Apis-UK Issue No.44 September 2006

Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Research News; Articles: BEES AND ROTATING HIVES (PART 4 OF 5) Ian Rumsey, Honey Bee Thermoregulation Desmond Pierce; Book and Film Reviews; Recipe of the Month Fact File: Historical Note Poem of the Month: Emily Dickinson; Short Story; Ian S. Copinger; Readers Letters: Diary of events; Quote of the Month and more.


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August is a busy month in the commercial beekeeping world of the Southern hemisphere. It is a month of getting into gear again. Getting on the road to feed bees and ensure that all is well. Discovering faults in vehicles; faults that have lain in wait all winter only to manifest themselves just as you need to really get going. In our area, the lack of pollen is the main concern at this time of year and this lack has taught many beekeepers the salutary lesson that nectar is not all, and that colony development is utterly dependent upon good pollen sources.

This edition of Apis UK looks at bees and beekeeping from many different angles. We look at how confused avocados get when sex is in the wind and in a similar vein we see the amazing reproductive efforts of a particular species of orchid. Bumble bees are brought to light in a research piece that suggests that they are brighter in brain power than we think, even though their decline in numbers is alarming.
There are two pieces on the confusing subject of genetic modification, one of them a short story on the inevitable, a genetically modified bee; and this in a month when researchers in the USA have genetically modified white blood cells which can now attack cancer cells (skin cancer in this case) and cure people.
Bees and robots; Bees and bears, and a new view on the rewards offered to pollinators for their services; is it only nectar and pollen? All these subjects are covered.

Two new books are investigated and Ian Rumsey continues with his excellent and absorbing series on hive rotation, and with these articles and more, I believe that this edition of Apis continues the tradition of bringing items of interest to the enquiring beekeeper.

Interest in bees and bee research has advanced so much over the past few decades that the modern beekeeper, if he or she wants to keep up, really needs to be a scientist of sorts. The number of subjects covered by the term ‘beekeeping’ is immense and I firmly believe that any young person who can grasp the nettle can make a career in bees. A career that can take them all over the world whilst being paid. If you think about it, a beekeeper of a few years experience knows an enormous amount about the subject and so much about biology, chemistry and even physics, yet so few of them realise this. It is the aim of Apis UK to remind them.


David Cramp. Editor.

 NEWS Back to top

Each year about this time, we report a dramatic increase in the number of wasps around and this year is no exception. I always look for the first announcement, just as I look for that indicating that cuckoos are back, and here it is from the West Somerset Council who say, ‘There's been a dramatic increase in the number of problem wasps nests in the West this summer’. And go on to say that they have had to deal with an unusually high number this year. Experts think it could be down to the weather.


Environmental campaigners and consumer groups launched a fierce attack on the government recently over its new plans to regulate GM crops in England. The consultation document outlines suggestions for how contamination between GM and non-GM crops could be prevented when the technology eventually comes to the country. But campaigners warned it was effectively giving the go-ahead to GM foods, and said the measures proposed were wholly inadequate to protect organic and non-GM products.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigner Clare Oxbarrow said that the organisation regarded this consultation is a complete sham saying that it highlights the lengths the government will go to back the biotech industry and pave the way for GM crops to be grown in Britain. The environment minister Ian Pearson however, denied it was giving a "green light" to the commercial production of GM crops in England. He said, "Our top priority is protecting consumers and the environment. We have a strict EU regime in place which ensures only GM crops that are safe for human health and the environment could be grown in the UK." He added: "But we have a responsibility to be fully prepared if crops which meet the safety criteria are developed and grown here in future."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation proposes strict separation distances between fields containing GM and non-GM crops, but critics warn that just 35 metres for oilseed rape is not enough. The minimum distance for forage maize and grain maize are slightly larger, at 80
metres and 110 metres respectively, but campaigners warn cross-pollination through insects and wind can spread GM contaminated crops as far as three miles. Defra also proposes that the UK adopt the European Union's threshold of 0.9 per cent contamination for assessing whether a crop is GM or not, saying this would ensure GM farmers are not put under an "excessive burden" to protect surrounding crops. But FoE are calling for a 0.1 per cent threshold, arguing that in Brazil such a measure is adhered to without any problems, and concerns have also been expressed about the impact that the government's proposals could have on the organic food industry.

The Soil Association, have warned that if the government sticks to this policy, part of the prime minister's legacy will be to leave a GM-contaminated country behind him. Today's consultation also proposes that farmers growing GM crops need only inform their immediate neighbours, and appears to reject the suggestion of a public register of GM crops in England. However, it calls for stakeholder views on these issues. But Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne believes that this is another step in the government’s creep towards introducing unpopular GM crops into the UK and says that commercial GM crops must be put on hold until we know they are safe for the environment and human health.


We are often faced with threats to our environment especially when the (sometimes) legitimate requirements of the human population come into conflict with the requirements of other species, but I often wonder if the spokespersons (is that the right word these days) know what they are talking about when they speak to us of the environment or of sustainability. What often happens is that we believe that they do and when it eventually all goes pear shaped and a rare species disappears, everyone has long moved on and forgotten about the issue. Our children read about it in school projects. ‘Hey dad, did you know that dodos’ are extinct?’ It means of course that ‘spokespersons’ can usually get away with saying what you want to hear even if it’s total tripe. Because of this, they end up being accountable to no one and so don’t usually give a damn anyway as long as they can reach Friday happy hour with as little hassle as possible. Ed.

Four rare types of bumblebee live in the Thames Gateway area Wildlife experts are warning that rare species of bumblebee could face extinction if hundreds of thousands of homes are built in the Thames Gateway. Four types of bumblebee which are among the most endangered species in the UK thrive on wild flowers in the area. “We recognise they are rare and yet they still seem determined to build on these sites,” said Ben Darvill of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. The Thames Gateway area, covering east and south-east London, and parts of Kent and Essex, is set for 120,000 new homes by 2016.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said 90% of development would be on previously developed land. But Professor Ted Benton, of the University of Essex, says in his book Bumblebees that the development will be “catastrophic”. He urges the government to do more to ensure the bumblebees survive. As well as being very beautiful insects, they are also incredibly important pollinators of the majority of our wild flowers and a lot of our crops say environmentalists and that without bumblebees you are talking about reduced crop yields and sweeping changes to the countryside.” Britain and Ireland have 25 native species of bumblebee, of which three have already become extinct nationally. Five are listed on the UK biodiversity action plan as endangered species and four more are scheduled for inclusion.
Comments from spokeswomen varied: “We need to build new homes for our ageing and growing population.” A government spokeswoman said building would be environmentally sustainable. If possible, wildlife will be reintroduced to the sites following construction and the relevant habitat checks being carried out. But environmentalists say if the rare species lose their habitat they cannot be reintroduced at a later date.


Bumblebees can navigate their way home over distances of up to 13km (eight miles), a UK research team has shown. The study also found only worker bees seemed to have this homing ability. Bees pollinate flowering plants and therefore play a crucial role in food webs, but numbers of the insect in Britain have been declining recently. The team said the homing research would inform conservation strategies that sought to adapt landscapes to create optimum habitats for bees.
The University of Newcastle-led group took some 100 bumblebees belonging to the common species Bombus terrestris and tagged some of them with tiny identification numbers. The bees were then dropped in different places around north-east England and left to make their way back to the nest. The scientists set up a webcam in the hive to record the homecomers. Early results show the bees will fly varying distances but some that were left at a garden centre in Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley - about 13km from their nest - could get home safely. “The current scientific literature shows that bees normally forage within 5km, and this is probably correct,” said Steph O’Connor, one of the researchers. The scientists tagged some of the bees before releasing them “What we are showing is it is eminently possible for bumblebees to forage more than 5km from the nest.” Dr Mark O’Neill told the BBC News website. Only about 20% to 30% of the tagged insects actually completed the journey. But, explained Dr O’Neill: “Don’t forget that a lot of bees got killed by predators including hitting car windscreens and the researchers are not entirely clear how the insects navigate but their vision seems to help keep them on course and recognise landmarks. They believe there will be a difference, because they use vision, especially the horizon edge for guidance. So a cluttered environment is liable to be more problematic and challenging to the bees than a green field environment. The insects’ “maps” also include odours, but these are limited to less than 2m (7ft). For example, when a bee has emptied the nectar in a flower, it leaves chemical “post-it notes” to tell others where it has been. The countryside has a more varied scent composition than the urban landscape, and researchers are now plotting bee routes to see which kinds of environment the insects prefer.

The team is trying to find out more about how bees forage, or look for their food and are particularly interested to see if they find certain environments easier to navigate. Britain and Ireland have 25 native species of bumblebee. Five are currently listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan because of their precarious status: Bombus distinguendus (great yellow bumblebee); Bombus humilis (carder bumblebee); Bombus ruderatus (large garden bumblebee); Bombus subterraneus (short-haired bumblebee)Bombus sylvarum (shrill carder Bee). Many of the other bee species have undergone major range contractions.

As beekeepers we automatically assume that it is only the rewards of nectar and pollen that dictate pollination, but this research shows that there may be more to it than just that.

Pollinators may be seeking more than just food as a reward when they choose one flower over another.
Floral colour signals are used by pollinators as predictors of nutritional rewards, such as nectar. But as insect pollinators often need to invest energy to maintain their body temperature above the ambient temperature, floral heat might also be perceived as a reward. In tests researchers have shown that bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) prefer to visit warmer flowers and that they can learn to use colour to predict floral temperature before landing. In what could be a widespread floral adaptation, plants may modulate their temperature to encourage pollinators to visit.

Some beetles spend extended periods (about 24 hours) inside specialized thermogenic flowers, even in the absence of a nutritional reward, and basking insects will take advantage of floral suntraps6. Visits to flowers by pollinating insects in order to imbibe carbohydrates in nectar are typically much briefer. But it is possible that endothermic pollinators might also seek a metabolic reward in the form of heat, given that the temperature of floral nectar is the same as the flower containing it. Differences in floral temperature occur widely between and within plant species and, if these variations can influence the preference of pollinators, then pollinators may forage adaptively by paying attention to temperature when choosing between flowers.

The findings of this research indicate that floral temperature can serve as an additional reward for pollinator insects when nutritional rewards are also available. Researchers concluded that the bees preferred to land on the warmer flowers, even though the similarly coloured alternative contained the same nutritional reward. In another control experiment in which flowers varied in temperature but not colour, discrimination fell to chance indicating that the bees must use colour as a cue, rather than temperature.

To the average beekeeper the bumble bee whilst looking nicer in a fluffy sort of way has always been regarded as inferior in intellect to the honey bee. But this report shows that the more we learn about this creature, the smarter it appears.

In a finding that broadens our understanding of time perception in the animal kingdom, researchers have discovered that an insect pollinator, the bumble bee, can estimate the duration of time intervals. Although many insects show daily and annual rhythms of behavior, the more sophisticated ability to estimate the duration of shorter time intervals had previously been known only in humans and other vertebrates.

The findings are reported by Michael Boisvert and David Sherry of the University of Western Ontario and appear in the August 22nd issue of the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press. Bees and other insects make a variety of decisions that appear to require the ability to estimate elapsed durations. Insect pollinators feed on floral nectar that depletes and renews with the passage of time, and insect communication and navigation may also require the ability to estimate the duration of time intervals.
In the new work, the researchers investigated bumble bees’ ability to time the interval between successive nectar rewards. Using a specially designed chamber in which bumble bees extended their proboscis to obtain sucrose rewards, the researchers observed that bees adjusted the timing of proboscis extensions so that most were made near the end of the programmed interval between rewards. When nectar was delivered after either of two different intervals, bees could often time both intervals simultaneously. This research shows that the biological foundations of time perception may be found in animals with relatively simple neural systems.

Scientists have spent decades trying to figure out just how an avocado has sex. Just one tree will put out up to around a million blossoms in spring but only 150 to 500 will bear fruit. And the flowers have confusing time of it too. They can bloom as a female one day and as a male the next with other varieties doing the opposite. Scientists also argue about how best to pollinate a tree. Research carried out in the USA suggests that wind is the primary pollinator, whereas other research suggests that little can be achieved without the bee and has found a strong correlation between fruiting and honey bee activity. This is strange because bees are not that keen on avocados and the avocado is a native of South America where there were no honey bees. Also it seems that there may be a genetic component coming into it all. Carniolans like avocados more than Italians and to test how much so, the honey from the bees was analysed. Avocados produce a unique sugar called perseitol and by measuring this in the honey showed which bees preferred which plant. Most bees preferred citrus honey to avocado honey and what seems to discourage bees from the avocado trees is the mineral component of the nectar with high concentrations of potassium and phosphorous. Researchers have found however that bees can be bred for avocados!

Research news item

Many plants self-fertilise, but a rare orchid that grows on tree trunks in China manages the process in an unbelievable way. Through a gymnastic feat never seen before in plants, it bends its pollen-containing male anther round through a full circle before jabbing it into the female stigma to complete fertilisation.
It takes 60 days! LaiQuiang Huang, a researcher, and his colleagues at Tsinghua University in the city of Shenzhen spotted the painstaking process in 1900 flowers of the orchid Holcoglossum amesianum. Unlike all other forms of self-pollination which require assistance from wind, gravity, insects or secretions, this orchid's is entirely mechanical. "We never witnessed an insect visiting the flowers, or wind assisting anther movement," they say in Nature (Vol 441, p 945).

Yet more evidence to point towards the superiority of honey in wound treatment comes to us from Germany. We’ve previously reported on this increasingly popular use of honey in the UK so it’s nice to see that others in Europe are investigating its healing powers and using it in hospitals.

For several years now medical experts from the University of Bonn have been clocking up largely positive experience with what is known as medihoney. Even chronic wounds infected with multi-resistant bacteria often healed within a few weeks. In conjunction with colleagues from Düsseldorf, Homburg and Berlin they now want to test the experience gained in a large-scale study, as objective data on the curative properties of honey are thin on the ground.

Honey as a remedy for wounds is a use that is as old as the hills and in the last two world wars poultices with honey were used to assist the healing process in soldiers’ wounds. However, the rise of the new antibiotics replaced this household remedy. “In hospitals today we are faced with germs which are resistant to almost all the current anti-biotics,” Dr. Arne Simon explains. “As a result, the medical use of honey is becoming attractive again for the treatment of wounds.”
Dr. Simon works on the cancer ward of the Bonn University Children’s Clinic. As far as the treatment of wounds is concerned, his young patients form part of a high-risk group: the medication used to treat cancer known as cytostatics not only slows down the reproduction of malignant cells, but also impairs the healing process of wounds. “Normally a skin injury heals in a week, with our children it often takes a month or more,” he says. Moreover, children with leukaemia have a weakened immune system. If a germ enters their bloodstream via a wound, the result may be a fatal case of blood poisoning.
For several years now Bonn paediatricians have been pioneering the use in Germany of medihoney in treating wounds. Medihoney bears the CE seal for medical products; its quality is regularly tested. The success is astonishing: “Dead tissue is rejected faster, and the wounds heals more rapidly,” Kai Sofka, wound specialist at the University Children’s Clinic, emphasises. “What is more, changing dressings is less painful, since the poultices are easier to remove without damaging the newly formed layers of skin.” Some wounds often smell unpleasant—an enormous strain on the patient. Yet honey helps here too by reducing the smell. “Even wounds which consistently refused to heal for years can, in our experience, be brought under control with medihoney—and this frequently happens within a few weeks,” Kai Sofka says.
In the meantime two dozen hospitals in Germany are using honey in their treatment of wounds. Despite all the success there have hitherto been very few reliable clinical studies of its effectiveness. In conjunction with colleagues from Düsseldorf, Homburg and Berlin, the Bonn medical staff now want to remedy this. With the Woundpecker Data Bank, which they have developed themselves, they will be recording and evaluating over 100 courses of disease over the next few months. The next step planned is comparative studies with other therapeutic methods such as the very expensive cationic silver dressings. “These too are an effective anti-bacterial method,” says Dr. Arne Simon. “However, it is not yet clear whether the silver released from some dressings may lead to side-effects among children.”
It has already been proved that medihoney even puts paid to multi-resistant germs such as MRSA. In this respect medihoney is neck and neck in the race to beat the antibiotic mupirocin, currently the local MRSA antibiotic of choice. This is shown by a study recently published by researchers in Australia. In one point medihoney was even superior to its rival: the bacteria did not develop any resistance to the natural product during the course of treatment.
It is also known today why honey has an antiseptic effect: when producing honey, bees add an enzyme called glucose-oxidase. This enzyme ensures that small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, an effective antiseptic, are constantly being formed from the sugar in the honey. The advantage over the hydrogen peroxide from the chemist’s is that small concentrations are sufficient to kill the germs, as it is constantly being produced. As a rule much larger quantities of hydrogen peroxide would have to be used, as hydrogen peroxide loses its potency over time. However, in large concentrations it not only damages the bacteria, but also the skin cells.
Furthermore, medihoney consists of two different types of honey: one which forms a comparatively large amount of hydrogen peroxide, and another known as “lepto-spermum honey”. Leptospermum is a species of tree which occurs in New Zealand and Australia. (Manuka in NZ and jelly bush in Australia. Ed). Honey from these trees has a particularly strong anti-bacterial effect, even in a 10% dilution. “It is not yet known exactly why this is,” Dr. Arne Simon says. “Probably it is a mix of phenol-type substances which come from the plant and make life particularly difficult for the bacteria in the wound.”

Wild Bees And The Flowers They Pollinate Are Disappearing Together
The diversity of bees and of the flowers they pollinate, has declined significantly in Britain and the Netherlands over the last 25 years according to research led by the University of Leeds and published in Science this Friday (21 July 2006). The paper is the first evidence of a widespread decline in bee diversity.
Concerns have been raised for years about the loss of pollination services, but until recently most of the evidence has been restricted to a few key species or a few focal sites. To test for more general declines, an international team of researchers from three UK universities (Leeds, Reading and York) and from the Netherlands and Germany compiled biodiversity records for 100s of sites, and found that bee diversity fell in almost 80% of them. Many bee species are declining or have become extinct in the UK. Lead author, Dr Koos Biesmeijer from the University of Leeds said: “We were shocked by decline in plants as well as bees. If this pattern is replicated elsewhere, the ‘pollinator services’ we take for granted could be at risk. And with it the future for the plants we enjoy in our countryside.”
The team examined pollinator and plant data, collected by professional and volunteer researchers and naturalists in Britain and the Netherlands, comparing records from before and after 1980. The results showed bee diversity had declined consistently in both countries, whereas the diversity of hoverflies (another group of pollinating insects) stayed roughly constant in Britain, but increased in the Netherlands. Loss of bee diversity in itself might not be too worrying, so long as other surviving insect pollinators are similar, and capable of pollinating the same flower species. However, this is not the case. The research found for both bees and hoverflies, the “winners” and “losers” were consistently different; insects which pollinate a limited range of flower species or which have specialised habitat needs were most often lost. Overall, a small number of common generalist pollinators are replacing a larger number of rarer specialist species.
Stuart Roberts from the University of Reading pointed out: “In Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare in the past have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner species have become even more plentiful. Even in insects, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” There have been parallel shifts in the plant world, with the plants that depend on pollination by bees disappearing too. Dr Bill Kunin, coordinator of the project at the University of Leeds said that they looked at plant changes as an afterthought, and were surprised to see how strong the trends were. When they contacted their Dutch colleagues, they found out that they had begun spotting similar shifts in their wildflowers as well.
In Britain, where bee diversity has fallen and hoverflies have at best held steady, there have been declines in 70% of the wildflowers that require insects for pollination. However, wind-pollinated or self-pollinating plants have held constant or increased. The pattern is slightly different in the Netherlands, where bees have declined on average but hoverfly diversity has increased. In that country there has been a decline in plants that specifically require bees for pollination, but not in plants that can make use of other insect pollinators. Thus the plant declines closely mirror those of the pollinators.
This difference between the countries suggests the declines in pollinators and plants are causally linked. Researcher Dr Ralf Ohlemüller from the University of York explained: “The parallel declines of wildflowers and their pollinators seem too strong to be a coincidence.” The research can’t tell us whether the bee declines are causing the plant declines, or vice versa, or indeed whether the two are locked in a vicious cycle in which each is affecting the other. It’s also not clear as of yet what the ultimate causes of the declines are, although land use change, agricultural chemicals and climate change may be important factors. The researchers hope to clarify these issues with follow-up studies. Dr Biesmeijer explained that whatever the cause, the study provides a worrying suggestion that declines in some species may trigger a cascade of local extinctions amongst other associated species.
The research may not yet prove a global decline in pollination, but in two countries at least there is strong evidence that both wild pollinators and the wildflowers that they visit are in serious trouble.

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Not having observed at this time the results of rotating a hive by 10 degree increments on a daily basis in a clockwise direction, an identical experiment was commenced in hive 8-5 with an anti-clockwise rotation. This, one hoped, would depict a mirror image of the initial experiment showing the effect rotation has on comb construction. We have already demonstrated the influence vertical magnetic fields have on comb alignment and the considerable distance over which this field may be able to operate. It is therefore impracticable to conduct a rotating hive experiment and a vertical magnetic field experiment at the same time. As another swarm was collected to commence a further series of vertical magnetic field experiments, this second rotational hive experiment was not abandoned but rather modified to now include the introduction of a vertical magnetic field at the end of day 2. This would effectively turn the hive a further 70 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction if our results from the previous experiment were to be believed. The resultant comb alignment after a 10 degree anti-clockwise movement at the end of nine consecutive days, plus the introduction of a vertical magnetic field at the end of day 2, is shown below.

Again a unique alignment has been produced and the construction over the nine day period has some striking similarities to its clockwise cousin, if one allows the gravitomagnetic field to be realigned 90 degrees instead of the 70 degrees by the introduction of the vertical magnetic field.

From the diagrams below, figs 31 - 40, it may be seen that if the gravitomagnet field, indicated by the arrows in red, run horizontally, a change in direction of 90 degrees, and if comb construction follows the lines of this force, there is a direct correlation between figs 21 - 30, and figs 31 - 40

The bees are solving the same puzzle in a similar fashion in each case, namely days 1 - 5, solving the puzzle and days 6 - 10, building the comb. Therefore it would seem that we have two colonies being set the same problem, taking the same time, coming to the same conclusion, under slightly different circumstances, never ever met before. I believe this indicates that these bees have each had original thoughts: the ability of an intelligent life form, capable of intelligent design.
Ian Rumsey

Honey Bee Thermoregulation
My name is Desmond Pierce. I am engaged in a research project examining the internal temperature of a colony of bees. As a small beekeeper, I have kept bees for the better part of 25 years. I would describe myself as a keen enthusiast rather than an expert and hope that this story and data may be of interest to fellow beekeepers.The stock in question and under observation started life during June 2005. It was an amalgamation of approximately five swarms joined together headed by a virgin queen probably heading a cast swarm. I would not do this again nor would recommend it since I believe that the stress induced caused a lowering of resistance to varroa which it contracted about four weeks after establishment.

At first everything went fine. The bees covered ten bars (BN’s) and quickly covered another ten giving a surplus of honey. After the varroa infestation the stock became quickly depleted of bees and following treatment went into winter hardly covering five bars. During late March I inserted a data logger to monitor the stock’s ability to control temperature and see if I could learn something of temperature control not only from the point of view of monitoring a varroa-infected stock, but generally to see if the data could influence hive design and perhaps other aspects.

This research project was part of a web site design I wrote towards my MSc in Internet computing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. Tiny Tag Data loggers very kindly let me have the equipment without charge being mindful of student finances.

From the graph below, you will notice that there is a wild fluctuation of temperature ranges.
This strongly suggests that the stock has little control over the temperature since the size of the cluster cannot expand and contract effectively. A feeding regime began in February using candy. Sugar syrup was given commencing in the third week of March and a total of 100 kilos of sugar was given to 15 colonies over a period of six weeks. The body of the research data is as follows:

The vast majority of biological systems in the living world operate within temperature ranges. For optimum performance, or in the worst case scenario, simply to survive, there are tolerances the outside of which stimulate stress, the inside of which promote 'well-being'. Bees are no exception since they have become through millennia, a highly-evolved social insect, relying on their own number to continue the species from season to season.
Background to the 'Data Hive'

The colony started life during the third and fourth week of June 2005. It is an amalgamation of five cast (a cast is usually a small colony and is a term given to any swarm to emerge from the parent hive after the first has emerged) colonies joined together over a period of three-four days to give sufficient bees to cover ten bars. During the following six weeks, the stock yielded 15 kilos (30 lbs) of honey and then contracted Varroa. In spite of my treating the condition with strips, the colony became depleted of adult working bees, perhaps two thousand bees. From the industrious and productive stock of June, the colony went into Winter covering only 3/4 bars - a size with only a minimum of chances to survive since small stocks cannot contract and expand as can their more robust sister stocks.

Before analysing the data presented in graph format, it is useful to list the exact days on which the stocks were fed sugar and water in the ratio of 2:1 to form a thick syrup This is known as 'stimulative' feeding and encourages the queen to lay eggs. Since it takes six weeks for a bee to emerge from the hive as a fully developed worker and as an adult worker, only has a life span of 20-30 days, it is important for the survival of the colony that laying commences early in the year, usually January-February.

Feeding days/ Amount given to all 15 stocks / Temperature rise following feeding
March 29/06/ 16 kilos(38 lbs) 14-32C
April 3/06/ 16 kilos(38 lbs) 11-25C
April 5/06 / 4 kilos(8.4 lbs) 11-30C
April 14/06/ 9 kilos(20 lbs) 12-30C
April 20/06/ 15 kilos(33 lbs) 17-29C

The rise in temperature closely following an application of syrup strongly suggests that the queen is stimulated to lay eggs.
This involves the process of respiration

The lowest temperature recorded is 0 degrees C and the highest recorded temperature recorded is 35C. This suggests that a small colony has limited control over the temperature variation/control. During the period May 4th - May 12th, there is a marked difference in the extremes of recorded temperatures. Here, the minimum is 20 C and the highest 33 C. This suggests that the colony is now expanding. It has more control over the range. To what extent the outside temperature influences those of the internal ranges could be examined by a dual channel logger.

Is there any body out there who would support my search for more information?

Desmond Pierce

This research article has been sent in by Desmond pierce who explains his research project on honey bee thermoregulation. If anyone out there has similar data or is carrying out similar research, please let us know. Ed.

In last month’s Apis UK I mentioned that one way that the EU deals with bears is to shoot them. The fact that there are so few and that they are a magnificent and generally harmless creature is apparently neither here nor there. Yes, there is a problem with the clashing of interests; man’s use of land and the requirements of wild life; but surely it is in everyone’s interest to use a bit of imagination in solving these problems and to prove that it can be done imaginatively, the Spanish have done just this. They’ve managed to do this in Spain by encouraging bears to attack bee yards and ravage the landscape! Read on.

The Spanish Brown Bear

The brown bears of Spain (Ursus arctos, similar to, but a little smaller than, the American Grizzly) are the last survivors of a population that once inhabited nearly all of the mountains of the Iberian Peninsular. Now this population is in danger of extinction. The reason is an obvious and commonplace one; the conflict of interests between man (including beekeepers), and bears (and other wild life). The largest population in Spain of the brown bear, lives in the hills and mountains of the Asturias and Cantabria in the North of the country, and numbers only some 80 examples. Just 80. The conflict of interests with man still persists and continues to be one of the major threats to the bears’ survival

An apiary destroyed by bears in Spain

Man isn’t the only problem however. Other problems too affect the bears’ habitat. In particular, forest fires and rural depopulation have resulted in many large areas suffering a loss of diversity of wild fruit producing trees and other plants, many of which were previously kept in a good state of conservation because ‘man’ collected the fruits and managed the trees. With rural populations moving to the cities, plantations are not being kept in good order and oaks, apple, pear and especially cherry trees are becoming more and more scarce in the wild. The few that remain are avidly searched out by bears as important food resources all year round. Many traditional farm crops have also been lost as a result of rural depopulation. For centuries, what man produced for himself served as an increasingly important dietary supplement to wildlife populations. Maize crops are an important example.

All in all, the plight of the bear was, and to certain extent still is, dire. All is not lost however. Since the early 80s a small but innovative and imaginative organisation called FAPAS has been working hard to try and resolve these conflicts and provide a strategy for survival for the bears. To work this out, they have enlisted the aid of honeybees. (FAPAS is simply the Spanish initials for ‘Fund for the protection of wild animals’).

Placing a ‘feral’ nest

The food of bears is varied. For the whole of the year bears must search for food but of course in winter, when the bears have young, food is scarce. Some resources though are available in winter; one we all know about being stored honey. But it is not only honey that bees can provide as a food for bears. Varroa has decimated the population of wild bees in these mountain areas, and this lack of ‘wild’ honeybees has had a hugely negative effect on wild fruit production. FAPAS has come up with a series of imaginative ideas to protect these mountain areas by using bees to help bears with their project which is called ‘Beehives for Bears’. The objectives of this project are to revive the population of wild bee colonies in the areas inhabited by bears. This is intended to have two main effects. To provide pollination of those trees providing food for bears, and to provide those bears with a chance of that other favourite food, honey.

An old Stone walled apiary

In much of the countryside beekeepers used to keep their primitive ‘trunk’ or ‘cork’ beehives in stone enclosures to protect them from the ravages of bears. These are now largely abandoned and in many cases some parts of the walls are broken down. FAPAS has acquired various of these in known bear areas and is installing primitive cork hives in them to both help increase the wild bee population and to provide honey for the bears. The broken walls of the enclosures allow the bears to enter the enclosures without too much difficulty and once in, they get their honey by ravaging the hives. The plan is to provide 100 primitive hives in various enclosures distributed over 500 square kilometres between the provinces of Asturias and Leon. 30 of the 80 bears that survive in the North of Spain roam this area. Far away from the bear area and well protected, the organisation has set up a stock yard of 100 more modern hives for bee population re-supply purposes. The result is that the bears receive the benefits of increased fruit (especially cherry) pollination from the increased number of bee colonies, and they also get access to honey as well from the primitive hives in the old stone enclosures.
Of course, this type of project can’t work on its own. FAPAS and other environmental organisations have also worked for compensation for beekeepers that suffer bear damage, and provide a damage verification service for the ministry of agriculture. If FAPAS assess the damage, the regional government provides the compensation more rapidly and with no argument. The organisation also provides equipment; advice and technical assistance on apiary protection from bear damage and have instituted a native tree nursery to produce thousands of wild fruit trees especially cherry for replanting in the wild. Scrub land has been ploughed and replanted with maize and a team of rangers has been created to hunt out and destroy bear traps. In fact they are creating a farming/wilderness environment suitable for ‘ravaging’ by bears. Above all though they have instituted a system of education about bears and other wild life for schools and other groups; and they work closely with other nature conservation groups and government bodies. It needs a big team effort and a lot of education.
So the fight for the bear goes on and the assistance of the bees in helping one of their worst enemies is proving to be invaluable. The Spanish perspective on bears is slightly different from similar organisations in North America in that they are dealing with a species in danger of extinction, but essentially it comes down to finding effective solutions to the problem of management of land resources and the ever increasing 
problem of sharing land between man and nature. Time will tell whether their efforts are successful. But at least they are using their imagination and not their guns.

The full version of this article first appeared in The American Bee Journal Vol 142, No 12, December 2002 written by David Cramp.


This month we are able to look at two books that have re-emerged onto the beekeeping scene.
The first is ‘Producing Royal Jelly’ by Dr. Ron van Toor one of the foremost experts in this field. Price £15.95 plus P&P

This fully illustrated guide to Producing Royal Jelly is both for the commercial operator and the hobbyist beekeeper, so whether you have just one hive or one thousand, this is the book for you. For the commercial operator, even one who already produces royal jelly, the book offers a wealth of information on how to increase production and how best to use your producing hives. For those wanting to start out in royal jelly production the guide tells you exactly how, step by step. It explains what you do on day one, day two, and so on and when you get a rest day and how many hours are required for each task. It really is that detailed and comprehensive. It follows up with harvest methods, storing methods and sales. For the beekeeper with one hive, it explains in as much detail how you can produce royal jelly for the family or just for yourself. Well worth buying for yourself or as a gift.
The book is available from Bassdrum Books at 35 Newborough Road, Wimborne Minster, Dorset BH21 1RB. Email: info@bassdrumbooks.com
Or from Thornes of Wragby at web site www.thorne.co.uk

Our second Book is a welcome reprint of William Kirk’s Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee by IBRA

A Colour Guide to Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee (2nd edition)
by William Kirk

Beekeepers everywhere are fascinated by the sources of pollen brought back to the hive by their bees. Being able to identify the plants producing this pollen is the key to unlocking important information about bee forage in your area. Dr Kirk and his team have painstakingly collected pollen loads from bees from Britain and Germany, giving us surprising evidence of the natural variation in the colours seen at the hive entrance. The guide contains a key of 500 colours, and describes the pollen loads of 268 plant species found in Europe. There is also an account of how this book is useful as a practical guide to pollen identification. The text is given in English, French and German, because of the wide demand for such a book throughout Europe.

The new second edition includes updates and corrections of the first edition. It also benefits from the many advances in colour printing technology that have occurred over the twelve years since the first edition came out in 1994. The new edition is printed more accurately and should replace copies of the first edition, which may have changed colour through fading and paper aging over the intervening period. 

Available from Northern Bee Books, Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge HX7 5JS
At a price of £16 post paid
Phone +44 (0) 1422 882751 Fax +44 (0) 1422 886157 


A healing propolis stick.
This month we take a look at an American healing recipe rather than food. With many of the healing recipes that have been sent to me or that I have read about, it is a wonder that the person on the receiving end doesn’t explode on contact, such is the list of ingredients, but this recipe is simple and effective and should cure rather than kill!

1 tsp (4g) each of almond oil, olive oil and wheatgerm oil.
1/3rd (10g) ounce of cocoa butter
1/3rd ounce of beeswax
1/5th (5g) ounce of propolis. (This should be clean but not processed in any way).

Mix all the ingredients in a bain marie and keep stirring constantly. Any propolis that won’t mix will settle to the bottom of the container and can be used another time.

When well mixed, pour into cylindrical moulds to form a stick. (eg old lipstick containers etc). 
Use on minor skin cracks and irritations, and cold sores. 
Remember that propolis can cause allergic reactions in some.

FACT FILE Back to top


The subject of reproduction among bees has until comparatively recently been a much misunderstood subject; something so mysterious that even the great bee scientists of old such as Swammerdamm were unable to fathom it. The great Virgil in Book IV of the Georgics approaches the subject thus:

Most you shall marvel at this habit peculiar to bees-
That they have no sexual union: their bodies never dissolve
Lax into love, nor bear with pangs the birth of their young.
But all by themselves from leaves and sweet herbs they will gather
Their children in their mouths, keep up the [kingly] succession
And the birth rate, restore the halls and the realms of wax.

There is a flowerTHERE is a flower that bees prefer, 
And butterflies desire; 
To gain the purple democrat 
The humming-birds aspire. 

And whatsoever insect pass,
A honey bears away 
Proportioned to his several dearth 
And her capacity. 

Her face is rounder than the moon, 
And ruddier than the gown
Of orchis in the pasture, 
Or rhododendron worn. 

She doth not wait for June; 
Before the world is green 
Her sturdy little countenance
Against the wind is seen, 

Contending with the grass, 
Near kinsman to herself, 
For privilege of sod and sun, 
Sweet litigants for life.

And when the hills are full,
And newer fashions blow,
Doth not retract a single spice
For pang of jealousy.

Her public is the noon,
Her providence the sun,
Her progress by the bee proclaimed
In sovereign, swerveless tune.

The bravest of the host,
Surrendering the last,
Nor even of defeat aware
When cancelled by the frost. 

Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924

SHORT STORY Back to top

As most plants and animals will soon be genetically modified, why not bees? This short story, or perhaps fantasy récit, gives a brief glimpse of the future and introduces the novel concept of varroa as a protected species! Ed

GM Bees. A concept for the future.
A new queen arrives tomorrow from ABC, the Acme Bee Company. I was so disappointed with last year’s crop of hawthorn honey that I decided to change that queen. ABC are very good they can supply queens which will produce workers designed to gather in honey from one or two specific sources of flowers of your choice. I have one which does the early oil seed rape and the heather but ignores the late rape which overlaps the time that I am preparing to go to the moors and I don’t want to risk contaminating the hive with rape honey.

I suppose we were all quite impressed by the slick salesman who came to one of our meetings to make an introductory presentation of the genetically modified honey bees, or to put it another way, “sell”. Phrases flowed from his lips such as “increased readily harvestable assets” which we took to mean more honey and “the mono-sapidity of the product which would enhance the marketability to a new and wider consumer base” at which point three people walked out having decided that English was not this man’s first language.

ABC, he told us, had, as it were, taken the bee apart genetically and put it back together to a particular design which they could alter at will. The bespoke honeybee had arrived and with it designer honey. The beekeepers pounced on the idea grasping the concept with both hands and swallowing the honeyed sales patter hook, line and queen excluder. ABC issued a list of high nectar producing flowers with their, now genetically controlled, flowering periods. From this list the beekeeper chose any combination he wished, handed over a cheque for an obscene number of “New Euros”, (speedily recoverable from the increased harvestable assets) and waited expectantly for the arrival of “your personally designed colony producer”, (allow 28 days for delivery).
The need of beekeepers in different parts of the country had not been overlooked. Now that the South, more or less below that well-known line from Birmingham to the Wash, had been designated a GM area while the North was “GM Organic”, a concept far too difficult to explain in less than 50 pages, it was possible, indeed essential, to specify GM or GMO tendency for your queen. It had been decided that this was the best way to maintain the integrity of two areas. The alternative it seems would have required a 6 mile wide band of tarmac across the country.

I had also ordered one of the training colony queens since I did a lot of work taking the craft of beekeeping to schools in the area They were excellent because their workers had been so designed that they did not use their sting and so could be handled with total safety and without the need for expensive safety equipment for the whole class. It is a pity that one of the side effects of that modification has been that they don’t collect much honey and so have to be fed almost continuously.

There was a panic when the Large Wax Moth, having been tempted further North by the warmer weather associated with the general climatic changes, reacted badly with the GMO pollen in the Pontefract liquorice fields. The resulting flocks of mutants have now been driven into hiding in the depth of Sherwood Forest where once Robin Hood held sway and where local hunters now stalk them armed, of necessity, with shot guns.
On the plus side, I suppose you could say that Varroa as a parasitic enemy of the bee has now been largely wiped out. The drones, in whose cells they tended to breed, began eating the young before they themselves emerged from the cell. There are now so few of them about that BBKA were last heard of considering whether or not to ask the government to make them a protected species.
Ian S. Copinger.

LETTERS Back to top
To the Editor

Varroa: genus politics!

"The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the 
word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'."

Charles Fryett


11 – 12 August Shrewsbury Flower Show Alongside, the Shropshire Beekeepers Association will be staging fascinating displays, reflecting the wide range of interest in everything to do with bees, from honey to mead and other homemade wines. Members of the association believe that their display at Shrewsbury Show is second only to the annual National Honey Show. 

1 – 3 September The 78th Midlands & South Western Counties Convention of Beekeepers Hothorpe Hall, Theddingworth Nr Lutterworth Leicestershire

1, 2 & 3 September
National Amateur Gardening Show Royal Bath & West Showground at Shepton Mallet

8 - 10 September BIBBA Conference will be held at the University of Bath

9 September Thornes of Windsor Sale Day. Oakley Green Farm, Oakley Green, Nr Windsor. 10am

29 September - 1 October Ruskin Mill College of Further Education, Glos 
“The Hives and Lives of Bees”

7 October The Quekett Microscopical Club ANNUAL EXHIBITION OF MICROSCOPY 
Demonstration Room, Natural History Museum, London. 10-3Oam to 4-3Opm

19 - 21 October The National Honey Show The venue: The RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London, NW9 5LL, UK

28 – 29 October The Countryside Live Yorkshire Honey Show, Harrogate Showground

11 November Kent Beekeeper's Association Autumn Lecture: Beekeeping Challenges for the Future by Ivor Davis, Chairman of the BBKA at West Kent College, Tonbridge


Event Details

Kent Beekeeper's Association Autumn Lecture.
Beekeeping Challenges for the Future by Ivor Davis, Chairman of the BBKA at
West Kent College, Tonbridge. The Kent Beekeeper's Association aims to
inform beekeepers in the South East. As part of a series of important
lectures the group is delighted that Ivor Davis has agreed to talk to us
this autumn. Ivor Davis will focus on the current issues for beekeepers in
the UK, both political and environmental, and bring us up to date on the
negotiations the BBKA is having with the Government and its agencies. He
will then look at the management of varroosis - as this is the key issue
that weakens our colonies and makes them susceptible to other problems. The
lecture will then address future issues including diseases, management
methods and the short term effects of a warmer UK. Ivor will conclude by
suggesting how we beekeepers can ensure that beekeeping remains in a healthy
state in this country and why this is so important for our wellbeing and the
environment. This will be followed by a forum session where you can pose
your own questions, or raise issues that you feel need to be addressed. The
lecture starts at 3pm with doors open at 2pm for refreshments, a browse
around the bookstall and catching up with old friends. Cost £2.00 in advance
or on the door. Cheques should be made payable to KBKA. For further
information and purchase your ticket in advance contact: Terry Hardy, Kent
Education Group Secretary, 6 Springrove Cottages, Goudhurst Road, Marden,
TN12 9JU. Tel: 01622 832066 or theresa.hardy@virgin.net

The Hives and Lives of Bees
Friday 29th September - Sunday 1st October
£85 (Incl all meals & VAT) Venue: Ruskin Mill College of Further
Education, Glos
Following last year's successful workshop, Michael Weiler is returning once
again to lead an event in the UK. A main focus of this year's workshop will
be on the hive. What is the most appropriate way to keep bees? Should they
live in mass produced modern hives, in hand crafted and specially shaped
ones or in old fashioned skeps? Should the hives stand out in the open or be
housed in stone or wooden bee houses? Ruskin Mill College, the educational
establishment hosting this event, is developing a training curriculum for
its students and is particularly interested appropriate hive structures. 

The workshop will explore some of the remarkable phenomena that can be
observed in and around a bee colony as well as addressing the many practical
issues connected with bee keeping. Newcomers as well as experienced bee
keepers are very welcome. 

During the workshop there will be a launch of the English edition of Michael
Weiler's book "Bees and Honey - from Flower to Jar" published by Floris
Books. In this book, previously available only in German, he offers clear
and imaginative insights into bee nature and draws on more than 25 years of
practical bee keeping experience to back them up. Copies will be available
at a special price (and for signing by the author) during the workshop.

Biodynamic Bee Workshop
The Hives and Lives of Bees
Friday 29th September – Sunday 1st October
£85 (Incl all meals & VAT) 

Booking form:

Name: ..............................................................................................

Address:  ..........................................................................................


Post code: .........................

Tel. No.: ............................Email:......................................................

Please send me a list of accommodation in the area 
(own arrangement – not part of workshop fee)

I would like to camp (free of charge) 

Workshop Fee: £85 (including all meals which are vegetarian) 
(Please pay prior to workshop)

NB: If you have any special dietary requirements please state below

Please send this form with payment to: 

BDAA, Painswick Inn Project, Gloucester Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 1QG 


This month’s quote comes from the mouth of a very great literary personage who remains my favourite author. 

So who said this and why?

‘Wherever the bees advanced, the Indians and buffalos retreated.’


Editor: David Cramp Submissions contact the Editor

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