Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Bee press; Research News; Articles: Bees and Gravitomagnetism (Part 1 of 4 ) Ian Rumsey; Size doesn't matter Mike Oliver; Honey Bee Genetics Part 1; That's Business Chad Cryer; Recipe of the Month: Ensaimadas (Spanish sweet honey rolls); Suppressed Mite Reproduction (Smr) Fighting Varroa; Fact File: Pollen; Historical Note: Poem of the Month: The Bee by Emily Dickinson; Readers Letters: Natasha Fairbairn, Adam Triantis, Tunde Fimihan, Jerry Burbidge, Heinrich Gritsch, Chris Clarke; Diary of Events; Quote of the Month and more. Please wait while downloading 477KB.


Apis-UK Issue No.37 July 2005
Slovenian Bee House

Slovenian Bee House
International Honey Competition September 2005

EDITORIAL Back to top

Many will know, or at least suspect, we share many of our genes with chimpanzees. After all we sort of look alike; but I was horrified to read that we also share around 25% of our genes with bananas! How this can be I can only imagine, but I do recognise that genetics is an incredibly complex subject, and one that increasingly intrudes into the lives of many beekeepers whether they be commercial bee farmers after a better crop of honey/royal jelly/pollen and so on, or bee breeders hoping to make a living selling ‘super bees,’ or just the average beekeeper engaged in his fight against varroa and AFB. Bee genetics, to me at any rate, are more confusing than most for the simple reason that drone bees don’t have a father, thus making the whole matter far more complex in my mind and I’m sure in the minds of others. In this issue therefore, we include several bee genetic themes including part one of a basic guide to bee genetics which we hope will brush away much of the confusion surrounding the subject. It may even encourage beekeepers to try and develop their very own super bee; if that’s possible.

In one of the most searching investigations into the genetics of the honey bee, the bee genome project, scientists have literally mapped out its entire genetic code. But what can we do with this information? Well, we are just now starting to see some practical results in this instance in the fight against that most feared of brood diseases: AFB. This is further explained in our research articles section. Another of our wars is against varroa and again the study of genetics and the application of our knowledge arising from those studies are assisting us in this war with scientists developing a bee that displays the trait that leads to varroa mites being unable to reproduce, again we bring you news of this interesting development.

Even though the tiny hummingbird seems to be a sort of feathered bee in many ways, it is not a creature that would normally feature in Apis-UK and nor is the butterfly which with its loopy and apparently aimless flight patterns is far from being bee-like despite the fact that it is an insect. Well you will be surprised to know that the hummingbird is less ‘bee-like’ than we thought and the butterfly more so. Intrigued? Well read on below.

Infection in hospitals is an increasing problem in many European hospitals. Last year in the UK alone, 100,000 people attracted infection and of these 5000 people died. Simple statistics of course can distort true facts but MSRA is of increasing concern and more than a concern when so many deaths may result. Yet for many of these cases, there is a solution cheaply available on the NHS in the UK. So why aren’t more doctors using it? We take a look in this issue.

Since I have been editing Apis-UK and therefore looking more at the internet, I see more and more ‘bee sites’ popping up and this includes many from the local beekeeping associations from Wales to Australia and all places in between. This can only be a good thing in the spread of the knowledge amongst the general public of bees around the world. From this, I get a host of enquiries about bees and bee matters which would never have arisen in the pre net days when much of the general public imagined all beekeepers to be either half wits or eccentric old men with beards, pipes and veils. In Apis-UK we will publish the address of any new bee site, so do let us know if you are setting one up.

It is always a pleasure to hear that a creature we thought extinct in an area is not so after all and we report on an example of this below. I read recently that another rare insect, a digger wasp, had appeared in Suffolk and forced an enlightened council to completely change its building plans. Good reading.

A Digger wasp at work

A Digger wasp at work

Finally in this issue we learn that bees are in one way are like pigeons and monkeys; Ian Rumsey continues with his fascinating series of articles and Chad gives you the inside knowledge to enable you to get what you want, dirt cheap, in bee auctions. So greetings from the far side of the world (I’m still here), don’t forget the poem, the recipe and the quote and I hope and think that you will enjoy this mid summer edition of Apis-UK.

David Cramp. Editor.

NEWS Back to top

This new website is designed to enable the amateur beekeeper to have a personal web page on the internet. The database holding this information is search enabled for location, meaning that people looking for their nearest beekeeper, maybe to catch a swarm or buy local honey, will find an informative web page quickly. The words and images on the page are provided by the beekeeper, and must be “bee” related. Key personal address details are not published and each beekeeper will be provided with a standard format English Honey email address that will forward email to the registrant. Go to: Under the main menu ‘Beekeeper’ button, you can view a few sample pages and registration details. There is an initial minimal registration fee to cover the set-up web page administration cost. * The first 50 registrants will receive a 25% discount * comments and queries to Caroline Guthrie at:

English Honey website

To all Secretaries of Beekeeping Associations, Once again we offer free admission to the National Honey Show for all those who join your Association during 2005. To take advantage of this offer, all you have to do is to send the Hon General Secretary a list of their names. To save unnecessary expense, we do not send out individually named admission tickets: instead, the list that you send me will be on the admission desk at the entrance to the Show. Please tell your new members to identify themselves and their Association at the desk, and, if their names are on the list you have sent me, they will be admitted free of charge. NB. Applications for free admission must be made by Association Secretaries. See events listing below Ed.

20th-22nd October 2005

The New 2005 National Honey Show website has been officially launched, the new site features:
1. Helpful downloads and articles on how to prepare honey and wax for showing.
2. Membership payment & renewal using PayPal.
3. View the lecture programme, and other contents of the show schedule.
4. New exhibitors can download the show schedule and extra entry forms.

National Honey Show website screen shot

For some time now a colony of bees has occupied a medieval church in Worcester which is now showing signs of damage due to the ever expanding size of the nest. The colony, which set up home in the roof of St Cassians in Chaddesley Corbett, has grown so large the ceiling is starting to crack above the altar. Reverend John Cox said dead bees and honey were coming through the crack. He told reporters that dead bees have been known to drop on to him during a service as well as frightening the odd bride and groom. He added that he had been at the church for 20 years and even though the bees were there when he arrived they had never been a problem until now. The church dates back to the 1300s and the nest are difficult to get to. He explained that matters would soon come to a head when stonework is done in the Autumn but hopes to get the problem sorted then. “I just hope the ceiling holds out,” he finished.

It won’t come as a surprise to most beekeepers that honey is a health food or that it gives and sustains energy, but now studies have proven that athletes who eat honey before and after competition recover more quickly than those who don’t. And it doesn’t just help the pros; activity aficionados everywhere can tap honey’s energy boosting and post-exercise recovery powers. ‘Honey contains B-complex vitamins, amino acids and enzymes. It can be the perfect food to fuel exercise and recoup from a vigorous workout,’ says Jennifer Seyler, M.S., R.D. at Bally Total Fitness Nutrition department. Besides, the fructose in honey provides sustained energy so you don’t ‘crash’ after eating it.’

The FPB is backing a campaign to safeguard the British honeybee population whose future is threatened by Government cuts despite the huge contribution they make to the agriculture industry by spreading pollen. The Forum of Private Business (FPB) which represents 25,000 small businesses including many in the agricultural sector, says that the Government has got a bee in its bonnet about cutting costs.

In three years time the Government is reducing the amount of money spent on the Honeybee Health Programme by a quarter of million pounds to an annual overall cost of £1m. This will mean the loss of half its 40 strong staff of bee inspectors. However beekeepers say the inspectors are frontline experts who play a vital role in helping them fight diseases which could decimate the bee population such as American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood and Varroasis. There is also the looming threat of the small hive beetle spreading from Europe or the USA.

Most of England’s 20,000 beekeepers do not make money from keeping bees and the sales of honey only totals £12½m a year. However a Government survey showed that honeybees contribute at least £120m to the agricultural economy by spreading pollen.

Nick Goulding, chief executive of the FPB, said that although small businesses had welcomed recent Government commitments to reduce regulation and red tape, we have always argued that good regulation can have positive effects. Beekeepers were small businesses that needed help because of their vital contribution to our agricultural industry. Bees are highly productive workers. Many small businesses in the countryside, including our members, benefit hugely from the work done by people whose hobby is looking after bees, said Mr Goulding. If the Government is serious about wanting to trim regulation and red tape we would be happy to provide ministers with a hit list that will help small businesses and at the same time maintain a large population of busy honey bees working for all of us.

The small hive beetle is not the only threat to British bees posed by Europe. An EU directive stipulates that remedies to fight bee diseases must be prescribed by vets, who will also have to make regular inspections of all hives, even though most of them know nothing about bees. The cost of these regulations on beekeepers would be considerable. However the Government can argue that beekeeping is a special case and can ‘opt out’ of this directive. Nick Goulding said that the European Commission should be told to buzz off. It would indeed be ironic if the Government accepted damaging European regulation while chopping effective British regulation, he said. “A quarter of a million pounds is nothing for a country that can spend billions on hosting the Olympics. The FPB urges its members to support the British Beekeepers Association’s campaign. There is still time for the Government to think again.”

A rare bee which burrows underground to hide its honey has been found on an RSPB Scotland reserve on North Uist. Two colonies of the northern colletes bees were discovered on the Balranald reserve by the RSPB warden for the Uists, Jamie Boyle.

It is believed to be the furthest north that the variety of the "mining" bee, which is mainly found in the Outer Hebrides, has been seen. Mr Boyle said the discovery was "really encouraging". The bee favours sandy banks and dunes, covered in herb-rich meadows.

It is one of the species listed on the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and one that environmentalists are working hard to conserve. "Three years ago Jamie was delighted to find a colony at the south end of North Uist, but that was obliterated by the storms earlier this year when the habitat of the bees was just washed away. "To find another colony this far north on the island is really encouraging." He admitted it was hard to say why the colony of bees had been discovered so far north." And claims that it could be linked to climate change would be pure speculation and it's probably got nothing to do with it. "But I think we can conclude that the presence of such rare bees - along with the other rarities we've seen this year on the reserve - is a testament to the biodiversity of the area and the unspoilt nature of this magnificent part of Scotland."

A Colletes bee

A Colletes bee
Although relatively undocumented, their life cycle is likely to be similar to other types of solitary mining bee. So what is their life style? Declines in Colletes floralis are generally due to agricultural intensification and loss of herb-rich grasslands. Female colletes are often mistaken for small honey bees as they can be more hairy than other related bees. The northern colletes is quite rare within the UK, but Scotland and Ireland hold a large part of the world’s population of this bee. Work to identify colonies and suitable habitats has been carried out by the Bumblebee Working Group. Priority actions have been identified to halt and reverse the declines.

In just about every newspaper that I read, there is some story about superbugs in hospitals and the dreaded acronym MSRA is bandied about. Millions of pounds are thrown at the problem by the taxpayer i.e. you, but for many cases, the problem can be overcome comparatively cheaply and very effectively with something that is already available on the National Health Service in the UK . The problem is well publicised. The solution is not. So if you are worried about MRSA? Ask for honey dressings, now available on the NHS. Ed.

“MRSA is basically an antibiotic-resistant form of a very common bacteria that lives on your skin and normally, doesn’t cause you any harm. Certainly, if it lands on an open wound it can cause an infection; but generally, your body can fight the infection itself.”

“This antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria has bred itself to be so in response to our over-use of antibiotics. Some strains are resistant to all but one antibiotic and that has to be taken intravenously. In some cases, MRSA can even be resistant to that which is why it is potentially dangerous for people whose immune system isn’t at it’s strongest, such as the elderly, infirm or those who have major surgery. In cases where they have stopped using antibiotics in hospitals, the infection rate decreases so when hospitals frequently use antibiotics, they are just left with these resistant strains of bacteria.”

National audit data from last year shows that 100,000 people contracted an infection whilst being treated in hospital, and of those, 5,000 people died. The risks of MRSA are well publicised, but the same cannot be said for a preventative measure, now available on the NHS and over-the-counter. UMF® Manuka Honey dressings kill MRSA, something many of our strongest antibiotics cannot do.

“This medical wound dressing is now a registered product on the NHS, so it’s just a matter of asking or persuading the hospital to use them.

This is the message I am trying to get through. If hospitals have a problem and routinely cover all surgical wounds with honey dressing, they are not going to be infected with MRSA. If honey is actually used on fresh surgical wounds they will also heal faster and be scar less because honey enables wounds to heal much more easily

Professor Molan is one of the world’s leading authorities on the use of Manuka honey in wound care. He has conducted numerous clinical trials that document the success of Manuka Honey in killing MRSA and treating various other bacterial infections associated with open wounds and ulcers at New Zealands Waikato Hospital .

We spoke to Professor Molan to find out how these honey dressings work and what action patients can take to prevent Dr Molan has been conducting numerous clinical studies on the effectiveness of UMF® Manuka Honey against MRSA and its additional health benefits. UMF stands for ‘Unique Manuka Factor,’ an acronym chosen because of it’s similarity to SPF (Sun Protection Factor) on sunscreen. Although any honey can help treat burns or minor wounds, Manuka honey is the only honey with the ability to kill antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria because it contains a unique type of antibacterial activity.

“All honey, including Manuka honey, contains hydrogen peroxide which is produced when the bees add an enzyme to the nectar. Hydrogen peroxide is an acid, but because of the enzyme, it’s produced continuously in the honey and at fairly low levels. This means the hydrogen peroxide can be effective against bacteria, but is not at high enough levels to cause harm to the tissues of the body.”

“Manuka honey is special because it contains something that we still haven’t identified, but which must come from the plant because it’s in no other honey, anywhere in New Zealand or Australia , or in any closely related species in the ‘Jelly Bush’, as we call it.”

“What we do know is that different plants have different components in the nectar and some of these stabilise and destabilise that enzyme, so bees add different amounts of the enzyme to different nectars depending on how watery they are when harvested from the plant. They add more enzymes to the more watery nectars and that is why honey can vary one hundred fold in antibacterial qualities.”

Dr Molan and his team have been amazed at the scope of bacteria Manuka honey is effective against, and its ability to heal ulcerated open wounds.

“First we conducted lots of laboratory tests which have shown it has such a broad spectrum of activity as an anti-microbial agent. It is effective on many different types of bacteria which antibiotics generally don’t cover. There has also been work in New Zealand hospitals where people have had MRSA infections, and they’ve cleared up after treatment with Manuka honey dressings.”

“Currently, there’s a big trial running in New Zealand at the Waikato Hospital with open wounds and varicose ulcers on the lower leg. Usually, if wounds or ulcers do not heal after six weeks then they probably won’t heal for many years, but once the Manuka Honey dressings were used, the ulcers healed in a period of six to eight weeks even though some people had them many years, and they didn’t require any antibiotics. Even people who had needed them every couple of weeks before over a period of several years.”

Professor Molan wants to make sure that patients know they can ask for Manuka honey dressing on the NHS so that knowledge spreads about this potentially life-saving option.

“There are now honey products being sold as registered medicines so they can be proven by the Health Regulatory Division as medical products. This means the honey has to go through a sterilisation process so it can be safely used in hospital wards. The honey is heated to a high temperature for a matt er of seconds and then pushed through a very fine filter, and cooled seconds later so it is completely free from any particles that can embed themselves in the wound, and so there is no chance of the honey carrying bacterium spores.”

“The medical wound dressing is now a registered product on the NHS, so it’s just a matter of asking or persuading the hospital to use them. This is the message I am trying to get through. If hospitals have a problem and routinely cover all surgical wounds with honey dressings, they will not be infected with MRSA. If honey is actually used on fresh surgical wounds they will also heal faster and heal scar less, because honey enables wounds to heal much more easily which is an important added benefit.”

Following the news item on MRSA, we can report that an even more effective wound dressing has been developed by the British medical products company Brightwake in conjunction with Comvita of new Zealand. Based in Nottingham, Brightwake currently supplies ApiNate dressings for markets in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The dressings, which combine absorbent alginate (seaweed) fibres and active manuka honey, are sold to hospitals, rest homes, doctors' surgeries and pharmacies. Now, Paengaroa ( North Island) based Comvita wants to increase its product range with a longer-lasting dressing, which it is in the process of having trademarked.

Comvita say that they have improved the handling and release of honey to the wounds. The dressing would be applied to the hardest-to-heal wounds and could be left on longer. Comvita chief executive, Graeme Boyd, said the agreement with Brightwake means "we have the necessary manufacturing capability to progress in the global wound care market. The early acceptance and sales of medical honey products mean we can accelerate the development of next generation products," he said. A clinical trial being undertaken in New Zealand is measuring - against standard treatment - the healing effect of manuka honey on leg ulcers in the elderly. The "Honey as Adjuvant Leg Ulcer Therapy" or HALT trial is recruiting patients through district nurses from the central Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato District Health Boards and Christchurch's Nurse Maude Association.

Our inaugural Honey Show is now over. The trophies have gone to the engraver and our thanks go to all the entrants. The winners were:

Class 1 - 2 Jars of Clear Honey
1st Prize - Simon Wilks, 2nd Prize - John Chapple, 3rd Prize - John Ritblat.

Class 2 - 2 Jars of Naturally Crystallized Honey
1st Prize - John Ritblat, 2nd Prize - Simon Wilks, 3rd Prize - Charlie Millar.

Especial thanks go to the Judge, Peter Cannon, our hosts, Frances MacKay and the Kennington Gardens Society and to Charlie Millar and Julian Lush for their pre-eminent legwork and diplomacy!

As our membership continues to increase apace, we're planning for a bigger event next year. So, even if this is your first year as a beekeeper, remember to keep a few jars aside for next year's show!

Roots and Shoots Update
The New Building at Roots and Shoots was open for viewing at our last monthly meeting, and very impressive it is, with planted roofs, solar panels, plenty of rooms and a hall to hold forty. It's nice to look at, too. If you haven't seen it yet, then there's an Open Evening on Wednesday (July 20th, 6pm ), or our next Monthly Meeting (August 14th). What the new building doesn't have is a Wind Generator. This seemed like a good idea, so the LBKA Committee have decided to buy them one as a housewarming gift. The London Beekeepers’ Association website URL:

Martin Tovey took up his appointment as General Secretary to the BBKA on 11th July 2005.

Martin Tovey

In 1970 Martin was a keen amateur winemaker, but that all changed when Frank Vernon gave a talk on making mead from the washings after extraction. Over the next two years Martin learnt the craft of beekeeping at Sparsholt College of Agriculture in Hampshire with fellow classmates, Mary and Bill Dartnall, under the tuition of Captain Tredwell, Frank Vernon and John Cossburn.

On moving to Somerset, Martin was invited by Rex Sawyer to become Secretary and Treasurer of Somerset BKA, a position he held for two years before his work took him to Durham. Here he restarted the Durham BKA after an eight year lapse and acted as Chairman and ADM representative.

In 1980 work took Martin back to Hampshire, where he served as County Secretary. This appointment coincided with the Hampshire BKA Centenary. Martin also acted as Heather Site Liaison Officer with the New Forest Park.

In the late eighties Martin owned Honeyfields Books, trading in antiquarian and new bee books. This business still continues, but now under the ownership of Karl and Betty Showler, operating as B & K Books.

Martin has kept bees in eleven English counties, engaging in migratory beekeeping as well as helping George Vickery for a brief spell in commercial beekeeping. Though he has managed up to twenty colonies he currently has just one hive. Martin has been a member of Kendal and South Westmorland BKA since 1988 when he first moved to the Lakes and continues membership of the association since moving to Lancaster in 1996

Martin retired from commercial life four years ago, having been involved in such diverse concerns as shoe retailing, metals and plastics distribution and operating a nursing home.

Martin is married with four children and the youngest flees the nest this September. He has been living in Lancaster for nine years, having previously lived in the Lake District for eight years.

He is currently an Executive Committee Member of the local Abbeyfield Society, a national charitable trust providing supported housing for older people and helps to run the annual Hawkshead Agricultural Show. Martin’s hobbies are sailing, ski-ing, fell-walking and, of course, collecting bee books.

Martin looks forward to promoting the craft of beekeeping and serving the Executive and fellow beekeepers in the challenging times ahead. BBKA Web site URL:

I have written this open letter to you all to keep you informed of the latest activities in the BBKA. I hope you find it useful, as it is an opportunity to go into more depth on some items that are published in BBKA news.

General Secretary
I am pleased to inform you that we have offered the General Secretary post to Mr Martin Tovey from Lancaster. He has been keeping bees for about 35 years and in many counties. We hope he will start on 11th July and I am sure he will be in touch with you soon afterwards. I am very pleased that after five months we have a General Secretary with a job description that is appropriate for the work of operating the BBKA for the benefit of its members under the supervision of the Trustees.

Stop the Cuts Campaign
You may have seen some of the articles in the press and on television in recent weeks about our concern over the Government’s proposed cuts. We have worked hard to keep the issue in the public eye and are getting support from many sides. I would urge you to take every opportunity to talk to local radio and television stations about the Government’s intentions and show that these proposed cuts do not make any sense. We have had some good news recently, following our discussions with DEFRA, they have agreed that EFB will not be de-regulated until the science has shown that shook swarm is an effective means of control and the results have been peer reviewed. I think our concerns that EFB could become endemic once de-regulated have been recognised.

We are asking all members to write again to their MPs. There is a new parliament and new Ministers. They should be made aware of our concerns so please ask all your members to write again and ask fresh and focused questions about the cuts. In the meantime, with the help of a number of MPs, we are putting more questions down in the House to ensure that the Ministers face the House with the recklessness of reducing the Bee Health Programme.

This campaign is going well but we must ask you and your members to double your efforts to get the petition signed by as many people as possible. We are nearly up to 10,000 signatures but need to get well over 100,000. Please use every opportunity to get signatures. The public are behind us and will sign if asked. The summer shows are an excellent opportunity but do not forget coffee mornings and other social events. I am sure all your non-beekeeping friends will be happy to sign. The leaflets, stickers and petition forms are available from our office in Stoneleigh and also can be downloaded from the BBKA web site. Send all the completed petition forms to the NBC and Tim Lovett will compile them ready for a significant publicity event in the future.

BBKA Enterprises Ltd.
The AGM of BBKA Enterprises was held on 27 th June. We will have a new Board of Directors with a new Managing Director. Our hope is that the new energy will result in a business plan that includes more trading and fund raising for the BBKA. We must thank Michael Badger for conceiving Enterprises and managing it through difficult times in the past.

Pesticide Endorsement
The media has picked up this policy and they have tried to make it sensational. It seems that now the ADM has endorsed the policy there have been one or two individuals who have claimed the BBKA is breaking up. When questioned we cannot find any group that is actively leaving the BBKA. Indeed, one group outside the BBKA has written to us saying that they are not interested in any breakaway group, even though they were highlighted in one of the reports. I hope we can move on now and concentrate on the big fight retaining the Bee Health Programme.

We have had another useful meeting with the VMD and they have assured us that ‘bee medicines’ are still being considered as a special case. When the new legislation takes force in October 2005, bee medicines will be exempt for a further 12 months (until October 2006). This gives us all time to come to a sensible conclusion. We hope that in the end Beekeeping Suppliers and Associations will be able to continue to supply treatments albeit with some formal accreditation.

ADM & Forum
The Forum will be held again at the NBC on Saturday 1 st October. This is your opportunity to raise subjects that you consider need some debate. Can you please send agenda items to the office and we will compile a programme for the day.

The ADM is on 14 th January 2006. You should receive the formal notice of the meeting with this letter. Please note that Glyn Davies, our President, retires after two years and we need to elect a new President. We also have 4 Trustee vacancies for three years and one for 1 year on the Executive Committee and the Examinations Board has three vacancies for three years and one for two years. Can you please encourage members to have their names put forward? We have a very good and active Executive Committee at present but this only occurs when there are good people being nominated and the ADM has a choice of whom to elect. It is important that every person elected recognises that they have a responsibility to meet their national obligations even when these conflict with local activities. Nomination must be in to the NBC by 8 th October.

At the last ADM the BBKA was asked to investigate the possibility of establishing a register of queen producers. This work is progressing but in the meantime a small group is looking into the possibility of breeding Varroa tolerant bees. Ron Hoskins from Swindon has a project running for this purpose and we are hoping to be able to support another project based on the Scilly Isles for establishing a pure mating area once a Varroa tolerant strain is developed.

We have learnt that there are some considerable difficulties in getting viable mated queens in some areas of the country. Roger Patterson ( West Sussex) has written about this in BBKA News. This and some of the problems with bees on the continent may be yet another consequence on Varroosis. We are not sure but have suggested that these problems be investigated. We will be talking to the NBU and Rothamsted to see if there is any evidence from other countries and to try to find how widespread the problem is in this country.

Happy beekeeping and I hope we have a good month to fill our supers. Honey is in very short supply in my part of the country, maybe this is true in your area as well!

Have a listen to a couple of interviews that were on Radio 4 recently - Michael Badger initially, and more relevant from our point of view the reply from Lord Bach. This in the BBKA Executive Committee's point of view is a significant change in emphasis from DEFRA.

A party of bee-keepers from the Czech Republic will be going to Apimondia, and they would like to visit British bee-keepers en route. The days available are 22nd.and/or 23rd August. They will be leaving home for the UK on the 20th August. On the 21st after arrival in Dover they will be staying in London. On 22nd they will be visiting Windsor and Kew Gardens. Then on 23rd they will leave for Oxford and Stratford, spending the night in Chester. Then Dublin for 2 days, and on 26th after breakfast, they leave for Holyhead and Dover again. Please contact directly. If would also be helpful if you could send a copy of your message to, who is their contact in England. Czech bee-keepers are very friendly and hospitable: no doubt this is helped by beer, their famous national drink, at 50p a pint and council tax at £50 a year. Add to this the wonderful Bohemian scenery and lifestyle, and you may want to go back with them! Ray Williamson. No more contact details given Sorry E.d.

Pollen is featured in our Fact File this month where we see that it is a vital ingredient of life on earth, but of course for some, it is a curse. 

Pollen loaded honeybee

Hospital admissions for breathing problems soared this summer as pollen counts peaked, the Met Office reports. Admissions were six times higher than normal. Most were people with hay fever who had never before experienced such breathing problems, it said. This year, pollen counts across the country have been particularly high, contributing to the problem. The Met Office said that storms may have exacerbated people’s asthma, with London taking the brunt. The figures are provisional, but suggest that North West London was the worst hit, with most A&E departments seeing a significant increase in attendances with asthma or difficulty breathing symptoms. People with asthma should be aware that thunderstorms could trigger their asthma. Conditions that can cause an increase in problems for hay fever sufferers are as follows:

High pollen counts
High levels of air pollution
High temperatures
Preceding dry spell of 5-7 days
Significant thunderstorms
Source: Met Office

The Pollen effect
The air includes pollen, and if it has been dry for a while there will be a lot of pollen lying around on surfaces which may also be drawn up into the cloud along with the air. Once in the cloud, ice forms on the pollen and the internal currents mean that the ice particles containing the pollen circulate in the cloud, going through several cycles of freezing, thawing and shattering. This shattering process breaks the pollen down into small particles. Then it starts to rain releasing the pollen with it in a narrow concentrated down-draught. Effectively the pollen has been made smaller and is now more concentrated.

Smaller pollen is thought to be more allergenic. If you combine this with high levels of ozone or nitrogen dioxide, which appear to make the lungs more sensitive to allergens and may themselves also be an irritant, then you get significant increases in breathing difficulty problems. A father of two from London had to take his 14-month- old daughter to hospital recently when she developed breathing difficulties for the first time in her life. The nurse on this case said they had been snowed under over with asthma attacks and that they were close to calling an emergency situation because they had so many people coming in with breathing problems. An asthma nurse specialist at Asthma UK said that people with asthma should be aware that thunderstorms could trigger their asthma. They should keep their reliever inhaler with them at all times and consider increasing their preventive treatment in advance of expected thunderstorms, in consultation with their doctor or nurse. If you are worried about their asthma, they should contact their doctor or call the Asthma UK Adviceline on 08457 01 02 03.


Roger Patterson has started some research into poor queen mating and laying problems. A brief outline was given in the recent BBKA news. You can read the full article on the BBKA Website from the URL: There is a message forum for you to add your comments (you may need to register for the forum) Please add your thoughts. Martin Smith BBKA Executive member.

There may be some hope now that the research into the honey bee genome has taken place. Scientists believe that many improvements can be made to bees and that many exciting research opportunities are opening up which will lead to definite improvements in our livestock.

With this map of the honeybee’s entire genetic code in hand, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the USA are pursuing new ways to manage the welfare and productivity of the honey bee. We all have a vested interest in Apis mellifera; the honeybee’s pollination of 90-plus kinds of flowering crops each year results in yield and quality improvements valued at more than $14 billion in the United States alone. And that’s not counting honey, which is essentially a by-product of such pollination. Recently a team led by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas announced the completion of the first rough draft of the honeybee genome, which is about one-tenth the length of that for humans. Jay Evans and Katherine Aronstein, ARS members on the team, are now using information from the advance to identify immune system genes that keep honeybees healthy. Their efforts come at a time when insect pests, parasites and diseases of honeybees cause an estimated $5 million annually in the US in crop-pollination losses. Of particular interest is characterizing genes involved in potential resistance to the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, which causes foulbrood disease in the insect’s larvae. One tantalizing lead is abaecin, a small protein that may be part of a resistance response in some bees to foulbrood infection.

Mapping the honeybee genome opens up other exciting research avenues as well: Identifying genetic markers to speed breeding of bees, such as for better winter survival; modelling host-pathogen interactions to better control honeybee disease organisms; and conducting genome-driven studies to fine-tune honey bee nutrition and pollination.

In this interesting piece of research from Bristol, we hear that far from being ‘as busy as a bee’, in fact bees are idle creatures which could be working far more efficiently. I will try to get more information on this research for the next edition. Ed.

In some recently released research by scientists at Bristol University, it seems that Bees, ants and other insects should stop waggle-dancing and laying chemical trails to tell each other about where food is found and just get on with searching for it, scientists have discovered.

The biologists discovered there were many instances where insects would be better off searching randomly for food rather than relying on a network of scouts. “In honey bee colonies, worker inactivity is surprisingly common,” they said in a Royal Society publication. “[But] conditions may change quickly from a nectar famine to a feast.” Their study shows that under particular circumstances, the cost in energy or time incurred by a division and the necessary information transfer can be counterproductive and independent foraging should be favoured.”

Some hummingbirds might resemble insects in their flight patterns and some are so tiny that they are not much bigger than the larger insects, and up until very recently, scientists and bird watchers thought that hummingbirds used the same techniques for flying and hovering as those used by insects such as bees, but recent research reported in Nature magazine has shown that in fact the hummingbirds appear to be half way between insects and birds.

Many experts had argued that the bird flew just like a big insect, getting equal lift between down and up strokes. But the new study shows the hummingbird cannot fly in quite the same way because its wings are less flexible. In fact, the bird gains 75% of its lift from the wing’s downstroke, with the other 25% provided by the upstroke. This makes it different from other birds which rely solely on the downstroke to stay airborne.

Douglas Warrick, of Oregon State University in Corvallis, US, and colleagues trained rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) to hover while feeding from a syringe filled with sugar solution.

They used a sheet of laser light to study the air currents generated by the birds’ wings in a mist of microscopic oil droplets. They found that hummingbirds have not been able to evolve the symmetrical hovering achieved by insects, because their wings, built from feather and bone, are less flexible. But they are the undisputed exhibitionists of the bird world, being able to hover for sustained periods, with food, and fly backwards. Interestingly, the flapping motions they make with their wings bear a striking resemblance to that of large insects such as hawkmoths which are of a similar size.

It illustrates how different animals have evolved similar design plans to cope with the rigours of flight. Birds started off with bone and feathers - bird wings and bird muscles. As a result they haven’t converged completely.

Dr Warwick said that the hummingbird could serve as a useful model for engineers seeking to build small, flapping aeroplanes. “You can probably learn something about building a machine from the way nature builds a machine,” he said. “The one big caveat is that an engineer can start from scratch - biological evolution doesn’t ever start anew. It’s encumbered with the trappings of one’s ancestry.”

Australian research shows that despite the small size of a bee’s brain, it is up there with monkeys and pigeons as far as working memory is concerned.

A honeybee’s brain is small in size and may even be able to fit on the head of a match, but a research team says that the bee’s working memory is almost as effective as that of a pigeon or a monkey. Working memory is what a person relies on for those few seconds between reading a number from the phone book and punching the number into the phone, explains Shaowu Zhang of the Australian National University in Canberra. He and his colleagues tested honeybee memory by training bees to use exit signs in a chamber to find their way to a treat. To make the correct choice, each bee had to remember a clue it had flown by on its way into the chamber. “The working memory in a bee is robust and flexible,” says Zhang. A short-term memory lasts about the same time in a bee as in a pigeon, he says. And a honeybee’s memory is flexible enough to perform a simplified version of a task employed to test memory in rhesus monkeys.

To look at details of the bee’s working memory, Zhang and his colleagues used variations of a layout with a wooden tunnel leading into an upright pipe. The two exit holes from the pipe were marked with different patterns. The researchers put a partition in the tunnel with a hole for bees to fly through. The partition carried a pattern, such as stripes slanting left. Bees had to remember the pattern and pick the matching pattern on one of the exit signs to reach the treat. During a bee’s training, the researchers regularly switched the patterns.

Once a bee was choosing correctly about three times out of four, the researchers repeatedly lengthened the tunnel beyond the partition. Thus, the flying bees had a longer and longer delay between seeing the pattern and matching it to the exit sign.

The bees’ memory of that pattern remains strong for about 5 seconds, the researchers report in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In field tests, bees tend to choose flowers that resemble the one they visited some 5 seconds earlier. Birds’ short-term memory lasts a similar time. To test flexibility of memory, Zhang and his colleagues put two partitions with patterns in the tunnel and taught the bees to pay attention to only one partition, such as the first one encountered or the one at a specific distance from the tunnel mouth. The bees still managed to match patterns even when researchers marked the partitions and exits with patterns not seen in training. The bee test was a two-option version of a memory test in which rhesus monkeys can distinguish more options.

Thomas Collett of the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, says that the cues used by bees in the study aren’t clear but their flexibility is interesting. Also, he welcomes the memory-duration finding as a “valuable contribution, since measurements haven’t been available before.”

In a recent (April) report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Juliet Osborne, and Lizzie Cant of Rothamsted Research show that the apparently aimless, loopy flights of butterflies that we have all seen and probably wondered about are, like bees and other insects, quite directive. In research reminiscent of recent research on bees, the scientists tagged peacock (Inachis io) and small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) butterflies with transponders weighing just 12mg. After checking that the devices did not affect their behaviour, the researchers released 33 insects into a large field being scanned by radar on the Rothamsted estate.

A  Peacock butterflyThe flight paths of individual butterflies were then tracked, some of them flying up to 1km from their release point. The researchers successfully recorded the movements of 30 of the insects they released. The results revealed these butterflies had two distinct types of flight pattern: fast, straight movement and slower, non-linear movement. During straight flight, the butterflies zipped along at about 2.9m/s. During the slower type of flight, the insects foraged for nectar from flowers and flew in loops, with a speed averaging 1.6m/s.

Flying in loops seems to perform an orientation function, helping the insects identify flowers or hibernation spots. The butterflies were able to identify and avoid unsuitable habitats such as dense trees from up to 200m away. They seem able to identify suitable foraging habitats from about 100m away.


(It’s not only honey bees that do it)!
In a colony of tree wasps, workers on nursemaid duty crawl this way and that along the bottom of their nest, tending the youngsters in the comb. Most of the workers dutifully look after the queen’s offspring, stopping only to spit a runny meal into the mouth of a pale, lumpy larva in its cell. But one of these workers is up to no good. This selfish worker stays still for a minute or two in a suspiciously crouched position. She’s laying her own egg in an empty cell.

Such rogue egg laying is a crime against insect society. The wheels of justice, however, don’t require a special caste of investigators and prosecutors. Punishment among insects is meted out by ordinary workers - and sometimes the queen herself - says biologist Tom Wenseleers, who has watched dozens of hours of black-and-white videos from infrared security cameras that he’s trained on nests of tree wasps.

In the most dramatic episodes, the egg sneak finds herself surrounded by a posse of vigilante workers. “They’re grabbing on to her; they try to sting her,” says Wenseleers of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. Insect criminologists initially reported punitive action, among honeybees, in 1989, but researchers have found examples in 15 species since then, 5 of them documented last year. With the recent surge of police reports in insects, researchers see a broader range of both crimes and responses. For instance, queens do some of the rough stuff, such as killing illicitly laid eggs, even though they’re her kin. What’s more, queen wannabes can end up as police targets themselves.

Most biologists who have considered insect societies see them as models for studying altruism, with the workers looking out for the common good. But according to Wenseleers, the new work suggests that the more appropriate image is that of oppressed workers in a police state. In the next issue, we will take a look at more investigations into this intriguing aspect of social insect community living.

THE BEE PRESS Back to top

Beecraft July 2005 Volume 87 Number 7
Claire Waring Editor.
Beecraft Subscriptions
Contents: ‘Stop the cuts’ campaign Tim Lovett; A year in the apiary: going to the heather David Aston, PhD, NDB; History of bees, honey and wax Michael J Badger, MBE, MA and Erica Osborn, MA; Mexico the cheerful Kathleen Chapple; Variations: part 1 Celia Davis, NDB; Moving to France: part 1 Max Westby; The Bee Craft Photo Competition; In the Apiary: having fun with bees (part 14) Karl Showler; BBKA Exams John Hendrie; Obituaries: John Pollard and Fred Richards; Letters to the Editor; The ‘B’ Kids; Around the colony; Classified advertisements; Calendar.
Editorial: It’s time for the honey harvest to begin in earnest. For some, this is what beekeeping is all about, but for others it is the bees themselves that are the main fascination of our craft. Observing their behaviour as the season progresses, it never ceases to amaze me just how much there is to learn every year. The beekeeper will never be in the position of ‘knowing it all’. We say that the bees don’t read the books but maybe it is us who do not understand enough about our bees and their complex behavioural patterns to predict what they will do next. This year has not been a good one for honey, by all accounts. I have heard stories of many colonies going queen-less for no apparent reason. Queens have failed to mate and there is an abundance of laying workers. If this has happened to you and you do not know what to do, get in touch with your local beekeeping association and ask for advice. There is bound to be somebody there who can, and no doubt will, help you. My experience of beekeepers is that they are always ready to go that little bit further to help out a fellow apiarist. Many are generous beyond calling with gifts of bees and queens and loans of equipment. That is one of the things that make being a beekeeper so enjoyable. However, the world is a changing place and we are going to have to work much more closely together as new pests arrive, old ones become immune to existing treatments and new legislation increasingly restricts our activities. The BBKA is mounting a campaign against the proposed government cuts in expenditure on the bee health programme. Find out on page 4 how you can support it. May all your supers be full! Claire Waring

Beecraft July 2005

incorporating BeeBiz. No.81 August 2005 (A4 56 Pages)
Editor: John Phipps.

BKQ No.81 August 2005

On the cover: Going with the Flow; NZ Beekeeping, David Cramp; Bee Beards and Bikinis, Sue Cobey
EDITORIAL- Apimondia, Going with the flow, Migratory beekeeping in Greece, Honey uncapping machine, The globe-trotting beekeeper, & New General Secretary for the BBKA.
LETTERS - Kashmir bee virus, Paul van Westendorp; Church candles Gerald Herrin; & Brother Adam, Colin Weightman.
NEWSROUND World record challenge kicks off Apimondia 2005; Demonstration of the Konya rotating hive, Rita Molnar; Bee Safe preservative for beehives; Drought problems in Spain; Disappearing Bee Syndrome; NZ wins bee trade dispute with US; Questions to UK ministry about European Foul Brood disease; EU labelling causes problems in Italy; Fiji bans honey imports; Australian Honey Report; Best 'value-added export' prize; Success story for women bee farmers; Vita acquires Swarm SA; Prevent MRSA with manuka honey; Honey medical dressings to be marketed in Europe and Australasia; New treatments for chalkbrood and nosema; International bee photography winners; & Apicultural Events 2005.
TRAVELLERS' TALES - Top bar hives, stingless bees, "killer" bees and much much more in the tropics Pam Hunter.
ENVIRONMENT - Geoff Hopkinson NDB.
NEW ZEALAND BEEKEEPING - Quite a business David Cramp.
PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL - Varroa resistance and the rise of thymol.
SCIENCE REVIEW - David Aston NDB - Apimondia's Apitherapy CD.
Australia, Geoff Manning; UK, John Howat; Nepal, Bhim Suwal; Russia, Vitaly Petrovsky; Portugal, Antonio Pouseiro; Serbia, Predrag Cvetovik; USA, Ann Harman; Norway, Erik Osterlund; & The Netherlands, Ko Zoet.
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS Brittany, Job Pichon, & England, Nigel Payne.
BOOKSHELF - Plants and Honey Bees: their relationship, David Aston NDB and Sally Bucknall. Bad Beekeeping, Ron Miksha. Following the Bloom, Douglas Whynott. The Honey Flow, Kylie Tennant. Apicoltura - Organizzazionne, Strutture & Logistica. Bees Besieged - One Beekeeper's Bittersweet Journey To Understanding, Bill Mares. Traditional Irish Honey Recipes, Brigid Barrett.
Cover photo: Off to the Apiary, First Prize, International Beekeeping Photographic Contest, May 2005, Spain: John Phipps.

NEW BOOK Back to top
Bees in America - How the honey bees shaped a nation by Tammy Horn
"Horn shows how beekeeping and honey have influenced so much of our U.S. history and culture. American beekeepers will be grateful that Horn is sharing the story of their love affair with the honey bee to the general population. Bees in America is a welcome respite from our fast-paced, technology-driven society." Joe Graham Editor American Bee Journal £23.50 UKPP. Available from Northern Bee Books online URL:
Bees in America - How the honey bees shaped a nation by Tammy Horn

ARTICLES Back to top

Bees and Gravitomagnetism (Part 1 of 4)
Ian Rumsey

Gravitomagnetism is a type of field generated by rotating mass which has properties that warp time and space. Our awareness of this medium until recently was confined to theory; in practice the bee may have acted as our compass. The gravitomagnetic field produced by the Earth’s rotation may, for some reason, influence comb construction.

Evidence of this possibility would be apparent in our long history of beekeeping, and it is in this area we must now apply our thoughts.

Those of us who are fortunate to have the time, the space, and the leisure, to peruse Eva Crane's book "The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting" will already appreciate the fund of information it contains regarding early bee management. From these pages we may consider methods practiced in other countries from the earliest times and see whether any reference is made to natural comb alignment.

If Skeps are excluded, we find upright hollow constructions in cool/cold climates and laid down hollow constructions in cool/hot climates. The management of each did not entail the destruction of the bee, but rather the removal of the comb. The life of the actual colony would appear to continue forever. Swarms and surplus brood comb replaced any failures, and the overall number of colonies increased. When one reads about ancient apiaries containing 400 - 600 hives, stacked up in horizontally laid pipes, or fashioned out of rock, this number must have been the result of years of steady increase.

When considering the collection of comb under this type of management, the orientation of the natural comb would be of some importance. For example, if one had an upright wooden box, with a door at the back, it would be convenient if the comb was aligned back to front. Similarly if a horizontal pipe was used, it would be an advantage for the comb to be across the diameter of the pipe. The earliest records are preserved as wall paintings in Egypt dating from c 2500 BC, and depict beekeeping in horizontal pipes or jars stacked upon themselves as illustrated below.

Wall painting in Egypt dating from c 2500 BC

As may be seen the comb when removed from the hive was small and circular indicating that the comb was built across the diameter of the vessel. This I would suggest was not obtained by accident, and in Eva Crane's book there are clues as to how this might have been achieved. For example there is reference to hive management when using horizontally laid pipes, where the queen cells are removed by reflecting light along the pipe by the use of a piece of polished metal. It is stated that the pipes were always orientated North - South.

Let us read further and go to the mountainous regions of Arabia where artificial caves were made which usually faced South, and were constructed large enough to accommodate several hives with a working space behind. More North - South alignment. Perhaps we might now travel to Syria where hives were kept in bee houses with the pointed hive entrance projecting 8 - 10 cms beyond the South wall.

From these three examples it seems possible that early beekeepers may have understood that North - South facing hives produced East - West aligned comb, and practiced, on a daily bases, this now lost and forgotten art.

Size doesn’t matter

A few weeks ago Peter Bashford had a call-out to a swarm which turned out to be a colony which had taken possession of the inside of a circular compost bin. Anticipating something out of the ordinary we were joined by the Editor himself – complete with camera. Naturally we bowed deeply on his arrival.

Modified Composter Hive

It was a pleasant evening and even dressed up in full beekeeping clothes it was not too hot. I laid out my tools like a brain surgeon preparing for a lobotomy- large kitchen knife and cutting board, a dozen lengths of string and six or seven empty brood frames.

Wild bees on combs

Peter and I approached the said compost bin and carefully raised the lid with bated breath. ST snapped photos of the impending revelation. As we lifted it we could tell that it wasn’t going to be the biggest colony we had ever seen. In fact there were four or five wild combs, the biggest about the size of a saucer and perhaps five or six hundred bees with a young queen and some sealed brood. We had anticipated something bigger but even the old adage “a swarm in July is not worth a fly,” did not detract from the pleasure although we did have a good laugh at the time having anticipated a much bigger colony.

Mike Oliver

It took about ten minutes to gently tie the three biggest combs into frames and put them into a nucleus box with a couple of frames with foundation. What we had was a cast, so the good news is that with care Peter will have a colony headed by a 2005 mated queen next year. Beekeeping is not always about the big colonies, it takes care and attention to detail to nurture a cast until it can fend for itself over winter. Mike Oliver

Honey Bee Genetics. Part 1.

Genetics Part 1

In this article we take a look at basic, hopefully easy to read and understand honey bee genetics. The problem with genetics and Mendel and peas and all those diagrams rapidly multiplying themselves is that they are very much like insurance policies. When an insurance agent explains them they are obvious. Ten minutes after he is out of the door, one is in a complete fog regarding the situation, frantically looking around for a beer and wondering what on earth you’ve just spent your money on. However, even a basic understanding of the situation can help you look at your bees in another light and you may even be able to improve them. You will certainly be able to discover what your local queen supplier is up to and whether he or she is really up to it. It will also become obvious to you why bees have arranged things the way they have.

The big thing about bees is that drone bees come from an unfertilised egg and this one fact makes bee genetics very different and as long as you remember this, the rest of bee genetics becomes easier to understand.


Chromosomes contain the genes that make us up. Humans have two sets of chromosomes, 46 chromosomes in total. 23 from the female egg and 23 from the male sperm. Queens and worker bees have 32 chromosomes, again two sets, 16 from the queens egg and 16 from the drone’s sperm. They are diploid. Di means two (sets) and ploid means chromosome. Drones which result from an unfertilised egg have 16 chromosomes only because they receive only the 16 chromosomes from the queen’s egg. They are called haploid. One (set) chromosome.

When a queen mates with a drone she will produce eggs. As in humans and most other animals, each egg will contain half her total chromosomes, in the case of a bee this is 16. This means that like a human mother she can only ever pass on to her offspring 50% of her genes. This egg will contain a random selection of her genes.

The drone will contribute the other 16 chromosomes which are 100% of his total genes. So each sperm from a drone is identical, i.e. clones. A resulting worker or queen therefore will receive 50% of her mother’s genes and 100% of her father’s genes. A sister worker or queen from the same drone and queen will therefore have a 75% relationship. These sisters are called supersisters and comprise definite groupings within a hive. In humans and other animals your offspring will only have a 50% relationship. 50% from the mother’s genes and 50% from the father’s genes. If a worker had her own offspring, she too would only have this 50% relationship with her offspring. By helping the queen raise her supersisters she has raised this relationship to 75%. There is a principle in biology that an organism will tend to do whatever most efficiently gets more of its genes into the next generation and by operating in this fashion, bees have worked out a very efficient system for doing this.

Queens will mate with many drones, possibly up to twenty. The reason for this is probably to gather up a wide genetic diversity for the colony and to reduce the possibility of inbreeding. This means that there can be many different families of supersisters in the hive, each with the same mother but a different father. A worker in the same family will have a relationship to a sister of 75% and to a sister from the same mother but a different father of 25%. This difference in relationship has many effects on the life and work of the colony and we will look at this and other aspects in future articles.

That's Business

We have all read about the annual sales of bee equipment run by local associations and indeed many of us have been to them Usually they take the form of an auction and during one of these in Lincoln, I purchased my first two hives, a couple of WBCs. But how do you get the best bargains? How do you beat off the competition? Chad tells you how in this illuminating article. Ed.

In my experience the best way to increase stocks of bees and equipment has been to buy them at farm or collective sales. When an old bee farmer hangs up his hive tool, it is standard practice for him to hire an auctioneer to sell off his lifetime's worth of accumulated 'stuff.' These sales pop-up with some regularity around the countryside and are usually held in a field. All the equipment is laid out in lots lined up in rows across the field and the idea is that the auctioneer walks from lot to lot auctioning them one at a time, the buyers following him in a large gaggle. Everyone knows that bargains can be had at these sales and they usually draw quite large crowds. A successful farm sale can transform a man from a hobbyist beekeeper to a commercial outfit in the course of a morning.

In the following article I look back at some of the techniques that I have employed in the past to maximise my profit from these sales. Firstly, remember that this is business, so suitable dress is required. The majority of buyers will have deliberately dressed-down for the occasion, choosing their oldest holiest clothes. I recommend that you dress to suppress, turn up to the sale in a freshly laundered suit with tie. The other punters at the sale are your enemy, their profit is your loss, I am sorry to be hard-nosed but every endeavour must be made to crush them from the outset. The sale will start with the ringing of a hand bell, all buyers who were until then walking amongst the lots working out how much they were prepared to spend will now flock towards the ringing. A few pleasantries will be announced; how grateful the auctioneers are to the farmer for the use of the field and how reluctant the retiring bee farmer is to be giving up his former passion. Then finally the sale will start and the first lot will be introduced.

'Do I hear ten pounds ladies and gentlemen?'

'You hear twenty three,' I'll say, starting as I mean to go on.

There will be some amongst the crowd that will think you're mad but bear with me.

You must never let the auctioneer lead the bidding, once the bidding is in progress, chose successive random numbers that follow no logical increase and shout them out before the auctioneer has chance to interject. When a competing punter bids ten pounds, the auctioneer then asks for fifteen, I therefore bid twenty two. The auctioneer has to accept your offer and so gradually, slowly but surely, you gain control of the whole sale. You must never address the auctioneer. Turn to your rival bidder(s) and look at them like they have just driven over your cat. They will usually find this most unnerving. Not as unnerving as the habit of clapping whenever you successfully bid for an item. Whilst clapping, turn to others and try to encourage them to clap with you to mark your success. The odd remark of 'well done me' and later the 'well done me again,' will really drive the point home.

I suppose the aim is to reduce your rival bidders to a silence of disbelief or preferably to drive them away completely. Their disdain and disaffection will grow quickly. After an hour, anyone left at the sale will only be there to watch, you should have quelled any desire they had for bidding, understanding that any attempt to bid will be futile. These rivals need to assume that you have unlimited funds at your disposal which you are only too happy to fritter away.

Adopt the demeanour of a cream filled cat. Beekeepers are atrociously dour, the first thing they do is tell you how many colonies they have lost over winter, or how this dry spell is causing problems, or that spring was either too early, too late or was completely skipped over in an unusual immediate transition from winter to summer which was itself too dry, too wet or even too short for their bees. When I meet other beekeepers at sales I like to be a little more upbeat. Greet a complete stranger with 'Do you know I actually think I have more colonies coming out of winter than I did going in, I must have miscounted, I didn't lose one, that's four years in a row!' If the sale is in early March a comment such as 'Are you also finding that you're having to add supers already?' will cause some amount of consternation.

When you feel satisfied that you have crushed any possibility of anyone daring to bid against you, your tactics should be reversed and any overspend on previous lots can be recuperated. A suitable time is when a certain look comes over the auctioneer's face. His eyes should tell you that any hope he had of a large commission have evaporated. He will be looking at his watch more frequently and his tone will be dull and lifeless. This is when you change gear. Experience tells me that having defeated the auctioneer he will look to you to suggest an opening bid. 'Who will start me at...,' then he will glance at me, I then smile and suggest a rather low amount, which he will, more often than not, accept.

Three pounds for a brood box may seem too little and it is possible that a bidder with a glimmer of hope will be stirred into raising his hand. In seeing this I will jump in chuckling, 'Did I say three? I meant thirteen!' This only has to be repeated twice and the threats from others will be buried for good.

If there is a contentious item that you feel may be desired by more than a few, I like to think 'out loud.' As the lot is being described I announce, 'Oh good, this is the one that I really want,' or 'I've been looking forward to this lot all morning.' If you find yourself having paid over the odds for an item it doesn't harm to announce, 'it's a steal', or exclaim 'bargain!' (not forgetting, of course, to applaud yourself.)

A common tactic among other punters when they really want an item is to move forward until they are directly in front of the auctioneer. They will set themselves with a look of solemn resolve, often leaning on a stick, staring at the ground. In this pose they will attempt to fill the auctioneer's field of vision. They will usually bid with a slight, almost imperceptible nod, or a twitch of their bidders' card which they hold at waist level. I admit that this is a good ploy and one that will cost you dearly unless you know how to combat it. In this situation I like to contrast their pose with a much more flamboyant performance.

The auctioneer opens bidding. As our man is blocking out the auctioneer's view, rather than raising my hand in an attempt to catch his attention, I like to call out, 'Me!' every time I bid. It is then a war of attrition, gradually wearing my rival down.

I have seen men that have pitted themselves against me crying as they leave the assembled group and whereas it doesn't make me happy to see this, I must admit that I do get a warm feeling all over. Also, depending on the item, I like to display premature ownership of the article; this can be done in certain circumstances by sitting on, lying on or sprawling over whatever is going under the hammer. A man may not be so keen to bid for a hive if I am sat astride it grinning at him cheerily.

By the end of the sale everyone will be sick to the pits of their stomachs with your arrogance, nerve and guile. It is for this reason that I only attend farm sales that are beyond my county. In the past I have got so many backs up that there is a serious risk of the crowd turning into a mob and tempers have sometimes boiled over. I hope that these tactics will be of use to you, I do feel though, that should you find yourself at the same sale as me in future, you will not be inclined to bid against me; that would be most unsporting and, I dare say, rather unwise. Chad Cryer

Suppressed Mite Reproduction. (Smr) Fighting Varroa

SMR is a trait that has been known about for around 10 years now, yet it is surprising that most beekeepers don’t know about research in this area or about the tremendous advances that have been made. We all want to reduce our dependence on chemicals used in the fight against varroa whether hard or soft; well here is one way in which we can do it. Ed.

SMR is a trait in honey bees keeps mites from multiplying and for some time now, 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. Called SMR, for “suppressed mite reproduction,” this 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. John Harbo gave an excellent talk on his research at the French bee breeders association meeting in Limoges in November 2003 and in this talk he informed us that he and his colleagues found that in some colonies some mites simply weren’t reproducing. They watched female mites entering brood cells, 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.

USDA ARS scientists Dr.John Harbo and Dr.Jeffrey Harris at the Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics & Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have defined and tested a trait of the honeybee that suppresses the reproduction of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. They have enhanced this naturally occurring trait through selection to produce highly Varroa resistant bees. Recent tests have shown that SMR queens retain an acceptable level of mite resistance when they are free mated to unselected drones. SMR is a naturally occurring trait of the honeybee that suppresses the reproduction of the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. The SMR trait might be best described as a varroa-specific hygienic behaviour. Dr. Harbo and Dr. Harris proved the effectiveness of the SMR trait by exchanging queens between resistant and susceptible colonies. Each time a resistant queen was put into a susceptible colony, the mite population went down. On the other hand, every time a susceptible queen was placed in the resistant colonies, the mite population increased.

In another study by Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota, bees of several strains were compared. The SMR colonies showed the highest degree of mite resistance, and also had good honey production. Recent studies by Dr. Spivak and Dr. Harbo have shown that the SMR trait might be best described as a “varroa-specific hygienic behavior”. SMR bees remove mites that have started to reproduce. The reproduction of mites triggers their removal by the bees. The only mites left in the cells are nonreproductive or sterile. So there is evidence for selective removal of reproductive mites from brood cells.

A goal of the USDA SMR Project is to distribute the SMR trait for resistance to Varroa mites to queen breeders around the country. The object is to cross these bees with beekeeper’s own well adapted stock. This will maintain the genetic diversity of American bees while enhancing this important trait. Once in the hives of beekeepers, further selection and improvement can be made for honey production, other disease resistance mechanisms, and other beneficial traits.

The research leading up to developing this trait was long and detailed.

Drs. Harbo and Harris have methodically worked on selecting bees for Varroa resistance since 1995. They first had to develop techniques for measuring populations of bees and mites and for measuring characteristics that are associated with resistance. Then they identified specific traits that are related to the growth of mite populations. These traits were analysed statistically to determine the degree of heritability they had. The trait for suppressed mite reproduction SMR was shown to be the most promising, so they began a selective breeding program to enhance it. Read about the SMR PROJECT at the USDA ARS Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics & Physiology Laboratory website. Where did SMR bees come from?

SMR bees were originally selected from diverse domestic honeybee colonies in Louisiana and Michigan that showed some degree of mite resistance. What’s special about these bees?

Recent studies by Dr. Spivak and Dr. Harbo have shown that the SMR trait might be best described as a “varroa-specific hygienic behaviour”. SMR bees remove mites that have started to reproduce. The reproduction of mites triggers their removal by the bees. The only mites left in the cells are nonreproductive or sterile. So there is evidence that bees with the SMR trait selectively remove reproductive mites from brood cells.

Many beekeepers have asked the question, ‘are SMR bees related to the USDA Russian bees?’ The answer is that although coming out of the same USDA ARS research laboratory as the Russians, they are not related. SMR bees are not imported, they originated from domestic American colonies.

Another frequently asked question by bee breeders is: ‘are the genes for suppressed mite reproduction dominant or recessive?’ The SMR trait is thought to be controlled by more than one gene, just how many is uncertain at this point. These genes are neither dominant nor recessive. They are what is called “additive” which simply means that the more of them that are present, the more the trait will be expressed. This works in favor of beekeepers since a queen with SMR genes can mate to any drones and still have the trait expressed in her colony enough to reduce the mite population. So naturally mated queens produced from pure SMR breeders are mite resistant.

For the queen breeder, pure SMR breeder queens should be used for queen rearing purposes. The naturally mated daughters of these breeder queens should be used for production hives. Naturally mated queens containing 50% of the SMR trait can be purchased from various queen breeders.

Many sceptics ask the question, ‘are SMR bees really mite resistant?

In a recent published study Dr. Harris and Dr. Harbo proved the effectiveness of the SMR trait by exchanging queens between resistant and susceptible colonies. Each time a resistant queen was put into a susceptible colony, the mite population went down. On the other hand, every time a susceptible queen was placed in the resistant colonies, the mite population increased. In another study by Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota, bees of several strains were compared. The SMR colonies showed the highest degree of mite resistance, and also had good honey production. Where can I find out more about SMR queens?

So how does the average beekeeper find out if any of his bees have this trait?

Varroa mites are large enough to see fairly easily. With a magnifying glass, a flashlight, and a little time to look, the SMR trait can be observed in any stock of bees. In unselected bees, the trait normally shows up in 20%-40% of the mites. In the pure SMR bees, the trait is in nearly all of the mites. Colonies headed by daughters of pure SMR breeder queens show a significant increase in non-reproductive varroa mites. Materials needed:

2x-4x Magnification - visor magnifying glass works well or low power stereo microscope is best. Use a torch as a light source.
Forceps or tweezers- fine enough to uncap and pull out pupae Record sheet - a simple tally of reproductive and non-reproductive mites. Brood comb containing mites - from colonies not recently treated with miticides.

Time to look- allow at least an hour per comb What to look for:

1. Uncap purple eyed pupae with tan body colour
2. Inspect pupae for white faecal deposit- bright white powder
3. Check pupae for mites
4. Check cell wall for faecal deposit- usually on the upper wall
5. Check cell interior for mites
6. Identify the reddish brown mother mite
7. Identify lighter or smaller offspring mites
8. Inspect 20 infested cells containing a single mother mite
9. Record number of reproducing and non-reproducing mites
10.Compare colonies for best breeders

The USDA maintains a web site on Varroa mite reproduction, which has an excellent display of pictures and descriptions of mites, both reproductive and non-reproductive. Your time will be well repaid by studying this site before you begin your own observations.


Ensaimadas (Spanish sweet honey rolls)
In this recipe I salute my departure from Spain with one of my favourite sweets. Try these extremely fattening rolls. You won’t be disappointed. Ed.

1/2 cup warm milk.
8 tbs sugar.
1 pkt yeast.
3 cups plus flour.
1/2 tsp salt.
1/4 cup warm water.
3 tbs oil.
1 large egg.
1 large egg yolk.
melted butter.
powdered sugar.

Mix milk, yeast, and 1 tbs sugar with ½ cup flour and let mixture rise until double, about 20 minutes. Blend 7 tbs sugar, 2 ½ cups flour and salt in food processor. Add yeast mixture, ¼ cup water, oil, egg and yolk and blend smooth. If too firm add a bit of water, one tablespoon at a time. If too sticky add flour one tablespoon at a time. Texture should be smooth, elastic and pliable. Divide dough into 3 pieces and each piece into 6 balls (18 total).

Roll each ball into a thin rope and brush with melted butter. Roll up tightly spiral style and tuck under end. Place on greased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart and let rise until double.

Brush with honey and bake 375 till golden, about 12 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.

Other ensamaida recipes are filled with cheese and the dough pieces are rolled into a rectangle, spread with cheese and rolled up jelly roll style and coiled and placed in small brioche or tins to rise and bake, and sprinkled with sugar. Basically a sweet dough roll filled with cheese.

FACT FILE Back to top

Pollen is possibly one of the best known of natural products and is either blessed or cursed by people depending on whether it is Pollen grainsproviding a living for them, curing them or killing them. It is of course the male reproductive cell produced by the anthers of a flower to carry the male gamete to the stigma of a receptive female flower. It is of extreme importance to bees and they have been intimately associated with pollen in an evolutionary relationship for around 90 million years, when the hunting wasp ancestor of the honey bee went vegetarian. The bee and its young take their floral rewards in the form of energy from nectar and protein from pollen and the plant receives a pollination service. This evolutionary relationship has literally shaped the world we live in and even though man may be doing his utmost to bypass or otherwise destroy this extraordinary liaison, it seems that even in these days of GMOs, plastic wrapped chicken and seedless oranges, were pollination to fail, mankind would suffer.

Because of the very diverse floral sources of bee collected pollen it is very difficult to determine exactly a typical pollen composition. Generally however, pollen consists of around 25% protein, 27% carbohydrates (mainly simple sugars much of which is added by the bee in the form of nectar or honey used either to bind the pollen pellet together for transport, or to better store the pollen in a cell); 5% fat and up to 18% starch (especially the grass pollens).

Pollen supplies the colony with all its nutritional requirements for brood rearing and many a bee farmer finds himself in difficulties if there is a dearth. Without sufficient pollen a colony will not thrive and will eventually cease to exist. Humans too are increasingly taking to consuming this nutritious food and even though not the ‘perfect’ food as so many claim. It is a rich source of many vitamins (especially the B vitamins) and minerals, notably iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Pollen is deficient in the lipid soluble vitamins but otherwise, in many ways surpasses in nutritive value almost any other food commonly eaten. Pollen does contain a relatively large amount of indigestible material. The intine and exine are the hard protective coverings walls protecting the cytoplasm. The material forming these is mainly cellulose and sporopollenin a carotenoid polymer and at one time it was thought that humans could not digest pollen, but in 1983 and 1984, it was shown that in rats and mice that once pollen is in the digestive system, osmotic shock ruptures the pollen grains at the germination pores and allows digestion to take place. This was followed up by tests on humans in 1987.

In data collected by Adams in 1975, the nutritive values per thousand kilocalories of certain common food were compared to those of pollen with the following results:

  Protein Fat
Baked beans: 59.4g 82.7g
Whole wheat bread: 43.2g 12.3g
Beef Sirloin: 59.4g 82.7g
Apple: 3.4g 10.3g
Raw cabbage: 54.1g 8.3g
POLLEN: 96.3g 19.5g

Bee collected pollen consists of a large blend of pollen grains from many different sources. Few of these sources have the same nutritional blends and can vary widely in this respect. Colonies require large amounts of pollen and by consuming a mixture of different types; bees ensure a better nutritional balance and are better able to dilute potentially toxic alkaloids or other toxins. Research carried out on this aspect of bee nutrition shows that when given a choice, bees prefer mixed pollen diets.

Although pollen is such a vital nutritional resource for honey bees, the influence of pollen quality on their foraging behaviour is little understood. For example, in choice-test experiments, bees showed no innate pollen-foraging preferences, but preferred oilseed rape Brassica napus pollen over field bean Vicia faba pollen after previous foraging experience of oilseed rape. The free amino acid content of oilseed rape and field bean pollen was compared using high-performance liquid chromatography. Oilseed rape pollen contained a greater proportion of the most essential amino acids required by honey bees (valine, leucine, and isoleucine) than field bean, suggesting that oilseed rape pollen is of greater nutritional quality for honey bees than is field bean pollen.

Honey bee foraging preferences appeared to reflect pollen quality. The hypothesis that pollen amino acid composition affects the foraging behaviour of honey bees is a subject that requires further research and discussion. Pollen is collected from bees returning to the hive by the removal of the corbicular pellet by pollen traps. Many pollen traps have been designed but probably the most successful are those placed below and in line with the hive. Many beekeepers especially in Europe specialise in the collection of pollen as their major hive crop and world trade in pollen shows that the major producers are the USA, China, Australia, Spain, Mexico and Argentina. Most of the product is for human consumption with a secondary role in animal feeds. Other bee farmers specialise in pollination services usually without taking the pollen as a crop and taking honey as a secondary crop.

Apart from its uses in bee and human nutrition, other uses for pollen include forensic evidence; historical analysis (e.g. the Turin Shroud was shown to be biblical by analysis of the pollen grains contained within it and this has now been shown to be more likely after it was discovered that the age of the shroud given by radio active dating was probably incorrect as it was taken from a patch sewn on during later times); and possibly one of its greatest uses is in apitherapy.


I promised in last month’s edition, to continue to follow Wildman’s thoughts on wax production by bees in the 1700 and 1800 hundreds. However it may be instructive first to look at another beemaster’s thoughts before returning to Wildman. To this end we take a look at how Robert Sydserff of Leigh on Mendip saw the building of comb in 1792.

In this extract, he describes how the bees make comb by forming what he terms ladders of bees. We’ve all seen this as we prise combs apart but it is of course especially noticeable in newly hived swarms which are disposed to build comb. Like Wildman he seems to confuse pollen or propolis with wax and believes that it is collected from flowers.

“The skill with which they build their combs, and adjust their apartments, is inimitable. Soon after the bees are hives, after driving or swarming, if they like their habitation, they will erect ladders for their work in a very expeditious manner. The manner of making their ladders is this: at the top of the hive where they intend to begin their work, several of the bees will fix themselves with their forelegs…………………………….

The larger the swarms, the greater number of ladders will be, and the bees that come back loaded run up these ladders and unload themselves, by taking the wax in their jaws, and after moistening it with liquor which they distil upon it, they build their cells in a very rough and uneven manner. Other bees are appointed to make the angles exact and to polish the surface; but the bees which form the cells never polish them, as it is always done by other bees who work longer than those that build the walls; polishing being not so laborious a work as building.

As soon as a bee unloads itself, he sets off as fast as possible for more wax or honey, or both; and he does not return down the ladder the same way he went up, but on the other side, so that the bees never hinder each other in their work.”


We return again this month to that superb American Poetess, Emily Dickinson for our Poem of the Month. Of the hundreds of poems composed by Emily, the bee featured in many of them.

The Bee
Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!

LETTERS Back to top

Dear David,
I came across the Apis-UK site on the internet after doing a search on Google for some information on bee behaviour. With your knowledge of bees you may be able to help. Recently, every evening from about 9.20pm loads of bees (about 30+) have appeared buzzing around the top branches of the cherry tree in our back garden. They dart about in quite a fast and frantic manner for about half an hour, and dissipate when it gets dark. At first I thought we had a nest, but there is no obvious sign of one, nor are there significant numbers of bees buzzing around during the day or early evening. However, we noticed that the same phenomenon was happening in other types of trees in the street at the front of our house. I have never seen this before and it hasn't occurred in previous years. Is this normal bee behaviour, and does it mean that there is a nest in the vicinity? Yours Sincerely, Natasha Fairbairn Email: Natasha.Fairbairn @ Does anybody have any ideas? Ed.

Hello David,
I am emailing on behalf on James Fearnley author of Bee Propolis: Nautral Healing from the Hive. He would like you if possible to add a link So potential readers can get get a more in depth introduction to the subject if they are interested. Regards Adam Triantis

Hi David,
Sir, I am a postgraduate student studying entomology in one of the best Universities in Nigeria. I am almost through with class work and now at the verge of writing of my project reports on “The Construction of Modern Bee Hives for Comparative Production of Honey and Wax”. In view of this, I will love you to help write and send some useful and vital information that will assist me in putting up a very comprehensive proposal on the aforementioned topic; Apiculture is still at primitive stage in this part of the universe and there are no much materials for consultation. I shall be eternally grateful if this information could reach me soonest. Thanks and God bless. Tunde Fimihan [] Can anyone can help this post grad student with information. I'm sure there must be some expert out there! Ed.

Dear David,
The National Honey Show has prepared an attractive flyer advertising this years show and allowing people to join. Do you think you could mention this in the next Apis - asking if anybody out there would like multiple copies to pass to their beekeeping friends or society members? They can be obtained in bulk from NBB Best wishes Jerry phone: +44 (0) 1422 882751 I am sure that there are many beekeepers out there who can help this very worthy cause. If you can help, please do. Ed.

Dear David,
I found your mail-address in HP Apiservices. I am a beekeeper from Austria and I am working at a project to make a picture book about bees. Please Download PDF Can you help me? Or can you send this mail to some beekeepers in your country who make good pictures? Best regards and many thanks for helping, Heinrich Gritsch If anyone has some useful photos, please end them direct to heinrich. Ed.

Dear David,
Thanks for the July Issue, though I have to register some disagreement with one item. The item on AFB is timely, but misleading. It suggests that AFB can be treated with antibiotics. This is simply not the case. Apart from being ineffective as it treats the symptoms only, not the cause, in the UK it is not permitted. I have just been unfortunate enough to have a case of AFB in one colony.

Following an outbreak of the disease two miles from my colony in an out apiary the Bee Inspector was carrying out inspections within the regulation 5km radius and, eagle eyed, he found one infected cell on one comb in a good stock. CSL confirmed his diagnosis and the colony was destroyed together with the combs, honey and equipment not capable of sterilization by scorching. I did not like it, but I do agree with the policy. My equipment was all brand new and so far as we can tell there was nothing more we could have done to prevent the infection. So far the Bee Inspector has not been able to determine the origin of the outbreak in this area. In the nature of things I believe that it is unlikely that any definite origin could be proved.

Please do not allow the impression to persist that AFB is treatable or curable - it is not. I agree absolutely with your article’s proposals on apiary hygiene and on the longevity of the spores. I also agree with the implication of your Quote of the month. The most important and effective means of reducing the scourge of AFB is education of beekeepers - and not just new beekeepers. It has become apparent to me that many beekeepers of many years experience simply do not believe that there is any problem. They do not believe that it can happen to them; they do not see the point in frequent washing of bee suits and do not see any problem with using the same leather gloves for seasons on end. As one person concerned with the local outbreak said “If you take a swarm, do you quarantine it until you can confirm that it is healthy?” I certainly will try to do so in future. If there is one thing that will make any decent beekeeper take precautions against AFB, however stupid he might have thought them to be in the past, it is the sound that comes from a hive of bees when you seal it up and pour a pint of petrol in the top! Chris Clarke

Thanks for the letter Chris and the valuable information contained in it. Having re-read the article again I can’t actually see where it said that AFB can be cured with antibiotics, but if anyone did get this impression then please read Chris’s letter again. I do however think that most people regard the use of antibiotics whether illegally or not as ‘a treatment’ whether it is effective or not. In some countries, a distinction between causes and symptoms of a disease is not often thought about. Here in NZ antibiotic use for AFB is illegal as well and it has been found that the only effective course of action is in this matter is education. Of course AFB still exists but at much lower levels. In Spain, there was much greater use of antibiotics by beekeepers both legally and illegally and there is a higher incidence of the disease. Ed.


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

12th - 13th August 2005 - Shrewsbury Flower Show Large Bees, Honey and Wine section invites exhibitors to come to a friendly show of national repute. Cash prizes and trophies. Beginners especially welcomed. For schedule contact Tony Davis Show committee secretary 01743-884524.

21st - 26th August 2005 - Apimondia held in Dublin, Ireland.
Further details from

September 2005 - Invitation to the International Honey Competition. Dear beekeepers, with ending of this beekeeping season we again offer you an opportunity to compare the quality of your honey with the honey of your colleagues at »The Seventh International Honey Competition Semič 2005«, which will be organized by the Slovenian Beekeeping Association. This competition will give you a broader perspective of the quality of your honey and of your work since the largest number of beekeepers from Slovenia and from abroad enter the competition. The evaluation will be carried out according to the Statute for the evaluation of honey issued by the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, and will be performed by an international expert committee. The head of the committee will be Anamarija Plestenjak Phd. Full details from

Tuesday 13th September 2005 - Conwy Honey Fair, High Street, Conwy, North Wales, 9am - 4pm. 700 year old Charter Fair, founded by King Edward 1st. Local beekeepers sell more than a tonne of honey by lunchtime. Stall space is free of charge. Honey and hive products, plus crafts, plants and local produce stalls. Many other attractions in the walled town of Conwy, which is a World Heritage Site. Contact Peter McFadden, Secretary, Conwy BKA, Tel 01492 650851, email peter @ For the history of the Honey Fair visit:

Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th September 2005 - Midland and South Western Counties Convention and Conference. It will be held on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District at the Hayes Conference Centre near Alfreton. It will be packed with hot topics from shook swarming and small hive beetle to breeding strategies to meet current challenges. We have an excellent list of speakers which currently includes: Pat Mills, David Kemp, Norman Carreck, Adam Hart, Graham Law, Bernard Diaper, Albert Knight, Claire Waring, and Alistair Battersby. Full 2 1/2 day attendance including all meals and overnight en suite accommodation will cost £180. Day visitors will be welcome at £30 to £40 depending on the day. A full programme and booking form can be obtained by post from Peter Cash e-mail: peter @ or in pdf format from me email: steverose @ Everyone is welcome; not just members of the 10 counties directly involved. Steve Rose

24th & 25th September 2005 - West Sussex BKA Honey Festival. The West Sussex Honey Festival will be held on Sat/Sun 24-25th September at Manor Nursery, Runcton, Chichester. This has now become an annual event to publicise bees and honey, and this year the theme is Bees in Your Garden. The venue is a well laid out garden centre with a restaurant, and last year attracted around 1400 visitors from far and wide. It has become a major beekeeping event. There will be displays and demonstrations as well as 40 competitive classes, many of which are innovative including a Black jar, presentation gift pack, limerick, speciality honey, honey mustard, art, and children’s classes. There will of course be the usual traditional honey show classes. For those travelling some distance there are other places to visit in the area including The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, and Uppark. For details log on to and click Honey Festival. For a schedule contact Graham Wells 01403 700317 or download from the website. For other details contact Steve Kennett 01798 831 010 or Roger Patterson 01403 790 637

Thursday, Friday, Saturday 20th-23rd October 2005 - The 2005 National Honey Show will be held at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, London, UK. Judging of more than 200 classes of honey, beeswax, candles, mead, art-work, essays etc begins at 09.00 on Thursday 20th and the Show is open to the public from 14.00 until 18.45 that day. On Friday 21st it is open 09.30-18.45, and on Saturday 09.30-16.50. Admission for members is free, but for non-members it is £7.00 payable at the door. In addition to the competitive classes, there is a full programme of lectures, given by speakers of world renown, There are also many trade and educational stands. For the latest news see our website:

Sunday 13th November 2005 - Integrated Varroa Management Workshop. Hosted by Melksham & District Beekeepers Association at Cooper-Avon Sports & Social Club, Melksham House, Market Place, Melksham, Wiltshire. Entrance Ticket £6.00. For more details Download Leaflet and Download Programme (Both PDF files which need Acrobat Reader 4+ to open).

13th - 18th November 2005 - International Beekeeping Congress 2005 India. Le Meridien Bangalore, India (Organized by: Century Foundation, Bangalore). On behalf of the Organizing committee of the International Beekeeping Congress, it is our privilege and honour to extend a warm invitation to you to participate in the deliberations of the scheduled congress to be held from November 13-18, 2005. The main aim of the congress is to bring together the beekeepers, honey traders and International Scientific Community involved in research and development of beekeeping for sustainable livelihoods and rural development. The proposed congress will disseminate advanced information on beekeeping for further improvement. Bangalore is a beautiful city, the capital of Karnataka in India. Karnataka has unique flora and fauna including important honeybee species. This congress will be an opportunity for the delegates to visit various biodiversity hotspots in the country. We are sure; the congress will present a unique opportunity to share the recent trends in beekeeping and development. Also, you can enjoy the wonderful hospitality of Indian people. The local organizing committee and Century Foundation will try their best to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable during the congress. We are looking forward to meeting you during the Congress. Organizing Secretary Chairperson – Scientific Committee Dr. V. Sivaram Email: Web:

**** EVENT CANCELLED **** Saturday 26 November 2005 - Kent Education Group Guest Lecture Albert Knight: Insight into Queen Rearing at West Kent College, Tonbridge. Albert Knight is a leading expert in the selective breeding of honey bees with a particular interest in the Native race. His vast knowledge covers all practical and theoretical aspects, and this lecture will concentrate on choosing mating sites, raising good queen cells, using mating nucs and how to ensure that your hard work is rewarded. If you have ever wanted to start raising your own queens or need some tips for improving your success rate, then put the date in your diary now. There will be a question and answer session so delegates will have the opportunity to draw on Albert’s vast experience of breeding groups, grafting techniques, morphometry, DNA surveys and more. Albert is a recognised authority who willingly shares his knowledge and experience. The lecture starts at 3pm and there will be refreshments, a stand from Northern Bee Books, displays by BIBBA and more. Doors open at 2pm. There are excellent parking facilities, good links to the motorway and is only a 10 minute walk to the mainline station. The venue has disabled access. Tickets £3.00 available in advance and further information from Terry Hardy telephone 01622 832066 or email: theresa.hardy @

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Quote last month
Last month’s quote on AFB comes from one of New Zealand’s best known research scientists, Dr mark Goodwin.

Quote of this month
This month’s quote offers us some philosophic guidance in our busy and often stretched lives.
“Other peoples faults are like bees – if we don’t see them, they don’t harm us.”

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