Bee World at the Bishops Stortford Carnival

by Paul Cooper

The weekend started with rain and
ended with rain. There was also a lot of rain in between. But the Bishops Stortford Carnival on Saturday and the Manuden Open Gardens on Sunday were both a huge success. The new marquee and graphics drew the crowds and we certainly were highly visible despite the overcast weather.

We sold 56 jars of honey and could have sold more if we had some smaller jars. Everyone asked for the most locally produced honey in the Bishops Stortford area.

The candle rolling kept Phil and Tamara plus many children entertained all afternoon, and trying on the small bee suits was very popular with the children. But the central attractions were the two observations hives that John Palombo brought along. Sharp-eyed children were rewarded with "I've seen the Queen" stickers.

We were ably assisted during the day by David and Anne Wingate, Peter Mathews and Tamara Leslie, and we are very grateful that they took the time to come and help out.

The next day we decamped a few miles down the road to the Manuden Open Gardens where we did a repeat performance in Alan Gardiner's garden, but this time with very welcome refreshments. Learning about bees seemed to be very popular for Manuden's green-fingered visitors.

It was a long, tiring but enjoyable weekend with a constant stream of visitors. We are looking forward to doing it all again very soon.

Herts County Show

by Peter Mathews
We once again gathered at Redbourn, the show ground of our County Show. Freak weather for Redbourn - the skies were blue and the sun was shining. This year was also unusual in that the event was not adopted by the county as part of Bee World. Instead the show was organised by St Albans, Welwyn, North Herts and Hertford & Ware. Finances could have been complicated had it not been for some smart negotiations by Phil Jepson in securing our pitch free of charge for this year only.

Our new flyers proved so popular. Whatever did we ever do without them ? But, not as popular as the observation hive which gathered a small crowd throughout the day. If you didn't find the queen in the observation hive, then you might find her in the virtual hive. Other attractions included a honey extractor and a microscope for observing varroa mites. Placing the microscope next to a collection box for the BBKA Research Fund resulted in a steady chink of donations. A bee garden display of bee friendly plants set out by St Albans, together with a collection of plants for sale helped us blend in well into the Horticultural Marquee.

Honey sales were went well with Derrick Richardson topping sales with 95 jars sold. Well done Derrick! Last year the show took place in torrential rain, with many outdoor events being called off. Added to this the event was moved to the Queen's Jubilee Weekend and Thames Pageant. It was so quiet, exhibitors outnumbered visitors. So it is hard to believe with sun and the crowds we saw this year that honey sales were actually down on 2012 - 220lbs sold in 2012, 200 lbs this year.

Next time around, we should think about having a second observation hive, name badges and the new display. Best memory of the show? Think all us old hands were so very impressed by the support and enthusiasm from our newer members. I really think they did such a good job on the observation and virtual hives.

Photos by Richard Peterson & Peter Mathews

Welwyn news - May 2013

by Peter Mathews

Hertfordshire BKA President

We are very pleased to welcome David Wingate of St Albans as our President for 2013-14. And, wish him a highly successful and enjoyable year in office.

On the Trail of the American Honeybee

BBC Radio 4 broadcast on Tues, 26th March at 11.00am—some of the problems confronting American beefarmers pollinating the almond crops in California, still on iplayer:-

Welwyn Shop

Unlike last year, there are no excuses for not preparing for the year ahead. The shop has a good stock of all BS frames and foundation. Prices have largely remained unchanged for the past 3 years. There is one small price ‘rise’, we are replacing DN4 frames with DN5—this is the same thing but with the full width top bar. DN5s are less prone to brace comb. A few DN4s are still available at £8 / 10; DN5s are £9 / 10.
We do not stock anything other than BS. But, please contact me if you use Langstroth, Commercial etc as I can include you in our foundation order, passing on any discount. Some members have also asked about drone foundation. Although, we have a little in stock, there seems little demand. Again, please let me know if you are likely to want this in any quantity.

Prices are approx 10% below list with no p&p. Email; or Call 01707 321018.

Honey Jars

If you ordered an attic full of honey jars last time round, and had precious little honey last year, then you may well still have a good stock of jars. On the other hand, if your stock is getting low then you may be interested in stocking up, I have a quotation from Freeman & Harding based on one pallet. Price works out at £44 to £50 /gross including VAT and delivery (reflecting full or part pallet). The on line price is £58 /gross including BBKA discount and delivery. A number of local suppliers also have jars for sale, and so we will only place a bulk order if there is sufficient demand.

The jars we use are from Freeman & Harding. These are the best and the only jars designed for a 1lb fill. They also come with fitted lids to avoid contamination. There are cheaper versions eg Wynne Jones currently has jars on special offer at £31 / gross plus £12 carriage. These are from the Bristol Bottle Co – but, were the poorest quality jar when we last did a comparison.

Please let me know if you want jars this summer. I would like to know :- 1) What you want and 2) the Maximum Number you are prepared to take to help make up an order. It’s okay if you are short on space and 1) and 2) are the same thing.

Preparing for The Modules

Following on from our successful Preparing for The Basic, we are now offering a workshop over 2 evenings Preparing for Module 1. This is based upon the workshop run at The Spring Convention by Margaret Murdin and will use her material. The first evening will look at the syllabus, dealing with FAQ, reading list, sources of information etc. The second evening will deal with exam technique, past papers and what the examiner is looking for. The workshop is intended for those wanting to take Module 1 in the Autumn or next Spring.

In other associations prospective candidates form study groups to get best value out of the BBKA correspondence course. Our aim is to do something similar.

Please register your interest with our Training Officer, Mike Goodhew, email :-

General Husbandry

Christine Phillips is still collecting names for people interested in attending a General Husbandry Course. This is to be covered in 10 sessions, which may be run over at weekends. Cost is likely to be £35, although there may be a subsidy on this. Contact Christine:-


The European Food Safety Standards Committee will be voting on Monday 29th for a moratorium involving a 2 year ban on select pesticides. Nature posted a pre-vote review last week -

The real question is ‘What is going to replace them?’ Organophosphates would seem a worse option.

Diary Dates

Social Evening at The Waggoner’s, Ayot Green
We resume our informal social evenings at the Waggoners on Tuesday, 7th May from 8pm. Just show up. Please let me know if you want me to bring along foundation or frames.

Herts County Show
Sat. 25th & Sun 26th May—Redbourn, County Show Ground. This year the event is not part of BeeWorld, but is a joint event between St Albans, North Herts and Welwyn. As usual we need honey and other hive produce and helpers. This is now the top country show, after losing that at Hatfield House. Participants enjoy an excellent day out with free entry to the rest of the show. Please contact Phill Jepson to secure your ticket tel 01707 881095 email

Hatfield House
Garden Show Friday 31st May—Sunday 2nd June

Welwyn Street Market - Saturday, 22nd June
We have been participating in the Welwyn Festival longer than any other event. It has proved to be one of the best for honey sales typically 100+ sales in the space of the morning. Offers of help and produce for sale to Peter Folge: tel 01438 816211, email

Rain didn't stop play

THIRTY members of St Albans Beekeepers’ Association attended the first apiary meeting of the year at Prae Wood on Saturday, April 27. Unfortunately the weather proved to be a little inclement, so the planned talk had to be given in the apiary shed and with this number of members present it became a little crowded inside.

It fell to Richard Peterson to open the meeting and he started by welcoming all members, old and new, to Prae Wood and then introduced David Wingate as the new HBKA president. He explained for the benefit of the newcomers that the HBKA’s president was appointed annually on a rota basis around the branches within the Association and this year the honour fell to St Albans to provide a candidate. David was invited to fill the post, as one of our most experienced beekeepers, and this has proved to be a popular choice.

David’s first duty as president was to present Peter Tomkins with the BBKA’s certificate for achieving fifty years of beekeeping and, as he interjected, he was not due to retire until next year. He started beekeeping at the age of fourteen and is now an octogenarian, he had passed that milepost many years ago.

After the formalities Anne Wingate gave a very well received talk on artificial swarm control which was aimed primarily at the new beekeepers and demonstrated with the aid of a couple of new brood chambers and frames, as visual aids, the procedures to be gone through to complete the procedure. Anne also explained, that persistent tearing down of swarm cells in order to prevent swarming, as many beginners mistakenly think they can do if they are really careful, is not an option as they will inevitably miss a cell and the bees will swarm anyhow, She then spoke about the virtues of leaving a couple of queen cells in the original box to hatch as sometimes the bees can encapsulate a worker inside a queen cell and the bees are fooled into thinking that the cell is viable and do not raise an emergency queen. Therefore if only one cell was left the colony would be left queenless and so cannot recover.

The members were then invited to partake of tea and cake and continued with an informal discussion outside as the rain had by then abated.

Some of the new beekeepers were anxious to do some beekeeping and open their hives but were advised against it as the weather had turned too cold to sensibly open up. The meeting finally closed around 5 pm

The next apiary meeting at Prae Wood will be on Saturday, May 18 when the subject will be ‘Questions & Answers Discussion’, hosted by Luke Adams and Eric Margrave. Everyone is welcome at these meetings so please do come and join in. You never know you may just learn something!

Meet your President 2013/2014 – David Wingate (St.Albans)

My son would only eat honey on his bread or toast, so I bought honey from a chap at work who kept bees in Welwyn Garden City. He had had a bad year though with none for sale so I took up beekeeping in 1975. My father kept bees during WWII so I had some idea of what to do. I joined St.Albans BKA then and bought a WBC hive from Arthur Samphier (Treasurer?).

In the first year I spent around £125 and got 25lbs of honey. I kept the hive on an allotment but a number of old chaps got stung by bees collecting sweat off their naked backs, so had to move them. Anne helped but in 1977/78 I started doing a lot of travelling for work so she took over and became very keen. Since then we have done it together or separately depending on who was around.

I was a flight engineer on Comet and Trident and then a pilot on the DH125 business jet at DHs which became Hawker Siddley then British Aerospace. I retired in 1993 and as Anne and I have both got older we need each other for the lifting. Currently we have 5 hives, WBC’s and Nationals but have had as many as 15.

The thing I enjoy I most is swarm catching. The one I remember most was a swarm in a tree in St.Peter’s Street, St.Albans at a bus stop. The council was very worried so they sent a man with a truck and a large step ladder so that I could reach. The truck was parked half on the pavement, tilted and Anne held the rather rickety stepladder. I had a nice email from the council thanking me and saying that in the event of a blue moon and another swarm, they would try and get a Cherry Picker. My car was parked next to the truck at the bus stop and a traffic warden was about to write a ticket until he was told where to go by the council truck driver.

About 2 weeks later there was a blue moon with another swarm in a tree outside the Town Hall in St.Albans - it was much easier and more fun using a Cherry Picker!!

Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

From BBC News

A vote in the EU has paved the way for the European Commission to restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths in scientific studies.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.  But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban - not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids - and the UK cannot opt out.

The UK did not support a ban - it argues that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 July this year.

Click here for the full article.

Starvation Risk update

by National Bee Unit

Following our post about bee starvation and what looks to be another few weeks of terrible weather, it is advisable to start thinking about feeding your colonies some form of pollen substitute. By now the winter bees will have started to die off and the production of brood to replace these loses are important. However, without suitable protein and nectar, the development of brood will be damaged and in some instances may not happen at all.

It is always better to source a pollen substitute from a commercial/ equipment supplier because the consistency of the product will always be assured and they are specifically designed to help boost a colony. However, if you cannot source a pollen substitute it can be made up by mixing 3 parts (by weight) soybean flour, 1 part dried brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and 1 part dry skimmed milk. Prepare a solution of 2 parts by volume of sugar to 1 part hot water.

Let the solution cool and mix one litre of this solution with 400 grams of the substitute. Form it into a cake and wrap in grease proof paper, if necessary they can be stored in a freezer. When using cut a small hole in the paper and place the package hole side down on the top bars over the cluster and preferably over open brood. The bees will tear the paper away and feed on the cake. It is important that the cake remains moist or bees will ignore it, so maintain the paper cover over the top or wrap it in several layers of cling film and pierce a hole big enough for the bees to get in and feed on it.

The amount fed is variable depending on the strength of the colony and external conditions. A small colony on three frames may only need 50 grams a week whilst a very strong colony may require more.
Maintain feeding substitutes until there is an adequate natural pollen crop as it may be detrimental to the colonies development to stop beforehand. This is because brood food production may be affected leading to the starvation of larvae.

Remember homemade pollen substitutes can be very variable in nutritional value due to the different ingredient brands. Generally it is better to obtain a commercial honeybee pollen substitute as the quality is assured.

Pollen substitutes must not be used if the colony is starving because it is more important to get feed into the colony rather than protein. One your hives have suitable food stores, you may then place a pollen pate on the top bars, if there isn’t already a natural source coming in.

Finally it is also worth noting that in some parts of the country, bees are still reluctant to take liquid syrup but will use invert syrups such as ambrosia. If you find that your bees are taking neither then stick to fondant until the weather warms up.

Starvation Risk – Important Information about Colony Food Level

by National Bee Unit

With the continued poor weather looking to persist through to the end of March, colonies may be starting to run out of food (if they haven’t already). It would be advisable to check the food levels by opening the hive and making a very quick observation on their store levels. Key points to remember are:

• The colony may still have stores available which are at the other end of the brood chamber to the cluster of bees. If there are ‘empty’ frames between the two then the bees could still starve, despite food being in the chamber. Move the frames of food directly next to the outer frame where the cluster resides, ensuring that you score each frame of food (not excessively, but enough to stimulate feeding). Be sure not to knock or roll the bees when doing this and to be as quick as possible.

• If the colony has little or no frames of food then give them a block of candy or fondant. You want to aim for about 2.5 kg per hive and although this may seem to be a great expense, it is far less than the money you will have wasted should the bees die.

• Mini plastic bags that are used to store loose fruit in from the supermarket are perfectly acceptable for holding the fondant and cost nothing. Pack the candy in the bag and then pierce holes in the appropriate place once you get to the hive. If the bag seems fragile then you can double bag it (just be sure to pierce both bags).

• At this time of the year we would usually start feeding sugar syrup but with these temperatures it is still too cold. Place the fondant directly above the bees, turning the crownboard if necessary so that one of the porter bee escape holes is above the cluster.

Please be aware that this should be done as quickly and carefully as possible and although it may seem too cold to open the hive now, it is far better to do so knowing the bees are ok than not to and find later that they have died.

For more information please refer to Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’ (

Annual General Meeting

Hertfordshire Beekeepers Association
Annual General Meeting

11.00 am on Saturday, 23rd March 2013

Tewin Village Hall, Lower Green, Tewin, AL6 0JX

  1. Apologies for absence
  2. Minutes of the previous Meeting and Matters arising
  3. Officers' Reports
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Bee World 2013
  6. Training
  7. Swarm Collection
  8. Pesticides
  9. Any Other Business
  10. Date of Next Meeting - 15th March 2014
The afternoon speakers are:
  • 2.00 pm: Dr Stephen Wolf, Rothampstead Research – Radar Tracking of Honey Bees
  • 3.00 pm: Caroline Luxford, Buckinghamshire BKA – A Beekeeping Gap Year in New Zealand
This year Hertford and Ware BKA will be providing the teas at the County BKA's AGM and as in previous years, donations of cakes for the 'refreshment breaks' would be gratefully received.