Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Bee press; Research News; Articles: Bee sense and sensibility (part 5 of 5) Ian Rumsey. Breed your own queens Mike Oliver. Bee venom; Poem of the Month; Recipe of the Month Honey bee brains, radish juice and honey; Fact File Commerce in honey; Historical Note Honey in healing; Readers Letters: David Mattichak, Charles Frederic Andros, Michael R Smith, Muna Salloum, Peter Mcfadden; Diary of events; Quote of the Month and more. Please wait while downloading 309KB.


Apis-UK Issue No.28 September 2004
Members of the National Honey Show Executive Committee
Members of the National Honey Show Executive Committee wish to invite you all to the RAF Museum at Hendon between the 21st - 23rd October 2004

EDITORIAL Back to top

Science and the Beekeeper
Most Beekeepers are aware that the craft and science of beekeeping are very much overlapping aspects of one very interesting discipline and whether we incline towards one aspect or the other, the two are ultimately inseparable. The continuing aim therefore of Apis-UK is to bring readers into contact with practical beekeeping innovation, new methods, news of beekeeping from other areas and from history, and also to look at how science is able to advance our knowledge of bees and associated organisms whether these be flowers, mites, bacteria, beekeepers or even GMOs. Indeed, detailed below in the Research News Section are several such examples. Just imagine a type of bee evolving an image intensifier so that it can see better at night, or would you have foreseen just a few short years ago that a type of honey would kill stomach ulcers, or that we would drag ourselves away from chemical pesticides and put valuable research money into bio pesticides? All these examples and many more show just how the link between the practical beekeeper and the scientist is becoming ever closer and to my mind, making the whole beekeeping scene so much more enjoyable. And remember that although it is called Apis-UK, beekeeping is a subject that spans the globe and few magazines these days can remain too parochial and hope to succeed or interest readers for long. We welcome news and articles and we also welcome your thoughts on Apis-UK from whichever part of the world you are from.

GMOs enter our pages again with two contradictory pieces of news (as ever): we can now grow the stuff but even more people don’t want it so why bother, and as far as I’m concerned, just one little bit of permission to grow will definitely be the thin end of the wedge for those opposed to their use.

Bio pesticides which must be an important way forward in the control of pests and a way of reducing our dependence on chemicals seems to be becoming more popular and below we look at how research money is now being put into this aspect of pest control. We also return again to the increasingly important subject of apitherapy with a look at honey and venom therapy for human use. I’m sure that this subject will be of increasing importance in our lives, but it will remain on the sidelines unless much more money is put into properly conducted clinical research of bee products and their effects on illnesses. Until this happens the subject will always be regarded as “alternative” and while it has that label, the subject will attract few funds. A sort of catch 22 situation. Perhaps the example of Manuka honey will encourage those with the funds to look deeper. At least apitherapy has a long history and we find out in the Historical Note what one famous early practitioner thought of it.

Fire and Varroa control
I mentioned my fear of forest fires in the last issue and the subject came back to haunt me sooner rather than later when a spark from a forest fire leapt over a road and landed in the middle of one of my apiaries. Thankfully the apiary had been well ploughed and so the fire could not really take hold even though it was in woodland. The heat however was intense and so even though I didn’t lose many hive bodies, I did lose the bees and the wax. All of which I had just purchased. (You can see from the photo that even though the frames were not burnt, they were scorched, the plastic spacers were fused together and the wax and bees gone). Astonishingly though, the bees in one badly scorched hive survived and were busy repairing things the next day. (I reckon that the varroa must have been destroyed as they have a lower heat tolerance). Generall, it was a depressing sight and as ever a reminder of how fragile is our mastery of natural disasters, however small. Lesson learned? Plough your apiaries!

Hives damaged in forest fire

Apis-UK For September
On a brighter note we bring you our usual mix of interesting articles and a review of honey commerce as it affects the EU and the UK which I’m sure you will enjoy. The full report on the honey trade is quite a lengthy one. If any reader requires more detailed information on any aspect not covered in this issue, please write in and if we can help, we will. Also in this issue, we have a special recipe involving brains. Delicious stuff, and on a final note for this issue, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of that famous 19th century beekeeper the Rev WC Cotton (My Bee Book 1842, and A Manual for New Zealand Beekeepers 1848) and get myself off to New Zealand in November. I will hope to continue as editor of (I’m glad to say) this increasingly popular internet magazine and I look forward to another Summer on the far side of the world.

David Cramp. Editor.

NEWS Back to top

Remember remember it’s not in November!
This year the National Honey Show is one month earlier than in previous years. If you are intending to participate in the competitive classes you must complete and send in the entry form by the closing date 8th October 2004. Visit the National Honey Show website to download details of the competitive classes and spare entry forms and other support information.

Each year I am asked to obtain information on honey yields and prices in the South East region. The main purpose of this survey is to gather information for Defra's annual statistics on food production. I would be grateful if you could supply me with information on the downloadable Word doc form Alan Byham Regional Bee Inspector, SE. E-mail: CSL website: National Bee Unit website:

At a meeting in Montalcino, Tuscany on Sept 10 to 12, Italian Honey producers expressed their alarm at the EU decision to allow the importation of Chinese honey into Europe. Readers will know that Chinese honey imports to the EU were banned for a lengthy period of time after tests found that samples contained the toxic antibiotic chloramfenicol. The Italians believe that the EU has made a bad decision that goes to the detriment of human health, based on the fact that a Chinese exporter ‘auto certified’ his product. They add that now that the EU labelling laws have come into force, consumers are helped to tell one honey from another and should always look carefully at the label.

Despite this gloomy assessment, Italian honey producers are reporting record production in both quantity and quality this year. (Italy has over 75000 beekeepers and over 1 million hives).

The continent that has so far led opposition to GM agriculture has now for the first time allowing one to be planted throughout its territory.

The European Union has given approval to farmers to plant a genetically modified seed. This a form of maize known as MON810 used in warm countries and is resistant to the European corn borer. It has been approved for use by Spain and France since 1998, but the process of extending approval was suspended by the 5 year EU moratorium on GM products. This was lifted in May, and the commission has now approved the MON810 throughout the EU. The EU commissioner Byrne said that the maize had been thoroughly assessed to be safe for human health and the environment. He added that it had been grown in Spain for years with no known problems and would be clearly labelled to give farmers a choice.

The campaigning group, Genewatch UK told reporters that when MON810 was assessed in 1998, all company had to do was ‘present notification’ that the crop was ‘substantially equivalent’ to non GM varieties. If they were applying now, they would have to ‘present the data’ to show this substantial equivalence.

In a recent Which? report, it appears that consumer opposition to GM foods has substantially hardened over the past two years. Compared to a survey two years ago by the same organisation, of 1000 people surveyed, 25% were in favour of GM crops being grown in the UK, down from two thirds. The use of GM products in foods worried 61% compared with 56% two years ago while the percentage of people who tried to avoid GM foods and ingredients rose to 58% from 45%. The main cause for concern was cited as lack of information on the long term health consequences of genetically altered products.

Earlier this month, the 1.6 metre high Titan Arum with the worlds largest flower stalk began to bloom. This flower which has been cultivated at the Cambridge University Botanic garden since 1984 is renowned for its odour which is similar to rotting flesh. Known as the ‘Corpse Flower’ in its native Sumatra, the smell attracts carrion beetles and blow flies which pollinate it. The bloom lasts for only 2 to 3 days and during this period the number of visitors to the centre rose by over 50%.


This news item should be of great interest to beekeepers. Any research into alternatives to chemical pesticides is welcome, but with developments in this direction must come changes in pesticide regulation which is currently based on chemical pesticides. A newly funded study outlined below aims to both assess the impact and sustainability of bio pesticides and look at how existing pesticide regulation can be modified to include these new developments. Ed.

A joint research proposal between scientists at Warwick HRI and researchers in the University of Warwick ’s Department of Politics and International Studies has won a £316,000 grant from the Research Councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use programme for a project on the science and regulation of bio-pesticides.

Consumers, retailers and environmentalists are calling for reductions in the use of chemical pesticides. One potentially environmentally friendly solution is to use so called bio-pesticides, which are based on naturally occurring living organisms, such as fungi that attack insects. However there is a need for a greater scientific understanding of the operation of these bio-pesticides and in particular their impact on the sustainability of pest management. There is also a requirement to evaluate the effect of government regulations on the development and uptake of bio-pesticides. The current regulatory system was designed for chemical pesticides, and innovations may be required to make it more suitable for the use of bio-pesticides.

This programme will draw on research strengths both in biological and social sciences. Warwick HRI’s new status as part of the University of Warwick has facilitated the creation of just such a research partnership of Warwick HRI bio-pesticide scientist Dr Dave Chandler and leading rural economy and society researcher Professor Wyn Grant in the University of Warwick ’s Department of Politics and International Studies.

Dr Dave Chandler will carry out the research on the sustainability of the use of bio-pesticides. In particular he will look at whether they persist in the environment when released on a large scale and how they interact with local microbial populations. For his study he will use as a model system the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizum flavoviride which will be used as a bio-pesticide against aphids on lettuce.

Professor Wyn Grant will probe how the current UK pesticide regulatory system impacts on the development and use of bio-pesticides. Current UK pesticide regulation has been built around the use of chemical insecticides. This chemical regulatory model focuses attention on the short term economic costs of pest control measures rather than their long term impact on the environment and the sustainability of farming systems. Bio-pesticides have potential to bring long term environmental protection and social benefits and any regulatory innovation that would take proper account of such innovations would be a significant spur to the future development of bio-pesticide products.

In fact rather than actively encouraging the development of bio-pesticides the current regulatory system has seen a poor uptake of microbial bio-pesticides in the UK. Much of the development of microbial bio-pesticides has been initiated in the public sector and taken up by small and medium sized companies who have been discouraged from taking a final product to market because of the prohibitive costs of the registration fee and associated data package. Professor Wyn Grant’s study of UK pesticide regulation will include a comparative study with the legislation based pesticide regulation framework in Denmark.

The Rural Economy and Land Use programme is a £20m 3 year programme bringing together Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council and Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in a programme to help deliver modern, sustainable and competitive farming, protect the environment & achieve beneficial social & economic outcomes for people in rural areas.

Even during darkness, nocturnal bees can learn to identify visual landmarks while foraging at night.

Day-active bees, such as the honeybee, are well known for using visual landmarks to locate a favoured patch of flowers, and to find their way home again to their hive. Researchers have now found that nocturnal bees can do the same thing, despite experiencing light intensities that are more than 100 million times dimmer than daylight. The new findings are reported in the latest issue of Current Biology by a team led by Eric Warrant at Lund University, Sweden, and the research advances our understanding of the visual powers of nocturnal animals.

The competitive and dangerous world of the tropical rainforest has driven many normally day-active animals to adopt a nocturnal lifestyle, with the cover of darkness allowing them to exploit food resources in relative peace. Several groups of bees and wasps – including the Central American halictid bee Megalopta genalis – have become nocturnal, and despite the darkness and their apparently insensitive compound eyes, they have retained remarkable visual abilities.

In the new work, performed on Barro Colorado Island in Panama, the researchers used infrared night-imaging cameras to show that by performing special orientation flights, Megalopta visually learns landmarks around the nest entrance prior to foraging and uses these landmarks to locate the nest upon return. The researchers found that if landmarks were moved to a nearby site while the bee was away, upon her return she intently searched for her nest in the landmark-bearing, but wrong, location.

Despite this impressive behavioral sensitivity, optical and physiological measurements revealed that Megalopta’s eyes are only about 30 times more sensitive to light than those of day-active honeybees, woefully inadequate to account for Megalopta’s nocturnal homing abilities. A solution to this paradox may lie outside the eye. The researchers identified in the bee’s brain specialised visual cells with morphologies suited to summing light signals and intensifying the received image.

(In short, a light and image intensifying device such as I used many times during my military career. Everything appeared green and if you inadvertantly caught sight of a car headlamp, it almost knocked you out. Ed).

According to a new report from the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC) presented on 6 September at the Society for General Microbiology meeting at Trinity College Dublin, honey could be the new anti biotic.

By studying the way that bacteria protect themselves from attack by forming slimy clumps, scientists have discovered that honey may be an effective new weapon in breaking up the microbes- defences. The researchers from the School of Applied Sciences at UWIC looked at the dangerous infections that commonly get into wounds such as Pseudomonas bacteria.

“If the bacteria can multiply enough to form a slimy mass called a biofilm, the sort of slime you get round a sink plughole for instance, they are much less sensitive to antibiotics and antiseptics” says one of the researchers Anna Henriques of UWIC. “Doctors looking after badly injured and infected patients urgently need to remove these biofilms so that they can treat their wounds safely and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

The scientists studied 6 different strains of bacteria, 5 of which came from injuries, and grew them in the laboratory to form biofilms that are notoriously difficult to treat when they appear as hospital infections. Biofilms prevent healing in wounds and may lead to chronic ulcers.

The lab grown samples were treated with Manuka honey, then unattached bacteria were washed off and the remaining slime layer studied after different time periods. In every sample the biofilm was disrupted making it more susceptible to treatments with conventional antibiotics.

“This suggests that simple honey could be a realistic alternative to treatment with antibiotics and antiseptics” says Ana Henriques. “With the rise in hospital infections from resistant bacteria, we need more effective treatments quickly. Dressings impregnated with manuka honey became available for prescription earlier this year, and for the first time we have shown that honey is effective against these tough biofilms as well as slowing isolated bacteria.”

The research could have a major impact in developing countries where honey is cheap and readily available, but where modern pharmaceuticals are difficult to obtain. Honey is easy to use and has no known harmful side effects on human health.

(Rural district nurses still remember using honey to treat difficult sores and there is anecdotal evidence of the use of honey in Cardiff local hospitals in the 1970s).

The following piece of research news concerns wasps, but the lessons learned and the concepts involved can apply to any social insect population including honey bees. Ed.

In an interesting piece of reseach on wasps, a team of biologists at The University of Nottingham studying the unusual life-cycle of a parasitic wasp found its larvae refused to attack close relatives even under extreme starvation conditions.

Led by Dr Ian Hardy in the School of Biosciences, and Professor Mike Strand, University of Georgia, USA, the team were attempting to get to the bottom of an evolutionary problem that has perplexed scientists for decades - why do animals sometimes co-operate with their competition?

The researchers expected to find that, as food resources reduced, soldier larvae would be less discriminate about who they attacked in an effort to secure their own survival.

They said: “We didn’t quite anticipate this. We would expect that, under extreme conditions, the survival of the individual would outweigh family considerations. Recent scientific theory predicts that competition for resources overrides close family ties but we found, over the course of almost two years, that this wasn’t so.”

The study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, looked at a parasitic wasp that can produce numerous sets of identical twins over its lifetime - polyembryonic reproduction. These wasps can have between 800 to 3,500 young, or larvae, from just one egg, making them the most polyembryonic species known to science.

The adult wasp finds a host, usually a caterpillar, in which to lay its egg. This hatches into two types of larvae: the reproductive larvae that will eventually emerge from the host as adult wasps, and soldier larvae that are doomed to death after protecting the reproductive larvae long enough for them to consume their host and complete their life-cycle to adulthood.

Dr Hardy continued: “Despite the fact that they are both genetically identical the two types of larvae look completely different - rather like the film Twins starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger!

“We know that sterile soldier larvae with tough, fighting mandibles develop first. They distribute themselves throughout the host caterpillar protecting their reproductive relatives. Alien species and distant relatives feel their wrath: the soldiers attack those they do not recognise as their own. We found the soldier larvae are most protective towards closest relatives; in fact their aggression increases as the relationship to a relative reduces.”

The team believe the larvae recognise close family by a membrane shrouding that has unique chemical properties. This membrane also protects the larvae from the host’s immune response. Professor Strand’s group have shown that removing the membrane and placing it on a close relative leads to soldier larvae attacking their own relatives.

Altruistic behaviour is common throughout the animal kingdom, particularly in species with complex social structures. An animal is said to behave altruistically when its behaviour benefits other animals, at a cost to itself.

The costs and benefits are measured in terms of ‘reproductive fitness’ - expected number of offspring. So by behaving altruistically, an organism reduces the number of offspring it is likely to produce itself, but greatly boosts the number of offspring produced by close relatives – increasing the chance that a specific line of genes continues into another generation.

Bee venom therapy has been used since Chinese times to give relief to patients suffering from a variety of ailments, but recently it appears that most medical doctors do not endorse it. The quote in the title comes from Dr Martin Murcek an allergist in Greensburg. Between his view and that of Dr Theodore Cherbuliez, apitherapists and past president of the American Apitherapy society who is convinced of the merits of the therapy, are many doctors, researchers and scientists who are not convinced either way. Some however are convinced that bee venom therapy can be decidedly dangerous.

Dr David Golden associate professor of medicine at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore USA where he has run the insect allergy programme for the past 25 years says that “There is an estimated 20% chance that repeated stings will bring out an allergy. The more you get stung, the more chance there is that an allergy will develop. There are definitely people who swear that bee venom therapy has helped their arthritis or MS and there may be some truth in that, but there is little hard evidence.”

A research project at the Allegheny University of Health sciences in Philadelphia reported in 1998 that “no apparent benefits of whole honey bee venom at any dosage and that it could potentially worsen the course of MS like diseases in mice”. In studies of dogs with arthritis, they found that bee venom caused a rise in endogenous cortisol, the body-s stress hormone that can have an anti inflammatory effect, but the researchers added that any shock or trauma would do the same thing such as grabbing hold of an electric fence. The project however ran out of funding and one of the chief researchers believes that this occurred before they had an answer to the question.

The Arthritis Foundation National Office in Atlanta also questions the value of bee venom therapy as an unproven therapy and says that there are no convincing clinical studies in humans to show that it is beneficial.

The National MS Society, based in Pittsburgh, believes that many reports of improvement in well being after using bee venom therapy are anecdotal and they add that ms often undergoes spontaneous improvement or remission and that virtually every study of ms indicates a significant placebo effect, so claims of success with any therapy must be regarded with some scepticism unless controlled clinical trials are carried out.

See also the Article Section for an article on the composition and uses of this complex substance and a comment on the general lack of research into bee venom (and other) therapy. Ed.

THE BEE PRESS Back to top

Beecraft September 2004 Volume 86 Number 9
Claire Waring Editor.
The following is its contents list: The beekeeping year: September Pam Gregory MSc NDB; All bees are thieves Adrian Waring, NDB; Honey bees are not like cows Celia F Davis, NDB; The biological control of EFB Ruth Waite, PhD; Now I know how a drone feels Ian Posties; In the apiary: having fun with bees (part 8) Karl Showler; The Mayor comes to tea R Repka; The 'B' Kids Wisconsin wasp studies Bob Jeanne; (Cover) Obituary George Hawthorne; Letters to the Editor; Around the colony.
Guest Editorial: It gives me great pleasure to write the Editorial for BeeCraft. Those of you who do not receive BeeCraft regularly will, I hope, find this edition useful and interesting. It is a very valuable addition to BBKA News and is able to provide in-depth articles and series on all aspects of beekeeping. I commend it to you and suggest a subscription to BeeCraft will generate more interest and understanding to your beekeeping. The relationship between the BBKA and BeeCraft has been close for many years and we have just agreed to have adjacent stands at Apimondia 2005 in Ireland so I hope you will all come and see us and make the venture a great success. I have been hearing stories across the country that this spring was one of the best for a long time, but the summer has been poor for honey crops. This, coupled with so many swarms, has made 2004 a hear to remember and, hopefully, we can all learn a lot about managing bees in a variable climate. I live on the boundary of known cases of pyrethroid-resistant varroa, so have been monitoring my colonies carefully and practicing some Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to keep the mite population low. You know, it is not that difficult, just different; and minimising the use of chemicals on our colonies must always be a good thing. However I guess our bee farmer colleagues may find IPM very time consuming. When you receive your copy of BeeCraft, we all shall be preparing our colonies for winter. Please remember that if your colonies are strong, well-fed and healthy at the start of winter they will be ready in spring to build well and be ready for whatever the weather conditions provide in 2005. Happy Beekeeping. Ivor Davis, Chairman, BBKA Executive Committee.

Beecraft September 2004 Bee World
Bee Craft September 2004
31 pages
Bee World

The latest issue of Bee World has now hit my desk and again it is a must read for beekeepers. It is designed to be a link between beekeeping and science and it amply fulfills this roll.
The latest issue contains a first class review of the small hive beetle, which details its spread, its biology and genetic diversity, the latest methods of control including biological, physical and chemical, and the likelihood of it affecting you and your bees in whichever part of the world you are.
Also in this issue is a very interesting editorial detailing the effects of the introduction of non native organisms to countries, e.g., the grey squirrel to Britain , and cane toads and prickly pears to Australia . But what about honey bees? What impact if any are they having?
Beeswax and quality issues affecting it are discussed together with factors in producing high quality wax, the Faba bean is detailed and its importance to beekeepers investigated, and a review of the spread (or not) of Varroa to the South Island of New Zealand is looked at.
Bee World continues to impress and I believe that this magazine should be an indispensable part of any thinking beekeeper’s reading. For more details, see:

ARTICLES Back to top


During the autumn it became apparent that two of the colonies selected for detailed examination regarding comb orientation, cell size and the "Housel Positioning" would not survive the winter due to the lack of stores.

This is not a bad thing when examination of the rhomb at the bottom of the cell is required. So it came to pass that colonies 7-3 and 13-3 became available for inspection earlier than expected.

The three objects of the experiment were as follows-

1. To see whether natural comb was aligned to any particular compass bearing.

2. Observe cell sizes of individual comb.

3. Note cell construction concerning compliance with the "Housel Positioning", which is outlined below-

If you cut a piece of comb and view the cut section end on, the back to back cell construction will appear as shown in Fig 1. The cells on either side are not level with each other and it would appear to be a matt er of pure chance which side had the first row of complete hexagon cells along the top of the comb. Clearly one side of the comb must look like Fig 2, and the other side as Fig 3. It is not difficult to distinguish which side is which because the pattern of the rhombs at the bottom of each cell clearly gives immediate recognition. The side which has the highest line of horizontal cells has a rhomb pattern of an upright capital Y. Fig 2 refers.

The other side has a rhomb pattern of an upside down capital Y. Fig 3 refers.

Fig 1-5

The "Housel Positioning" proposes that a feral colony of bees, build around the initial single comb, within an empty cavity, in such a way that the rhomb pattern, as shown in Fig 2, faces outwards away from the initial comb, and that subsequent comb built either side would follow the same arrangement.

Detailed examination of the comb in Hives 7-3, and 13-3, as shown in the above photographs yielded the following results.


It may be observed that the angle of comb for Hives 7-3, and 13-3, are aligned 23 degrees North of due East. These are the fourth and fifth colonies observed to have this orientation.

Is there any known reason for such compliance?

The comb has been built in a variety of fashions, but as the cavity was only 9 inches square an amount of vertical comb would be expected. Figs 4 & 5 refer.

If comb 3 in each case was taken to be the pivot point, the combs immediately either side comply to the " Housel Positioning" theory.

Cell sizes are also seen to increase away from this central position 5.1mm - 5.5mm and 5.3mm -5.6mm.

Comparing the comb in each colony there is a similarity in the overall grand design of the layout, comb orientation and cell size increase.

There is a symmetry around this central point of comb 3, unexplained and not understood.

Are there unappreciated factors at work which influence such detail, something which the bee understands and utilize, as their general tendency is to economize on their strength and energy in performing such tasks.

Gravity and magnetic fields are similar in function and can only be appreciated by us through instrumentation.

Is there another medium or highway for sensory perception, perhaps more vague and equally invisible and beyond our ken?

No matt er, let us consider gravity, and methods of distorting the earth’s magnetic field, and see what further mysteries may unfold.
Ian Rumsey


I lay no claim to be experienced. Quite the opposite in fact – I am a mere tyro compared to many wise and successful breeders of queens. I am an avid reader, however, and I also believe in listening very carefully when experts speak.

Therefore I have consulted many bee breeding information sources and having successfully applied the most basic method, I am ready to get seriously involved in this aspect of beekeeping and I have set up a nursery site which is just beginning to produce queens. Sometimes it is a bit daunting trying to follow the advice of experts. They often assume experience or employ a shorthand method of communication known only to cognoscenti, often skipping over what they consider to be obvious steps. Therefore in an uncomplicated manner, I want to try to translate some of the things I have been reading and hopefully will be able to apply. If this helps you too; that’s fine but I offer it only as a sharer along the path to expertise, not as an oracle.

It is a simple enterprise to bring on two or three new queens a year or it can extend to a more complex and rather full-blooded farming venture. I think most of us would be content with something in between.

I offer the following based on what I have done so far. (1) A simple method anybody with a colony can do and (2) starting your own nursery site.

First – the easy way to breed one queen from your own stock. The following method may sound very simple and I expect there was a certain amount of luck involved in achieving success but for what it is worth – this is what I did for my first three home bred queens. They were all successfully reared but I think the dog ate one of them.

Stage 1 is to identify a donor colony – probably one where there is a gentle, prolific queen and a good yield of honey at the end of the season. Timing is important. If you can achieve a balance between preventing the colony from swarming and producing some viable queen cells you have a good chance of success. Assuming you have gone into the hive fairly regularly and have discovered some queen cells that are sealed and no more than nine or ten days old after laying, you are ready to go ahead.

Stage 2 needs some preparation. Firstly a 3 or 5 frame nucleus box is needed. Because taking 5 frames out of a colony is a serious depletion, I favour using a 3-frame nuc. Secondly, decide where you are going to bring on the new queen. Ideally this will be 2 miles or more from the donor colony but there are ways round this if it is impractical to move that far away, which I will explain later in Stage 3. For my first project I only moved the nuc about ¾ mile away but I had no problems.

Having prepared yourself; open up the donor hive and gently lift out a previously identified frame with at least one, preferably two sealed queen cells. Don’t worry too much about any sealed brood and so forth on this frame at this stage – though there is probably plenty of it. Place this frame in the centre of your nuc box together with adhering bees. A cautionary note later about drones. Try not to shake off field bees – you need them too. In any case the watchword is GENTLY at this stage since the queen larva (10-13 days old) is only loosely resting in her cell.

Next identify a frame heavy with stores (or two such frames if it is a 5 frame box). You can always feed syrup if you don’t want deplete the colony but I suggest it should be the other way round – feed the nuc not the colony – unless you are prepared to accept a smaller harvest. Place this frame alongside your first frame and then select another frame with sealed brood and eggs (or two for a 5 frame). Try to make sure (a) that you only have the number of queen cells you need and (b) you haven’t accidentally included the queen in the transfer. Ideally if you have found the queen before you started transferring combs, “trap” her in a marking cage on another frame until the operation is over. A minor point, you can exceedingly carefully relocate a queen cell from the edge of a frame and press it lightly into a hole scooped from the centre of the frame if you are happier to shift it.

There is no reason why your third (or third and fourth) frame with eggs and sealed brood has to come from the same colony. In fact, I am advised that it doesn’t really matter how many different clans of bees end up in the nuc – though, frankly, I prefer to take a cautious approach and only shake in bees from one colony. The theory is that you can drop in three or four different clans (drenching them in peppermint or Chanel No 5 or some such nonsense is supposed to help) and they will not fight in their new home as long as one group is not overwhelmingly dominant in numbers.

You should now have the following in your nuc (3-frame) Store frame-Frame with Queen cell(s)- Brood frame; or (5- frame) Store –Brood –Queen cell frame – Brood – Store. You can see by this that you are heavily depleting your colony if you use a 5-frame nuc.

In any case you should shake on extra bees from one or two frames apart from those already on the frames you have transferred. A little tip – unless you are deadly accurate in aiming the frame you shake – consider inserting a temporary device in the top of the nuc box on each long side, consisting of a “wing” of flat cardboard a foot or so wide for the shaken bees to drop onto, then gently fold the wings inwards to ease them into the nuc. There is a contrary theory that you don’t need extra bees but I took no chances.

Drones. Remember the drones you take with you will add to the population of your breeding area. If you are sure they are as docile as the queen – fine. Otherwise if there is time and you have the patience to very lightly brush off as many drones as you can- leave the majority behind. I haven’t had a problem about transferring them but I have experimented using an artist’s sable paintbrush, which I found more precise than the standard bee-brush.

Now seal up the nuc completely allowing for ventilation if the weather is hot. Make sure the donor colony is compensated if you have taken more than three frames out. Consider giving it a frame or two of brood and/or stores (no bees please) from one or more other colonies if you have them – particularly if you have removed five frames. Otherwise three frames with foundation can actually contribute to swarming prevention – though I’m afraid I belong to the school that takes a pragmatic view of most swarm prevention methods – if one of the many works every time, why doesn’t everybody use it? That’s not to say I don’t take sensible precautions and I still live in hope.

Stage 3. Into your car (or on the bus!!) with your sealed up nuc-box and off to the rearing place. If this is less than two miles away you can leave the box sealed up for two or three days in a cool dark place (consider feeding with syrup.) I have built my nuc boxes with mesh floors, which aids ventilation. It is also quite useful because you can very carefully spray a little water up through the floor without removing the roof, if they are going to be confined for a longish period. I have found that if you move the box as late as possible in the evening and open it up again at the crack of dawn you may well find that the occupants will stay with the nuc anyway.

I am sure some people will disagree with the next step.

Stage 4. Unless you feel you should feed it, leave the box alone for at least three weeks, preferably a little longer. Just check when you walk past that there are plenty of bees flying. If feeding – my advice is to use a feeder you can attach to the outside and refrain from opening the nuc. I know of one beekeeper who had little success with this method of breeding and I think it might have been because he took the roof off the nuc every day to check or replenish a contact feeder. He also checked the box, removing frames for examination two or three times. Even though he did not remove the crown-board every day, I suspect it disturbed the bees and after a while they got fed up and decamped.

Remember – what is happening is that the queen is developing (she hatches out 16 days after being laid.) If you could see inside the cell, she will have rapidly gone through the various stages of pupa-hood, moulted on day 15 and hatched the following day. The last thing she needs is some nosy beekeeper fumbling around.

She then spends up to a week to ten days finding her way around and mating. By the time you open up – and I recommend a month or even six weeks - if the process has been successful you will be rewarded with the sight of eggs (and sealed brood). They can only belong to your new queen. If you can – find the queen and mark her*. Another (teaching grandmother to suck eggs) tip; go easy on the smoker and the queen may stay on the frame for you to find easier.

* Back in 1958 Mary Pursey said that she never handled a queen (and she was a very successful breeder) I can only suppose she marked them (if she did) through a cage.

Stage 5 – All your efforts will be wasted if you don’t nurture your nucleus. Treat it with all the love and attention you would your new car, or your puppy, or your spouse – in that order of importance, of course. If you have worked with a 3-frame nuc – consider transferring it to a 5-frame or if the weather is warm enough, into a full brood box with two more frames plus foundation, bracketed by dummy boards or against one end with a dummy board on the “outside.” It’s a matter of judgement as to whether the nuc is strong enough to move into a full hive - if in doubt – get a second opinion. On the other hand you don’t want to waste all your efforts by having the bees swarm or decamp through lack of space.

If you see queen cells in the nuc – my advice is to panic.

In my case I had the sheer luck to snatch out the frame with queen cells and turn it into another nuc whilst immediately and successfully re-hiving the rest onto a full brood box. I don’t advise this; it’s too hard on the nerves. What I should have done was follow my first inclination and move the nucleus into a bigger home several days before.

If you are using the nuc as a way of raising a queen to re-queen – try uniting it with the target colony using the newspaper method whilst the nucleus is relatively small, (see glossary). Naturally, removing the incumbent queen first is a good idea but in an emergency you can leave them to fight it out. Opinion seems to be that the new queen will usually win.

So far what I have shared with you is simple and straightforward but to be on the safe side – and to avoid the trap of assuming too much, there is a short glossary at the end of this paper.

Second – Starting your own nursery site. If you want to move on to rearing queens in larger numbers you will need to think about a number of things.

  • Settle on a method and stick with it. Look at Nick Withers’ article on Queen Rearing on Kent Beekeepers’ Website for some excellent suggestions.
  • Consider using mini-nucs. If you use the Warnholz type that has an internal feeding compartment you might follow the advice of Peter Springall and cut out this division and use it as extra space for your mini-colony because his experience is that the standard version is too small to guarantee that a mini-colony can survive a period of poor weather, even in the summer. (See also paragraph (4)) Cut a hole in the rear panel of the box, insert a short length of ½ or ¾ inch plastic pipe to form a passageway and connect it to a contact feeder made from a 1lb honey jar, inverted, with tiny holes drilled in the lid. Nothing too elaborate needed, simply a ring of plastic (opened on one side to admit the bees) on which the feeder rests and a flowerpot saucer under the feeder and rest, to contain any seepage. Avoid using wood in this structure, it will get very messy and eventually could rot.

To prevent robbing enclose the jar and passageway in a plastic Tupperware- type box 3 or 4 inches square and tall enough to contain the jar. It is best fitted with an opaque lid that does not allow the sun to overheat the interior though some heat warming the syrup is a bonus. In any case ventilate the lid with some tiny holes. I found that if you use the transparent type of box you would be able to see easier if the bees are feeding. Change the box from time to time and give the inside a good clean out to maintain transparency and even more important, to keep everything hygienic. Bees are marvellous housekeepers but they can use all the help you can give them so that they can concentrate on more important things. Removing the whole device and simply switching it over with a clean one works well – remembering to carefully remove any bees inside, of course.

Unless you want to be constantly replacing rotten plywood, mount the whole package on a length of strong softwood board (I used pieces cut from a recycled pine floorboard) or marine ply protected with two coats of paint. Two points here. It may be labouring the obvious but it is useful to extend this board forward to form an alighting board and particularly if you are using the older design Warnholz; check that the bees can enter through the entrance, which is underneath. If necessary, raise the unit above your base by inserting another piece of wood the same size as the bottom of the mini-nuc, about ½ inch thick, with a “vee” shaped segment cut from one side- with the apex at the entrance hole. You can use a pair of thin lathes instead of this platform, as I did on the Mark 1 Version but you might create an area where pests (e.g. wasps and insurance salesmen) can hide in wait for unwary bees or beekeeper’s fingers.

As an alternative and to save you some work you can consider using the type of mini-nuc that can be fitted with an external feeder above the box. I like tinkering with things so I tend to do it the hard way and stand around looking smug when people examine it.

On some of the mini-nucs I have researched I have not been too happy with the ventilation. If your small family of bees gets big enough to fill the mini-nuc they may be more comfortable if you can give some thought to drilling out a vent. hole in the front panel and covering it with a small piece of bee-proof mesh pinned to the inside of the hole. At £2 to £3 a throw for an 18” square, it’s a bit expensive to use a piece off a varroa screen mesh but it is the right gauge and a 18” piece will go a long way. I also use pieces of this to cover the escape holes on crown-boards. Digressing for a moment, look out for some idiot who is getting his wonderful leaded light windows replaced with nauseous double-glazing. Those little panes of glass are virtually tailor-made to cover crown-board holes.

  • Siting your nursery. Again, it is better to have this site at least two miles from your donor hives, if you are going to use a method relying on removing ripe queen cells and accompanying cups-full of bees or more simply just the bees and some eggs, from your donors with which to populate your mini-nucs. Ideally do what the Danes do – use a flower-filled island ten miles off the coast with no resident bees. That would be marvellous but leave it till you win the Lottery.

It is always a bit hit and miss trying to mate your queens with docile drones. Peter Springall’s cunning plan advocates selling your gentlest queens for next to nothing if the buyer’s bees are less than five miles away so that eventually you flood the area with your docile stock. In Galtee, the local beekeepers have gone one step further and have all agreed only to use docile queens bred within their catchment area.

  • A further note on mini-nucs. I believe there is no reason, with careful management, why you cannot maintain a mini-colony in your mini-nuc throughout the summer and simply remove the mated queen as soon as she is proved. If you leave some eggs in the nuc and close up the box for a week in a dark, quiet place, the little community can develop a new queen. This way you can produce a line of several queens from each mini-colony through the season. The bees have to be very patient and cooperative or they will up stakes and buzz off – so cosset them.

Having thought through the above factors, set up your nursery with at least 10% more mini-nucs than you think you are going to need. Remember that mini-nucs will need constant attention, particularly when feeding syrup. Don’t spread them out 20 feet apart; it makes more work. By all means arrange them at slightly different angles to discourage drifting but try to keep them fairly close together and have a clear walkway behind them, away from the flight paths. Brother Adam advocated painting his hives different colours to assist the bees in locating their home– there is no reason why you can’t do this with your mini-nucs. If you have managed to take over your garden lawn and the nursery is on a grassed area, perhaps have a path of paving stones to form the walkway for your own comfort when things get muddy.

Set them up on waist high individual stands for ease of access and observation. A short length of scaffold pole or plastic drainpipe driven a foot or so into the ground, topped by a 12-inch square of wood with two coats of white paint is ideal (avoid plywood unless it is Marine-ply). Drill a hole in the centre of the square and screw a short length of broom handle securely to it. It will look like a plasterer’s board. Slip the “handle” inside the scaffold pole and secure it by drilling straight through pole and handle and inserting a metal meat skewer, sawn short or bent over where it emerges. A length of bungee stretched over the whole hive and platform will make sure it is securely fixed.

I found it useful to have a weather-resistant table or workbench and a seat a few yards away from the mini-nucs – I eschewed the sort of integrated table and seat type of contraption you see outside pubs or in picnic areas because I always find that once I am seated I can’t extricate myself from them without half hour’s notice.

The next consideration is a shed or hut – the bigger the better. Just like on your out-apiary, you need somewhere dry to store equipment and to work on the wet days when you are spending a contented hour or two making up mini-frames, cleaning feeders, lodging sealed up nucs, avoiding the phone etc. If you can get it plumbed in to a water supply and/or electricity– that’s Utopia. You definitely need an armchair and some sort of small fridge – Calor gas is a possibility - to keep the Harvey Wallbangers or the Chardonnay cool in the summer.

If you want to improve your chances of mating the progeny with docile drones, think about adding one or two colony hives to your nursery with proven gentle stock.

It occurs to me that there is a balance to be struck between a colony that has a lot of drones and a drone-laying colony. The former is desirable; the latter may, by definition, possess genetic traits that are counter-productive. Furthermore a drone-laying queen/colony is a fairly transient unit. It can’t survive naturally in this state for very long before either the diminishing workers supersede the queen or it dies out from lack of workers.

The next consideration is to have a definite programme. To use a management buzz-phrase – plan your work and work your plan. It is pointless staggering from crisis to crisis and not keeping proper records. I know some “antient” queen breeders may think they can keep every detail in their heads but my advice, from personal experience, is write it down and keep updating it.

If you want to buy in queens to start off your own programme remember that they will probably be crossbred, e.g. Carniolan x Ligurian (F1), Buckfast x Cecropia etc. Therefore in all probability you will be mating the progeny with at least some different drones. Try to research the results of such 2 nd crosses (F2) and find out other breeders’ experience. In many cases 2 nd or 3 rd crosses are allegedly much more aggressive than their progenitors.

One idea I like is a Peter Springall goodie. For this you need to construct a device from a full size brood frame. In this frame you insert four smaller frames, which will eventually fit your mini-nuc. It looks like a window frame divided into four smaller panes. Each mini-frame should have a strip of foundation to start the process. Insert the holding frame into a queen-right colony and wait. With luck the queen will lay eggs on the drawn out mini-frames. When there is some sealed brood and eggs, take this device out, remove the mini-frames and slip them into your mini- nuc together with several cups of bees and close it up for between five and seven days. Remember to feed it and preferably keep it in a dark, quiet place.

With luck the bees will build a queen cell or two and start to raise a queen. It is important to include newly laid eggs since the difference between a properly developed queen and a small, barely fertile queen (an intercaste) developed from an older egg or larva, is determined by a continuous supply of Royal Jelly. If the supply is stopped and restarted the queen does not develop properly.

So far so good. I have not yet been able to assess by personal experience all the varied and impressive ways of breeding queens but since my philosophy can be summed up by the Latin maxim Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit (a wise man does not urinate against the wind) I did what Benjamin Franklin advised. I drew up a list of advantages and disadvantages for each method that did not involve signing up with Mephistopheles to finance it or arranging computer facilities with NASA. Then I added up the pros and the cons and selected three methods that seemed to make sense.

I then picked out what struck me as the easiest of the three and I am sticking with that, at least until I can either (a) find an easier and more successful method or (b) I can add some timesaving or effort-saving wrinkles. I bred a few queens this year from the nursery to re-queen some colonies for a project with which I am involved in Essex but next year I will get into full swing.

In due course I will do a follow up to this article describing the method I have chosen and assessing the results.

Final Note
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many experienced beekeepers I have drawn on to build up my own game plan. There is little new in what I have written except a few of my own idiosyncrasies. Bearing in mind that beekeeping has only really taken off since the development of the movable frame hive some 180 or so years ago, the Craft has come a very long way. Even so we are still finding out massive amounts of information about the bees and there is a future in which no doubt many of today’s ideas will be regarded as quaint.

I must mention Peter Springall – known to many Kent beekeepers as the ideal queen-breeder- his queens are legendary. If you visit his Apiary on a Sunday morning when Bromley Beekeepers meet, you may be a little unnerved at the sight of everybody present being unprotected – not a veil or glove in sight. This is wholly due to Peter’s efforts over the years to produce the gentlest of bees. There are others I have learnt a lot from – Peter Bashford and Clive Watson in particular spring to mind but I could not list all these excellent advisers local and otherwise, simply because beekeeping is one of those fraternities that wherever you go you find nice people who are always willing unselfishly to share what they know.

Good sources of information on Queen Rearing include;
Nick Wither’s article, mentioned above in Kentbee, Dave Cushman’s website, BIBBA, Galtee Breeders Group,

Good Continental websites:- - has an English version for those Francophobes amongst us. - translate from German with Google, if necessary. The translating programme is a real hoot – it will have you doubled up with laughter but bear with it.

and many books on beekeeping and Queen rearing some of which I found particularly thought-provoking, such as -

Brother Adam – “In search of the Best Strains of Bees”
Ormond and Harry Aebi, “Mastering the Art of Beekeeping.”
HA Dade, “Anatomy and Dissection of the Honeybee.”
J Daws& E Milner, “Breeding Techniques & Selection for Breeding the Honeybee.”
Bernhard Möbus, “Mating in Miniature: the Rationale, Design and Use of Mininucs.”
Ronald Ribbands, “The Behaviour and Social Life of Bees.”
Friedrich Ruttner, “Breeding Better Bees using simple methods.”
EB Wedmore, “A Manual of Beekeeping.”

Brood (sealed) – capped over cells containing worker or drone larvae.
Contact Feeder – a manufactured or improvised reservoir of syrup placed either above or outside a hive.
Intercaste – a queen, usually undersized andwith limited fertility as a result of an interruption in Royal jelly feeding in the larval stage.
Newspaper method – used to unite two groups of bees typically by inserting a sheet of newspaper between two brood boxes containing two different groups of bees that get used to each other whilst chewing through the paper.
Nuc – a small “hive” designed to hold between three and six frames to house a nucleus of bees
Nucleus – a small colony of bees developed as a starter for a full colony.
Queen cell - a cell built specially by the worker bees to house a queen-larva – it looks a bit like a small acorn cup before sealing.
Stores – sealed cells of honey or pollen stored by the workers
Syrup – a supplementary feed varying in composition in proportion to the amount of sugar dissolved in water.

Finally don’t be daunted because, like me you are just beginning to breed queens. As Cicero said, Constant practice devoted to a subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill. Though of course he said it in Latin, which makes it automatically correct. Obesa cantavit!

Mike Oliver


In the Research News section, there is a report on research efforts into the usefulness (or not) of bee venom in medicine. This short article is designed to give readers an insight into the composition of this complex substance, and an idea of how apitherapists believe it can be used in medicine. The medical use of honey bee products is a subject of growing interest amongst both medical practitioners, researchers and the general public and venom therapy is just one aspect of this. Unfortunately it takes a great deal of money to carry out meaningful clinical trials on any medicine and I am not at all sure that sufficient research has been carried out into the benefits (if any) of this therapy especially as research funds are usually concentrated on products that will ensure healthy profits for industry. Ed.

Use by Bees
Bee venom is synthesised by bees for the single purpose of defence against enemies. The venom is a complex mix of proteins, peptides, active amines and other compounds which cause pain and damage to predators when used. Unlike many other insect venoms, bee venom is water soluble, not fat soluble, and so must be injected into moist tissue to be effective. The fact that it is water soluble is an advantage because it allows a wide range of highly active defensive compounds to be used (Schmidt 1992).

Bee venom is a complex mixture of histamine, pheromones, enzymes, peptides, amino acids and other acids, with 63 components in total. The main enzymes present are phospholipase A, hyaluronidase, and lecithinase; while the main peptides are mellitin, apamin and peptide 401. Bee venom is cytotoxic (ie. cell-destroying), and has the contradictory effects of inhibiting the nervous system, while stimulating the heart and adrenal glands.

A sizeable percentage, (12%) of the venom is made up of Phospholipase A and this chemical, destroys cells by breaking up phospholipids, the main component of cell membranes.
Lecithinase converts lecithine to lysolecithine (or phospholipase B), which breaks down the membranes of blood cells.
Hyaluronidase (3%) enables the venom to spread quickly by breaking down hyaluronic acid which is a polysaccharide interstitial fluid in connective tissue.
Mellitin, which destroys blood cells by breaking down their membranes is a 26 amino acid peptide and makes up 50% of the dry weight of bee venom. Mellitin also lowers blood pressure, causes histamine release, and is the main pain-causing component.
Both mellitin and apamin cause the body to release cortisol, a natural steroid, while peptide 401 is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
Cysteine and methionine are the two principle amino acids, both of which contain sulphur which is important in inducing cortisol release from the adrenal glands.
Histamine makes up 0.9% of venom, and causes itching and pain at the site of the sting. The acids present, which include formic, hydrochloric and orthophosphoric acids, are now believed to be much less important in causing pain than was previously thought.

Possible Medical Uses
Apitherapists believe that bee venom stimulates the release of cortisol, and so may be effective in the treatment of rheumatic disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis and Gout. It appears that mellitin may be the main active agent and interestingly, mellitin is also being investigated as an anti-cancer agent. By modifying the mellitin molecule to prevent allergic reaction, and attaching a cancer-specific antibody, thus forming an immunotoxin researchers hope to produce a ‘magic bullet’ treatment - so called because it would only destroy cancer cells (unlike conventional chemotherapy agents, which destroy all types of cell, causing unpleasant side effects such as vomiting and hair loss).

Much of this information on the composition of bee venom has been taken from a very interesting web site on the chemistry of bees at Well worth a look at. (Ed).


This month’s poem comes from that neat little volume of wisdom from Kahlil Gibran ‘The Prophet’. The book covers a wide variety of subjects from love and marriage to work, beauty, justice and loyalty and is well worth a read. This piece of advice was part of the Prophet’s reply to a hermit amongst the crowd who said, ‘Speak to us of pleasure’.

Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure

Of the bee to gather honey of the flower,

But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee

For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,

And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,

And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and not an ecstasy.

People of Orphalese, be in your pleasure like the flowers and the bees.


The Feast

Honeyed Brains!
Brain dishes are now a rarity in the UK, but this wasn’t always the case when housewives would use just about every part of the animal and meat wasn’t sanitised into plastic wrappers. This recipe from Morocco is tasty and nutritious and for the Brits at least quite adventurous. If anyone has a go at it, do let me know what you think. The initial recipe didn’t have honey as an ingredient, but a Moroccan tour guide friend suggested it as an essential ingredient, making the source sweeter and richer.

My first experience with brains came years ago when I prepared a Perestroika dinner to celebrate the demise of the Soviet Union using a Russian brain recipe. Vodka let the show down however and afterwards no one could quite remember what the things tasted like. That recipe used lambs brains which I suppose you could use instead of calf brains. You’d need more of them though I expect.

For this excellent recipe for a dinner party of 8, you will need the following:

2 (BSE free) calf brains.
1 tablespoon of vinegar.
500g peeled and crumbled tomatoes.
4 crushed cloves of garlic.
Half teaspoon of dried coriander.
1 teaspoon of sweet red pepper.
A pinch of hot chili powder. (To taste).
1 pinch of saffron. (Must be fresh).
3 soupspoons of lemon juice.
½ glass of olive oil.
1 tablespoon of honey.
Salt to taste.
½ glass of water.

Wash the brains carefully. (Get advice on this from a butcher or a good recipe book) and leave them in water with vinegar for 30 minutes.

Before removing the skin and filament, cut them into pieces about 2 inches by 1 inch.

Place them in a pressure cooker with the tomatoes, garlic, coriander, sweet red pepper, hot red pepper, saffron, lemon juice, honey and salt, mix carefully, then add oil and water. Cook on a low heat for 2 hours, till the sauce is smooth. Serve cool in bowls. Try it!

And The Cure. An Unusual specific for coughs and hoarseness of the voice.

Radish juice and honey
This cure is also suggested for use against the formation of gall stones, although I personally would advocate the use of olive oil. It is a simple recipe as follows.

Hollow out a large radish and fill the hollowed out bit with honey. In three or four hours, the radish juice will have seeped into the honey and the resulting mix is ready to use. Use a teaspoon to scoop it out and take. It is meant to be most effective.

FACT FILE Back to top

This short Fact File is designed to give readers an idea of the international trade in honey as it affects the European Union. Which countries are the big buyers? Where does this honey come from? What percentage of our honey is supplied by third countries and how much of the trade is within the EU? The tables below tell the story in 2003. This month’s fact file will concentrate on imports and next month we will look at export situation in detail.

The first graph shows which countries import their honey and how much. It also shows how much of this amount is purchased from third party countries and how much within the EU.

Imports 2003

The next chart shows the values of the honey purchased in total and also the price per kilo of that purchased from 3 rd parties and of that purchased within the EU.

Value of Imports

So where does this honey come from?
Of the honey imported into the EU, third party countries provided the following amounts:

Argentina 34.4%
Hungary 10.1%
Mexico 8.9%
Turkey 8.5%
Brazil 6.6%
Rumania 5.3%
Cuba 3.0%
Uruguay 2.5%
Chile 2.3%
Others 11.0%

However, see also UK imports in which Australia and New Zealand honeys figure prominently.

(The figures for 2002 show China at 8.8% and Argentina at 36.3%. Both countries had problems with illegal residues and their exports suffered accordingly in 2003).

Most UK honey imports came from:

Argentina. 6768 tns. 2.20 Euros per kilo
Mexico 2301 tns 2.39 Euros
Australia 1442 tns 3.50 Euros
Brazil 1161 tns 2.06 Euros
Rumania 955 tns 2.44 Euros
New Zealand 871 tns 5.40 Euros

#It is evident that the price of New Zealand honey far exceeded that of honey from other countries. This may have been due to the importation of highly priced Manuka honey. (Ed).

Within the EU, by far the biggest importer of honey is Germany. These imports were principally from:

France 3381 tns
UK 2065 tns
Spain 1760 tns
Belgium 1725 tns
Italy 908 tns

Prices within the EU
Countries buying within the EU paid a widely varying set of prices for their honey, for example, the following prices were paid by EU importing countries for UK honey:

Italy 6.12 Euros (But they only imported 32 tons)
Belgium 4.15
France 3.43
Germany 3.41
Spain 3.30
Holland 2.63
Denmark 2.53

The highest price paid per kilo was paid by France for Belgium honey at 6.25 Euros and the lowest price for any honey was paid by Belgium for Indian honey at 1.16 Euros per kilo.

Next Month we look at the export situation.


Following on from our news on advances in apitherapy, we look this month at a couple of uses of honey in healing from the great Culpepper of herbal fame. Remember though that these are old remedies and are related here for historical interests sake rather than actual use.

Cabbage and Honey
The Juice boiled with honey and dropped into the corners of the eyes, cleareth the sight by consuming any cloud or film and remedieth the pain of the bladder. (I assume for the bladder bit, you have to drink it. Ed). 

Onions and Honey
They are flatulent or windy, and provoke appetite, increase thirst, ease the bowels, provoke the courses, help the bites of mad dogs, and of other venomous creatures used with honey and rue. Being roasted under the embers, and eaten with honey or sugar and oil, they much induce to help an inveterate cough and expectorate tough phlegm.

LETTERS Back to top

Dear David,
I am a graduate of agronomy. I am interested in bee breeding programme. Kindly, send me the application form to me through p.o.box4198 university of ibadan, nigeria your's faithfully Michael.

Michael, thanks for the email. We don't actually run or get involved in breeding programmes, but I will include the letter in Apis-UK so that if any other organisation can help you, they can email you direct. Email: Ed.

Hello David,
I am also a bee keeper using powdered sugar. I can't find Harry Vanderpools e-mail the inventor of the mitey victor. Woul you have it. Thank You. David Mattichak Email:

Dear Beekeepers,
Greetings from the Connecticut River Valley! After a lackluster summer, recently the bees have shown what can be done with a good honeyflow. On September 7, a new daily record was set at the Harlow Farm, where I put on my workshops! A hive on scales gained 28.25 lbs. or 12.8 kg. in 24 hours measured at 18:12. For 10 days, the gain was over 89 lbs. or 40.37 kg.! The hive has 2 Russian queens, one which was introduced to a 1-frame brood nuc of bees from the parent colony on July 9th.

See below the monthly summer gains and recent gains.
2004 Ave. monthly gain in lbs. Best
June  25.75                          45
July    .75                            8.25
Aug    21.5                          30.75
10-day gain August 28-September 7
1 71.5+
9 88.5+
20 89+
25 40.25+
26 43.5
39 42.5
Average 62.5
September 7 24-hour gain
1  24.25
9  24.25
20  28.25
25  12.5+
26  12+
39  11.5+
Average >18.8
+ indicates amount was gained in less than 24 hours

The plant responsible for this activity is Fallopia japonica (Houttuyn), the reclassified Polygonum cuspidatum (Siebold & Zuccarini), commonly Mexican or false bamboo, fleeceflower, or Japanese knotweed. It is of the family Polygonaceae, meaning many joints. It is native to the hills and mountains of Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. Liking moisture, it is found along waterways, roads, etc. It grows to 10 feet high, has hollow stems and heart-shaped leaves 2-5" wide, 2-6" long, with pointed tips. Flowers are white, 2.5-3 mm. long and wide, creamy or greenish-white on axillary panicles. Seeds are winged, 3-angled, shiny black-brown achenes, and rarely viable. They reproduce by tough, spreading rhizomes up to 60' long, that send up shoots, and are very difficult to uproot. Small fragments of root can regenerate plants, and spring runoff and human transport helps the spread. Bamboo likes sun, and edible shoots that grow up to 3" per day re-emerge through previous years’ debris and even 2" of asphalt! Control by regular mowing and spraying of herbicides is recommended, but will fail if these measures are relaxed. Biological control is a future possibility.

A Bavarian doctor by the name of Balthasar von Siebold (1799-1866) brought it from Japan to Leiden, Netherlands, in 1830, proclaiming its beauty. From there it went to Kew Gardens in England about 1855, and reached the US in the 1890's, where it was sold by many nurseries. Now it is well established in the majority of our states and especially in the East, Pacific Northwest, and parts of the Midwest.*

Fortunately, bamboo has no thorns, is not toxic, and controls erosion. It is easy for the bees to walk from flower to flower, so they expend less energy and nectar in gathering the nectar, which becomes a dark amber honey, with little acidity, and a tendency to granulate fairly quickly. Bamboo is related to buckwheat (Polygonum fagopyrum), but the honey is lighter and less strong-flavored. It is sweet, and enjoyed by many. Bees do not collect the pollen.

August had bees working purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) for the first half of the month, followed by boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), virgin’s-bower (Clematis virginiana), wild cucumber or balsam-apple (Echinocystis lobata), bur-cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), smartweed (Polygonum spp.), and Aster spp. The rains slowed the bees down until late in the month when most of the gains were made. Smartweed was a big source just before bamboo started in late-August. I smelled the strong odor of goldenrod nectar in one yard.

This proves that it is always wise to expect the best, and to be prepared for the large influx of nectar that can make a crop in a short period of time! Lots of supers are often required! As always, keep me posted on your bees progress!

Best, Charles Frederic Andros Linden Apiaries since 1973 Speaker, Eastern Apicultural Society Conference 2001, on Propolis and Pollen Production NH/VT Apiary Inspector 1978-1989. P. O. Box 165 Walpole, NH 03608-0165 603-756-9056 (physical address for UPS (not for mail!): 18 MacLean Road, Alstead, NH 03602: Latitude 43° 04’ 50.52" North, Longitude 72° 21’ 28.2" West, Elevation 363 meters Keeper of 40 two-queen colonies for unheated honey, fresh-frozen pollen, Bee Complex facial, propolis tincture, beeswax, candles, apitherapy, nuclei, pollination, workshops, consulting, and supplies.  My own American Ginseng, and Brasilian casal hammocks for 2! "Learn, experiment, innovate, educate!" *Source: arnoldia, The Magazine of the Arnold Arboretum, Fall 1997, by Ann Townsen.

Dear Sir,
'Taylors of Welwyn' came up (incredibly) in conversation during a recent holiday in France with some Dutch people!!

When I was an articled pupil (becoming a Chartered accountant), Taylors, near Welwyn North station (Hertfordshire) were a client & I then understood them to be one the world's major beehive & bee equipment suppliers. They certainly exported stuff all over the world (and imported, I recall Italian Queen bees). (This was about 1962 to 1966ish). Needless to say, nobody was the slightest interested in my reminiscences and 'encyclopaedic' knowledge of the world of apiaries!

The only name I recall was that the Sales manager was: Reg Hayes. Any info on what happened to them or guidance how to find out would be much appreciated. Many thanks Michael R Smith

Dear David,
I read with interest the APIS-UK Electronic Beekeeping Newsletter, Issue No. 20, January 2004, and have a question about the foods of Cordoba in which honey is used. What are "sighs of the caliph bathed in honey"? How can I obtain a recipe for them? Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Muna Salloum. Business Manager and Executive Assistant to the Director Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology 91 Charles St. W., Room 316 University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario Canada M5S 1K7 Tel: 416-978-5131 Fax: 416-978-3003 E-mail:

Dear David,
I was interested to read the piece about the hive of bees at the Horniman Museum.  I saw this hive in about 1960 as a lad of 13, and I always think of this as my first experience of bees. I started keeping bees in 1978. This year I took my bees to the heather for the 25th year, and I still look forward to the start of the beekeeping season more every year. All thanks to the hive in the museum! Peter McFadden Secretary, Conwy BKA, North Wales . PS. "How I started beekeeping" makes a very enjoyable evening at BKA meetings. Everyone can contribute!


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

14th, 15th and 16th October 2004 - Washington State Beekeepers Fall Meeting
Download schedule of events pdf Location: Doubletree Hotel Spokane City Center 322 N. Spokane Falls Court Spokane, WA 99201 USA 1-509-455-9600

Cover of the 2004 Schedule

21st, 22nd and 23rd October 2004 - The National Honey Show
The National Honey Show will be at the Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, North London between 21st - 23rd October 2004. Members will have received a copy of the show schedule in the post or you can download the competitive classes part of the schedule by going to the support page of the honey show website. You can also purchase advanced tickets and membership online. Website URL:

14th November 2004 - Brisbane Amateur Beekeepers’ Society Open Hive Field Day
9.00am - 3.00pm @ ROCKLEA SHOWGROUNDS CENTRE RING, Rocklea Agricultural & Industrial Association Inc. Cnr Goburra Street & Ipswich Road, Rocklea, Brisbane Q 4106 ENTER FROM SLIP ROAD - USE Goburra Street GATES. Enquiries: Julie Marsh, Treasurer Phone: (07) 3216 8269 FAX: 0734205460 Email: errol_juliemarsh @ Market Day for Used Beekeeping Equipment, Beekeeper Activities, Honey Judging and Sales, Smoker Competition, Framing Competition, Find the Queen Bee Competition, Honey Recipe Bake-off. **Please deliver any equipment for sale by 8.30am ** INTER—CLUBS COMPETITION (CERTIFICATES WILL BE AWARDED) FRAMING COMPETITION: Each Club to provide team/s of FOUR, to assemble, wire, and crimp four frames, using a framing/wiring board. Club Certificate awarded on QUALITY. (Judge TBA). SMOKER COMPETITION: $1.00 Entry. Individual Beekeepers, two at a time, to collect smoker, fuel, light smoker, proceed to double hive, smoke the entrance until smoke emanates from vent holes in lid. First to complete stays in competition. The other Beekeeper is eliminated. Heats continue, all winners go into a Smoke-off. (Prize money determined by number of entrants. Finalist, Second and Third Place getters receive Certificate) . FIND THE QUEEN BEE COMPETITION: 50 cents Entry. Unmarked Queens in 2 observation frames of bees. Individual Beekeepers, two at a time, timed to find Queen. Top 10 best times go into a playoff. Best time wins. (Prizemoney determined by number of entrants. Certificate to Winner) HONEY JUDGING: (Open to all) See Schedule Attached. HONEY RECIPE BAKE-OFF: (Open to all) Using the Recipe Attached. Bake at Home, bring cake on the day.

1st, 2nd April 2005 - Ulster Beekeepers' Association 61st Annual Conference
Greenmount Campus, College of Agriculture , Food and Rural Enterprise , Antrim. This year we have a new panel of speakers from Scotland , Ireland and England , headed by Willie Robson an extensive honey farmer and popular conference speaker, from Berwick-on Tweed in Scotland . We also have trade stands where you may buy your supplies for the New Season. The conference will commence at 7.30pm on Friday 1 st April with two lectures: “Our Bees in Winter”, Claire Chavasse . “Preparing for Spring”, Willie Robson. It will continue from 9am Saturday, 2 nd April with: “ Queens and Honey from the same Hive”, Ben Harden. “Effects of EC regulations on Beekeepers”, Food Standards Agency. “New Products”, Paul Smith ( Thorne s). “EXO-MITEtm Apis”, Clive Newitt. “Harvesting and Marketing the Honey Crop”, Willie Robson. “Open Forum”, Panel of experts. The Conference will conclude with the AGM of the UBKA commencing at 4.15pm . Admission, including tea/coffee on Saturday: both days, £15 per person, £25 per family, Friday only, £10 per person, £15 per family, pay at the door. For on-site accommodation contact Jim Fletcher on 028 9167 2163, for other accommodation contact Walter McNeill on 028 9446 4648. A warm invitation to everyone.

16th April 2005 - BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition
Further details from

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This month’s quote comes from a great master of bee research. Write in and let us know who it is and what subject he is talking about.

“Suppose German and English bees were living together in the same hive and one of the Germans found a lot of nectar: its English companions would easily understand what it had to say about the distance and direction of the find. Human language is not so perfect”.

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