Dear Members,

As the festive season approaches, hopefully those among you who make mead will raise a glass without needing to wait for a sting, as Brother Adam (of Buckfast bees) recommended. The old beekeepers used to give their bees a Christmas present of fondant, but hopefully you ensured your bees were well fed in the Autumn as they are best not disturbed at the moment!

One of the advantages of Covid has been the rash of online webinars and zoom meetings about beekeeping. How our tech vocabulary has increased, along with, hopefully, our technological confidence.

Professor David Evans' talk in November about bee sheds, prompted a lot of thought. Our rather damp windy island weather has always been a challenge to beekeepers, but as David pointed out, Scotland, with double the rainfall of that in Warwickshire, faces even more challenges when inspecting bees on a regular basis. His solution is to look towards the practice in parts of Europe, to keep bees in an adapted shed.
I recalled seeing a trailer housing ten colonies of bees in the Czech Republic, and thinking what a good idea it was to transport bees to fertilize orchards or crops without having to strap up heavy boxes and load and unload them. Far easier to hitch the trailer to a car or lorry and be on the way!

David is a virologist and is working on Chronic Bee Paralysis and Deformed Wing Viruses (CBPV and DWV). He pointed out that evidence of these viruses in a colony means that there is a high varroa load and rescuing a colony which is badly affected requires drastic action, such as carrying out a shook swarm followed by treatment with a miticide such as Apivar, which deals with the phoretic mites, while discarding the brood, deals with the remaining 90% of mites present in the colony. Failure to deal with the problem will inevitably result in the death of the colony as the diseases will shorten the life of the bees.

There is a lot of work being done by Prof Steve Martin and other scientists on varroa resistance and limiting the use of miticides which may build resistance, however, when bees are heavily infected with a virus, clearly drastic action is required.

Once again I am impressed by the need to always think about what we do as beekeepers. There are no easy solutions and blindly following the same processes we were told to carry out in the past without having regard for the specifics of our bees, our location, the climate, and the current knowledge from research, is poor practice.

David Evans stressed that the strain of bees was important in how to deal with bees and disease, and that there was some evidence of a CBPV disease link to imported bees and queens. Again this shows how important it is for beekeepers to understand the consequences of importing bees and to understand the differing characteristics of different bees.

This also came up in the Branch Zoom meeting where the question was raised about how to overwinter a strong colony on a double brood box. If you have prolific bees it is difficult to get them into one broodbox. The Native, or near native Black bees are less prolific and easier to manage and survive our climatic vagaries better, so maybe we should all try to select for smaller, darker queens rather than the large yellow queens which indicate a larger portion of imported DNA?

Another crucial point was raised at the Branch Zoom meeting - remember to remove queen excluders if you are overwintering with a super. The bees will not move onto the food and leave the queen behind, so they will starve with food available, or if they do move onto the food, the queen will be left behind outside the cluster, and freeze or starve.

Those of you who are interested in again supporting Crackerteria, The Rugby charity, go to their website where you can volunteer to help, or order a take-away Christmas dinner during December.

Regards, and stay safe and well,

Margaret Holdsworth


Beebase News Web feed
  • LAST CHANCE: to answer our survey on how training and information sources for beekeepers and bee farmers can be improved
    20 April 2021
    With thanks to those of you who have already responded. For those of who haven’t yet had chance to answer the survey there is still time but it closes tomorrow. For further details please see below.

    Gyda diolch i'r rhai ohonoch sydd eisoes wedi ymateb. I'r rhai nad ydynt wedi cael cyfle eto i ateb yr arolwg mae amser o hyd ond mae'n cau yfory. Am fanylion pellach gweler isod.

    Defra and the Welsh Government want to ensure that beekeepers and bee farmers have access to training and information that can help them implement effective biosecurity and maintain good standards of husbandry, so as to minimise pest and disease risks and improve the sustainability of honeybee populations.

    A short questionnaire is available for current beekeepers, people who have recently stopped keeping bees as well as bee farmers to give their views and opinions on the type, accessibility and range of training and information available and how it could be improved. It should take no more than 15 minutes.

    Please go to to complete the survey by 21 April.

    Defnyddiwch y ddolen hon i gwblhau'r arolwg erbyn 21/04/2021.
  • Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) Vacancies
    19 April 2021
    The National Bee Unit currently has a number of Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) vacancies advertised in the following areas South Kent & East Sussex, South West Devon and South East Wales

    If you are interested in applying for the job, full details can be found on Civil Service Jobs.

  • Reporting Varroa
    12 April 2021
    Amendments to the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006, the Bees Diseases and Pest Control (Scotland) Order 2007 and the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Wales) Order 2006 come into force on the 21st of April 2021 requiring all beekeepers and/or officials in GB to report the presence of Varroa in any of the hives that they manage. This amendment will allow Great Britain to comply with the Animal Health Law which is necessary for future working relationships with the European Union.

    To make this simple, a tick box will be introduced to BeeBase, the voluntary register for beekeepers managed by the National Bee Unit. This will be the easiest way to report Varroa but an alternative mechanism will be provided for those who do not wish to register on the BeeBase system. Details of this alternative system will be provided after 21st April. If Scottish Beekeepers wish to, they can report varroa by contacting the Scottish Bee Health Inspectors (

    Although Varroa is known to be widespread, it continues to be one of the most serious pests faced by beekeepers. Reporting Varroa will contribute to the overall pest and disease surveillance work of the National Bee Unit and the Scottish Bee Health Inspectorate. We are grateful for your assistance with this new simple measure.

    No action will be required until after 21st April.