIED. Capitation for Registered Members will be £15 from next year.
    N.B.  This is not linked to the cessation of pesticide approvals.
  2. Review of the Development of Intellectual Property. CARRIED.
    This will allow BBKA to be involved in a wide range of collaboration with other bodies, including manufacturers of agro-chemicals.
  3. BBKA cease any commercial relations with agrochemical companies incl use of BBKA logo on approved products. CARRIED.
    After suitable amendment by BBKA, this motion was carried. Martin Smith (President) made a special plea to all delegates to support this motion. In its amended form the proposition simply reflects the announcement on cessation of pesticide approval made in November. Thus the vote approves what has already been done.
    In its orginal form the proposition from Twickenham would have resulted in anomalies [eg some of last year's stand holders at the Spring Convention would attend free of charge].
  4. Partner / Junior Membership
    This would allow juniors to join as Partner members correcting an anomaly. CARRIED.
  5. Introduction of a new category of Junior members.     CARRIED
    The Exec originally advised against this proposition on administrative grounds eg Criminal Record checks etc. In practice there will be no involvement by BBKA. Any special legal requirements to accommodate juniors will be down to the divisions.
  6. British Queen Raising Programme.   CARRIED
  7. Changes to Rules describing Membership Database Updates. CARRIED

There is one application for a new association (Cleveland) and two special groups.  CARRIED

Please refer to 'BBKA News' for more detail of the actual propositions.


  • Jane Moseley was formally adopted as General Secretary and presented with her badge of office - Well done Jane !
    In her reply she said that she intends visiting associations to gain a better understanding of how they work, and what they want from the BBKA.
  • Tim Lovett and Norman Carrick were awarded Honorary Membership.
  • The new BBKA website will be launched at the Spring Convention [the sample page looked pretty similar to Herts Bees to me!  I did suggest they look at our website last year]
  • New sponsors for Adopt a Hive are Berts Bees products.
  • 'BBKA News' is going colour and monthly. It will not replace 'Bee Craft' and will contain completely different information. The newsletter goes to all members. Only about 30% of the membership take 'BeeCraft'.
    [This largely gives support to Paul Cooper's question, "Do we need a separate Herts newsletter?" - a question he posed before this announcement. Perhaps not, Paul.]
  • The new 'Yellow' Course In A Case (for Novices) is now available. £50 for first, then £95.
  • The changes to the Rules regarding the database have an important consequence. The list of members issued by BBKA in Spring and Autumn will be used for billing right or wrong. In other words, there will be no scope for correcting the list after the due date. The onus is on us to ensure all additions and amendments are made in good time. It will be especially important to delete lapsed members otherwise they will be charged (strictly no refunds).
    Currently, associations have been correcting the list way into the summer with capitation coming in 3 or 4 months late. Whilst the rules are harsh, life should be simpler for all. And, if we overpay, it is simply down to our own inefficiency.