Dear Members,

Beekeeping, a bit like Covid 19, can be hard to pin down. Trying to work out what the right steps are to take in a given situation, making mistakes, and feeling confused when things don’t go to plan seem to be par for the course in both situations.

July, when swarms still occur, can be a busy time. Many of you will be thinking of extracting honey if you have not yet done so, also, as hives are building up to a peak, the threat of swarms is a continuing reality, yet, as the old adage goes ‘ A swarm in July is not worth a fly’. While this may have been the case in former, leaner years, today we don’t think twice about feeding our bees sugar syrup to help them draw out comb and still be strong enough as a colony for breeding winter bees in August September, and of course having enough in the way of stores to overwinter successfully.

I was reminded this year how important record keeping is when after a particularly hot day earlier in the season I was eager to get home and have a cool shower. I rushed to make notes on my hive records. I got in a muddle and noted on Hive 1 that I had left one queen cell and to leave for at least 3 weeks before inspecting. I was therefore puzzled to get a phone call telling me my bees had swarmed.

Fortunately, I captured the swarm, and patted myself on the back, but was unsure which hive had swarmed.

A few days later another phone call alerted me to yet another swarm - this time a cast. Looking back through my records I couldn’t work out where it had come from and it was only when I finally inspected Hive 1 and found numerous broken down queen cells that I worked out I had missed out the second step of returning to break down any new cells which had been started on eggs or larvae. A basic error as a result of careless record making.

My excuse to myself was that I was hot and bothered, and of course we all make mistakes in beekeeping, what is important is to learn from them - hopefully!

Here are more of Maurice’s limericks - they are very topical !

A beekeeper who was young and keen,
Spent good money on a new Buckfast queen,
It started terrific,
She was very prolific,
Then swarmed and was never again seen!

Not only was the queen never seen but her progeny will tend to be rather aggressive, so please keep to local queens and bees. The association will always try to help if you need a queen.

Here too is something we should all be concerned about - destroying and cluttering our planet!

Polystyrene hives are the way forward, said he,
As he transferred his bees' to them with glee,
They do not go rotten,
But he had forgotten,
That when finished with, they end in the sea!

If another Branch Zoom meeting is held, please join us as there have been some interesting discussions and ideas put forward, Martin will send out a link for you to follow.

So, here’s hoping you have a good honey harvest following our amazing Spring weather, and not too bad Summer so far, and also a few tips to keep you on track......

Regards, and stay safe and well,
Margaret Holdsworth


Beebase News Web feed
  • Starvation and Varroa Alert
    04 December 2020
    Observations from beekeepers and Bee Inspectors across the UK suggest that some colonies of bees are becoming short of food.

    Please monitor your colonies throughout the coming months and feed as required to ensure your bees do not starve. A standard full size British National colony needs between 20-25 kg of stores to successfully overwinter. If they need feeding at this time then fondant should be used. This should be placed above the brood nest so that the bees are able to access it easily.

    For further information, please see the ‘Best Practice Guidance No. 7 - Feeding Bees Sugar’ on the following BeeBase Page:

    It has also been observed that Varroa levels in some hives are starting to increase again. This may be due to a number of factors, but the exceptionally mild weather this autumn has encouraged some colonies to produce more brood than usual which has allowed an increase in mite reproduction.

    Please monitor mite levels and treat accordingly.

    For further information, please see the’ Managing Varroa’ Advisory leaflet on the following BeeBase Page:
  • Julian Parker – Head of APHA’s National Bee Unit.
    23 November 2020
    Following a recent recruitment process Julian Parker has been appointed as Head of the National Bee Unit (NBU) within Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. Within the NBU Julian has previously been Acting Head as well as National Bee Inspector and before that Regional Bee Inspector for Southern and South East Regions. Julian has over 12 years operational experience with the NBU including leading outbreak situations. Julian is also well known in the wider beekeeping community and his expertise is highly respected across Defra and Welsh Government as well as with Bee Health stakeholders. He has also played a key role in the review of the 2020 Healthy Bees Plan and will now play a significant role in delivering the Healthy Bee Plan 2030. Many congratulations Julian.
  • Email issues
    16 November 2020
    If you have sent an email to between the 10th November and the 16th November, due to a system failure your message has not been received. Please resend your messages, we apologise for the inconvenience.