Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Bee press; Articles: The varroa mites secret weapon - cloning Graham Law; Colony development during the active season John Yates; An investigation into natural comb - cell orientation (part5) Ian Rumsey; Bumble bees in winter Mathew Allen. Readers letters: Bob Ogden, John Yates, Margaret Cowley, Natally Senchugove. Diary of events and more. Please wait while downloading 298KB.


Apis-UK Issue No.21 February 2004
National brood frame
National brood frame - Ashford BKA meeting 2002

February 2004 and for most of us, all is well with the world of beekeeping. Our projects hatched over the winter months are about to take shape and most of us, having made splendid new year resolutions, hope for and expect a good year of beekeeping.

GMOs and GMIs

On the overall scene though, many of us and indeed many members of the public appear to be sensing a growing unease. An unease caused by an increasing awareness that in the name of disease limitation and other laudable aims, science is steadily de- coupling us from the natural world and in fact, de-coupling nature from the natural world. Is that possible? It could well be. The debate over GMOs has occupied us as beekeepers for several years now, but this debate has essentially centred on the genetic modification of plants, organisms which are of course central to bees and beekeepers. In this issue of Apis-UK, we take you a step further with news of genetically modified insects, including bees. (See news items).
It is claimed that there could be many benefits from such science; diseases could be checked; people could live longer; even varroa could be overcome. I’m sure that all this is true, but in the meantime, genetic diversity which can hold keys to problems and diseases we don’t even yet know about, could well become less diverse, and could ultimately be lost. If you have the perfect ‘modified’ bee, why do you need any other? For those who are against this science of GMOs, there is a problem here because the research and practical application of such organisms will continue inexorably until a better and more efficient method of improving things is found. Look what happened to vinyl LPs! This newsletter is not a forum dedicated to the science of organic farming methods, (except in as much as they affect beekeepers) just as it isn’t a forum for GM science, (or a forum dedicated to those against GMOs) but both these subjects are of crucial importance to us as beekeepers, and scientific research is now showing that producing food organically, is not only better for the environment, but is more efficient than other forms of farming; can produce more food, and keep us all much healthier. All this, in addition to maintaining essential biodiversity for the future when science can begin to help us understand what the natural world holds for us. (See item on Indian folk medicine in the news section). So are organic methods of food production the better and more efficient alternatives to GMOs? We will never know unless we try it. Properly using science to help us. Instead of wrecking a field of GMOs and alienating many sympathisers, why not grow a field of organic crops and prove how better they are? Simply and easily said I know, and said simply to make a point because the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and proof is essential if we are to find a way forward out of our current uncertainties. Proof is essential to motivate a sceptical and in many ways ignorant public. It could be the only way of halting the drift towards a genetically modified world that none of us will truly understand.

This important subject possibly talked about even more than GMOs has another airing in this issue when we look at mite resistance to chemical treatments. Was it the fault of under or over use of unauthorised treatments? Or was it something else? We take a look, and get a surprise. (See article below). I did anyway. Also in this issue we report on some more details of the honey bee genome sequencing; how bees can help robots; new light on evolutionary processes, and our usual articles of interest to beekeepers. The Fact File in this issue concerns the often mysterious business of honey bee mating in Drone Congregation Areas (DCAs). We bring you up to date with current thought on this little known about subject, and one that I am particularly interested in having researched the matter at Cardiff. Our recipe is a mouth watering turron and we have a poem written for us by Ian Rumsey, who for many months has kept us interested in his articles.
All of this and more, with subjects of both direct and indirect interest to beekeepers completing this February edition of Apis-UK. I hope that you enjoy reading it, but do remember that Apis-UK is interested in your beekeeping activities as well, and even though it is Apis-UK, we are as interested in beekeeping research and activities across the world. So if you have anything interesting to talk about, any recipes, histories or poems, how about sharing them with us? With this thought in mind I am very happy that Margaret Cowley has written to us on the subject of her popular beekeeping courses (see beekeeping courses) and that the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers Association have sent their magazine, The Apiarist (see ‘In the Press’). Both UK and overseas news is welcome and I am sure will be of interest to most of our readers. David Cramp. Editor.


Claire Waring

On 16 February 2004, Claire Waring was appointed General Secretary of the British Beekeepers' Association. She is the first woman to hold this post and the first to follow her husband in the job. Adrian Waring was General Secretary from 1994–1999.

Claire, who lives in Little Addington, Northamptonshire, has kept bees since 1980. She attended classes run by the late George Sommerville, CBI for Northamptonshire, and started with one colony, which soon multiplied to four at the bottom of the garden. Claire met Adrian Waring when he took over from George and they were married in 1983.

Claire has been involved with her local Association from the beginning and has been a member of its management committee since 1982, including serving as Bulletin Editor and Programme Secretary. She soon became active in other associations and has served on the committees of the Central Association of Beekeepers (as Editor/Proofreader) and the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association (BIBBA) (as Conference Officer and Publications Officer).

Following the establishment of a beekeeping project in Nepal in 1994, Claire was active in the foundation of the UK charity Bees Abroad which aims to relieve poverty through beekeeping. The charity now has projects in Nepal, Cameroon, Malawi and Nigeria. Claire has been instrumental in establishing a number of beekeeping holidays to Nepal, Thailand and elsewhere to raise funds and increase knowledge of beekeeping overseas.

Claire's involvement with the BBKA began indirectly when she met Adrian who was a member of the Executive Committee at that time. She became directly involved when she joined the Publicity and Promotions Committee in 1995 and served as Secretary in 1995–1997. Until 2001, she was responsible for all the organisational arrangements for the BBKA presence at Gardeners' World Live and the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. In 1994–2002, Claire acted as Entries Secretary for the BBKA Honey Show at the Royal Show and was privileged to show Princess Alexandra and other VIPs the displays and answer questions about bees and beekeeping.

Elected to the BBKA Executive Committee in March 2000, Claire served as Chairman of the Publicity and Promotions Committee until 2002. In 2003, she became a member of the Finance Committee. She holds the BBKA Preliminary and Intermediate Certificates.

In 1997, Claire was appointed as Editor of Bee Craft and has been largely responsible for introducing the changes to A4 and full colour which led to the magazine being awarded the Bronze Medal for Beekeeping Journals at the 2003 Apimondia Congress in Lubljana, Slovenia. She will continue in this role.

Claire is particularly committed to seek to improve communication between the BBKA and its members and to the promotion of beekeeping to the general public.

Outside of beekeeping, Claire runs her own publishing and communications company, Buzzwords Editorial Ltd, and her other interests include photography (particularly bees!) and foreign travel. She looks forward to working with beekeepers to promote and further the craft of beekeeping.

NEW BOOK - The Honey Bee Inside Out by Celia F Davis Published 24th April 2004
Special pre publication offer £20 post paid directly from (CLOSES 20th APRIL 2004). This 160 page book gives detailed information about the anatomy and physiology of the honey bee in a clear and concise format. Each of the eight copiously illustrated chapters covers an aspect of bee biology. The author has drawn most of the diagrams from her own dissections, giving a realistic rather than an idealistic impression of the parts involved. For more details and pre-order visit the URL:

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA have developed a new computer vision system which affords an automated analysis of animal movement - honey bee activities in particular.

The system is expected to accelerate animal behaviour research which will have implications for the biologically inspired design of robots. A scientist on the project explained that they believe that the language of behaviour is common between animals and robots, so potentially they could for instance videotape like ants for a long period, learn their 'programme' and run it on a robot. He further explained that as social insects such as bees and ants represent the existence of successful, large scale, robust behaviour forged from the interaction of many simple individuals, this can offer ideas on how to organise a cooperating colony of robots capable of complex operations. The new system automates what once was a time consuming and tedious task and the system can be used to analyse data on the sequential movements that encode information. A prime example of this is the honey bee dance that encodes information on food source. On this particular analysis, the team are working with Thomas Seeley* of Cornell University. The analysis system has several components.

Firstly, researchers shoot 15 minutes of video footage of bees (some of which are marked. This footage is taken in an observation hive. Then the computer software converts the bees movements into x and y components to determine location information for each bee in each frame. Some segments of this data are hand labelled and used as motion examples for the automated analysis system. Challenges lie ahead though, especially the fact that researchers will have to work out differences between the motor and sensory capabilities of robots and insects.

*Professor Thomas Seeley is professor of Biology at Cornell University and is the author of Honeybee Ecology, and Wisdom of the Hive. Both well worth reading. Ed.

Researchers are using biotechnology to develop GM insects for a wide variety of purposes such as fighting insect borne diseases (e.g. malaria), and controlling destructive pests. In a recent report issued by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology called Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects, the authors outline the possible uses of the science, provide an overview of the current research efforts and look at the benefits, risks and scientific uncertainties associated with transgenic insects. The report highlights the fear that the research threatens to outpace regulatory preparedness. (in this, they refer to regulatory preparedness in the USA, but I believe this can be translated to the UK and Europe. Ed).

They also outline the benefits of such technology with examples such as:

Mosquito’s incapable of transmitting malaria which kills between one and three million people per year world wide.

Honey bees genetically engineered for disease and parasite resistance.

Silkworms engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial proteins similar to those used to produce very strong spider silk to make artificial ligaments, bullet proof vests and parachute silk.

Kissing bugs unable to transmit Chagas' disease which currently infects 16 to 18 million people annually and kills some 50000 annually.

However, concern is also expressed about the uncertainty of the lasting effects these insects could have on ecosystems, public health and food safety. Will such insects be able to replace their non genetically modified counterparts? (They must if they are to be effective). If they do, will this mean a reduction in biodiversity? Will the release of fertile transgenic insects increase the potential that transgenic traits could spread throughout the insect population? Which in turn could mean the production of worse problems and unknown challenges. Importantly for beekeepers, is there a chance that genetically modified honeybees produce honey with an altered composition? Thus creating food safety concerns. Are any regulators seriously thinking about all this? The full report on this subject can be read at


In last months issue of Apis-UK we reported on the draft publication of the honey bee genome in the USA. Now we bring you up to date with a news item courtesy of bee Culture magazine's catch the Buzz postings. Ed.

Breeding a better honey bee is the goal of U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists who are using recently created genomic data to speed their search for disease resistance and other traits.
Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are exploiting an initial draft of the honey bee genome announced earlier this month by the Baylor College of Medicine and U.S. National Institutes of Health, which co-funded the mapping project with ARS.
The scientists’ aim is to secure the honey bee’s role as the chief insect pollinator of more than 90 different crops, including almonds, blueberries, melons and alfalfa. Determining the position and order of genes residing on the insect’s DNA— about one tenth the size of the human genome—provides bee researchers with a shortcut to traits that can otherwise be difficult to identify.
“ This research puts the honey bee centre stage as the first agricultural animal that’s been fully sequenced,” said Joseph Jen, USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics. “As an organism whose social order rivals our own in many ways, the honey bee will serve as a natural system for further agricultural studies, including such areas as social behaviour, cognition and immune system function.” ARS researchers Katherine Aronstein at Weslaco, Texas, and Jay Evans at Beltsville, Md, two co-authors of the proposal to sequence honey bees, are especially interested in defining the responses of bees to a range of diseases. Their long-term goal is to characterize genes that are key in the honey bee immune response, and then use data from these genes to improve both bee breeding and management.
ARS also conducts bee research at its Carl Hayden Bee Research Centre at Tucson, Ariz., and its Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit at Baton Rouge, La., which also is involved in studies of the germplasm and genetics of honey bees. Enhanced knowledge of the honey bee genome will be of value to all aspects of the agency’s bee research.
“Currently, we know of a handful of honey bee genes that are activated in response to disease,” said Kevin Hackett, who leads the ARS National Program for Bees and Pollination. “We’re also now discovering how the products of these genes are involved with keeping bees healthy.”
According to Hackett, other possible research avenues include identifying genetic markers to expedite bee breeding efforts, preserving honey bee germplasm and fine-tuning the honey bee’s nutrition and pollination effectiveness, such as through genome-driven studies of the bee’s sense of smell. More information about the honey bee genome project is available at:

This information comes from a research paper published in the November 2003 issue of Nature and reports that despite the fact that for over a century, scientists have believed that species evolve or adapt by going through an infinite number of small changes over a long period of time, there is some new evidence that an alternative theory is at work. Researchers from the Michigan State University believe that the evolutionary process begins with several large mutations before settling down into a series of smaller ones. They ask the question: If a population finds itself in a maladaptive state due perhaps to a change in climate, how will it adapt? The evidence has now come to light recently that the initial changes are bigger than they would expect. To determine this they used a plant called the monkey flower and changed it's genetic makeup to see if it would attract new pollinators; hummingbirds instead of bees or vice versa. By moving a small piece of the genome between the pink flowered M.lewisii and the red M. cardinalis, the scientists created different coloured flowers that attracted new pollinators.

They discovered that moving this single genetic region caused a dramatic increase in visitation by a new pollinator. The orange flowers produced on the previously pink flowered and bee pollinated M.lewisii is regularly visited by hummingbirds and shunned by bees. The new pink flowers of the previously red M.cardinalis were visited by both bees and hummingbirds. They believe that by altering the genetic region responsible for colour is much like what could happen during a naturally occurring mutation. They state that perhaps a single mutation having to do with a colour changed the pollinator milieu back when there was only a single species. That one big evolutionary step may have then been followed by many smaller steps triggered by pollinator preferences that led ultimately to different species.

From the pages of the December 2003 issue of the American Journal of Botany we read an interesting report on research using rapidly evolving genes to determine the molecular evolution of flowering plants. This research is providing new insights into plant relationships. The researchers say that in the past, scientists looked at how plants relate to each other and classified them according to how they looked - morphology, anatomy and chemistry.

Recently however, scientists are looking at the sequence of genes to infer relationships and classifications. With this molecular biology approach, the whole classification has been revised and the pattern of evolution looks different from what they perceived. Using this approach to understand flowering plants, researchers have traditionally used slowly evolving genes or genes that evolve at a very slow rate. Now, scientists at the College of science at Virginia Tech in the USA are now looking at a new approach involving the use of rapidly evolving genes to understand deep level relationships. These genes evolve at higher rates than slowly evolving genes. Previously these 'fast' genes were thought to give a misleading picture of deep evolutionary history and were useful only in more recent evolutionary events such as evolution at the genus or species level. The chief researcher Khidir Hilu has shown that as few as 1200 nuclear-type bases of a rapidly evolving gene such a matK* will give a tree that is far more robust than that obtained from 13400 bases of slowly evolving genes combined. With this new approach, Hilu explained that scientists will be able to sample many more species and the process will be far more economical.
So of what value is this? Hilu is now working on expanding the use of these fast genes to understand relationships amongst land plants other than the angiosperms - conifers, ferns, mosses and liverworts and suggests that these relationships could be important to ecologists in their work on animal plant interaction and the evolution of nectar in pollination. Research could benefit scientists trying to assess biodiversity in plants and the placement of endangered species.
This work has resulted in collaboration with top laboratories around the world including two UK scientists at the Molecular Systematics Section of the Royal Botanic Gardens, and with other scientists in the USA, the Netherlands, France, Canada, and Germany.

At a recent day conference of the MAPA, (Spanish equivalent of DEFRA) Isabel martinez Castro of the Institute of organic chemistry in Madrid, informed the meeting of a study into the development of chromatographic and electrophoretic methods of for the detection and quantification of possible adulterants in honey; the perfecting of methods to determine and assess minor oligosaccharides in honey and the characterisation of honey proteins. She explained that advances had been made in the study of Amadori compounds which are indicators of non-enzymatic degradation (eg furosin and HMF). The use of these two indicators together shows whether honey has been heated (in which case the concentration of both substances is higher) or whether the honey has had a long shelf life indicated by a very high level of furosin although that of HMF may be lower. She also noted that the perfection of the chromatographic technique for the detection of adulterations by means of analysis of carbohydrates of high molecular weight has led to a detection limit of as low as 1% in the majority of cases. (Although the method allows for it, anything under this value is considered economically absurd). In other less favourable cases, the detection limit was 5%. (Translation by Ruth Christie, a UK beekeeper).

With biodiversity under threat from a variety of sources and suggested by the article above on GMIs, the importance of the following research is emphasised from a report of January 5 years ago which commented on the start up of a scientific journal devoted to the scientific study of South American Indian folk medicine. Ed.

Field studies conducted in the Amazon rain forest by Cornell University students of chemical ecology are beginning to answer some long standing questions: Will a cup of lichen tea four times a day cure urinary tract infections or even gonorrhoea? Can a bird's choice of nest building materials boost its immune system?

Why do some Indians prefer the honey of sting less bees over honey from killer bees? From their researches, the students found that chemistry, not bee temperament explains the antibiotic value of honeys; there is an explanation for birds disease resistance and for the curative powers of lichen. The indigenous peoples knew what worked for them but not why. The students return to the rain forest each year using ethno botany techniques to query their Indian informants about the plants that they use and those which the local animals use. Then with the prescribed plant materials to hand the students use Cornell's field laboratory performing chemical extractions and bioassays to try and find out why some plants are so effective against bacteria, fungi and other pathogenic organisms. These ongoing studies may lead to the discovery of important new drugs for a variety of epidemica. (Could research into genetic modification to counter disease, wreck what we already have, but haven't bothered to find out about yet? Ed).

As farming techniques are of such importance to beekeepers both hobby and commercial, the following news item may be of interest.

In a speech made by the former environment minister Michael Meacher to delegates from the Soil Association, he outlined the crucial role that organic farming methods would play in helping industrialised countries meet their Kyoto greenhouse gas commitments. He stated that soil is one of the worlds most important carbon sinks holding an estimated 1.6 trillion tons of carbon. Long term comparative studies of organic and conventional land carried out by the Rodale Institute of the USA has shown that organic farming sometimes doubled the amount of carbon sequestered by the soil and these methods require significantly fewer energy inputs than conventional farming methods. (The Rodale Institute study also showed that organic farming gave higher nutritional levels and higher yields than chemical methods). The study was carried out over a 22 year period.

The BBKA website is changing and becoming more customer orientated. This welcome update sees a more easily navigable site and more relevant to the modern beekeeper. Take a look at

A paper in the latest edition of the Journal of Apicultural Research reports that following sampling of honey from 1997 to 2002, 30% of the honeys had residues of paradichlorobenzine, whilst only 7% of samples of imported honey showed this residue. The paper points out those residues can be avoided altogether by using alternative wax moth control methods carried out according to good apicultural practice. (Personally, I would never go near the stuff let alone put it in my beehives. Ed).


Dennis Geogehgan

Dennis Geoghegan
It is with great sadness that it falls on me to record the passing of a very well known beekeeper. Dennis Geoghegan took up beekeeping in 1972 and joined the Bromley Branch of the Kent Beekeepers Association.

He died in his sleep during the night of the 4th of February at the age of 71. The post mortem revealed that he had had a heart attack and that he had suffered a heart condition for several years previously but was apparently unaware of his condition.

He worked as a BBC Engineer until his retirement and shortly after in 1993 took up the post of Bee Inspector and became a very familiar figure in the world of beekeeping especially in Kent. I for one got to know him very well over the following seven years as in his professional capacity he was a frequent visitor to my Apiary until he finally gave me the all clear late in 2000 by which time I was down to one stock. He eventually relinquished the post of inspector at the end of the season of 2002, but regularly attended all the Branch events.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Marie and all his family. The funeral took place at Hither Green Crematorium on Wednesday the 18th of February when his family and a large number of beekeepers attended. Peter Springall


Beecraft February 2004 Volume 86 Number 2
The latest issue of Bee Craft offers a wealth of information, advice and items of interest for all beekeepers in its monthly columns. The following is its contents list:

Editorial; Claire Waring; Strategies to save your bees Ivor Davis, PhD; Sequencing the honey bee genome Claire Waring; Importation of bees from third countries Defra and the NBU; The beekeeping year: February Pam Gregory, MA, NDB; The 'How to" of siting apiaries and hives Alan Johnston; Home thoughts from abroad Lester Quayle; Beeswax Celia Davis, NDB; Shook swarms: where do we go from here? Ruth Waite, PhD; A touch of glass Susan Kelly; In the Apiary: having fun with bees (part 1) Karl Showler; Do bees need a plain landing strip? Bruno Becker; Bee Myths and legends: Melissani Melissa Addey and much more.

Bee Craft February 2004 Cover: Showing off the beauty of honeycomb (Photo: C Jackson- 3rd prize, National Honey Show 2002, Class 44, sponsored by Bee Craft.

IBRA’s new quarterly news letter has its first airing (following the introductory issue. Amongst the items of interest are how IBRA assists beekeepers in third world countries with beekeeping information packs; news of new reports in the latest Journal of Apicultural Research, and interesting listings from apicultural abstracts. To receive Buzz Extra and find out all about IBRA’s works together with other beekeeping updates contact IBRA on

Buzz Extra Bee Improvements Winter 2003/4
Published by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Association 32 pages A4 magazine. Articles this issue: A thymol over-frame evaporator John Dews; A computerised record card/stud book system Albert Knight; Bee races in the environment Terence F.Theaker; Raising, mating & making use of queens Tiesler & Englert; Chalk brood - an observation Brian Bennis; Picture gallery - queen mating hives Philip Denwood. BIBBA membership from Brian Dennis, 50 Station Road, Cogenhoe, Northants NN7 1LU Email: Tel: 01604-890117.

Apart from the usual and necessary association news and comments, ‘The Apiarist’, the quarterly journal of the Harrogate and Ripon Bee-keepers Association includes an interesting article on Integrated Pest management; Springtime for beginners and one of my favourite poems from Vita Sackville-West. I notice that the editor has taken a passage from Thomas Wildman’s book on bees from 1778 as a historical note. This most interesting tome suffers in one respect in that it uses the old English form of using the letter f for a first s, for instance the word ‘glass’ would be spelt ‘glafs’. Single letter ‘s’ are all ‘f’ making it most difficult to read and on occasion throwing up some alarming looking language that I wouldn’t dare repeat in Apis-UK.

The Apiarist Bee World

Again from IBRA, the ‘new look’ bee world is about to be published with items spanning the world of beekeeping. This latest change to the magazine promises to bring a wide range of exciting and interesting articles that bring the science and practise of beekeeping together. More information from


VARROA MITE RESISTANCE TO CHEMICAL TREATMENTS. HOW IT HAPPENED This is a much discussed subject and the common knowledge is that the under and overdosing of beehives by beekeepers has led to the creeping increase in the mite's resistance to chemical treatments. This may not be the case however as the article below suggests. Ed.

With varroa mites resistant to parathyroid treatments such as Bayvarol/Apistan now known to be wide spread in the Cornwall and Devon and other sporadic areas of the UK it was with some interest that I heard a recent update on how just this has happened. According to Dr Steve Martin of the Sheffield based research group LASI this has nothing to do with the misuse of varroa treatments as been popularly believed.

Up to now we were all quite ‘happy’ with the perceived wisdom that varroa resistance is encouraged by low prolonged dosage of chemical treatments such as leaving strips in longer than recommended and that the makers instruction must to closely adhere to at all times. This is still sound and wise advice but the new breed of varroa mite has its origins far from these shores and has nothing to do with UK beekeepers misusing chemicals.

To understand this situation we must look at just how this remarkable pest breeds, you see the varroa mite unlike most insects and mammals is quite happy to breed brother to sister indeed this is normal for varroa. The mother mite lays both one male and several female mites in the same cell and
the male fertilises the females. Therefore, all mites are genetically very similar, indeed almost exact clones of each other. There is therefore little room for the varroa mite to evolve to become resistant to chemical treatments and it is in this respect vulnerable.

So where have these resistant mites come from, well believe it or not the resistant strain can be traced across Europe to an apiary in Sicily where a chance genetic mutation occurred rendering ONE mite resistant to parathyroid treatments. Now the breeding habits of the mite become a strength, and the offspring of this single mite inherited this resistant trait and from that point on resistant mites faithfully reproduce more of the same like a photocopier. It is the distant ancestor of this one mite that is now in the south west of England and make no mistake will be in our hives one day soon. Graham Law

In this article, John Yates follows on from his previous articles and tells us how colonies develope during the active season.

Spring is now very close and it will be the aim of all beekeepers to maximise their honey crop during the coming season. In order to do this the colony has to grow and be at its maximum size when the honey flow starts. The three graphs that I have prepared will help in understanding what is required. They are applicable in the southern counties of UK.

Colony population graphs

Graph 1. This illustrates a normal healthy colony building up on the spring flow to reach a maximum when the main flow occurs in June/July. The flow stops and the colony population then starts to decrease rapidly due to the queen’s reduction in egg laying and the demise of those workers after their three week stint as foragers. The maximum population varies with the efficacy of the queen and the type of bee but, in general, may be assumed to be about 40,000 bees.

Graph 2. This illustrates a normal healthy colony which swarms in about April/May and then
proceeds to re-queen itself. It will be clear that it has a very much reduced colony population and hence foraging force. When the main flow starts it will, therefore, result in a very reduced honey crop. The amount of honey collected is directly proportional to the colony population.

Graph 3. This illustrates the build up of a diseased colony say one with Nosema. It has a very reduced population and reaches its peak as the main flow is ending. Again, this has a very serious effect on the amount of honey collected by the colony.

Considering the three graphs shown above it will be clear that in order to ensure that a maximum honey crop is obtained, it is necessary to have a disease-free colony which builds up normally on the spring flow and does not swarm. It also illustrates the necessity of checking the colony for disease in the spring, something few beekeepers do. If the colony is declared disease-free and its performance is more akin to Graph 3, then it is more than likely that the queen is failing and needs replacement.

I trust that you all have an enjoyable and profitable season. JDY.


Cell Orientation
To understand the finer points concerning natural comb construction, let us consult the master of this art, the designer of the structure, the manufacturer of the actual material, namely the bee, and also compare their knowledge and ability with our own mechanical theory. Two different types of mind may obtain the same solution.
The brood-nest area is encircled with stores which supply the circumference with a rigid framework. The shape of the brood-nest, with our theory, should decree the distortional stresses and in consequence the cell orientation.
Let us take a rope, suspended say between two poles 30 feet apart. It would form a catenary, and the tighter the rope the more shallow the catenary would become. The rope would be under tension in the horizontal plain and there is no need for any intermediate vertical support to aid suspension. We will now envisage the rope as an arrangement of hexagon cells, and to withstand such tension, the hexagon would require to be orientated with the apex at the top. It would follow that where the brood-nest was much wider than it is deep a similar orientation would be required to avoid distortion. The bees understand this and build horizontal comb accordingly.
Ropes may be suspended down wells, here the tension in the rope would be vertical and hexagon cells representing the rope would require the apex to be at the side to now withstand the vertical tension. Upon this example bees building natural comb in tall narrow cavities would experience vertical tension and be expected to produce vertical comb. They comply.
May I suggest that bees appreciated the mechanics of hexagon structures before we could count to ten.
Wax foundation, being produced as horizontal comb, prevents vertical comb being present within the hive, whereas natural comb in feral colonies very often produces brood-nests comprising of vertical comb. Feral colonies appear to survive in areas of varroa infestation; colonies containing vertical comb. Perhaps consideration should now be given as to whether vertical comb may be detrimental to varroa reproduction.

Varroa and Cell Orientation
The presence of vertical comb in the brood-nest of a feral colony is quite commonplace. The question therefore arises as to whether this type of comb is in someway detrimental to varroa reproduction.
It is general knowledge that the mite when entering the cell prior to capping, hides behind the larva which is curled up at the far end of the cell. It is also accepted that if a visiting nurse bee observes the mite in the cell prior to hiding behind the larva, the bee will remove the varroa.
This is a period of danger for the varroa.
Although the varroa is deemed to have some aquatic ability regarding bee milk I feel that the attempt to pass between the larva and the cell wall would be made where the conditions were the most favourable, namely where it is dry and the pressure is least. The pressure between the larva and the cell wall is greatest at the bottom of the cell due to gravity and the weight of the larva. The pressure is least at the top.
With horizontal comb, with the apex at the top, a small triangular space occurs above the larva and the mite therefore may gain easy access. The conditions are also dry.
Where vertical comb is present and the flat portion of the hexagon is uppermost this ease of access is no longer available. Diagram refers.

Where vertical comb is present and the flat portion of the hexagon is uppermost

The longer the time that the varroa takes to hide itself, the greater the likelihood becomes of a nurse bee inspecting the cell and removing the mite.
Experiments are currently being undertaken to test this theory as to whether cell infestation is less when vertical comb is present.
It is interesting to note that the pressure between the cell wall and the larva may also be increased, and no doubt cause a similar effect, by decreasing the size of the cell, or by introducing a queen mated, or bred from, a slightly larger strain.
In the insect world there are numerous instances where the parasite is aware of its host's location, which with only our senses, would appear impossible.
J.H.Fabre has been consulted and is of the same opinion.
A parasite wishing to lay its egg adjacent to its host's larva achieves its purpose because it can detect the location, age and health of the larva through the equivalent of a brick wall.
The senses the parasite uses are beyond our comprehension or even acknowledgement.
Although varroa are not insects, there is no reason why they should not also have this parasitic capability.
Varroa do not just turn up prior to capping by pure chance, and with this ability they would be aware of the position, age and health of every larva in the hive, and could map their course accordingly.
If this were the case, regular manipulation of brood frames, where the frames are reshuffled rather than replaced in their former position, would confuse both bees and varroa which would be detrimental to the varroa regarding nest site location.
The confusion to the bee is difficult to quantify, but 'chewing out' may be a sign that the bees are not happy with the new brood nest shape and are rearranging matters more to their liking.
Whether the penetration of this special awareness is effected by the presence of metal, such as a sheet of queen excluder, is open to further speculation. In fact queen excluder may already play an important roll in varroa reproduction in two ways.

(1) Varroa bred in drone cells that remain on the drones after emergence from the cell will be retained in the brood nest area due to the queen excluder.
(2) The queen excluder would act as a safety net for groomed varroa formally attached to worker bees operating in the upper part of the hive.
Not only may varroa have this special awareness of the bee, the bee may also have a special awareness of the varroa.
It is dark within the cell, so the bee's recognition of the varroa will not be ocular, but by this special awareness that can identify other life forms through intervening material. However, this awareness apparently will not penetrate through the life form of the larva, and in consequence the life form of the varroa remains undetected.
It is also equally possible that the varroa knows that it will be seen by the bee unless it hides its life form behind the life form of the larva.
The varroa is aware of the bee's awareness, but are we aware of the varroa's awareness; I think not.

Comb Betwixt Between

Bees being bees, and nature being nature, there also occurs natural comb which is a variation between the horizontal and vertical arrangement.
As previously explained, vertical comb is just horizontal comb turned through 90 degrees, but in actual fact due to the hexagon shape, the rotation need only be 30 degrees to achieve the same result.
If one took this rotation at one degree at a time there would be a further 29 variations of comb orientation between horizontal and vertical comb.
This third type of comb clearly exists, it occurs quite regularly, and appears to the eye as horizontal comb with a downward slope.

If our theory regarding distortional stresses within the brood-nest is valid, then application of this theory should provide a reason for the existence of this comb which is betwixt between. Diagram refers.

Comb Betwixt Between

Consider a brood-nest that is not centrally placed within the comb and is altogether over to one side, to the extent that one side of the brood-nest directly abuts the frame or cavity wall.
There are no cells containing sealed stores on this side, the rigid framework surrounding the brood-nest has been broken. The stresses now inside this area are neither totally vertical or horizontal but somewhere in between.
To compensate for this, bees re-orientated their cell construction to the alignment of the revised direction of tension. Diagram refers.

Bees re-orientated their cell construction to the alignment of the revised direction of tension

So, why should bees build a brood-nest not centrally placed within the comb but over to one side?
May I suggest temperature variation. When comb is placed so that a temperature gradient occurs across its surface, the brood-nest may well be positioned towards the warmest edge. This theory is easily proved by observing the presence of comb with such a slope and noting whether the slope is down toward the warmer position within the hive, and that the brood-nest is in fact off-set also in this direction.
Even with these structural variations being available, the queen cannot afford to lay her eggs in total disregard to the loading of the brood-nest area. An example of the queen's balanced method of brood expansion may be seen in Herrod- Hempsall's book 'Beekeeping New and Old' pages 429/430 which includes 17 photographs clearly showing this careful management.
As one might expect with these structural considerations in mind, the larger and heavier drone cells are placed along the underside of the brood-nest area thus again minimizing possible cell distortion.
Has there been a lot of thought put into the manufacture of feral colony comb which takes all these factors into consideration?
Is this thought undertaken prior to actual commencement of comb construction?
Does the comb construction reflect the unique environmental conditions for each feral colony? and become a permanent record of joint information that has been collected and acted upon by a group of individuals?

The evidence is there, unbelievable, or unacceptable, as it may be.

The final chapter of T.W.Cowen’s book “ The Honey Bee ” is entitled “ Wax and Comb Construction” which is concluded by a quotation by Lord Brougham. The second sentence of this quotation reads – Not a step can we take in any direction without perceiving the most extraordinary traces of design. This I feel includes the construction of natural comb. Ian Rumsey

Mathew Allen now goes into the question of bumble bees in Winter; the seedy and the serious side of hemp pollination, and how to sex an underaged ginko tree.

Wet and mild, wet and mild. That seems to be the pattern for our winters now. The front page articles in the newspapers have recently been looking at climate change; the apparently astonishing fact that pollen from genetically modified crops spreads into wild plants; the grubbing up of half of all English orchards in the last ten years because it’s cheaper to grow apples in China and South America and ship them around the globe; and floods, floods, floods. Do you detect a theme?

Last year, I was staring at many acres of Suffolk farmland under water, wondering about what happened to overwintering bumble bees which had burrowed into the ground. If a queen is hibernating, how much does she need to breathe? Very little, I would have thought. How much cold can she withstand? Quite a lot, I would have thought. So maybe it’s possible that from the hedgerows that are under water now, there will emerge healthy queens in spring. It’s in those same hedgerows in late summer that I usually see bumble bee nests – ripped apart by badgers who probably can’t believe their luck at finding a complete meal, savoury and sweet in the same hole. And yes, I’m not kidding, there is a small amount of honey, I suppose nectar really, in the nest.

And here’s a question or two or three for readers. One December I saw a bumble bee foraging on a Hebe, collecting pollen which she was packing into substantial pollen loads. Was she a very late survivor, or a very early worker from the new season? (She was certainly small.) Was she a queen? Do queens collect pollen in the middle of the winter to boost their body reserves? Or was it evidence of brood in the nest? I don’t know any of the answers. In fact the older I get, the more ignorant I become. I followed her for a bit, but lost her in some gardens. I hope we have a highly qualified entomologist reading, who will elucidate.

Now, back to the sinister and seedy. I have a very respectable colleague whose mother suffers from multiple sclerosis. To alleviate her pain, my friend Mr X sallies out in Jekyll and Hyde fashion to buy cannabis for her from the neighbourhood dealers. The relief on the suffering lady is by all accounts marvellous. But Mr X may be spared his criminal forays in future. I visited a horticultural research station recently to discuss practical details of pollinating inside glasshouses, and yes, you’ve guessed it, in one very high-tech glasshouse, surrounded by a frightening security fence, was a fine plantation of cannabis, ready for pharmaceutical trials on multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Just for idle curiosity, I look up hemp in Eva Crane’s Pollination Directory For World Crops. The real cannabis is used as a drug, as a fibre, and to make soap; pollination is by wind. There is another hemp in Indonesia, which is pollinated by bats. Also Mauritius hemp, with almost no information, and another Indian hemp grown for green manure. So you can smoke it, (if it’s legal. Ed), wear it, wash with it, and garden with it. Handy really. Mathew Allen


Bee Tidings

The time of tides around our shore,
Are governed by celestial law,
Our gravity, rocks to and fro,
And cause the sea to ebb and flow.

This change of force we cannot see,
Has great affect upon the bee,
She builds her comb to compensate,
For gravity, whate'er its state.

The downward slope of every cell,
Has secrets of its own to tell,
And comb alignment is not chance,
To be dismissed without a glance.

So next time,study natural comb,
Look carefully at the cell and rhomb,
The combs are built to grand design,
And with the Moon and tide align.

Ian Rumsey


In this section we bring you our two recipes. One to eat and one to cure. Please remember that if you have a favourite and unusual recipe involving honey or mead, or some curative potion made from hive products, write in and let us know. I try all the recipes and often regret not living in the Basque country of Northern Spain where there are men only singing, drinking and cooking clubs where the members take it in turn to produce a feast and then the rest dig in and enjoy it together with fine wines and beers and healthy singing voices. Here is this month's recipe:

Turron de Trufa con Miel or truffel chocolate with honey

It is both quick and easy. You can use as much as you like of the ingredients in this recipe as long as you keep the proportions more or less as follows:

Honey: 20%
Liquid cream: 20%
Black chocolate: 60%

Mix the honey and cream together and put over heat for a minute or two. Take off the heat when warm and add the shredded chocolate, stirring until all of the chocolate is melted in. Then box it up and wait until it sets. If you think it needs thickening, add some cocoa powder mixed with caster sugar until the required consistency is reached. You can also add toasted pine nuts or other little things like that to add to the overall taste experience, but remember to do so at the stirring stage.

Our second recipe in this issue is a lotion to treat light conjunvtivitis and is given out by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. You will need the following:

1 dessert spoon of honey.
1 dessert spoon of olive oil. (First press), i.e. virgin.
3 drops of lemon juice.

Mix well and wipe over well shut eyes with cotton wool. Leave this in place for 20 to 30 minutes and then rinse the eyes well with an infusion of camomile tea (cold).

The word for camomile tea in Spanish is manzanilla and is sold in all bars in Spain as an infusion. Manzanilla is also an excellent and widely drunk really dry sherry and one can make the fearful error of asking for a manzanilla and getting a cup of tea. (or more rarely, vice versa).


The subject of honey bee mating was for a considerable time a complete mystery to most beekeepers and this mystery persisted up until recent time. (In fact to the present among some). The historical note in the January 2004 issue of Apis-UK gives an idea of thinking at the time and you can see that for most, their thinking was spot off. Indeed at one time it was imagined that honey bees did not mate at all but brought their seed back from the flowers, (see historical note in this issue) and even now many parts of the puzzle remain to be slotted into place. So What do we know about it all. Well one of the aspects of honey bee mating that still defies scientists is the flight of the drones and queens to Drone Congregation Areas (DCAs) and here despite much to be learned, the veil is slowly being lifted. We still actually know very little about these phenomena and the paucity of research on the subject doesn’t help matters. Most of the research being carried out at the moment is in Germany. But firstly, let us have a look at what we do know.

A Drone comet forming under an artificial queen A drone investigating the fishing
Left: A Drone comet forming under an artificial queen. Above: A drone investigating the fishing real on which traces of 9ODA may have been left.

DCAs are aerial zones where drones collect and where virgin queens fly to get mated. The queen is followed/pursued by many drones towards the middle of the zone. Moving away from the centre of the DCA you find less drones and less intense activity.

German research suggests that outside of the DCA, there is no mating activity at all. To find out where the drones come from, researchers in the 60s marked them. Drones from the hives on the thorax and drones in the DCA on the abdomen. Using data supplied from these observations, it was concluded that drones leaving the hive always head for the open horizon rather than say mountains.

They were able to discover that drones flew around 5 km and that rarely 6km. By using drone trapping methods within DCAs and using genetic fingerprinting, more information as to drone/colony distribution could be discovered. In one day, 2000 drones were trapped and genetic imprints of 142 of them were taken. At the same time, genetic imprints were taken of bees flying from hives
in the area.

Of the 142 drones tested, 80 were not related at all, 20 belonged to two brother groups, 6 to three brother groups and 1 to 4 brother groups. Statistical calculations determined that 240 colonies were represented in the DCA. The researchers concluded from this that the DCA is a centre of natural selection and that the high number of colonies represented in the DCA make sister/brother mating improbable. So in other words, bees have a system that gives as big a genetic mix as possible.

How many males are necessary to make up a DCA? To find out this, German researchers marked 500 drones. Then after half an hour to see whether the drones went back to the hive or off to a DCA, they trapped 1870 drones in a DCA. Of these, 77 were marked. From this they were able to make a statistical analysis of how many males visit a DCA. These experiments were repeated from 1999 to 2003 and it emerged that 12000 drones visit a DCA and under these conditions it is consideredunlikely for there to be any sister/brother mating.

How many drones are needed to form a stable DCA? Researchers found that around 1000 drones at least were required to form stable DCAs.
How long is the queen’s mating flight? Researchers in Germany found that around 12% of queens did not come back from their mating flight. Thus the queen is taking a risk at this time and the flight should be as long as necessary and as short as possible. The normal length of a mating flight has already been assessed as between 10 and 30 minutes when the required number of drones is available. So in the following experiment to assess the effectiveness of given lengths of queen mating flights, the durations of the flights were classified as ‘under’ or ‘over’ 30 minutes. In a fairly complex experiment, using a known DCA with an estimated 5000 drones in its make up, marked queens were allowed to make one mating flight and three weeks later, the queens were dissected so that the quantity of sperm could be assessed. Unexpectedly they found that queens that had flown for more than half an hour had less sperm in them than queens that had flown for less than half an hour. It was concluded that queens that had received sufficient sperm (and presumably they have a method of assessing this), return to the hive. After 30 minutes, the queen returns to the hive whether or not she has received sufficient sperm. The researchers assumed that she returned because she was running out of fuel (honey). This has not been proven though. When these experiments were repeated using a DCA with an estimated 15000 drones, not one queen had to fly for more than 30 minutes. Thus if queens fly for more than 30 minutes, they are likely to be badly fertilised.

Another question that needed to be answered was: If the queen fly’s to a DCA and drones from the same hive fly to the same DCA, could this cause a greater probability of brother/sister mating?
Using genetically known queens and observing the offspring of the queens over a two year period of experimentation, they found some interesting results: Drones prefer DCAs that are nearest to the hive and queens prefer DCAs that are furthest away from the hive and so the drones and queen from a hive do not choose the same DCA.

So to summarise:
a. Up to 240 hives can be represented in a DCA.
b. Up to 15000 drones visit a single DCA.
c. More than 1000 drones are needed to form a stable DCA.
d. The length of a mating flight is less than 30 minutes.
e. Different choice of DCAs between drones and virgens makes inbreeding unlikely.

Much of this research was undertaken by Drs Gudrun and Nikolaus Koeniger of the Apicultural Institute of the JW Goethe University in Germany and was presented at the French Bee Breeders Association meeting in Limoges in France last November. It shows that we are learning more and more about the mechanisms of DCAs all the time but many questions remain. How do drones get attracted to certain areas, year after year when the drone itself is new each year? How does a virgin queen know where to go? What criteria determine a DCA (from the drone’s point of view). i.e. Why there?
Are there different types of DCA, the different types operating during different weather conditions?
Can virgins be mated outside DCAs under certain circumstances?
And so it goes on. The more we find out, the more we realise what we don’t know. Can you find a DCA and study it? It is a relatively easy process and this will be explained in full in the next edition.
Translation from French by Sally Amos.

Our fact file this month dealt with our knowledge and lack of knowledge of Drone Congregation Areas. You can see that there are still many unexplained mysteries, but think how it must have bee nearly 300 years ago. Here is what Sir John More had to say in 1707 in his book 'Englands Interest' or the Gentleman and Farmers Friend. Chapter VI was devoted to beekeeping.

There is a great contest amongst philosophical beemaster how the bees are generated: some are of the opinion that they never generate, but receive and bring home their seed from flowers; others say that they have amongst them both sexes, yet do not agree which are the males and which are the females.

As a matter of interest, the rest of the book which is essentially about farming, tells the reader amongst other things how to make cyder, perry, cherry, currant, gooseberry and mulberry wines ‘as strong and as wholesome as French or Spanish wines’.


Dear Editor,
The once pedantically precise John Yates has become deceptively imprecise in spreading his joyous Christmas Greetings (Apis-UK Newsletter December 2003). Let's put a few facts straight.
True, the annual subscription to DBKA is £24.00 per full member for 2004. This membership subscription includes:

• Membership of the Devon Beekeepers' Association, that gives insurance cover for two colonies through BDI at no extra cost to the member - additional BDI cover may be purchased for all further hives, the cost depending on the number of colonies owned by the member;
• Membership of the British Beekeepers' Association, which provides amongst its many benefits, Public Liability and Product Liability insurance cover to a limit of £5 million for any one incident against action arising from the member's beekeeping activities, plus insurance cover of a similar amount in any one year for a claim arising from the provision of the beekeeper's products.
• Freedom to attend monthly meetings at any or all of the Devon Association's twelve branches, to hear talks and participate in discussions on beekeeping subjects, and to be-involved in the various educational programmes currently running in-Tose Branches.
• Attendance at General Meetings to discuss and decide upon how the Association shall be managed.
• Participate in the outstanding biennial Devon Beekeepers' Conference, which is arranged for members, to enable them to hear and question directly the world's leading beekeeping scientists as they speak about the latest scientific developments in our world of apiculture.
• Use the borrowing facilities of the Branch book and video libraries.
• Take part in Branch apiary meetings.
• Meet fellow beekeepers at social gatherings arranged from time to time by the organisation.
• And to receive that dreaded magazine Beekeeping, which incidentally has contained 24-A5 pages of text plus a useful informative double-sided cover page for many years (that's 7-A4 pages per issue) - and the cost of the magazine component of this membership package - a mere £4.20 per year.

John, I don't believe your national sailing association newsletter at £8.00 per annum will provide such good value as DBKA membership offers you. And if you are going to draw comparisons John, please try to compare like with like! Now to some of the other inaccurate elements in John's Apis-UK article.

He alleges that I "recommend that the contents of every jar of honey should be measured with a refractometer before sale". Not so! It is standard practice for the vast majority of beekeepers to bottle their honey directly from a settling tank or from the 30lb buckets in which the crop has been stored. A measurement taken with a refractometer immediately before bottling would establish the moisture content of each particular batch; that is all that would be required.
There was also no suggestion in the editorial that any individual beekeeper should purchase a refractometer. The suggestion made was "It may be wise for each DBKA Branch to invest in a refractometer so that members may test the moisture content of their own honey - and avoid problems". On the question of cost, three of the four named sources of this instrument were checked; each one has them on sale currently at £75.00 or less.
Brian Gant's article making suggestions for beekeeper's Christmas presents may appear boring to John, but several members have commented on how useful the list was to them when family members asked what they would like as a Christmas present. Beekeeping magazine caters for the needs of a very wide 'kirk', from those merely interested in the craft to experienced beekeepers with many years of experience - and John's was a lone voice!
And incidentally, Father Christmas no longer attempts to get a WBC hive down the chimney; as every believer over the age of six years knows, he delivers it directly to the required location by beaming it down from the `transporters platform' of his sleigh - in true Startrek fashion!
I regret that John has a problem with the Beekeeping component of the DBKA membership package, but I believe the solution to his personal problem lies entirely within his own hands. Yours sincerely Bob Ogden (Editor of Beekeeping, DBKA Newsletter)

Dear David,
I do not wish to respond in detail to the profoundly specious comments from Bob Ogden and Natalie Tidy; Apis-UK readership is worthy of something better. Ogden trots out the mantra outlining benefits of membership and deviously qualifies his original comments about testing for water content. Tidy appears to confuse an association newsletter with a magazine from a newsagent.
Over many years I have found that, in general, beekeepers get very ‘uppity’ if someone expresses an opinion which they themselves do not share. I have said this in print on numerous occasions. Enough said. Sincerely, John Yates.

Dear Editor,
If any of your readers have information on apitherapy or apitherapy conferences, I would be very grateful if you could let me know as we at the University of Kiev in Russia, wish to extend our apitherapy contacts. Please reply by email to me at: Yours sincerely, Natally Senchugova.

Dear Editor,
Wanted tasteful photographs for a spoof calendar on a new beekeeping website (The site will link to other beekeeping sites). The photographs should show beekeeper(s) of both sexes working their hives in the nude with private parts covered with a frame, smoker or hive. We need 12 pictures depicting the full beekeeping season from different beekeepers to complete the project. Please sign the back of the 'prints' copyright free and permission is given to put on a beekeeping website. Send to NBB Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks HX7 5JS. Yours sincerely, webmaster.


Apis-UK is always interested in what is going on in your area of beekeeping, your courses, branch activities and events of interest. So I asked for, and was very pleased to hear from Margaret Cowley who tells us about her beekeeping courses (see below for details). This sort of activity really is central to UK beekeeping and the popularity of her courses isvery evident. So thanks for that Margaret, and the keep up the excellent work. Ed.

The courses have all been fully subscribed. The Spring course has a maximum number of 14 as it is held in the local agricultural college. The summer course has a maximum number of eight as it is held at my apiary. I have had lots of favourable comments. I have typed out the written feedback from questionnaires from several students.

The college course leads to an Open College Network level Two certificate in Beekeeping, the first in the world apparently! Students going in for this are encouraged to do two hours a week homework towards a portfolio which is externally verified. So far 19 students have achieved the certificate. Several of those have gone on to acquire the practical beekeeping experience needed for taking and passing the BBKA Basic certificate.

The summer course is more relaxed, flexible and more practical (weather permitting) as I do not have to satisfy the requirements laid down by the college for a course. It is consequently cheaper but also easier for those who have to travel a long way as there are only five longer sessions (as opposed to eight shorter ones for the college course).

past students more former students

Quotes from former students

"Thanks for a very good course on beekeeping. You have fired up my imagination. I will begin next year."

"Thank you for your excellent teaching and your time at the end of the sessions."

"Thank you for making the bee course so interesting. It has made my much more confident and I am really looking forward to getting my first bees."

"I thought your easy approachable style was very good indeed and the course helped me enormously."

"I have enjoyed all sessions and as a ¾ year experience beekeeper have consolidated my practical knowledge. Margaret has been a good, caring teacher who is clearly a very enthusiastic beekeeper."

"We have enjoyed the course very mych and at this stage feel it would be hard to improve upon."

"The course was an excellent introduction to beekeeping, maintaining interest throughout."

"I have thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it extremely valuable. It has given me a lot more confidence handling bees."

The youngest student was 16 and used beekeeping as a focus for work towards a "new" activity for his Duke of Edinburgh award. The oldest has been 78.

I am the main tutor: I am a Biology graduate who has recently retired from teaching Biology and IT for 30 years. I started keeping bees 20 years ago and having made every mistake in the book am keen to help others avoid them!

We also have guest speakers and demonstrators, including the local bees diseases inspector, the regional bee inspector, the local beekeeping equipment supplier and the local association secretary.

I enjoyed the Apis-UK newsletter very much. Margaret Cowley

Spring Introduction to Beekeeping

Dates: Eight Saturday mornings 10 am to 12 noon starting 8th May 2004
Venue: Broomfield Agricultural College, Morley, near Derby
Tutor: Margaret Cowley M.Sc., Cert.Ed
More details from

Summer Introduction to Beekeeping
Dates: Five Saturday mornings 9.00 am to 12.15 starting July 31st 2004
Venue: Three Roofs Apiary, Quarndon, Derbyshire
Tutor: Margaret Cowley M.Sc., Cert.Ed
More details from

Event organisers are welcome to forward dates and details of their events to the editor (by e-mail) for incorporation on this page.

Saturday March 6th 2004 10.0am to 4.0pm - Bucks County Beekeepers Association Annual Seminar, Wendover Memorial Hall, Wharf Road, Bucks..
10.00 Meet for coffee and registration
10.30 Welcome
10.40 Integrated pest management Richard Ball, Regional bees Inspector for the South West
11.40 Short Break
11.50 Beekeeping in the future John Hamer of Blackhorse Apiary.
1.00 Ploughman’s lunch with time to chat and get your bargains from the ‘Bring and Buy’ stall, find out about Transrural Trust read the posters and more..........
2.15. “Have skep, will travel” Martin Buckle Chairman of Bucks County BKA.
3.15 Forum A time for questions and discussion with our experts
4.00. Closing remarks
We extend a welcome to all beekeepers and others interested in beekeeping
Cost:- £10 for BBKA members, £11 for non-members Ploughman’s lunch and coffee etc. included To book:- please telephone Sylvia Chamberlin on 01494522082 or Email

Saturday 6th of March 2004 at 3pm - Medway Beekeepers Association are pleased to present there 2nd Annual Beekeepers Lecture. Dr Juliet Osbourne of Rothamsted Research will talk on "How Honey Bees and Bumble Bees utilise the available forage" At the Medway Council Offices "Presentation Suite" The Medway Offices are just by Rochester Bridge entry via Knights Road Strood. Free parking, entry and refreshments. Download our newsletter [76KB PDF]. Sharon Resner Email: shazresner @

Saturday 13th March 2004 - CABK Spring Meeting at Kings College (Waterloo campus), London:- Peter Harvey, Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society: "Invertebrates and the importance of brownfield sites". Dr Ian Kitching, Natural History Museum: "The biology of Death's-Head Hawkmoths, lepidopteran kleptoparasites of honeybees". Lizzie Cant, Rothamsted Research: "Hedges and roads: guiding pollination and increasing plant gene flow?" More details from website

Saturday 13th March 2004 Cambridgeshire Beekeepers' Association One Day Meeting
, Dr. Pamela Ewan: "Surviving Bees’ Venom Allergy", Glyn Davies: "The Bees’ Knees" (some aspects of bee physiology) Caroline Birchall: "Biological Control of Varroa Destructor", Dr. Christopher Browning: "The Many Wonders of Propolis" Trade stand and book stall. Ticket price: £12. Programme (with map) and tickets, from Jan. 2004: Dr. D. J. Abson, 6 Ascham Lane Whittlesford, Cambridge, CB2 4NT (telephone 01223 834 620) S.A.E. appreciated.

Saturday March 27th Newark & Nottinghamshire Beekeeping Association will be holding their Annual Sale of Bees and Beekeeping equipment at the Newark & Nottinghamshire Show ground at the junction of the A1 & A46 commencing at 2.00pm sharp Item swill be accepted from 8.00pm to 1.30pm. Any questions please contact Maurice Jordan on 01636 821863.

Saturday 3rd April 2004 - West Sussex Beekeepers' 'Joy of Beekeeping' Convention
- a Celebration of Bees, Beekeeping and Hive Products at Brinsbury College, on A29 north of Pulborough. Speakers include Dr Beulah Cullen, Clive de Bruyn and Margaret Johnson. Trade Stands. Lunch available in the College Restaurant. From 9.30am until 4pm, a superb day of beekeeping, with tickets £6 in advance (£8 on the day) from Andrew Shelley, Oakfield, Cox Green, Ridgwick, Horsham RH12 3DD (sae appreciated). Further information from John Hunt on 01903 815655 or email

Saturday 17th April 2004 9a.m. to 4:30 p.m - The Yorkshire Beekeepers Association Bishop Burton Conference at Bishop Burton College, Beverley “Making the best of Beekeeping knowledge to improve your practical skills” Integrated Bee Health Management, Pheromone Use in swarm control Bees and flowers – An essential partnership And much more Guest Lecturers David Charles Past President – BBKA John Pollard – Kent Beekeepers’ Association David Aston PhD, NDB Books and Beekeeping Equipment Displays by Northern Bee Books and Holderness Bee Supplies Only £19 including lunch (£14 excluding lunch) Special rates for students and young people. Overnight accommodation available. For further details contact: D. R. Gue, 87 Grove Park, Beverley, HU17 9JU. Tel. 01482 881288 or Download application form 41KB PDF

24th April 2004 BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition Download HTTP the full 28 page Stoneleigh Programme PDF [2.7MB PDF Acrobat 4.x]

16th April 2005 BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition

Harrogate and Ripon BKA Events Listing 2004
(All meetings unless otherwise notified are held in the Field Classroom at Harlow carr at 7.30pm.
March Date TBD. Beekeeping medicines.
23 Apr. Observation Colonies.
23 May. Visit to Chainbridge Honey Farm.

6-10 September 2004 - 8th IBRA Conference on tropical Bees: management and diversity. Ribeiro Preto, Brazil.

21st, 22nd and 23rd October 2004 - The National Honey Show, RAF Museum, Hendon, North London. More details soon from

June 2004 - Holiday to Denmark
. Following an invitation from Danish Beekeepers, the BBKA is planning a visit to Denmark for British beekeepers to experience the way Danish beekeepers keep bees, how they breed them for gentleness, high honey production, reduced swarming, and good hygiene. We will also see much innovative modern beekeeping equipment and learn of the Danish beekeepers approach to honeybee disease and its treatment. The use of Apistan or Bayvarol is not permitted in Denmark. Each day there will also be parallel activities arranged for any who want to shop, or experience some of the local history, flora, and wild life reserves. For example, there is a nearby museum with salvaged artefacts from the stranding in 1811 of Nelson’s flag ship HMS St George at the Battle of Copenhagen, and from the Battle of, Jutland on 31st May 1916. The BBKA visit follows a successful tour by the Bee Farmers earlier this year and will cover a similar schedule of intensive lectures and visits to professional beekeepers. Beekeeper partners are welcome. You will need to take local currency (DKr.) Half-board hotel accommodation has been tentatively booked at the Best Western 4-star Hotel Fjordgaarden in Ringkøbing from Thursday 24th June to Monday 28th June 2004. The cost will depend to some extent on numbers but the following provisional breakdown gives an approximate idea per person. To indicate your interest, PLEASE ring Raymond or Sylvia Chamberlin on 01494 522082, or email

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