Apis-UK Issue No.47 December 2006

Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news: Resistant Varroa, Go-ahead for GMO potato trials, Bees in Space, Bees and Bombs, The National Honey Show; Research News: Biological Clock of Honey Bee More Similar To Humans Than To Insects, Flower choice matters to bumble bees, Research on the honey bee genome could help breeding programmes, Honey Bee Chemoreceptors Found For Smell And Taste, Egg police state,what makes a bee a bee? Interesting results from the Honey bee Genome Project, The ‘Lucy’ of the bee world, First global estimation of crop production reliant on pollinators; Articles: Bee related web sites of interest, British Beekeepers Association Policy and Guidelines No 1; Recipe of the Month; Fact File: The Arms Race in the Hive and the Dufour’s Gland; Historical Note; Poem of the Month; Short Story: Oh the joys of.... going to the heather! (Ian Copinger); Readers Letters: David Bancalari; Diary of events; Quote of the Month and more.

EDITORIAL Back to top
This edition of Apis UK focuses on the research advances and discoveries made following the mapping of the honeybee genome. In the space of a year, the science of the bee and our understanding of the bee has advanced more quickly than in the last two hundred years. To me this is astonishing. When I started beekeeping in 1990 instructors on the various bee courses that I attended were still giving the type of lecture that would not have surprised the Rev William Cotton who wrote his epic ‘My Bee Book’ in 1842. Bees didn’t like blue hives; Frow mixture was advocated for the Isle of Wight disease which was deemed to be Acarine, and virus diseases were a very grey area indeed and rarely mentioned. Since then each year has shown us more and more about the honeybee and its abilities, but now, there is an explosion of knowledge emanating from research establishments and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with it all. This is where I hope Apis UK is becoming a pivotal publication in keeping beekeepers up to date with all aspects of the craft and science of bees in a readable and understandable form. It is very difficult at times to sort out the wheat from the chaff in all this, but we will do our best to bring you the best and most interesting developments. Certainly, whilst I am editor, we will continue to develop along these lines.

Whilst always looking at the latest science, I find it more than interesting to look back as well and see how our forbears saw bees and beekeeping. This is why we include a historical note, and by looking at these writings we can see that really up until very recently, we used methods hardly different from Columella in ancient Rome. Now though the pace is gathering speed and it is pleasant to go back in time now and again when life was very much more in the slow lane. In this issue, the historical note looks at swarms and Sir John More tells us about the whys and wherefores of their composition. I doubt that our knowledge of swarm dynamics is much in advance of his.

The internet is obviously taking over large parts of our lives and it is interesting to look at the various bee related sites that emerge every now and again, and we mention a couple of sites that are very interesting below. The national Honey Show has taken advantage of web technology to celebrate its 75th anniversary (see below) and has produced a site well worth a visit.

The news items contain amongst them some disturbing news about new GM trials in the country which will no doubt re-ignite all of the controversy about this subject. Will potatoes be the thin end of the wedge for us, and has no one learned from the New Zealand research about the effect of wild pollinators on GM distances and so on. Looking at honey bees only in respect of GM crops could be a fatal mistake.

Another (to me) disturbing area is the use of bees. Inscentinel’s bee sniffer box has now come of age (see news item) and I’m not sure that I really want to see bees cooped up in a box. The idea, although a brilliant concept and of huge practical and beneficial application, sits uneasy with me. What do you think?

Our fact file looks at the deadly arms race that continues in our hives and is every bit as ferocious as the most dedicated of police states of mankind. Nature is indeed brutal in ensuring that order is kept and certainly has decided against our democratic ways.

The strange photo in the last edition of Apis UK was of the marvellous little urn like structure built by a potter wasp in one of my beehives in Spain. Several of the bottom frames had these which seemed to be ignored by the bees. The potter wasps evidently don’t cause any disturbance to the bees and are able to build their nests in peace. See what you think about the photo below!

I hope that you enjoy this last 2006 edition of Apis UK and it remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas and an excellent 2007. The next edition may be a bit late due to the festive season but we’ll do our best.

What is going on here?

All the best

David Cramp

David Cramp. Editor.

Resistant Varroa
The FEDERATION OF BERKSHIRE BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATIONS newsletter reports that pyrethroid resistant varroa has been found in the Marlow area, and advises that an alternative treatment should be used. At the moment only Apiguard is approved for use in this country.

The High Wycombe News Letter reports that tests carried out locally during the summer indicated resistant mites are now in the area. The Associations Marlow Apiary showed only 4% effectiveness using current treatments, or, put another way, almost all the mites survived.

Results from other apiaries included 6% effectiveness at Emmett’s Farm Little Marlow 33% at Monkton Farm (Marlow Bypass), jumping to 80% upwards in apiaries around Flackwell Heath.

Go-ahead for GMO potato trials
The farm and environment ministry reports that it has given the go-ahead for research trials on disease resistant genetically modified potatoes.
German chemicals group BASF will be allowed to hold trials on two sites in England, starting next year. The GMO potatoes, which have been developed to be resistant to potato blight, will not be used for food or animal feed. There has been strong opposition among consumers in Britain to the use of GMOs in food crops. Environment Minister Ian Pearson said in a statement that an independent assessment had concluded the trials did not give rise to any safety concerns. Several scientists welcomed the news.

"Potato blight was the cause of the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s and is still a problem in farming today -- one which is prevented by chemical spraying with fungicides," Chris Leaver, plant sciences professor at Oxford University. "In my opinion using a natural biological method to control blight is better than using chemicals," he added.

The largest organic certification body, the Soil Asssociation, said, however, it was dismayed by the decision, adding there would be no market for GMO potatoes in Britain. "The government is ignoring what consumers want to eat and their health and safety...The chances of anyone in the UK willingly buying GM potato crisps or chips are zero. This trial is a monumental waste of time and money," Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said. Similar trials are already under way in three other European countries.

Bees in Space
In an interesting item in the Times on 18 October, it seems that bees may hold the key to the exploration of Mars. Nasa is evidently funding research into how bees navigate around flowers. If they can gain an understanding of this, they believe that they will then be able to apply that knowledge in the development of a lightweight unmanned aircraft which would be able to explore the planet more efficiently and faster than ground vehicles. They believe that they can translate the bees’ ability to store complex navigational maps in a tiny sized brain into a silicon facsimile. Nasa has given Professor Mandyam Srinivasan of the Australian national University 1.8 million to find out how the brains perform their complex tasks.

Bees and Bombs
Last year we first reported on Inscentinel’s new device which uses bees held in a box to detect explosives. The device has now been tested by American scientists and has proved so successful that the small British company is set to cash in when its box full of computer technology that turns honeybees into bomb detectors goes into mass production. The boxes could be on duty at airports, train stations and other terror targets within a year, say the scientists. Los Alamos sniffer squad trainer Tim Haartman, an entomologist - insect specialist - at the lab, said: "The technology is there. It's just a case of putting it into production."

Inscentinel's managing director Stephen James thought this could be harnessed to monitor food in warehouses and detect when it is going bad, but then discovered that as well as food and flowers, bees recognise just about anything that has the slightest smell, raising the prospect of detecting explosives. They trained the bees to only extend the proboscis when smelling a particular explosive, conditioning them by giving them a reward of sugared water when they responded correctly.

Inscentinel showed the US scientists that the bees can be trained to sniff out anything from home-made fertilizer bombs, through demolition dynamite to C-4 plastic explosives and unlike sniffer dogs which require three months training, it takes 10 minutes to train the bees.

After training three or four bees are put in a shoebox-sized "sniffer box", held in position on plastic mountings. Air is sucked by a fan into the box via plastic tubes and wafts gently over the bees. If they detect explosives in the air, the trained bees all stick out their proboscises together. A miniature video camera in the box is trained on them and is connected to a computer programmed with movement recognition software. As soon as the movement of the proboscises is detected, an alarm sounds to alert the security operator. To avoid false alarms from rogue results, a single bee sticking out its tongue does not set the system off.

The idea would be to use the box at a security checkpoint, waving it around a person being checked, in the same way electric wands are used as security scanners at airports.

Now Inscentinel and Los Alamos researchers are looking into other uses for sniffer bees, like detecting dry rot in old buildings, and drugs smugglers at airports. Interestingly, the scientists have discovered that feeding them caffeine improves their memory, and using this discovery, they want to breed an explosive sniffing super-bee. Inscentinel Managing Director Stephen James said: "Bees are incredibly versatile and their potential uses are enormous."

The National Honey Show
The National Honey Show has just celebrated its 75th anniversary with another successful display at the popular venue of the RAF museum, and in celebration of this has produced a series of photos on its web site that play to the music of an acoustic guitar by Steve Mac. The site at http://www.honeyshow.co.uk/ will display all.
Do visit the site which gives those who were unable to attend a taste of the show. The venue is excellent in providing ease of access, plenty of free parking and a great day out for families at the show and the exciting hands on museum.


Mrs J Tinsey with her winning display. (Photo courtesy of the Honey show web site).
The popular RAF museum at Hendon is the site of the National Honey Show and offers easy access, easy parking and a great day out for the family. Be sure to visit it next year.


RESEARCH NEWS  Back to top
Biological Clock of Honey Bee More Similar To Humans Than To Insects
Following on from our report above, on the findings and results of mapping the honey bee genome, new research undertaken by a group from the Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found that the molecular structure of the biological clock of the honey bee is more similar to the biological clock of mammals than to that of flies.

The researchers found that the molecular structure of the biological clock of the honey bee is more similar to the biological clock of mammals than to that of flies.
If you want to research your own circadian rhythm, look up how to do so at:

The research identified and characterized the key genes involved in the biological clock of bees. The biological clock is an internal system in the bodies of living creatures that creates circadian rhythms, derived from the Latin expression circa dies that means “about one day.” The critical role of the circadian clock stems from its influence on many processes, such as time of alertness and fatigue, activity rhythms, cyclic changes in body temperature and the secretion of hormones. Bees rely on the biological clock for timing visits to flowers when nectar and pollen flow is at its highest. They can learn to reach flowers at nine different points of time during the day within an accuracy of about 20 minutes. The clock is also essential for navigation that uses the sun as a compass because the sun moves during the day from east to west. The central biological clock is located in the brain and is made up of groups of “clock cells,” each of which is capable of creating a circadian rhythm independently. These circadian rhythms are generated by complex interactions between “clock genes” that accumulate in the cells and eventually close a cycle of about 24 hours when they shut down their own production. The genes which were isolated by the research team are responsible for this process in bees. Discovering that molecular characteristics of the biological clock in bees is closer to the biological clock of mammals than that of flies was a big surprise, since previously it had been thought that there is one type of clock that is typical of insects and another typical of mammals and the results changed the researchers understanding of the evolution of circadian clocks. The discovery raises many additional questions concerning the evolution of biological clocks and the significance of differences in the organization of the clock in different creatures. For example, why is the clock of bees closer to humans than that of flies? Is the similarity between bees and mammals related to the behavioural complexity of bees? How did the clock of ancestral insects work: was it more similar to that of bees or flies? Characterization of the genes in the clock of the bee opens up new directions of research concerning the understanding of the molecular base of complex behaviors, such as sun-compass navigation, time sensing, flexibility in circadian rhythms, and social regulation of the circadian clock. Another reason that research on the evolution and function of clock genes is important, is that these genes are involved in a variety of illnesses, such as mental disturbances, alcoholism, problems of overweight and drug addition, as well as in processes relating to aging. The findings of the research were published on Oct. 26 in an article describing the honey bee genome sequence in Nature and in a companion paper in Genome Research.

Flower choice matters to bumble bees
Bees are vital players in determining which plant populations survive through successful reproduction. If scientists could better understand nature’s decision-making process, then they could use the information to increase crop yields and to boost conservation of native plant communities. It is this that has prompted some very thorough and time consuming research by Rebecca Flanagan, a graduate student of the University of Wisconsin. In this research outlined in a very illuminating free newsletter dated 29 October from the university, we can see that flowers do differ in their mating plans, and that bumble bee flight patterns are not so random.

Flanagan, a graduate student in biological sciences, and Associate Professor Jeffrey Karron are studying the behaviours of bees as they gather pollen – which plant species the bees forage on, which flowers they probe and in what order, and how many blooms they visit before moving on to another plant.
To predict where each bee that she tracks will carry its pollen next, Flanagan has to literally think like one.

“Once they’ve learned a foraging style that’s been successful, they are more likely to stick with it rather than invest time in learning something new,” says Flanagan.
But why go to such lengths to map the flight of the bumblebee? It may seem random and inconsequential. But it is neither, says Karron.

Because there are many bee behaviours, the task isn’t simple, but can be documented. “Bumblebees definitely have distinct foraging patterns, both among species and even individuals of a single species,” Karron says. In fact, some of the many different behaviours lead to far more fruitful propagation than others.
To understanding foraging patterns, the team must manipulate every variable they can feasibly control in a natural setting. But the experimental garden they keep at the UWM Field Station in the Cedarburg Bog is far from the sterile laboratory, and the complexity of their experiments becomes immediately evident: There are more options here than clothes in a teenage girl’s closet.

Nonetheless, Karron and his research group have developed an unparalleled data set by testing the effects of various combinations of plant species on their reproductive patterns.
Karron’s research centres on the reproductive biology of monkeyflower, a wetland plant native to Wisconsin. Karron’s lab uses several innovative methods of tracking monkey flower mating, and all hinge on where the pollen comes from. Pollen allows the flowers, which contain both male and female reproductive organs, to produce seeds. Plants can only produce seeds from their own species’ pollen. The pollen from another species deposited on a monkeyflower, for example, is simply wasted. The most effective reproduction occurs through cross-pollination – when pollen deposited on a flower is brought from a different plant of the same species, either from one pollen donor or many. When pollen is spread from one flower to another on the same plant – called self-pollination – seed production is considerably lower and the resulting seedlings are much less vigorous.

Using genetic analysis to establish paternity, Karron has demonstrated that adjacent flowers differ markedly in their mating patterns. “It’s amazing what we’ve found,” he says. “When a bee visits the first flower on a plant, 80 percent of the seeds are cross-pollinated. But by the time the bees have landed on the fourth flower on that plant, 90 percent of the seeds are self-pollinated.”

Flanagan has taken the research of Karron a step further by testing whether the inclusion of purple loosestrife, an invasive weed that chokes wetlands, will affect the seed production of monkeyflower. She has set out the garden in a grid of numbered holes. In this way, she can rotate the kinds of potted plants that are dropped in each morning and the density of each species in the plot. On any given day, Flanagan will trim the plants so that each has the same number of flowers on it. Then she tracks one bee at a time, calling out its exact foraging sequence by number to her undergraduate assistant, Dustin Knutowski, who charts the path.
In the time she has spent working at the garden, she says, the invader plant is the heavier “bee magnet.” And if that’s the case, purple loosestrife is luring pollinators away from the native plants. To investigate her hunch further, Flanagan added a third wetland species to the garden – a native plant known as “great blue lobelia.” So far, the bees continue their strong attraction to purple loosestrife. “This preference for purple loosestrife or other exotics could threaten reproduction of native plants and have devastating effects on ecosystems,” Karron says.
Who’s your daddy?

Calculating paternity could be a nightmare. Because pollen from multiple monkey flower plants can be deposited during a single bee visit, seeds produced by one flower can be “sired” by pollen from up to nine different plants.

So Karron uses genetic markers to unambiguously determine which plant fathered each of the thousands of seeds he samples. He is working backwards to get at the same question Flanagan seeks – where the bees have been.

He divides each of the plants in the garden to create an exact copy of each population.

Imagine having 20 sets of identical twins, he says, and dividing them into two groups that are exact copies of one another. That is what Karron has done with his garden, only he has produced many identical sets so that he can subject them to different ecological conditions. Karron is proud of the fine level of detail his techniques have produced. His research group was the first to demonstrate that mating patterns differ dramatically among individual flowers and the first to show that the presence of competing plant species influences mating patterns. “Using multiple strategies,” he says, “we are able to answer questions that no one else has.”

This article has been adapted from a newsletter provided by the University of Wisconsin USA.

Research on the honey bee genome could help breeding programmes.
With more and more concern being expressed about the decline in pollinators and the subsequent affect on our food production programmes and economic impact, scientists are actively looking at ways of improving honey bee breeding in order to stay ahead of the game. The research into the mapping of the honey bee genome reported in that excellent report in Nature on 26 October has given scientists many new insights into breeding and some scientists are working hard to reap the benefits of the study.

Bumblebees definitely have distinct foraging patterns, both among species and even individuals of a single species.

Three years ago, scientists pinpointed a gene called csd that determines gender in honey bees, and now a research team led by University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Jianzhi “George” Zhang has unravelled details of how the gene evolved. The new insights could prove useful in designing strategies for breeding honey bees, which are major pollinators of economically important crops.

Scientists have long known (as have beekeepers) that in bees—as well as wasps, ants, ticks, mites and some 20 percent of all animals—unfertilized eggs develop into males, while females typically result from fertilized eggs. But that was not the whole story, and the discovery in 2003 of csd (the complementary sex determination gene) helped fill in the blanks. The gene has many versions, or alleles. Males inherit a single copy of the gene; bees that inherit two copies, each a different version, become female. Bees that have the misfortune of inheriting two identical copies of csd develop into sterile males but are quickly eaten at the larval stage by female worker bees. The system works fine in nature, where it prevents the colony from wasting precious energy and resources on abnormal males incapable of carrying out the all-important role of mating. But in bees raised for honey or for pollinating crops, the sex-determination system can cause problems. Beekeepers inbreed bees to select desirable traits, but inbreeding raises the odds of producing fertilized eggs with two copies of the same csd allele. If too many sterile males result, the colony may die out. If we know more details about how many alleles there are and what their frequencies are, bee breeders can design better strategies to avoid producing sterile males. This research work helps in this effort by providing a direct tool to examine alleles from different populations. In the research, Zhang and co-workers from U-M, Michigan State University and the University of Kansas sequenced csd genes from individuals in three closely related species of honey bee: the familiar backyard denizen Apis mellifera and the Asian honey bees Apis dorsata and Apis cerana. The group also sequenced six so-called neutral regions of the genome which, unlike genes, do not carry codes telling cells how to make proteins. Then, the researchers constructed gene genealogies—family trees for both the csd gene and the neutral regions.

Their results showed that csd is about seven times more variable than neutral regions of the honey bee genome. In addition, many csd variants are shared among the three species, evidence that the many different alleles have been preserved in these lineages for a very long time. Such a pattern supports the idea that an evolutionary mechanism known as balancing selection has been at work. Evolution works through the process of natural selection, in which genetic mutations that offer some advantage are favored, and those that have harmful effects are weeded out. Typically, this results in one version of a gene becoming very common and other versions becoming rare or disappearing altogether. When balancing selection operates, however, natural selection favours a diverse mix of alleles, as seen with csd in honey bees.

Honey Bee Chemoreceptors Found For Smell And Taste.
The genome map of the honey bee has resulted in the discovery of a huge amount of information as is evident from the other reports in this issue. Many of these findings are very surprising such as the small number of taste receptors in the bee, considering that nectar and pollen sources are so important to their survival, and new explanations are coming to the for to explain why.

In this piece of research, Hugh Robertson, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. and an affiliate of the university’s Institute for Genomic Biology, has studied the honey bee’s chemoreceptors for smell and taste and has found that honey bees have a much better sense of smell than fruit flies or mosquitoes, but a much worse sense of taste.

He has found that “the recently completed honey bee genome reveals a remarkable expansion of the insect odorant receptor family compared with those found in fruit flies or mosquitoes. The bee genome also reveals far fewer gustatory receptors—those used for the sense of taste—than we had anticipated.”
In work funded by the National Institutes of Health and reported in the Oct. 26 issue of the journal Genome Research, Robertson and postdoctoral research associate Kevin W. Wanner identified the family of honey bee chemoreceptors that deals with smell and taste. Honey bees (Apis millifera) have 170 odorant receptors, the researchers found, compared with 62 in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and 79 in mosquitoes (Anopheles gramblae).

It is not surprising that the enhanced number of odorant receptors underlies the honey bee’s remarkable olfactory abilities, including perception of pheromones, kin recognition signals, and social communication within the hive. Honey bees also use odour recognition for finding food.
“Foraging worker bees might encounter a bewildering number of flowers to choose from, but they can discriminate between them using subtle olfactory cues,” Robertson said. “A large number of odorant receptors allows the bees to find food and communicate its location to other bees.”
However, in striking contrast, the researchers found only 10 gustatory receptors in A. millifera, compared with 68 in D. melanogaster and 76 in A. gramblae. The low number of gustatory receptors for the sense of taste was unexpected, Robertson said, but can be explained. “Honey bees have a beneficial, non-antagonistic relationship with plants, so plants don’t have to defend themselves with toxins,” Robertson said. “And in the nurturing environment of the hive, bee larvae are provisioned by adults with food that is pretty much free of toxins. Since the bees don’t have to detect toxins, they don’t need many gustatory receptors.”

Bees don’t expect these plants to be toxic thus obviating the need for large numbers of gustatory receptors.

While honey bees don’t need many taste buds, they do require an excellent sense of smell to detect chemical signals, such as pheromones, that control bee behaviour inside and outside the hive. As we all know for example, the sole task of male drone bees is to mate with virgin queen bees, and so the male’s antennae are specifically designed for the detection of queen pheromone.

“We have identified several honey bee odorant receptors that are abundantly expressed in male antennae,” Robertson said. “This moves us an important step closer to understanding the molecular details of how bees, and insects in general, smell.”
(This adapted report came from a Free newsletter of the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. USA).

Egg police state,what makes a bee a bee?
In an interesting piece of research which casts light on the order and function of a honey bee colony, Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sheffield, UK, and Tom Wenseleers of the Catholic University of Leuven in Holland studied nine species of
social wasps and the honeybee. The workers in all of the colonies have functional ovaries and could lay eggs, but instead they usually raise the offspring of the queen. Why would they do this?

These neatly laid queen eggs are safe from the police. But why?

The answer is the "egg police". Wenseleers and Ratnieks found that the more effective the policing, where the queen or worker "police" eat worker-laid eggs, the lower the likelihood of a renegade worker laying its own egg (This from a report in Nature, vol 444, p 50). They found that in honeybee colonies, the policing was so good, with 98 to 100 per cent of worker-laid eggs killed, that less than one in a thousand workers tried to lay an egg.
Where policing was slack as in some wasp colonies, nearly half the workers laid eggs, especially in cases where the workers were closely related. When workers were not closely related they policed each other more strictly.
(New Scientist magazine, 01 November 2006).

(But what prompts the ‘egg police’ to eat non queen eggs? There must be some kind of marker which says ‘I’m not a queen egg, eat me.’ See the fact file for a look at this question). Ed.

WHAT MAKES A BEE A BEE? Interesting results from the Honey bee Genome Project
A research consortium, supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in the USA, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced the publication of a high-quality draft genome sequence of the western honey bee, finding that its genome is more similar to humans than any insect sequenced thus far.

Why study the honey bee genome?
The honey bee’s social behaviour makes it an important model for understanding how genes regulate behaviour through the development of the brain and central nervous system. That may lead to important insights into common mental and brain disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, the bee genome may also provide an important window into immunity and aging.
In a paper published in Nature, the Honey Bee Genome Consortium, researchers describe the approximately 260 million DNA base pair genome of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Over 40 other companion manuscripts describing further detailed analyses are in current issues of Insect Molecular Biology, Genome Research, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), and other journals. “Comparing the genome of the honey bee with other species separated over evolutionary time from humans has provided us with powerful insights into the complex biological processes that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years,” said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The genome of the honey bee has been added to a growing list of organisms whose sequence can be compared side by side to better understand the structure and functions of our own genes. And that will help speed our understanding of how genes contribute to health and what goes wrong in illness.”
Although only 9 percent the size of the 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, the honey bee contains nearly half as many genes as the human genome, more than 10,000 in the bee compared to around 20,000 genes in the human.
The honey bee is the third insect to have its genome sequenced and analyzed. The malaria-carrying mosquito was completed in 2002 and the fruit fly an extensively used model organism in genetics research, was completed in 2000. The honey bee genome is 50 percent larger than fruit fly genome but contains roughly the same number of genes.
In the analysis, the researchers report that the honey bee has evolved more slowly than the fruit fly or mosquito and contains 10,157 known genes. Researchers caution that this gene count will increase as other insects are sequenced and compared to the honey bee in the future. When compared to other insects, the honey bee genome contains fewer genes involved in innate immunity, detoxification enzymes, and gustatory (taste) receptors, but unsurprisingly it contains more genes for olfactory receptors and novel genes for nectar and pollen utilization.
Interestingly, the honey bee genome shows greater similarities to vertebrates than insects for genes involved in circadian rhythm, as well as biological processes involved in turning genes on or off.

Other Interesting findings from the Nature paper include:

• Researchers discovered nine genes in the “royal jelly protein family” which appear in the honey bee genome but not the mosquito genome. These genes have gained new functions through evolution and are believed to contribute to the sociality of the honey bee. Royal jelly is produced by glands in the head of adult worker bees and is an important nutritional component in queen and brood care. This process is vital in the early development of a honey bee and determines whether it becomes a queen or an altruistic worker.
Researchers discovered nine genes in the ‘royal jelly protein family which have gained new functions through evolution.

(Photo Ron van Toor and taken from his book Producing Royal Jelly
Bassdrum Books 2006).
• All organisms’ genomes contain common types of transposons, small DNA sequences that move around in a genome that can cause mutations, but there are substantially fewer transposons in the honey bee genome. To understand why the honey bee has so few transposons, researchers will need to obtain genomes from insects more closely related to the honey bee than the insect genomes that already have been studied.
• While the honey bee shares similar genes with other insects in developmental pathways, there is a dramatic difference in how these genes influence sex determination, brain function and behaviour.
• In most organisms, high fertility is achieved at the expense of lifespan. This process is regulated by a gene for insulin-like growth factor. However, researchers discovered that queen honey bees are able to achieve high fertility without affecting their lifespan. Future experiments studying this biological pathway could uncover how this process has been modified in the honey bee, giving insights into human reproduction and human aging.

In addition to its value as a resource for comparative genomics, the honey bee is widely used in agricultural and biomedical research. The honey bee is valued by farmers for its ability to produce honey and pollinate crops. Beside its importance in agriculture, the honey bee serves as a model organism for studying human health issues including immunity, allergic reaction, antibiotic resistance, development, mental health, longevity and diseases of the X chromosome. The honey bee is also studied for its social instincts and behavioural traits. This report has been taken and adapted from a report published in the Oct. 26 issue of Nature. (If you are interested in far more detail concerning the honey bee genome, please look up the Honeybee Genome Project at the Baylor College of Medicine).

The ‘Lucy’ of the bee world
Genome map helps with bee genealogy study.
“Every honey bee alive today had a common ancestor in Africa” is one conclusion drawn by a team of scientists that probed the origin of the species and the movements of introduced populations, including African “killer” bees in the New World.
Entomologist Charles A. Whitfield led the research team that says “every honey bee alive today had a common ancestor in Africa.”

“Our analysis indicates that the honey bee, Apis mellifera, originated in Africa and spread into Europe by at least two ancient migrations,” said Charles W. Whitfield, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is the lead author of a paper to appear in the Oct. 27 issue of the journal Science.
“The migrations resulted in two European populations that are geographically close, but genetically quite different,” Whitfield said. “In fact, the two European populations are more related to honey bees in Africa than to each other.”
To explore the movements of bee populations, the researchers used simple variations in DNA called SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers. An SNP marker can tell you a lot about which bee is related to which bee, and where a particular bee came from. While previous studies relied upon a handful of markers, the researchers this time used the recently sequenced honey bee genome to locate and compare 1,136 markers. The vast increase in markers provided a level of detail never before possible in the genetic analysis of honey bees. The genus Apis is composed of 10 species, nine of which are confined to Asia. The one exception, A. mellifera, is distributed from sub-Saharan Africa to Central Asia to Northern Europe, and has more than two dozen distinct geographical subspecies.
In the New World, introductions of the western and northern European subspecies A. mellifera mellifera began in North America as early as 1622. This was followed by introductions of at least eight additional subspecies from different parts of Europe, the Near East and northern Africa. In 1956, a subspecies from the savannahs of Africa, A. m. scutellata, was introduced to Brazil in an attempt to increase honey production. The descendants of these African honey bees rapidly spread northward and southward from Brazil, hybridizing with and displacing previously introduced European honey bees.
“Clearly, these African ‘killer’ bees are more aggressive and exhibit other traits that beekeepers and bee breeders dislike,” Whitfield said. “By studying variation in the honey bee genome, we can not only monitor the movement of these bees, we can also identify the genes that cause the variations—and that will allow us to better understand the differences.”

First global estimation of crop production reliant on pollinators
Pollinators help one-third of the world’s food crop production
Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, finds a new study published in October, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The study was co-authored by a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Native bees and wasps, bats, butterflies and humming birds are important pollinators in their own rights, but also help honey bees in the all important business of crop/food pollination. The tiny fig wasp shown above has a remarkable lifestyle and is worth looking up at: www.pbs.org

This study is the first global estimate of crop production that is reliant upon animal pollination. It comes one week after a National Research Council (NRC) report detailed the troubling decline in populations of key North American pollinators, which help spread the pollen needed for fertilization of such crops as fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices and oilseed.

Of particular concern in the report was the decline of the honey bee, a critical pollinator for California’s almond industry. The report pointed out that it takes about 1.4 million colonies of honey bees to pollinate 550,000 acres of this state’s almond trees.

In an effort to better understand how dependent crop production is upon pollinators worldwide, an international research team led by Alexandra-Maria Klein, an agro-ecologist from the University of Goettingen in Germany, conducted an extensive review of scientific studies from 200 countries and for 115 of the leading global crops. Claire Kremen, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, is co-author of this new study.
There’s a widely stated phrase in agriculture in the USA that says ‘you can thank a pollinator for one out of three bites of food you eat’. As it wasn’t clear where that calculation came from, the researchers set out to do a more thorough and reproducible estimate, deciding to look at the impact on a global scale.”
What the researchers found fell in line with the saying. Out of the 115 crops studied, 87 depend to some degree upon animal pollination, accounting for one-third of crop production globally. Of those crops, 13 are entirely reliant upon animal pollinators, 30 are greatly dependent and 27 are moderately dependent. The crops that did not rely upon animal pollination were mainly staple crops such as wheat, corn and rice.

The report notes that honey bees in North America have been decimated by infestations of parasitic mites that were inadvertently introduced to the United States. In addition, honey bees are battling antibiotic-resistant pathogens and competition from Africanized honey bees.

It is also evident that honey bees, particularly ones in the wild versus those in managed hives, are negatively impacted by disease, habitat loss and a variety of non-sustainable farming practices. These impacts also affect native species of wild bees. There are 4,000 species of native bees in North America alone.
The researchers say that in essence, man has replaced pollination services formerly provided by diverse groups of wild bees, with domesticated honey bees. One of the researchers recently co-authored another study showing that wild bees interacting with honey bees can lead to a five-fold increase in pollination efficiency. (Reported in the last issue of Apis UK). “The problem is, if we don’t protect the wild pollinators, we don’t have a backup plan.”

It is suggested in the report that an approach to a more sustainable form of agriculture, one that de-emphasizes the use of synthetic fertilizers and builds in more of a reliance on natural ecosystems. Some changes may involve mere tweaks to current practices, such as allowing weeds and native plants to grow and prosper along the border of the primary crop. Such non-crop plants, which are currently killed off by herbicides, can sustain a variety of wild bee species when the primary crops are not in bloom. Another change could be to switch from flood irrigation, which drowns bee species that nest in the ground, to spray irrigation when feasible.
The study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B highlights what is at stake if steps to improve pollinator biodiversity are not taken and gives the example of passion fruits in Brazil which are hand-pollinated by expensive day-labourers because the natural pollinators, carpenter bees, are hardly available because of high insecticide use in the agricultural fields and the destruction of the natural habitats. It was noted that in the cities of Brazil, the high prices for fruits and vegetables are pushing people to turn to less healthy alternatives, including fatty meats and sugar products, contributing to rising obesity rates.

The stability of crop yields not only depends on pollination, but also on further ecosystem services, so what is needed are landscapes carefully managed for a diversity of functionally important groups of organisms that sustain many important ecosystem services such as pollination, pest, pathogen and weed control, and decomposition.

(This study was also supported by the Sixth European Union Framework programme).

ARTICLES  Back to top
Bee related web sites of interest
English Honey

English honey at http://www.englishhoney.co.uk/ have produced a site which has two aims, to grow a data base of individual beekeepers’ web sites to help readers find locally produced honey and beekeepers services, (such as swarm catching etc), and to provide a beekeeper's 'milestone experiences for those who maybe considering taking up this fascinating artisan skill.
A visit to this interesting site will hopefully put you in touch with the founder, Wenden’s Ambo beekeeper Caroline Guthrie who will be pleased to welcome you to her informative site.
There is a need for a site like this and it would be an excellent and useful PR exercise for beekeeping generally if the site is a success. The public do need more information about local honey sources and swarm catching services and certainly those currently charged with informing the public such as the town council offices etc are woefully inadequate. Join up and make the site work for both beekeepers and the public.

Mellifica is Hubert Guerriat’s Belgian web site and takes the form of a magazine in the French language. Take a look at www.mellifica.be This month the main subject is the geography of the NW European Black bee (including the UK0 and its conservation. Hubert’s details are as follows:

Hubert Guerriat
asbl Mellifica
Rue du tilleul 19
B - 5630 Daussois
+32 (0)71 613096

Information sheet no. 5

Melbourne, Australia 9 – 14 September, 2007

With registrations now open on our website at www.apimondia2007.com , it is pleasing to report that as at 24 November 2006 we have 24 delegates registered. The first registration came from Belgium.

The countries represented so far are Australia, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. We want you to register so we can add your country to the list from which delegates are coming.


The Organising Committee recently visited the site for the Technical Tour day on the Friday of Apimondia. The program being devised is very exciting and will have something for everyone. More details will be published on the website soon.

The Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre was also visited to firm up the program and this venue will provide a world class venue for Apimondia 2007.


Have you started thinking about what you will enter in the World Honey Show? Any delegate can enter the competition. Make sure you start early and do not miss out on an opportunity to showcase your honey or wax to the world.


It may seem a long way off but for those coming to Australia from overseas please visit the website and look at the Travel Information. You will need to obtain a visa to come to Australia and, except for New Zealand residents, this visa must be obtained before leaving home. Secure your visa early to avoid any delays.

Trevor Weatherhead (Organising Committee) queenbee@gil.com.au

If you no longer wish to receive these information sheets,
please contact Trevor Weatherhead at the email address above.


British Beekeepers Association Policy and Guidelines No 1
Introduction to the document
The BBKA wants children and vulnerable people to enjoy their involvement with the fascinating life of honeybees. It is important that we inform, educate and enthuse children giving them a greater understanding of the vital part honey bees play in the environment.

This document is in two sections.
The first deals with the Policy of the BBKA and its applicability, the second with ‘best practice’ Guidelines to be followed where children are involved with BBKA beekeeping activities in any form. A model consent form is also supplied for use where appropriate.

The Policy and Guidelines are there to help you to provide the expected protection of children and vulnerable adults and to avoid situations in which well-intentioned actions could be misinterpreted.

The Policy does not contain any complete definition of what is ‘an abuse’; to prepare a rigorous ‘legal’ definition would prove difficult and is unlikely to include all possible circumstances. It does state some obvious types of abuse and how these might be extended in particular conditions. In any event, future legal decisions would soon make any definition obsolete.

In the Policy and Guidelines document children and vulnerable adults are collectively referred to as “children” in the interests of readability of this policy, although the great differences in needs must not be forgotten.

British Beekeepers Association Policy and Guidelines

No 1
Working with Children and Vulnerable people

1. The Policy
Through this Policy the BBKA aims to:
•  Adopt the highest possible child protection standards and
•  Take all reasonable steps in relation to the safety and welfare of the children with whom we come into contact in relation to our activities within the BBKA and its Member Associations.

Treat everyone with respect. THIS IS THE GOLDEN RULE.
Any mis-use of power could
be regarded as an abuse.

•  Not physically, emotionally or sexually abuse any child or young or vulnerable person.
•  Take all reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of any child in contact with the BBKA.
•  Remember that children regard adults as role models and ensure your behaviour, language, gestures etc. are appropriate and above reproach.
•  Be aware of Child Protection issues in relation to the work you do and do not become complacent.
•  Ensure that no adult is ever normally alone with a child.
•  Prevent any other person from putting any child in a situation in which there is a significant risk to their health and safety.
•  Take appropriate action if you become aware of anyone physically, emotionally or sexually abusing a child.
•  Report any evidence or reasonable suspicion that a child has been physically, emotionally or sexually abused whether by an adult or another child to the Local Authority Social Services Child Protection Team.

The policy applies to:
Any member of the BBKA or a BBKA Member Association whose beekeeping activities brings them into contact with children. This may include:

•  Organised visits to the apiary.
•  Children attending training courses.
•  Children undertaking correspondence courses. (This counts as ‘contact’.)
•  Children attending shows or events, possibly as part of ‘Education Days’.

The BBKA expects you to apply this Policy to all of your work with children and vulnerable people. You have a duty to do everything reasonable in your power to ensure the safety and welfare of children while they are in contact with the BBKA and to act in accordance with the guidelines below.

Discussion of Child Protection
Open discussion of Child Protection should be encouraged since this helps to make members more comfortable with the issues involved. Do not keep it ‘under wraps’ for fear of upsetting or embarrassing people.

This section gives general Guidelines, if you have any doubt about best practice in any specific area, contact your Local Authority Social Services Child Protection Team for further advice.

A. Scope of your Responsibilities

1. Where children are accompanied by responsible adults, e.g. parent, teacher, or other group leader, primary responsibility for the children should lie with that person. The beekeeper remains responsible for safe beekeeping within the apiary.
If, owing to illness or another unexpected event a BBKA member is left in charge of a child or group then they should act in accordance with this Policy and Guidelines.

2. You should NOT undertake activities where you are the only adult present with children. In all cases:

•  Plan the activities and make decisions during the event following the principles set out in this Policy and Guidelines
•  Assign clear tasks to others involved in the children’s activities, ensure that there is clear understanding as to which adults have responsibility for each aspect of Child Protection and that procedures are followed, Maintain appropriate child-to-adult ratios as required by the relevant Local Authority (the guidelines for local schools for the appropriate age group are the best guide) and ensure that your decisions are based on the principles described in the Guidelines in this document.
This must underpin your main aim of providing an enjoyable and safe experience for the children.

3. Non-beekeeping Volunteers at an event.
Offers of help are always welcome and should be encouraged. However, take considerable care if the volunteer is not very well-known to you or you have the slightest reason for concern. When a volunteer assists to work with children they must have read the Policy and Guidelines and agree to work in accordance with it.

B. Emergency Aid or First Aid
A first aider should be in attendance, together with a mobile phone (which works at that location) and vehicle, if appropriate, in case of emergency. Members should follow the advice given in BBKA publications concerning emergency aid. (See references at end). Permission to treat the child must be obtained, if possible, from both the responsible adult and the child. Ideally, the responsible adult should have obtained their own prior, explicit permission (or otherwise) to administer First Aid to the child. Failing this, it is best to obtain permission to carry out emergency aid in advance of a problem occurring using a simple permission form. (See the example at the end of this document.) Your Local Authority Education Department has guidance forschools which could be used. Make a written record of all First Aid given, regardless of who administers it.

C. Dealing with allegations of abuse
It is to be hoped that you will never have to deal with an alleged incident of child abuse, but it is sensible that you are prepared to do so if necessary. You have a responsibility to report ANY concerns regarding the welfare of children and vulnerable persons.

There are three likely scenarios which you should be aware of and be prepared to deal with if necessary:

a) There is suspicion or evidence that a person associated with the event is abusing a child

b) A child accuses a person associated with the event of abusing them

c) A child discloses abuse happening elsewhere e.g. at home
In all cases you must:

•  Act in a calm manner and as quickly as you can without causing any further distress to the child.
•  Keep any details strictly confidential and share only on an absolute ‘need to know’ basis.
•  Contact Social Services for advice ASAP. Make sure you know the contact point.
•  Do not question the child further or give any undertaking of confidentiality to the child.
•  Make your own verbatim written notes as soon as practicable.

D. Use of Information relating to children
Information about children e.g. names and addresses must be treated in strictest confidence. It must be kept securely by a responsible adult, used only for the purpose required, retained only as long as necessary for that purpose and disposed of in a way which maintains the young persons’ confidentiality.
Contact the office of the UK Data Registrar if further specific advice is needed.

E. Photographs of Young Members and Children attending Events
Permission should be sought from parents or responsible adults to take and/or use photographs of children attending events. Any information that can allow the young people to be identified by name or home/school location must not accompany the use of photographs of children in promotion or display materials.

F. Suitability for working with children.
At present, there is no explicit requirement in the circumstances applicable to this Policy for any checks regarding the suitability members or volunteers to work with children under the Protection of Children Act 1999. If you have any concerns regarding suitability, contact your local police (or use the Home Office website) for information on how to proceed with checks against lists maintained by the Home Office.

BBKA Advisory leaflets referring to good practice in relevant situations:
B1 Bee Stings
B5 Managing live bees at shows
B6 Organising an apiary meeting

Consent forms:

Visitors are required to adhere to the following code of conduct whilst in the apiary:
•  To behave quietly calmly and avoid rapid movement.
•  To walk away to an agreed area if alarmed in any way.
•  If stung, to inform a supervisor immediately.
•  Any person behaving in a way that is deemed irresponsible by the Supervisors will be asked to leave the apiary and demonstration.

"I give my consent for my child:

..............................................………………............................... (Full name)

To attend the demonstration of live bees on .........................…………………………..

At ........................................................................................…………………………..”

Signed: ....................................................................................................................

(Parent or Guardian)

"I give my consent for my child ...............................................………………………….....(Full name)

To receive any required emergency First Aid from a suitable-qualified adult at the

demonstration of live bees on .........................................................................

At ..........................................................................................…………………………..”

Signed: ............................................................................

(Parent or Guardian)

This month’s recipe has a taste of the East in every mouthful (except for the wine). It is easy to make and something a bit different to impress people with.
Figs with honey

What you need
• 12 plump ripe figs
• 200g (8oz) softened cream cheese
• 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
• 6 tablespoons runny honey
• 1 cup of good quality Riesling

Wipe the figs, and carefully cut a cross in each at the top. This cross should extend about half way down each fig. Place the figs in a small baking dish. Into each fig, spoon about half a tablespoon of softened cream cheese. Drizzle over the honey, and scatter each fig with a few fennel seeds.
Pour the wine around the figs and bake in a preheated over at 170C for about 20 minutes, until the figs soften and the cheese starts to become almost runny. Serve at once with the wine from the pan poured over each fig. Serve 2 figs per person to end a meal and finish off with the remainder of the Riesling. (That’s why you need a good quality one).

FACT FILE  Back to top
The Arms Race in the Hive and the Dufour’s Gland
Most of us have experienced at one time or another the horrible sight of worker cells crowded with eggs, usually stuck half way up the cell wall, and as we all know, it is the sign that the hive is effectively queenless and that laying workers have taken over. There are few if any nurse bees around and the small domed worker cells will only contain undersized drones. The colony is effectively doomed. It is always difficult to recover from this situation as simple requeening rarely works and the best thing you can do before the wax moths invade is to disband the colony and at least save the valuable comb.

The end result of laying worker activity. A brood comb with small, raised drone cells and few if any nurse bees. The colony is usually doomed at this stage.

The usual cause of this state of affairs is of course a failing or lost queen. But how does it all work? What exactly is going on in the hive to bring about this situation, and is there any subterfuge going on in a normal hive? Well the answers evidently are yes and yes! In some very interesting Israeli research in 2002 and published in 2003, we are able to see that in fact there is a constant arms race going on in the hive with a series of checks and balances that help keep order and it is all to do with glands and multiple queen signals.

Multiple eggs in each cell. A sure sign of trouble.

It is a commonly held belief amongst beekeepers that the queen Mandibular Gland is the sole source of what is commonly known as ‘Queen Substance’ and that it is this that keeps the hive in order, but in fact, it became evident as early as 1954 that the mandibular glands were not the only source of pheromone production. Mated queens from which the mandibular glands were removed were still fully accepted by their respective colonies and successfully headed their colony for a significant period. So what was going on? It suggests that other queen pheromones produce important cues for worker honeybees, and that they can replace the QMP. One of the caste-specific glandular sources found in the honeybee is the Dufour’s gland. While the exudates of workers are composed of a series of odd n-alkanes, the glandular exudates of queens are different in that they are additionally fortified with wax-type esters. It was also found that queen Dufour’s gland secretion is attractive to workers, raising the possibility that this ester fraction of the glandular secretion acts as a queen signal.

In the honeybee, Dufour’s gland secretion is caste specific and constitutes a component of the multi-sourced queen signal. It is attractive to workers, which form a retinue around the scented source. Bioassays reveal the ester fraction and not the hydrocarbons to be the active constituents. This function of the esters was corroborated by assays with a synthetic queen-esters mixture, which successfully mimicked the queen’s secretion. As predicted from the queen-like secretion exhibited by egg-laying workers, their glandular secretion was also attractive to nest mates, albeit to a lesser degree than that of the queen; while that of non-egg laying workers was totally inactive.

Worker-attraction towards the glandular secretion of virgin queens has also been demonstrated. Both in vivo and in vitro studies have further demonstrated that ester biosynthesis in the Dufour’s gland is not a caste fixed phenomenon and queenless workers that start to develop ovaries also biosynthesize the queen-type esters.

Moreover, glands from queen right nurses incubated in vitro also produce these esters, after a certain delay. So what would happen to those workers in queen right colonies that produced these esters? These bees would surely be working against a queen by laying eggs as well. Well, it seems that under queen right conditions where worker policing is adaptive, these esters may act as kairomones that help the nest members to identify the potential egg-layers and aggress them. It has been shown that workers are able to detect certain characteristics in nest mates, most likely olfactory cues that are correlated with ovarian development, and selectively attack them. The fact that the queen-like esters in Dufour’s gland can be synthesized in vitro even in glands that have been removed from queenright workers, and the seemingly obligatory link between ovarian development and the occurrence of these esters in the gland, suggests that they can reliably disclose potential egg-laying workers. Preliminary studies in the laboratory revealed that bees treated with Dufour’s gland secretion tend to be more aggressed and suffer higher mortality than bees treated with solvent.

The researchers believe that the evolution of the multiple queen signals in honeybees can be regarded as a component in an arms race between queen and workers and they hypothesize that in response to a reduced sensitivity to a certain queen signal, queen honeybees were selected to develop an alternative signalling-source. Dufour’s gland seems to be one of these sources.

Many beekeepers, especially those new to the craft often ask about the composition of swarms. What is their composition and why? The same question was asked in years gone by as well and here is one answer from Sir John More writing in 1707.

‘Many are of the opinion that the swarm consisteth only of young Bees, and that the old ones tarry behind; yet indeed the swarm is not younger than the stock with the old for their defence and for the greatest labour; and the old ones go with the young in the swarms for their aid and guidance in the work. The drones they take with them for the propagation of their kind; and therefore those swarms that have many drones with them will surely prosper.’

He goes on to say:
‘The swarming months are two, Gemini and Cancer; that is, one month before the longest day, and one month after.’

And to catch them:

‘When the swarm is up, it is common to beat a pan, kettle, mortar, or brass candlestick, near the place where ‘tis convenient for the swarm to pitch, and the bees will follow the sound; and if they are got up into the air, the sound will bring them down, or else you may fling dust or sand at them, which will cause them to pitch’.

There are some thoughts to ponder over winter while you wait for the next spring swarming period. Ed.

POEM OF THE MONTH  Back to top
Did the harebell lose her girdle
To the lover bee,
Would the bee the harebell hallow
Much as formerly?

Did the paradise, persuaded,
Yield her moat of pearl,
Would the Eden be an Eden,
Or the earl an earl?

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).

SHORT STORY  Back to top
In this short story, Ian Copinger warns us of the perils of drinking, driving and beekeeping.
Oh the joys of.... going to the heather!

2005 was the first time I tried "the heather". A beekeeping friend got me access to a sheltered corner of an apiary on the edge of the moors high above Stanhope and helped me to set up things ready for the bees. An evening was chosen and, at the appointed hour, having loaded two well wrapped up hives into my estate car with a friend, and I went to collect the rather more experienced beekeeper.

Arriving at his house after only a five mile journey we found the smell of petrol in the car almost overpowering. I had a petrol leak in the engine and it was showing on the petrol gauge. The obvious conclusion was that, even if we didn't explode, the petrol fumes inside the car would probably kill the bees. Oh joy. The whole exercise was put off until the next day when, petrol leak mended and now equipped with a trailer, to everyone’s delight the journey and the placing of the hives went without a hitch.

It was probably then that I discovered another joy of "going to the heather" and in particular to that site. On the way back you get the opportunity to call at The Moorcock" at Waskerley for a refreshing and well deserved pint. Oh joy.

A few weeks later as the heather went back and the evenings drew in dark and cold we three made the trip once more to return the bees to their home apiary, of course via The Moorcock. Oh joy. The one thing I learned was that it was more difficult to carry a hive filled with heather honey the 50 yards off the site than I had expected

In 2006 as the summer began to fade towards autumn I decided to try "the heather" again. With the previous years experience under my belt I expected no hitches at all and together with my beekeeping friend I set off. The journey and the placing of the hive (yes only one this year) went smoothly and in no time we were comfortably established in the pub. I was getting used to this.

The return trip was eventually arranged for the 14th September, that was the day we had thunderstorms all afternoon and an inch of rain fell in two hours. The evening however proved warm and dry so we pair together with my girl-friend a university economics lecturer with a keen interest in matter to do with natural history went to collect the hive.

Now I should explain that a very rough track, no a very very rough track, leads from the road to a gate through which we walk, say fifty yards, to the actual apiary. This requires me to drive the car and trailer along the track then manually turn the trailer round, do a multi-point turn with the car and re-hitch the trailer. Not a problem. I had also remembered the lesson of last year and brought a heavy metal bar and some rope to aid our carrying the hive slung under the bar carried on our shoulders to the car. The "shoulders" in this case were to be those belonging to my university friend and me, my beekeeping friend no longer being given to carrying large weights like honey laden hives around.

Arriving at the apiary with enough light left to comfortably complete the task we took the hive carrying aid equipment to the hive and prepared to set it all up. This is the point when beekeeping friend put a hand under the securing strap and lifted the hive off the ground. "You can forget that gear. The metal bar is heavier than the hive." It was true, the hive was so light that it was easy to carry back to the trailer and as I loaded it on I remembered it having been heavier when I brought it up there. Oh joy.

Undaunted, oh alright I was actually somewhat disappointed, I secured the hive in the trailer and we set off on our next objective, the pub.

By now darkness had overtaken us and I drove across the moor rather looking forward to a pint if only to make up for the lack of heather honey. Another hundred yards, round a bend and the welcoming lights of the pub would be in sight, at which point I looked in my wing mirror and uttered those famous words. "I can't see the trailer" Quickly pulling into the side of the road I got out and, as they say in all the old penny dreadfulls "my worst fears were realized". There was a big gap behind the car where a trailer should have been. Oh joy.

The car was quickly turned round and I drove back towards the apiary expecting at any time to find an upturned trailer, a burst open hive and a lot of crawling angry bees. I actually drove all the way back to the apiary to find that the trailer had fallen off the car hitch immediately I had moved off. It hadn't moved one inch. Oh joy.

There was another valuably lesson learned. Make sure the trailer is securely fastened to the car other wise you can loose a load of drinking time and get grey hair worrying.

We got to the pub albeit a little later than intended but sitting there it did strike us, "would we have noticed the trailer missing before we went into the pub and, if not, wouldn't we have just assumed that it had been pinched while we were inside"

Still there’s always next year. Oh joy. “Mark C”

This account of two annual trips to the heather is true in every respect. I was the “beekeeping friend”. Of course I just went along for the ride, and the beer.

Ian Copinger


Your quote of the month is from "The Life of Reason" by George Santayana
- a nice little challenge though.

I really wanted to say how much I appreciate the effort that goes into this
newsletter - There are always interesting articles that encourage beekeepers to
look up and stretch the horizon, and ones that you don't find endlessly repeated
across beekeeping publications too.

Keep up the good work,


David Bancalari (Norfolk)

Saturday 3rd March 2007 - West Sussex Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Convention. Venue: Lodge Hill Conference Centre, Watersfield, Pulborough, West Sussex. Main Speakers, Rev Stephen Palmer, Michael Badger and Richard Ball plus a choice of attending four from a total of ten workshops. Further details from John Hunt on 01903 815655 or email john_bateman_hunt@hotmail.com

Tuesday 24th, Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th July 2007 - New Forest & Hampshire County Show. The New Forest & Hampshire County Show is the highlight of Hampshire’s social calendar featuring all the attractions that have made it so popular for the best part of a century, bringing traditional country pursuits, new exhibitions and demonstrations to this unique event. Put the dates in your diary now.

There is a full range of horse and livestock competitions plus a rabbit section, cage birds, and honey bees. The Countryside area features woodland activities and demonstrations of rural sports, plus terrier and ferret racing. Other favourites include the horticultural marquee featuring many nationally acclaimed flower entries, and the Southern National Vegetable Association Championships.

With over 600 trade stands there is a wide choice of stalls to visit many offering goods never to be found in the shops, including antiques, crafts, and the best of Hampshire food and produce.

We also have the Forest Fun Factory arena, a haven for children with all day entertainment. These are just a few of the many attractions you will find at this year’s show – you will be spoilt for choice.

A pay as you go shuttle bus service runs from Brockenhurst mainline station right into the showground, so let the train take the strain.

Discounted tickets available on line at www.newforestshow.co.uk or on the credit card hotline 01590 622409 from June 1st 2007.

Additional information Show opens 08.15 to 1800 Web site full of information – www.newforestshow.co.uk Full Title is New Forest & Hampshire County Show.

The question about quote for last month has been answered by David Bancalari in his letter to the editor. Well done David, I was sure no one would get it.

Now for this month, which well known UK commercial beekeeper said this:

‘I suppose that, of all the factors governing bee farming, the breeding of good stock must be the most important.’

He is of course absolutely right.

Editor: David Cramp Submissions contact the Editor

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