Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Bee press; Research News; Articles: Always be open about your beekeeping David Ashton. Bee sense and sensibility (part 1 of 5) Ian Rumsey. Nuclei, their definition, making and use John Yates. Nettles, Nettles, Nettles and beekeeping for complete novices Mathew Allen; Poem of the Month Bee Musings Ian Rumsey; Recipe of the Month Marinated Mackerel; Fact File Honeydew; Historical Note; Readers Letters: Margaret Cowley, Brian Hughes, Walter Coultrup; Diary of events and more. Please wait while downloading 215KB.

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Apis-UK Issue No.24 May 2004
Michael Young and his smoker ice carving
Michael Young will never get this smoker to light!

EDITORIAL Back to top

There’s a lot of rain over here at the moment and the local beekeepers are having a large moan about it. I’m OK though because I still don’t have any bees (although I do have 150 empty hives waiting for them to come from Madrid on Friday), and I’ve just contracted to sell my cork. This is sold by weight for an agreed amount per kilo. They don’t cut it though until the end of June. So the more rain the better, keeping the cork wet and heavy. But if you are selling cork or honey or any other commodity, you are entering (as John Seymour puts it) a world of thieves and rogues, most of them a million times more experienced than the average beekeeper at being a thief and/or a rogue (perhaps anyway). This is very evident to me as I see the low prices given to beekeepers for what must be one of the most awkward of crops to harvest, and I am determined to learn the craft of roguery myself. After the protracted haggling over the cork prices and subsequently learning that I could have done better had I not believed anyone, I think I’m half way there already. Trust no one, believe no-one and keep a sharpened hive tool ready. These seem to be the cardinal rules.

In this issue of Apis-UK we report on a variety of interesting subjects, ranging from how honey is teaching scientists to develop a new class of electronics; to a look at honeydew, that much underated commodity that could add to our profits and to Manuka honey, that miracle of modern medicine. A new and revolutionary way of suppressing varroa mites is discussed. These are just a few of the items of interest in this newsletter. There is more, but we need more. All of you out there are fountains of interesting knowledge on beekeeping in all its many aspects and the net is the ideal place to share that knowledge with others. Royal Jelly production; bee philately; honey cookery; research news; solitary bees; bumble bees; selling honey; apitherapy. These are just a very few of the subjects of interest to our readers and I know that there are experts out there, so do contact us if you are one of them. Do let us hear from you and help Apis-UK to expand and interest more and more beekeepers all over the world. (We have a good number of overseas readers already and I would welcome any overseas inputs). Our Historical Note this month comes from that marvellous amateur naturalist, The Reverend Gilbert White giving his thoughts on honeydew (he wasn’t a fan it seems) and our popular recipe section includes an ‘exfoliant’ no less, and gives detailed advice on what to do with a mackerel, and in our letters section are two letters actually praising us and I didn’t write either of them. I hope that you enjoy this May issue and that you come again for more. David Cramp. Editor. Cover Photograph by SGT.

NEWS Back to top

The Classic Beekeeper’s Manual L. L. Langstroth. Available from Northern Bee Books at £18.00 (inc UK postage)

Langstroth's Hive and the Honey-bee

This influential guide by the Reverend L. L. Langstroth, “the father of modern beekeeping,” revolutionized the practice of beekeeping. Originally published in 1853, his work constitutes the first descriptive treatise of modern bee management - its innovations allowed people to engage in actual beekeeping, rather than simply handling bee domiciles and extracting the honey. This book explains and illustrates techniques still employed 150 years later - including the author’s patented invention, a movable frame hive that quickly spread into common use around the world.In his reader-friendly, non technical style, Langstroth addresses every aspect of beekeeping: bee physiology; diseases and enemies of bees; the life-cycles of the queen, drone, and worker; bee-hives; and the handling of bees. An infectious sense of wonder and enthusiasm suffuses Langstroth’s accounts of natural and artificial swarming, the production of honey and wax, and the best methods of feeding bees and maintaining an apiary. The manual abounds in practical and intriguing insights attained through years of observation and experience, including “the kindness of bees to one another,” “their infatuation for liquid sweets,” and “the warning given by bees before stinging.”This version of Langstroth’s ever-popular manual is the fourth and final edition; it incorporates the author’s own revisions and remains an unsurpassed resource for beekeepers. Dover (2004) unabridged republication of the fourth edition of A Practical Treatise on the Hive and Honey-Bee, published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 1878. Index. 25 plates. 464pp. 5 3/8 x 8 1/2. Paperbound.

In a recent edition of Apis-UK we reported on how various physical properties of honey could suggest how the movement of continental plates could be explained. Here we report that the study of honey and other viscous liquids could lead to new methods for making threads, wires and particles only a few nanometres wide. (A nanometre is 1 billionth of a metre or roughly the equivalent of 10 hydrogen atoms strung together). These new products could in turn have numerous applications including new kinds of composite materials, electronic circuits and pharmaceutical products.

Scientists have always believed the widely accepted rule that no matter what a liquid or gas is made of drops or bubbles always break away from a nozzle the same way: as the drop is forming it is attached to the nozzle by a thin segment of liquid or gas. This connecting segment grows progressively thinner and as its width gets closer and closer to zero, it breaks at a single point and the drop falls from the nozzle. This happens the same way no matter how fast or slow the liquid is flowing or however big the nozzle is. Now however they have found an exception whilst studying the subject in relation to various nozzles including those in ink jet printers. Scientists at the Purdue University and other research institutes (including The Mathematical Institute Oxford) have found that whilst these drops form in air (which has a lower viscosity than the liquid drop and follows the rule, if you dip the nozzle in honey which is thousands of times thicker than water, the drops form differently.

Firstly, the drop takes longer to form. Then, instead of breaking off, the segment of liquid between the forming drop and the nozzle’s tip continues to grow into a narrow thread and becomes much longer than it would if forming in air. Mathematicians say that in this case, ‘it remembers’ its initial state. Rather than separating from the nozzle at a single point, the liquid cuts away in two places; at the point where the drop has formed and at a point closer to the nozzle. The drop falls away, but an extremely thin thread of liquid or gas also separates from the nozzle. By including certain chemicals, the liquid threadlike segments can be hardened very quickly by exposing it to photo polymerising light. Because the thread forms so slowly, you have time to do this. Scientists at the University of Chicago have made fibres less than 100 nanometres wide and the researchers explain that they may in the future be able to make flexible nano fibres to conduct electricity and to develop a new class of electronics altogether.

(I wonder if it’s the same principle involved when you tread on chewing gum in the street on a hot day and then lift your foot up? If so, I could have told them that year’s ago. Ed).

We have reported on the new regulation honey labels in a previous issue, but the full rules and a useful summing up of the main changes can be seen at This has been prepared by peter martin, Chairman of the Honey International Packers Association.

In an interesting report on BBC news online, a new generation of London beekeepers is taking up the craft that is becoming increasingly popular with today’s 30 and 40 something’s. (For those who aren’t up to date with media jargon, that means people in their 30s and 40s). The report is well laid out with the usual magazine style sidebars detailing facts and figures about bees and concludes that having a beehive at the bottom of your garden is now super-cool! To see the full report, see

Reported in various bee press magazines including the Beekeepers Quarterly, is the ‘BeeWise’, developed by the French company Apivelay in partnership with a specialist design house. Developed from Wavecom’s Integra wireless modem, BeeWise is a new generation beehive scale: a monitor located on each hive tracks fluctuations in hive weight (a sufficient indicator to measure honeyflow and food stocks) and transmits this data by SMS direct to your mobile. As hives are often located over geographical zones of several hundred Kilometres this device could therefore save both time and money as well as alerting the beekeeper to any ‘emergency’ situations. For more information, see

The new draft of the revised BBKA constitution can be downloaded from the BBKA web site. The draft is available in Adobe format as a PDF file. See (BBKA membership required

The national bumblebee nest survey organised by Rothamsted will take place next month. Look at the web site for more information and on the requirement for volunteers. (A very important operation indeed. Ed).

Following clarification of strict labelling requirements and the need for manufacturers to be able to account for the provenance of all GM foods, European Commission has cleared the way for the import of foods containing GM material. In this case, they have approved the import of tinned and frozen GM sweet corn from crops produced by the Swiss firm Syngenta. The decision is seen by many as opening the way for imports of GM food generally and animal feeds with the EU facing a backlog of 33 other products awaiting licences. The commission had little choice but to make this decision after the EU food and safety agency concluded that there was no scientific justification for the ban.

'The next news item will be of great interest to all beekeepers and is certainly a way forward. John Harbo did explain to me though at a meeting in France that there was still much more research to be done, particularly as the SMR queens developed smaller brood patterns. This disadvantage was being worked on along with other research. Ed.'

For more than 20 years, beekeepers have been battling varroa mites. The tiny, bloodsucking parasites weaken adult bees and sometimes cause deformities. But entomologists with the Agricultural Research Service have discovered that some bees have a built-in defence against varroa mites, a trait that can be bred into any bee population.

Honey bees deliver pollen necessary for the production of $15 billion worth of U.S. crops. Varroa mites are a serious threat to this important, bee-dependant productivity and can wipe out an untreated colony in under two years.

Called SMR, for "suppressed mite reproduction," the newly-found trait protects bees by keeping harmful varroa mites from reproducing. It's hoped that when adequately bred into bee populations, SMR can one day free beekeepers from their dependence on chemical miticides.

ARS entomologists John R. Harbo and Jeffrey W. Harris, in the agency's Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit at Baton Rouge, La., discovered the SMR trait while searching for the reason behind reduced mite populations observed in some bee colonies. While honey bees can fend off mites through grooming and other hygienic behaviours, a different factor appeared to be at play in those colonies.

The researchers found that some mites simply weren't reproducing. They watched female mites entering brood cells--the small pockets, or honeycomb, where young bees develop--but not laying any eggs. Following genetic studies, the researchers determined that a trait in these honey bees was responsible for inhibiting the mites' reproduction.

To help beekeepers whose hives are suffering from varroa infestations, ARS has provided the SMR trait to Glenn Apiaries, a commercial queen honey bee producer in Fallbrook, Calif., that sells SMR breeder queens. With selective breeding, the SMR trait can eliminate mite reproduction in worker brood cells.

Harbo and Harris are studying a second trait in bees linked to mite resistance. Called P-MIB, for "percentage of mites in brood," the trait is an ideal complement to SMR because it curbs mite populations from outside, rather than inside, the brood cell where SMR comes into play. Kim Flottum Editor, Bee Culture Magazine

Insecticide spraying is a subject of great importance to all beekeepers. This news item from Kim Flottum's 'catch the buzz' articles shows how we can reduce danger to others if we need to spray.

By Erdal Ozkan
Make an Effort to Eliminate Spray Drift
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When spraying pesticides, don’t let others get your drift.
“It is bad enough when your drift damages your crops, your lawn or your garden. But when the damage is to your neighbours’s field or flowerbeds, then you’ve got a real problem,” said Erdal Ozkan, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer.

Spray drift is one of the more serious problems pesticide applicators have to deal with. Three-fourths of the agriculture-related complaints investigated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in 2003 involved drift.

“This shows the seriousness of the problem,” said Ozkan. “Drift will be even a bigger problem in the future since there is an increase in acreage of genetically modified crops, and use of non-selective herbicides for weed control. Even a small amount of these non-selective herbicides can cause serious damage on the crop nearby that is not genetically modified.”

Drift is the movement of a pesticide through air, during or after application, to a site other than the intended site of application. It not only wastes expensive pesticides and damages non-target crops nearby, but it also poses a serious health risk to people living in areas where drift is occurring.

“Eliminating drift completely is impossible. However, it can be reduced to a minimum if chemicals are applied with good judgment and proper selection and operation of application equipment,” said Ozkan.

Major factors that influence drift include spray characteristics, equipment/application techniques, weather conditions, and operator skill and care.

“Conscientious sprayer operators rarely get into drift problems. They understand the factors that influence drift and do everything possible to avoid them,”said Ozkan.

Spraying under excessive wind conditions is the most common factor affecting drift. “The best thing to do is not to spray under windy conditions. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a reliable wind speed meter as soon as possible. Only then can you find out how high the wind speed is,” said Ozkan.

After wind speed, spray droplet size is the most important factor affecting drift. Research has shown that there is a rapid decrease in the drift potential of droplets whose diameters are greater than approximately 200 microns (about twice the thickness of human hair.)

“If operators of sprayers pay attention to wind direction and velocity, and have knowledge of droplet sizes produced by different nozzles, drift can be minimized,” said Ozkan. “The ideal situation is to spray droplets that are all the same size, and larger than 200 microns. Unfortunately with the nozzles we use today, this is not on option. They produce droplets varying from just a few microns to over 1000 microns. The goal is to choose and operate nozzles that produce relatively fewer of the drift-prone droplets.”

Using low-drift nozzles is one of the many options available to growers to reduce drift.
The following are other drift-reduction strategies to keep drift under control:

• Use nozzles that produce coarser droplets when applying pesticides on targets that do not require small, uniformly distributed droplets (such as systemic products, pre-plant soil incorporated applications, fertilizer applications).
• Keep spray volume up, and use nozzles with larger orifices.
• Follow recent changes in equipment and technology such as shields and air-assisted and electrostatic sprayers that are developed for drift reduction in mind.
• Keep the boom closer to the spray target. Nozzles with a wider spray angle will allow you to do that.
• Keep spray pressure down, and make sure pressure gauges are accurate.
• Follow label recommendations to avoid drift with highly volatile pesticides.
• If you are not using low-drift nozzles, try adding Drift Retardant Adjuvants into your spray mixture.
• Avoid spraying on extremely hot, dry and windy days, especially if sensitive vegetation is nearby. Try spraying in mornings and late afternoons. Although it may not be practical, from the drift reduction aspect, the best time to spray is at night.
• Avoid spraying near sensitive crops that are downwind. Leave a buffer strip of 50 to 100 feet, and spray the strip later when the wind shifts.

“Good judgment can mean the difference between an efficient, economical application, or one that results in drift, damaging non-target crops and creating environmental pollution,” said Ozkan. “The goal of a conscientious pesticide applicator should be to eliminate off-target movement of pesticides, no matter how small it may be.”


In the next research news item the properties of manuka Honey are discussed. Many beekeepers know that honey has healing properties but manuka honey has something special about it that stands it above the rest. What is this? Researchers at the University of Waikato School of Science and Technology in New Zealand have produced the following information for those interested:

For the past 19 years, honey researchers at the University of waikaito (New Zealand) have been investigating manuka honey as a superior treatment for wound infections. Manuka honey is gathered from the manuka bush Leptospermum scoparium, which grows wild throughout the country. (Leptospermum polygalifolium which grows in Australia has the same properties). As a result of the research and through publication of the results in scientific journals many people are interested to know what is so special about this honey. The waikato Honey Research Unit, offers the following answers. Honey generally has an antibacterial activity, due primarily to hydrogen peroxide formed in a slow release manner by the enzyme glucose oxidase present in honey which can vary widely in potency. Some honeys are no more antibacterial than sugar whilst others can be diluted 100 fold and still halt the growth of bacteria. The difference in potency of anti bacterial activity among the different honeys is more than 100 fold. Active manuka honey and its Australian equivalent is the only honey available for sale that is tested for anti bacterial activity. It contains an additional component only found in honey produced from leptospermum plants: called ‘the Unique Manuka Factor’ UMF. There is evidence that the two antibacterial compounds may have a synergistic action. UMF is not affected by the catalase enzyme present in body tissue and serum. This enzyme will break down to some degree, the hydrogen peroxide which is the major antibacterial factor found in other types of honey. If a honey without UMF were used to treat an infection, the potency of the honey’s antibacterial activity would most likely be reduced because of the action of catalase. The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey is destroyed when honey is exposed to heat and light. But UMF is stable, so there is no concern about manuka honey losing its potency in storage. The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide in honey becomes active only when honey is diluted. But UMF is active in full strength honey, which will provide a more potent antibacterial action diffusing into the depth of the infected tissues. The enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide requires oxygen to be available for the reaction, so may not work under wound dressings or in wound cavities. Honey with UMF is active in all situations. The same enzyme becomes active only when the acidity of the honey is neutralised by body fluids, but then, the honey id diluted. Also, the enzyme producing hydrogen peroxide could be destroyed by the protein digesting enzymes that are in wound fluids. The UMF antibacterial activity diffuses deeper into skin tissue than does the hydrogen peroxide from other honeys. Honey with UMF is more effective than that with hydrogen peroxide against some types of bacteria. For example, active manuka honey is about twice as effective as other honeys against Eschericihia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of infected wounds. Many medical professionals are using active manuka honey - and getting good results in patients with wounds that have not responded to standard treatments. For example a successful trial on unresponsive skin ulcers was published in the New Zealand medical journal. In addition, staff at a large hospital in Brisbane , Australia , recently used active manuka honey as a wound dressing on a patient for who honey without UMF had failed. To alleviate any concern over the possible risks of introducing infection by the use of an unprocessed natural product on wounds, honey can be sterilised by gamma radiation without loss of any of its anti bacterial activity, and these honeys are commercially available sterilised in this way.

In last months edition, we reported on research into the growth of the mushroom bodies in wasps brains; a report which suggested that these mushroom bodies were connected with learning and effectively said that the more the wasps had to know, the bigger were the mushroom bodies. Looking back through the research journals on this subject we can now report on some earlier research (2001) which relates to bees and so this month we take a quick look at honey bees and ask how does a bee’s brain support the striking changes in behaviour that takes place as the bee matures. Scientists believe that a part of the answer lies with the mushroom bodies, the brain region thought to be the centre of learning and memory in insects. In research conducted in 2001, scientists discovered a 20% increase in the size of a specific area of the mushroom bodies as the bee matured. The volume increase occurs in a sub region where synapses or connections are made between various neurons from other brain regions devoted to sensory input. This research was the first to report on brain plasticity in an invertebrate and was particularly interesting because volume increases in brain regions in vertebrates reflect increases in certain cognitive abilities. Another way of studying the ‘learning’ ability of insects such as bees is by studying cognitive ethology which focuses on the study of animals under natural conditions to reveal ecologically adapted modes of learning. But biologists can more easily study ‘what’ an animal learns than ‘how’ it learns it. In some research conducted several years ago and reported in Nature, Rothamsted scientists amongst others looked at bees orientation flights. Little is known about these because bees soon fly out of visual range. Using harmonic radar it was shown that with increasing experience, bees hold trip duration constant but fly faster, so later trips cover a larger area than earlier ones. Also, each trip is typically restricted to a narrow sector around the hive. The scientists. These flights provide bees with repeated opportunities to ‘fix’ the hive and local landscapes from different viewpoints suggesting that the bees learn about the local area progressively. The report shows that changes in the flights (e.g. increased distance) are related to the number of previous flights and not chronological age which they suggest is a learning process adapted to changes in weather conditions, flower availability and colony needs.

Recent research published in Nature shows that bees have impressive cognitive ability, but the strategies used by individuals in solving foraging tasks have been largely unexplored. In some interesting research, scientists tested bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) in a colour discrimination task on a virtual flower meadow and found that some bees make rapid choices but with low precision, whereas other bees are slower but highly accurate. Moreover, each bee will sacrifice speed in favour of accuracy when errors are penalised instead of just being unrewarded. To their knowledge, bees are the first example of an insect to show between-individual speed-accuracy trade offs.

Scientists at the University of Cordoba centre of ecological apiculture (CAAPE) produce queens using a selection procedure based on the characteristics of infectivity, dynamics of varroa and hygienic behaviour. They select by families, with each one selected for just one of the traits with the aim of ultimately crossing them. The queens are given out to professional bee farmers and so the characteristic of productivity and good yields are also included in evaluations. Results are encouraging and show that in experimental colonies, even using simple mass selection in the early years of the trials, colony yields increased by 10 kilos. (Translation by Ruth Christie).

THE BEE PRESS Back to top

Beecraft May 2004 Volume 86 Number 5
By the time you read this, I expect that the swarming season will be in full swing. I must confess that the number of swarm calls that we receive now is very much less than in the days before varroa arrived. However, colonies still have the natural urge to reproduce and it is in our own interests to control this to our advantage.

Effective swarm control has at least three consequences. First, it means that neighbours will not be frightened by the prime swarm that settles in their apple tree. Second, it means that your colonies will remain at their strongest and will get you the maximum potential honey crop. Third, it can be used to control the level of varroa mites in your colonies without the introduction of chemical controls.

Are you still having trouble lighting your smoker - or keeping it lit? There is very practical advice on page 15. Many thanks to Alan Johnston who completes his practical 'How to ...' series this month, also looking at using the smoker. If you have any other topics you would like to see covered in this series, let me know and I will see if I can twist Alan's arm for another series!

With this issue, we welcome two new members to the Bee Craft team. Sue Hull, from Peterborough, is our new Administrator and will be dealing with all matters pertaining to subscriptions and day-to-day finances of the company. John Hendrie, from Tonbridge, is our new Company Secretary, dealing with all the legal requirements. More details about Sue and John can be found on page 27.

Alison Mouser has had to give up her work with Bee Craft for health and other reasons. We would like to thank her for the tremendous amount of work that she undertook on Bee Craft's behalf and wish her well in the future. Claire Waring Editor.

The following is its contents list: The principles of swarm control Adrian Waring, NDB; The beekeeping year: May Pam Gregory, MSc, NDB; NBU research in 2004 Ruth Waite, PhD; Varroa control with artificial swarm David Aston, PhD, NDB; No smoke without fire Andy Pedley; Small and perfectly formed Celia Davis, NDB; In the Apiary: having fun with bees (part 4) Karl Showler; The Bee Craft photo competition; Letters to the Editor; Around the colony; The 'B' Kids; Classified advertisements; Calendar; Obituaries Jack Holt, Bill Mackenzie, Leslie Hewitson.

Bee Craft May 2004 COVER: A honey bee working Acer platinoides (Norway maple) (photo: Claire Waring) (1st prize, Class 44, National Honey Show 2002 - sponsored by Bee Craft Ltd)

IBRA's quarterly BUZZ EXTRA is on the shelves bringing us an update on the world view of bees and beekeeping and includes items of interest taken from IBRA's vast archives. The purpose of the news letter is to keep IBRA's supporters informed and to give a taste of what IBRA does and can offer anyone interested in bees. For more information, see

The Apiarist
Yet again I am pleased to say that the Harrogate and Ripon Bee-keepers Association have sent me their quarterly newsletter, The Apiarist. This issue has a wealth of association news including information on the local shows and a very interesting report on health and safety for beekeepers. It was illuminating to read the speakers thoughts on the various chemicals that we use in the hive and my suspicions about PDB were confirmed. I used it once and never again. Their reservations on the new BBKA constitution were expressed, viewing the proposals with some concern. (See also news items).

I really enjoy reading good local association newsletters and the Apiarist is a very interesting read most probably reflecting an interesting and vibrant association.
Apiarist May 2004 Buzz Extra

ARTICLES Back to top


Says, Christian Henriksen from Lemvig Denmark, when presented with honour of Danish Beekeeper of the year 2003 by David Ashton.

If Danish beekeeper Christian Henriksen, had been frightened away from beekeeping, by his first meeting with local older experienced beekeepers at his local Danish beekeepers association meeting in Lemvig Denmark.. He would never in have been awarded the Danish beekeeper of the year 2003, which is given to the a person who has made a meaningful input locally, regionally nationally and internationally for beekeepers, and their associations. Whether by looking after the local associations apiary, making tea coffee and cakes for meetings, furthering knowledge about bees. The years beekeeper is found from candidates put forward by the local associations, and they are then voted on by the management committee of Denmark Beekeepers Associations, National Executive Committee.

The years beekeeper is presented with a Diploma, with their name, and the reasons why they have been presented with the prize. The presentation of The Diploma for "Danish Beekeeper of the Year 2003" was made by the chairman of the executive committee of Danish Beekeepers Association [Danmarks Biavlerforening] Verner Schou, on 28th November 2003, at a meeting in Christian Henriksens, honey processing room, in front of local beekeepers, neighbours, local Mayor of Lemvig Jørgen Nørby, and the Danish press and TV. In presenting Christian Henriksen with the ward, Verner Schou said" Christian has been involved in a Herculean task for beekeepers world wide and locally, he has been amongst the major movers after his beekeeping colleague Helge Støve died a couple of years ago in trying to breed bees who are resistance to Varroa mites. The results of which are the breeding material Christian makes available to all beekeepers who want to test out his bees either in the form of fertilised queens, or virgin queens or larva. Both in collaboration with beekeepers in British Isles, and Belgium were he works closely with Warson Roger from Maasmecheien and a Belgium University and local Danish beekeepers associations are always welcome at Christians Henriksens, home at Grånsgårdsvej 19, Tørring, 7620, Lemvig, Denmark, where Christian and his wife Tove have always got the coffee pot on, and bread on the table for visiting beekeepers to sit down and enjoy a long conversation about bees, queen rearing and breeding. Despite the cuts backs by the two year old ‘Neo Liberal Danish Government‘, when all funding for research in beekeeping, and the environment has been with drawn in Denmark, Christian has not faltered in his self appointed task of inquisitively finding out about bees, breeding and queen rearing and passing on this knowledge to other beekeepers".

Might never have carried on Beekeeping
Christian started beekeeping in 1967 when a swarm landed in the garden of Tove and Christensen Henriksen, an old beekeeper from the village recommended that they keep the swarm, and join the local beekeepers association to learn more about beekeeping. But says Christian "I got one of the biggest shocks of my life on my first visit to the local beekeepers. There were four men from the committee around a bee hive in the association apiary, and after a while I began to ask questions. I was told as they had learnt from their own experiences, then I should do the same they did not intend to pass their knowledge on to him" I decided explained Christian if I every became knowledgeable about bees if any one ever ask me about bees I would explain every thing I knew. This is the golden rule to which I have lived by ever since says Christian. Any thing I learn by my inquisitive inquiring nature about bees and beekeeping I will pass on to other beekeepers every thing I have learnt says 66 year old Christian Henriksen, with his knowledge from his 100 bee hives to back him up, and luckily things have changed since 1967 in Danish beekeeping circles every one is more open, and others especially queen breeders and rearers are much better to share the knowledge they have gleaned from their work with bees.

Background to Danish Queen breeding and rearing
Christian Henriksen goes on to say amongst other things; "that though Danish queen rearers & queen breeders work very closely together, and indeed share knowledge freely with one another. There are two quite distinct philosophies, as to how to achieve the common goal of rearing quiet, gentle, healthy productive queens, and bee colony’s. The difference lies in whether it is best to have a number of background races, and crosses of bees and cross the for F1 & F2 Hybrid Vigour as Brother Adam did with his Buckfast Bee. Which in Denmark the group around Poul Erik Sørensen, at Bakkegaarden are involved. Or whether to use as Christian Henriksen, the large Genetic pool of a race of bees like Carnica (or perhaps in the British case The British Black Bee, (Apis Mellifera Mellifera) the thought also behind the black bee is that in colder Northern Europe they will work earlier and longer then the yellow bee which is better suited to Southern Europe. Were as the group around Christian at Tørring Lemvig, uses this as a background to their Queen rearing & breeding. There are than some more differences, Poul Erik Sørensen using Hybrid Vigour has gone for a) Gentleness, b) Disease Resistance, c) Production, and d) cleaning out of dead bees and debris e) not swarming. Where as Christian Henriksen group have gone for all of these A – E but using the larger gene pool that a race like Carnica gives instead of line breeding, they have bred over the past 15 years, using sister of sisters. In co-operation, and working closely together with a Belgium Queen Rearer called Warson Roger, from Maasmechelen, they use bees who groom and kill Varroa mites from the hive for which they have kept a systematic data base., Which they update weekly, and that is to say every week of the year, the varroa tray is inspected for queens who have no varroa drop, and after treatment with formic acid drop less than 100 mites. Were as the control group of not bred for Varroa resistance drop up to 1000 mites after treatment. There is also another difference in so much as Poul Erik Sørensen until this year has not bred for Varroa resistance relying on treatment only to solve the problem, he has now decided to use Russian Primorsky in his breeding programme, and have an integrated varroa treatment programme changing the methods of treatment" says Christian...

Varroa Treatment Method
Christian Henriksens varroa treatment is very simple and cost effective, a) he breeds from queens who throw out or kill the varroa mite. b) he uses a very cost effective method and simple method of treating with Formic Acid. To do this he uses a hard piece of corrugated cardboard, from scrap cardboard boxes, the same size as a crown board, but sitting only on top of the frames, not over the box edge.

Then using '60% Formic Acid' obtainable from ‘Swienty Bee Keeping Supplies', in 5 gallons (25 litre) or less drum, he drips using a 20 ml syringe 20 ml of the 60 % Solution over 4 days in August / September / October when the ambient temperature is 12 – 15 o C, and on top of the corrugated he puts a piece of strong clear plastic sheeting, (which he buys in a roll) this causes the Formic Acid to Evaporate, and is more cost effective then Krämmer boards, and works better he claims.

Varroa treatment with formic acid of 60 % solution is very corrosive. Therefore handle the formic acid with great care. Use very strong rubber gloves, protective glasses, and a mask is also recommended.

All activity with formic acid should be carried out, in the open air, or a very well ventilated area.

Should formic acid come into contact with your skin then rinse it immediately with abundant cold water. Likewise should it come into contact with the eyes, again rinse with lots of water for 15 minutes, at the same time arrange for medical help. Make sure you always have an abundant supply of water with you when treating bees for varroa with ‘Formic, Acid'.

Varroa mite resistance to formic acid has not been registered in its 15 years of its use in Denmark, and it is not expected to develop. But it is a good idea to alternate treatments, is the Danish Beekeepers Association, and scientific researchers official advise, with another treatment method as suggested later in this article. That is you look up the web sites recommended for Danish organic varroa treatment methods besides formic acid, under either or and, click on the Union Jack / Stars and Stripes for English version. The method described to you above, by Christian Henriksen, using formic acid, is from the authors experience an excellent method of treatment for varroa, but follow the safety recommendations strictly and carefully.

Yearly replacement of all brood comb
Like most Danish beekeepers as part of their disease control, and hygiene the all brood comb from all the frames in every hive, are replaced every year. In Christian Henriksens case he has made a very large solar wax extractor which takes about 20 deep brood frames. Christian has fixed the wax extractor itself onto a heavy duty swivel from a redundant office chair, costing a jar of honey, which turns to face the sun. All the wax on the frames are melted by the sun, into very large 15 kg (30 lbs.) blocks, the frames themselves being permanently wired with stainless steel crimped wire, using a ‘Wire Crimper,' the wax its self is sterilised by the suns heat but is further cleaned and filtered before being made into new foundation by Christian. The frames are again sterilised using a weak caustic soda and hot water solution. Then the new foundation wax is fixed back onto the stainless steel wire on the beautifully clean frames, by induction using an ‘Electric 6 Volt Embedder' with, a thermo fuse,. Christian like most Danish beekeepers obtains most of he beekeeping equipment from the world famous Danish family firm of Swienty on you can find most of the equipment mentioned in this article on this web site, plus lots of useful information about Danish Beekeeping, Varroa Control, Queen Breeding and Rearing. By reading the English links to Swienty but also to the Danish Beekeepers Association [Denmark’s Biavlerforening] web-site, if want to go there direct it is and then click on the Union Jack / Stars & Stripes for English language version of Swienty’s and Danish Beekeepers web site, and lots of very useful other Scandinavian, English language links on beekeeping topics.

Queen rearing and control of which queens to breed from
As mentioned already Christian Henriksen has a very extensive system of controls on which genetic characteristics he is looking for from the queens he rears, all this information is logged onto a data base so Christian can print out various flow and pie charts to look for the types of queens he is looking for, as mention above in points A – E. But Christian also open for other things, so when his local fish market at the fishing port of Thyborøn changed over to electronic weighing scales, Christian obtained a heavy duty water proof Avery Scale made in Birmingham UK, for a few jars of honey, he now has one of his breeder queens permanently on the scales in a field of clover. He says that in 2003 the average honey flow per day on honey flow days, was between 1 to 5 kilos increase in weight per day, per hive, on days without a honey flow there was a loss of 1 kilogram per day (2.2 lbs.), and the days with a honey flow of 1 to 5 kilograms the average water evaporation overnight, was between 300 – 400 grams of water lost per 1 kilo gram of weight gain during the day, over night evaporation loss depends on the nectar sources. It is by paying such close attention to detail that Christian makes his selection of breeding queens. Christian says he will be happy to supply queens, and breeding material to any beekeeper but he request they must give him feed back for his records on the queens and their progeny for his future breeding records.

Christian does not at the moment use artificial insemination as he is not skilled enough, and any way it is only best to inseminate to fix, and maintain the strain of breeding queen he needs. So if he needs to use AI he gets some one else to do this for him. Otherwise his process is grafting of eggs from a breeder queen. These are then put into an ingenious treble hive, that is to say two normal working hive with queens on the outside connection to a central hive by a queen excluder strip 5 cm’s deep to the middle queen rearer hive which is queen-less, is topped regularly with young brood frames, from the left & right hand side hives which have queens. The queen less hive is the queen rearer hive, and rears about 80 to 100 queens per week, which are put into the incubator when the queen cells are capped after 5 to 6 days. Hair rollers or cages, are put over the queen cells whilst they are in the incubator, and once they are hatched they are introduced into small polystyrene mating boxes either Apidea, Kielder, Swi Bine what ever takes your fancy, with a cup full of house bees, dampened with water spray, and a piece of ‘Queen Rearer Api Fondant' in a special feed section of the mini nuke. They are then taken by Christian, who like most Danish beekeepers have access to their own mating station. In Christian’s case his mating station is on an isolated peninsular in the middle of North Jutlands Lim Fjord called ‘Harboøre tange'. If you ask Christian do you think it will be possible to breed varroa resistant bees he replies "We have our selves bees which we do not need to treat, and the queens in these families are all sisters. How ever we have some colonies which have many varroa mites, and in this case the queens of these families are also sisters. So I think this shows that it must be possible to breed your self forward to a position where you have varroa resistant bees", says Christian. He further says "we were about to achieve the result of having varroa resistant bees but my friend and colleague Helge Støves died, but it could be done but we would need several hundred bee colonies" or bee families as the Danes call them, he goes on to say "the Danish government going in the opposite way to all other governments in Europe, it has withdrawn all funding from environmental and beekeeping research. But we need the help of full time beekeeping researcher" However instead he is sending queens to a university in Belgium, were the results have been very positive. But he says "I will say this I do not have problems with varroa, we treat with formic acid one a year when the bees come back from the heather in September, and that is usually the only time I need to treat" he says.. "My offer to supply beekeepers with breeding material is open to all, but you must advise me how it is doing, but please do not ask me to hold a lecture or speak at a public meeting says Christian, I am very happy to show how its done at home in my own apiary and I am never happier than when I am at a beekeepers meeting with other beekeepers but do not ask me to public speak, I am a doer, not a teacher from a lectern", says Christian.

Some final tips from Christian
"Make sure you spring feed all your hives with a stimulation feed 1 kilo of invert fondant" says Christian, "also look for early sources of pollen and nectar to site your apiaries, to get the queen laying early on, I allow my actual breeder queens to be four years old before I pension them off.. Let me say I get most of my honey flow from water meadows, along the west coast of Jutland, were I get wonderful honey from wild white clover and lots of other wild flowers, herbs, and members of the heather family,. But use your eyes, ears, and nose, and search your area for the best well sheltered side with a good source of food for you bees especially in early spring" says Christian. Another thing Christian wanted to say was, "that the introduction of Polystyrene Swi – Bo Hives, and Rea Dan Polyurethan Rea Dan, hives which are now the hives most popular with Danish beekeepers, have made a big difference to increasing yields and colony health. The bees being warmer in winter, and cooler in summer, the hives says Christian are now available in all international sizes the Danes themselves us the 12 x 10 Danish Standard, but they are found in the international Langstroth, German, Swedish, Norwegian, and now the British National and Smith sizes. However I have seen the very small supers they use in British Isles on my visits with Danish beekeepers to Scotland, England, and Ireland, says Christian and they are not necessary when using Polystyrene or Polyurathan hives. As the colonies tend to be stronger and eat less winter stores so they start egg laying earlier in spring, and build up quicker, this is the reason most beekeepers now use this type of hive in Denmark, and no longer use queen excluders, as they the queen excluders, stress the colony, and prevent the queen laying in the best ambient temperature placement in the hive which suits rearing of bees". The final point Christian wished to make was, "the use of invert syrup and fondant, developed from research by the German Bee Institute at Celle, which has an enzyme in to invert the syrup to fructose, he find it results in much healthier bees, as they did not have big body weight losses especially when going into winter in having to invert sugar syrup which I would never go back to", says Christian.

Ian Rumsey

The awareness that bees enjoy of their outside world is generally considered to be very much like our own, although the degree of sensitivity over which it operates may vary in range and content.

For example light outside our visual spectrum may be discerned by the bee who also appreciates the finer points of polarized light.

Without an obvious nose or ears their sense of smell and hearing, as transmitted through air, may be less acute and perhaps need supplementation by the antennae, a sensory organ not available to ourselves.

As air and light act as highways upon which data may be gathered and transmitted, the question arises as to whether there may be other mediums present within the environment of the hive which would be also capable of performing a similar function.

There are of course two forces which operate inside every hive which sometimes are overlooked and may be worthy of more detailed examination in this respect.

(1) The force of gravity.

(2) The force of the magnetic field around the earth.

Close observation of bee behaviour with these forces in mind may well disclose their awareness of gravity, and magnetic and static electric fields, sufficiently delicate to perhaps permit a degree of mutual communication within the hive.

But first let us consider our own appreciation of these properties so that we may compare them with that of the bee.

We all have a sense of gravity. We have all stood beneath an apple tree with Sir Isaac Newton. We have all used a spirit level and a plumb line, but how would we fare without such tools?

I will place you in the middle of a field with a pile of bricks, sand and cement and say "Please build me a wall, straight, level and upright. Sorry, no mechanical aids are available, you can only use your five senses". Our appreciation of gravity under these circumstances is shown to be somewhat crude.

Now on the other hand bees can collectively build natural comb perpendicular in the dark. Their awareness of gravity must therefore be superior to our own. Where is their sensory organ that recognizes gravity and what degree of variation can it detect?

Our awareness of the earth's magnetic field without a compass is equally abysmal. What of the bee, are there any actions they undertake which show an appreciation of any particular compass bearing. Does the bee also have the advantage over us in this respect as well?

Let us try to formulate some simple questions to ask the bee regarding their appreciation of magnetic, and gravitational forces and see whether any answers may be forthcoming.

(To be continued next month)

In this article, John Yates gives sound advice on the important subject of making and using nuclei. This is one of the most important aspects of bee keeping in my opinion. Nucs can be made up and used for a wide variety of purposes and their correct make up and handling is essential. (Ed).


The definition of a nucleus
Before looking at the methods of making a nucleus (popularly referred to as 'nuc' in the singular and 'nucs' for the plural of nuclei) it would be as well to examine the definition of a nuc to understand what has to be made. The BBKA standard (which I think has fallen into disuse and was based on the old defunct British Standard) is that it shall be "a colony occupying not less than three BS (British Standard combs, 14 in H 8½in (356mm H 216mm), of bees and not greater than five BS combs with the brood (eggs and worker brood) area not less than half the total comb area". As this was a standard for sale it also covers the amount of food and that all the frames should be well covered with bees, etc., etc. The standard for a colony is six BS frames and greater. There seems to be no formally accepted definition of a nuc in past literature but the BBKA standard above will serve our purpose reasonably well as a target to aim at when making a nuc.

The number of bees on a well covered BS frame ranges from 1000 to 2000 bees; say an average of 1500 bees (750 on each side). With 3000 bees, it is unlikely that any part of the comb will be seen. It follows that using these figures the number of bees in the minimum sized nuc (3 BS frames) should be about 4500. For the maximum sized nuc (5 BS frames) 7500 bees would be required, c.1.5lb (0.7kg) in weight. Nucs on other sized frames would be proportionally sized but with very large sized frames the minimum could not be reasonably less than 2 frames to allow a brood nest temperature to be maintained between the two combs. Other nucs, such as 'mini nucs' and 'micro nucs' are very specialised for queen mating and are beyond the scope of this article. However, their existence should be noted and that they would not fit the definition postulated above.

Making the nuc
The essential components for making a nuc are a queen, bees, food (honey and pollen) and emerging brood. If the nuc is to be used for mating then a QC can be given to the nuc in lieu of a queen. A nuc can be made from:

a) a single colony,

b) from two colonies or

c) several colonies.

There will be a difference depending whether the nuc is to remain in the same apiary or whether it is to be moved more than 3 miles away, the latter being a much easier task.

Method 1. Three frame nuc (to be transported away). From the parent colony find the queen and cage her. Select two frames of emerging and advanced brood with attendant bees and place in the nuc box. Then select a good frame of food containing fresh pollen and liquid stores, again with bees and also put into the nuc box. Find now a really well covered frame of bees and shake the lot into the nuc. The old queen can be released into the nuc or a new laying queen can be introduced in a Butler cage. The dummy board should be inserted and the space filled on its vacant side with a piece of foam for travelling. Fix the travelling screen and move to the new site immediately. On arrival at the new site open the entrance (reduced) and let the bees fly. If the nuc was destined to receive a QC then the nuc would be transported queenless and without the QC which would be put in at the new site. The nuc should be fed straightaway. Bees will be dying every day through natural causes and these will be replaced by the emerging brood. If a new laying queen is introduced it will be 21 days before any of her protégé hatch out and longer if the QC has to hatch and the virgin to mate before laying commences. During this time the little colony is unbalanced and in a delicate state until it becomes established; therefore, it must be treated with great care to prevent it being robbed. Continual feeding may be necessary.

Method 2. Three frame nuc (to remain in the same apiary). Proceed as in method 1 but ensure that the frame of liquid stores is virtually full so that the made up nuc can survive without feeding for about 4/5 days. The additional bees shaken into the nuc will be greater in this method to allow for any flying bees returning back to the parent colony. Before shaking into the nuc, lightly shake the frame in the parent colony to get rid of the older bees and then shake the rest into the nuc. Do this with three frames and then introduce the queen and place in a new position in the apiary, out of the flight path of other hives, with a reduced entrance lightly closed with grass. Check after 4/5 days and then feed as required.

If nucs are made up as above taking frames and bees from different colonies, it is prudent to spray each frame lightly with a very weak water and sugar syrup leaving the frames well apart in the nuc box and exposed to the light. The bees that are shaken in should also be lightly sprayed. Finally, slowly bring the frames together after smoking well; it is unlikely that any fighting will occur following this treatment. Alternatively, all the frames less bees can be taken from one or different colonies and the bees from another colony. If it is possible to avoid mixing bees from different colonies, then this should be done. Needless to say, nucs should only be made from disease free colonies.

The various uses of nuclei
Nuclei are an essential part of modern apiary management and are probably more useful for teaching purposes than a large full sized colony. Manipulating a large colony can be a daunting experience for the newcomers to beekeeping and their initiation should always be on a nuc. The small colonies should form part of every beekeeping establishment whether it be a commercial honey producing organisation or a small amateur beekeeper with a couple of hives. The number of uses to which nuclei can be put is really quite remarkable, the important ones are listed below:

1. Queen mating (these nucs can be quite small, nb. mini nucs).

2. Establishing and building into a full colony.

3. Increasing stocks and replacing colonies.

4. Swarm control.

5. Keeping spare queens and breeder queens.

6. Assessing the queen's offspring.

7. Drawing worker comb.

8. Observation hives.

9. Requeening large stocks.

Queen mating: probably tops the list of uses and is probably the most complicated. The size can range considerably from the micro nuc with only a few dozen bees to a 5 frame nuc on BS frames. The important feature is that if no brood is present the little colony is prone to abscond. The presence of brood creates conditions which are favourable to the acceptance of a queen cell and there will certainly be no absconding as a mating swarm. Bees will not leave brood which needs tending whether it is young or emerging. Introducing a queen cell to an established nuc always seems to cause confusion with many beekeepers. How long should the nuc be left queenless? There are the following possibilities:

a) Remove the queen and introduce a ripe QC (14 days old or greater) straightaway. There is a fair possibility that the cell may be destroyed; a cell protector (or a bit of sellotape round the cell) is a good insurance policy.

b) Leaving the nuc queenless for about 2 hours gives a high acceptance success rate. Some advocate feeding at the time the cell is introduced but the rationale for doing this is obscure.

c) Leave queenless for 7 days and then destroy emergency QCs before introducing the ripe QC. In our experience this is 100% successful.

Making up a nuc specially for mating purposes is the final option. Care must be taken to ensure the brood is only advanced or emerging. If it is left for two days in a queenless condition the ripe QC will be accepted without trouble. Usually 100% successful.

Establishing and building into a full sized colony. This is the ideal way for a beginner to start beekeeping. The ideal time is to take possession of the nuc in March/April and, of course, this will be an over-wintered one. It will be capable of being built into a full sized colony and a surplus obtained during the first season. If the nuc is obtained in June with a current year queen, the build up is unlikely to lead to a surplus during the first season.

Increasing stocks and replacing colonies. Even with the best management and bee husbandry, occasionally stocks are lost during the winter for a variety of reasons. Over-wintered nucs are ideal for replacing such losses and will provide a crop during the year of replacement. If stocks are to be increased, then new nucs will have to be made up during the season. The normal time for this is May/June when queens can be also reared and the colonies are strong enough to provide the bees for making the nucs.

Swarm control. Removing bees and brood from strong colonies to make nucs is an effective method of swarm prevention by reducing the colony population. If QCs are present in the parent colony, one of these may be usefully used in the nuc when it is made up. The danger of perpetuating a swarming strain must be taken into consideration with this particular use.

Keeping spare queens and breeder queens. All beekeepers should have a spare queen available for emergency purposes. This means maintaining an over-wintered nuc or two in case one is required early in the year when it would be impossible for a virgin to mate due to drones not being available. The life of a breeder queen can be extended by keeping her in a nuc and thereby severely limiting the extent of her egg laying. In fact the genetic material (eggs and larvae) for queen rearing can be obtained directly from the breeder queen in the nuc. Breeder queens can be kept for up to 5 years in this way.

Assessing the queen's offspring. Because of the very widespread problem of bad temper, we consider it essential that new queens are assessed in nucs prior to being introduced into colonies. It is easy to deal with bad tempered bees if they are in small numbers. Other characteristics are observed such as laying pattern, nervousness, amount of propolis collected, etc. No smoke should be used when assessing the bees in a nuc for temper.

Drawing worker comb. Small colonies produce little, if any, drone comb when compared with large colonies. A nuc will always draw worker comb irrespective of whether foundation has been provided. Therefore, old comb with the drone comb cut out can be given to nucs for repair as well as giving them foundation. All our 5 frame nucs are given 1 or 2 frames of foundation to pull out every year.

Observation hives. These contain only two or three frames of bees and are therefore stocked from a nucleus. A greater use could be made of observation hives for learning and teaching than is done at present. The observation hive can be stocked from a nuc and given starters instead of foundation to observe comb building in progress.

Re-queening large stocks. If a queen is purchased or obtained from another source and has been out of the hive for some time, it is best that she is introduced initially to a nuc (there is a better chance of acceptance in a small colony). When her laying has normalised in the nuc, then she can be introduced into the large colony. For successful queen introduction, it seems that the old and the new queen must be in the same physiological state. An alternative method is to make a nuc from the colony to be requeened, introduce the queen to the nuc and when laying normally the nuc is united with the parent colony, after first removing the old queen, thus bringing it back to its full strength. We recommend, as an insurance policy particularly if the queen is yellow and the colony is black, that the queen is recaged for a day when the nuc is returned to the parent colony.

Other point
!Chalk brood always seems to be a problem with nucs until they become established as well balanced colonies, albeit small ones. The trigger is of course temperature, protein and CO 2 stress. When the nucs are established and good ventilation is provided, it has been our experience that they seem able to keep it at bay.

! Nucs made up as 3 frames in early June with QCs, build up to 5 frames and generally collect enough stores to feed themselves for winter. They over-winter well with the young queens and provide the replacement queens for the spring.

! Samples for adult bee diseases should be taken from the nucs and treated in a similar manner to full colonies for nosema and varroa.

! Nucs should never be allowed to raise a queen from their own emergency QCs; scrub queens will result. JDY.

Mathew Allen tries his hardest to get to the point in this interesting article about nettles.

Go for a hike well off the beaten track in Scotland, and sooner or later you will come to the ruins of an ancient cottage or even a whole settlement. (‘Oh, no!’ groans Sir Humphrey Bufton Tufton. ‘He’s not going to go on about the Highland Clearances, is he?) The plants you’ll find growing around these ruins are rowan trees and nettles. And the amateur archaeologist can point out the toilet site, because that’s where the nettles are growing now. They love the nitrogen-rich soil. What loves nettles? Yup, butterflies. So thanks to crofters’ poops, your walk is brightened by the glimpse of dancing butterflies.

There’s more to nettles, of course. Richard Mabey’s book Food For Free (from the days when we wore bell-bottoms and didn’t cut our hair, man) was enthusiastic about the nutritional value of nettles, but I never really developed a taste for young nettle salad or nettle soup. Let me take you back to Scotland (groans from bored readers) to one of the best restaurants in Britain (hurrays!), The Peat Inn in Fife, where a dinner such as pan-fried venison liver served with kidneys, poached quail’s eggs and a bitter orange sauce comes with three AA Rosettes for quality. What’s the significance? Well, the clue is in the name. The nearby strange landscape of the Bankside Moss is another feature to draw the amateur (and professional) archaeologist. It’s a peat bog which has been dug for centuries, but it’s not just the extraction of peat that is of interest. The holes were then used to soak flax. The highly acidic water rotted the soft tissue quickly and thoroughly so that the long fibres could be extracted to make linen.

Hang on, hang on – I’ll get to the point. Trust me. Last month I received a cutting from a correspondent (Mum again) about the latest fashion craze. Jeans made out of a revolutionary material. Cotton is a plant that has to be sprayed regularly, almost incessantly, with pesticides. No beekeeper in the United States will take bees to cotton because of the losses. Besides it is a very hungry plant that requires copious fertiliser, with the consequent pollution problems. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes, does it? Yes – we’re talking about nettles! Nettle jeans at £80 per pair for young groovies. Strong, soft, cheap, and they grow like weeds. No need for tropical sun, irrigation, fertiliser. It’s a win win crop.

Let me take you back now to The Peat Inn, because the pits at the peat diggings were used to soak nettle stems to produce cloth for uniforms for soldiers in the First World War.

One last thing, while I’m on the subject. I had the pleasure of visiting a private garden in Dorset. The designers lean heavily towards surrealism, I would guess, building some stunning and beautiful features. Let me talk briefly about the Prison Garden. This comprises a number of raised beds, linked by heavy cables and chains. One bed is inside a circular bookcase, with hundreds of ‘the world’s most boring books’ (from lawyers and accountants!) preserved on the shelves. It’s called The Prison because it is a garden of stinging, scratching, poisonous plants, including nettles. Gertrude Jekyll, eat.


Chapter 4

Bee Musings

My friend the bee, you must agree,
You leave us all bemused,
The many talents you display,
By us cannot be used.

You see such things beyond our ken,
Our senses are so poor,
Please tell us of your secret ways,
So we can learn some more.

You understand our gravity,
And Earth’s magnetic field,
The other forces also there,
We hope will be revealed.

No innate knowledge is our plight,
Yours is complete you see,
We have to learn, each time around,
Unlike yourselves the Bee.

Ian Rumsey
ianrumsey @


In this section we bring you each month a recipe to cure and one to eat, both based on products from the hive. If readers know of any of the more unusual recipes, do email us. This month, both recipes are simple but effective.

For our first recipe today, we take a look at honey and fish, an unusual combination, but delicious and well worth trying. It is also easy to make. This dish uses mackerel but other similar fish can be substituted.

Marinated Mackerel
You need the following ingredients:

2 tbsp of liquid honey.
2 tbsp of wine vinegar.
2 tbps of mustard. Here, use a mild mustard, not the English strong stuff.
4 good sized cleaned mackerel with heads and bones removed.
4 bay leaves.

Mix the honey with the vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Pour this marinade over the fish and cover with cling film. Put it in the fridge over night. The next day, cook the fish opened out under a hot grill, basting frequently until it is cooked through. Turn the fish once during this time. Then serve immediately with a fresh tomato salad.

I found this recipe in the recipe section of which is worth a look and have repeated it here with few additions.

(2 tbsp = 30 ml).

For the second Recipe we bring you an exfoliant. It is easy to make and I am told, unusually effective.

You will need:

2 tablespoons of pollen.
Half a ripe avocado pear.
Half a cup of sea salt.

Scoop out the avocado and mash it up until you form a paste. Mix in the other ingredients, and apply to the body, scrubbing the skin especially over skin blemishes and spots and pimples. Any dead skin will be removed. After this take a good shower.

FACT FILE Back to top

Ever since beekeeping began, beekeepers have varied in their opinion of honeydew. Some love it and others regard as a honey spoilant to be despised and thrown away. Much of the time this difference of opinion has been regionally based with for example the Germans having high regard for honeydew and the Americans and to a lesser extent the British despising it. (I know well how much the Germans regard this ‘forest honey’. In 1996 after 5 years of severe drought in Spain , the build up of aphids on the cork oaks and the accompanying lack of nectar in the flowers meant that almost my entire harvest was honeydew. A visiting German who purchased a jar of my honey returned and told me he would buy as much as I could produce. Ed). So what is honeydew? Where does it come from and why? And who wants it? This short fact file article is intended to answer these questions.

What is Honeydew?
Honeydew is the classification of ‘honey’ that refers to the sweet liquid collected by honey bees from the exudation of other insects such as aphids and scale insects. It is often found to be a more complex substance than honey due to the presence of enzymes etc deriving from the other insect involved in the production chain. Honeydews are normally high in fructose, low in glucose and have higher levels of the higher sugars such as maltose. The tendency to crystallise is low and in fact some honeydews never crystallise. Moisture levels in honeydews are usually lower than in honey and usually below 17% and fermentation is not of concern. Most honeydews have a high electrical conductivity arising from the a higher mineral content. A full comparison of a typical honeydew with floral honey can be found at:

Why do insects excrete honeydew?
The feeding ecology of the insects involved such as aphids is interesting. Aphids for example feed from the phloem vessels by tapping into the vessels with their stylets. These are contained in the proboscis when not feeding and are thin and weak, but when used, a liquid secreted at the tips of the stylets which hardens them and forms a protective sheath around the stylets as they are slowly pushed into the plant. When the stylets reach the phloem tube, the aphid injects saliva into the plant cell which it is thought prevents the plant from resealing the puncture wound with their own special protective proteins. It can take an aphid from 25 minutes to 24 hours after starting before it gets a meal.

Plant saps are rich in sugars and low in amino acids or nitrogen. In order for the aphid to obtain sufficient nitrogen in their diet therefore, they have to take in a lot of the sap resulting in them receiving more sugar and liquid than they need. This then is excreted, collected by bees and ripened into honeydew. At times, if there is a build up of the aphid population this liquid can cover the leaves of trees and can fall to the ground. The liquid is fed upon by many insects apart from bees and also by yeast like fungus Thecla betulae which resembles a sooty mould.

What is the relationship between ants and aphids?
Who of us has not seen ants guarding aphids on a variety of plants? Honeydew is the reason that ants associate with aphids with some ants now almost dependant on aphids and some aphids will not excrete honeydew unless stimulated by ants. One particular aphid Paracletus cimiciformis is only found in the nests of the ant Tetramorium caespitum where it is fed and cared for by ants even though it now rarely if ever excretes honeydew. It has evolved in fact into a parasite and gains most of its food from the ants who offer it nectar. On plants, ants tend to herd aphids to the tops of plants which in fact has been found to render them more liable to predation. It has been found that ant attended aphids are 10 times more likely to be parasitised than unattended ones.

In some interesting research carried out last year by researchers at the University of Utah and reported in the May 9 2003 issue of the journal Science, it was found that some tree dwelling ants that were thought to eat other insects were actually plant nectar and honeydew eaters. Ants are extremely abundant in the rain forest canopy and the scientists now believe that they have previously underestimated the amount resource that trees are losing to the ants and their sap feeding associates. The ants are draining the water, carbohydrates and amino acids - the building blocks of proteins- out of the plants and the plants can die. So instead of being beneficial insects, eating pests and being rewarded with honeydew, it now appears that ants actively damaging the rain forests. One of the scientists noted that in areas super rich in ants, “you can just look around and see dead trees everywhere”.

Who wants honeydew?
In some countries especially in Eastern Europe and in some areas of the Mediteranean, honeydew producing trees and their associated insects are protected and valued. In Germany , honeydew from the Black Forest is known around the world as a prized product, and in New Zealand for example two species of beech tree, the Black beech Nothofagus solandri and the Red beech, N. fusca infested by two species of honeydew insect, produce New Zealand’s largest single exported honey crop.

So Friend or Foe? That depends upon who you are. If you are exporting tons of it to Germany for example, it is most definitely a friend. If small amounts of it are contaminating your wild flower honey and spoiling it for show purposes, then definitely a foe. The balance I believe must swing down on the side of Friend. (See also the historical note for a second opinion).


Earlier on in this issue we reported on Honeydew (see Fact File). However, earlier writers were not so sure about it. In fact some such as the Reverend Gilbert White* of Selborne in Hampshire writing in the 1780s were not even sure what it was or where it came from! He had this to say about it:

‘In the sultry season of 1783, honey-dews were so frequent as to deface and destroy the beauties of my garden. My honeysuckles, which were one week the most sweet and lovely objects that the eye could behold, became the next the most loathsome, being enveloped in a viscous substance, and loaded with black aphides or smother-flies. The occasion of this clammy appearance seems to be this, that in hot weather, the effluvia of flowers in fields, and meadows and gardens are drawn up in the day by a brisk evaporation, and then in the night fall down again with the dews in which they are entangled. That the air is strongly scented, and therefore impregnated with the particles of flowers, in summer weather, our senses will inform us; and that this clammy sweet substance is of the vegetable kind we may learn from bees, to whom it is very grateful; and we may be assured that it falls in the night, because it is always first seen in warm, still mornings.’

*This was taken from Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne. In one passage (reported on in a previous Apis-UK ) Gilbert White in the 1770s described the worlds oldest known Drone Congregation Area over Selborne Common. This DCA can still be heard on warm, still summer days.

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Dear Apis newsletter,
The reason that creosote should not be used on bee hives is because it is carcinogenic and therefore dangerous for the beekeeper to apply. I would strongly recommend that you point this out to your readers in your next newsletter. is a good site which explains why it has been withdrawn. Regards Margaret Cowley Beekeeping course Tutor.

Dear David,
Referring to the article by John Yates in the April 2004 issue of the newsletter headed "Brussels does it again" in which he covers various aspects of beehive maintenance. On the subject of painting/preserving hives I recall when I first started beekeeping the then County Bee Instructor for Northamptonshire, the late George Sommerville, advising that the best method in his opinion was to use a 50/50 mixture of creosote and used engine oil. There was a proviso that the treated parts should be well weathered before reuse. Usually one ended up with black rather than dark brown woodwork. Following George's advise my early DIY second-hand timber hives are still performing well after 30 years. I no longer undertake oil changes myself and hesitate to ask the garage which services my car to save the old oil for me. Anyway, like most modern cars my current car now only requires an annual service. I suppose I could visit the Local Authority recycling centre and grab a disposed 5L container. Alternatively, buy the cheapest new engine oil on the market! Luckily I still have a supply of creosote to the old specification.

Congratulations on your 2nd Anniversary and thanks for taking up my suggestion on page links in the newsletter heading. I hope other readers will find this a useful tool. Regards Brian Hughes

Dear Editor,
I have just received my first edition for which many thanks. Full of interest. Please keep up the good work. Walter Coultrup


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

Bee Keeping Courses 2004 at Hartpury College for beginners, intermediate and advanced download full 2004 listing in PDF Beekeeping courses at Hartpury College

Friday, Saturday and Sunday 16th, 17th, 18th July, 2004 (entries close 9th July) - Kent County Bees and Honey Show, organised by the Kent Bee-Keepers’ Association in conjunction with Dover, Medway and Thanet Beekeepers’ Associations at the Kent County Showground Detling, Maidstone. Judges: Honey Mr. M. Duffin, Cakes & Wax Mrs. E.Duffin, Schools Mr. & Mrs. L.Gordon-Sales. Entries Secretary: Mrs.M.Hill, Old Whittington, Old Wives Lees, Canterbury, CT4 8BH Tel: 01227 730477. Show Supervisor: Michael Wall 020-8302-7355. Chief Steward: Sally Hardy 07802763048. Download show schedules and entry forms from

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

Monday 13th September 2004 - Conwy Honey Fair, High Street, Conwy, North Wales.  9am til 4pm. Ancient street fair, founded by King Edward 1st more than 700 years ago. Stall space is free of charge. Honey stalls, home produce, crafts, plant stalls welcome. More than a tonne of local honey is sold by lunchtime. Now organised by Conwy BKA.  Contact secretary for details: Peter McFadden, tel 01492 650851, email:

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

16th April 2005 BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition

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