Former member of MAFF's Bee Disease Advisory Committee & Bee Husbandry Committee and

Honorary Member British Beekeepers Association.

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"Wild blossoms of the moorland, ye are very dear to me;

Ye lure my dreaming memory as clover does the bee;

Ye bring back all my childhood loved, when freedom,joy,and health,

Had never thought of wearing chains to fetter fame and wealth."

Eliza Cook


We are dealing with areas (1) in the British Isles where the ling heather CALLUNA vulgaris is found and to a lesser extent the bell heathers ERICAS cinerea & tetralix and Scottish beekeepers produce a pleasing run honey from the bell heather - usually in July - which can be readily extracted. For, the beekeeper, the best heather moors (21) are the well managed grouse moors,where, the old ling is burnt on a regular basis to encourage new growth.And, here, the good will of Land Owners, Farmers and Gamekeepers must be sought and their requirements respected at all times. It is an unfortunate fact that many members of the public demand that they should have unrestricted access to open moorland and hill - often causing havoc among wild life and nesting birds.Beekeepers, too, often in their early days unwittingly fall into this trap. Moving their bee colonies on to the moors in late July' and August and setting the hives down 'willy nilly' withought prior consultation with anyone. Hives of bees from which supers of blossom honey have been recently removed house bees which can be unusually vindictive - at the sudden loss of their stores - are sometimes set down behind walls, close to footpaths, bridle paths and shooting butts: causing annoyance to walkers, pony treckers and shooting parties and their beaters, Before setting hives down anywhere - prior arrangement regarding permission, rent and siting, must be obtained from the parties concerned. Failure to do so can sometimes lead to the confiscation and loss of hives.

A heather stance (2) must be chosen with care - often a gully, or sheltered valley, can be found where the hives-can be set down on their own. Make sure the spot will not flood as (3) there have been many occasions when hives have been partly submerged and even washed away after torrential downpours on the moorland tops. Shelter is of the utmost importance and the bees should be able to fly out up the hill and come down hill loaded. Often, dark clouds of homecoming bees can be seen skimming the wall tops as they return to the hives after battling against strong winds on the open moor. Avoid communal stances, where, anything up to 100 stocks of bees are set down together, - often in straight rows - as there is a tendency for the bees to drift. A group of hives, with the entrances facing in different directions, is a better arrangement altogether. In small scale operations a simple hive stand - carrying - two hives - which can be carried on a pickup when moving bees is a useful additional piece of equipment to enable the hives to be kept off the ground, But, many stocks taken to the heather are set down on the ground - and leveled up with small pieces of stone. Unless a temporary alighting board is placed in front of the hive: growing heather or bracken may soon restrict hive entrances - compelling the returning foragers to run down the hive fronts to gain entry. Entrance blocks reducing hive entrances to around 12 inches in width and 3/4 inch high should always be in use to discourage slugs and rodents from gaining entry. In hot summers Adders are sometimes found under the hives when they are placed directly on the ground and rubber boots are best worn to avoid snake bites, or, the bees attacking the ankles.

Wear industrial,or strong leather gloves when lifting hives off the ground.

It is another unfortunate fact of human nature that whenever a beekeeper finds a stance, where over the years bees do well: other beekeepers will endeavor to take their stocks there too - and these moorland apiaries become eventually over stocked with bee colonies.

Twenty colonies to a stance - not far apart - will, if the colonies have been properly prepared: result,in consistent performance - usually a super of sealed heather, comb honey, a hive , as against a lot of unsealed honey, where too many colonies are set down together. Some beekeepers errect permanent stands on the moors to carry the hives and use a spirit level to ensure that the combs hang correctly in the supers. For really choice combs of heather honey - full sheets of medium - thickness worker brood foundation ( unwired ) should be used. However, many heather going beekeepers use 'starters' only in the supers - cutting a sheet of shallow worker brood foundation into three strips - in such cases the top part of the comb is usually drawn out with the attractive flat matt capping of worker cells while the rest of the comb has drone cells: which some customers prefer. The practice of using extra - thin foundation should be discouraged - as all too often this collapses in really strong colonies of bees and many fine combs are spoilt each year. Only unwired foundation is used in the supers for cut comb honey and pressed heather honey. When, hives are placed on stands on the moors, occasionally during a really heavy nectar flow - and excessive crowding - the bees will come out of their hives and build wild comb which they fill with honey under the floorboards. This, happened in 1911, 1949, 1955, 1969 1972 and 1981. Nineteen Forty nine had, what was probably the earliest, and heaviest, nectar flow from the ling on record. Heather honey was being stored in the combs by July 20th, and bees being worked on a small brood chamber of 8 - 10 B.S. combs, filled and sealed a super a week: and this went on for five weeks. In late seasons it is an advantage to use drawn comb in the supers - combs drawn out earlier on the Oil Seed Rape can be extracted - and then given back to the bees above clearer boards for them to clean, and if sprayed with warm water they will make a very good job of it, and you will be left with some fine dry drawn out combs from which all trace of the OSR honey has gone.

There must be no trace of OSR honey in the hives when you take them to the heather: otherwise, it will ruin your crop of heather comb honey as early crystallisation sets in. Outside combs of stores containing 'set' OSR honey must be removed, too, from the brood chambers and replaced with brood combs of heather honey - if you have them - from the season before. It is a sound investment to get some brood combs filled with heather honey when the bees are on the moors, as, such combs, are wonderful for feeding purposes the following spring and the colonies are given a real boost. It is believed that by providing your heather going colonies with combs of heather honey - from the year before - this will get the bees out foraging days ahead of the colonies not so provided for.

Just as the late Brother Adam (4) was convinced that colonies taken to the moor should always be headed by queens - in their second year - and that the excitement of the move actually stimulated egg laying,

While, most heather going beekeepers use queen excluders on the moors, for starters and ekes will result in a lot of drone comb, and queens are particularly attracted to laying in the larger drone cells, even late in the season, if they are available: resulting in many spoilt combs which should have held honey. But, there are occasions, particularly in late seasons, or, when the nights are cold and the bees tend to move out of the supers altogether - when queen-excluders (5) can be dispensed with and removed - if already on the hives. Experienced beekeepers often obtain some combs of heather honey this way - when other beekeepers get nothing in the supers.

Traditionally, heather comb honey was produced in sections on the moors and the small racks holding no more then 18 sections fitted inside an empty brood chamber - used as a super and was warmly packed with at least three folded hessian sacks: as warmth (6) necessary for comb building and sealing, had to be encouraged by every possible means. Section racks, holding up to 32 sections, which covered the entire brood chamber as a super, were, as a general rule,useless on the moors: and many beekeepers were discouraged for good, when trying to work with them. A wide shallow frame carrying 3 sections was sometimes used and in recent times ROSS ROUND combs have been tried by some. But the simplicity of cut comb heather honey produced in shallow frames - Manley and Hoffman - outweighs them all. The narrower spacing of the latter is popular where families buy a few complete combs at a time and return the empty frames to the beekeeper the following spring.


National and Smith hives are ideal for heather work as the small brood chambers - of both - ensures, that having been reduced from two brood chambers to a single brood chamber at the beginning of July - you have an enormous force of foraging bees. As the brood emerges the

bees store honey in the brood combs and this brood chamber is removed altogether at the end of the month - with the aid of a clearer board if all the brood has hatched. If there is still sealed brood in some of the combs then the bees must be shaken or, brushed off the combs with a goose wing feather, into the bottom brood chamber and the combs without bees used to 'boost' nucleus or, smaller colonies. The bottom brood chamber will be immensely crowded and a super of shallow combs with the frames fitted, if possible with full sheets of medium thickness worker base foundation unwired, or, with starters of the same, or, drawn out combs if you have them, are given to the colony above a queen excluder. The inner - cover board is then replaced - with ideally some form of packing or insulation immediately above. One super is enough to start with. The mistake so often made is to provide too much room at the heather. Two supers are often provided and invariably there are a number of unsealed combs in the second. If you are working for choice cut - comb heather honey it is much better to have as many combs as possible sealed. For those beekeepers 'geared up' with moisture extraction facilities unsealed heather honey no longer presents a problem - and they are quite happy to get as much heather honey as possible - even, if it is unsealed. The brood chambers of blossom honey removed before going to the heather are piled up on hive stands - with clearer boards between each - and a hive roof on top: to be returned to the bees for over - wintering. Wrap in strong plastic sheeting too to keep wasps out. When reducing double brood chamber colonies to one brood chamber the problem of crowding all the bees into a smaller area must be tackled. Two supers - the top one containing drawn comb - previously cleaned by the bees and dry. While the super immediately above the queen excluder and the brood nest contains shallow frames fitted with unwired medium worker brood foundation, or, starters of the same. These, are topped by a screen board - with a deep rim on the bottom part - this will usually accommodate the large force of bees - when the bottom entrance to the hive is completely closed with an entrance block or strip of foam. Many experienced heather - going beekeepers leave the entrance open to allow the bees to cluster up the front of the hive - leaving the entrance block with its 12 inch aperture in place. The beekeeper must have considerable confidence to tackle moving bees in this way. Bee veil, and suit, rubber boots ( Wellingtons ) strong leather or industrial gloves, to prevent tearing hands on projecting metal parts, namely, hive tops, excluders, broken hive staples which have at various times been used to attach floorboards to brood chambers along with functional smokers; are all basic requirements. It is an advantage to have two strong hardwood lats screwed to the bottom of each floorboard - to provide additional strength and to facilitate lifting of hives.

The use of strapping is the current popular means of securing hive parts but, often beekeepers complement this, by securing the hive floorboard to the brood chamber with hive staples at each corner. Hive entrances are best closed while doing this to prevent bees pouring out to sting the operator: opening the entrances immediately afterwards. As, invariably, when loading hives manually and pushing them along a floor, something will come apart. Carry something like Bluetack and small pieces of foam rubber, to plug holes,etc from which bees can escape. Buckfast Abbey carried toilet tissue - for this purpose - when moving bees to the heather. In heather districts some beekeepers attach hinged floorboards to their hives with ventilation holes covered with strong perforated zinc or wiremesh. The Scottish firm STEELE & BRODIE listed such a floorboard in their catalogue for years - with a thumbscrew permanently attached below - to aid easy closing. Such hives should always be set on stands, rather than on the ground, as growing heather and bracken, can, on occasion, close the entrance altogether unless a small stone or piece of wood has been placed in position to prevent this.


Colony on single small brood chamber holding 9 BS combs and dummy board with super of 8 Manley shallow frames at the heather. Note brood combs being filled with stores for winter


The same colony in mid-April of the following year with combs almost all filled with brood being provided with second brood chamber for the Oil Seed Rape with the frames fitted with wired worker base foundation.


Early June when the second brood chamber - like the first - is filled with brood.



End of June. Second brood is raised above a super(s) of empty combs to the top of the hive with a queen excluder between them and the bottom brood chamber

There, is an equally effective-system of colony management for the heather: for those who prefer to run their bees in small, single brood chamber, hives on 10 BS combs. Ideally, suited for those working bees on their own, where the lifting of heavy hives can be a problem - and the removal and manipulation of several brood chambers - with the concentration of a large foraging force of bees into a single brood chamber: off putting, to many.

In late April or early May, where colonies have over-wintered well and are expanding beyond expectations on the nectar flow of the Oil Seed Rape. Do not super; and the congestion, thus created, will inevitably compel the bees to 'put up' a few choice queen cells. In districts where there is no nectar flow from the Oil Seed Rape these conditions of prosperity can be brought about by the heavy feeding of sugar syrup. When, these conditions are met, a good 5 comb Nucleus colony is made up in the empty brood chamber, of a similar type of hive, alongside. Making sure that the old queen is left in the parent colony, where, the combs removed, are replaced with drawn out combs - if available - on the outsides of the 5 remaining combs. Otherwise 5 frames fitted with sheets of wired worker base foundation are utilised - again , on the outsides of the 5 remaining combs, which should of course be in the centre of the brood chamber.

This, Nucleus,has 3 combs of emerging brood - densely covered with bees - with the queen cells too, and great care must be taken not to shake, or, jar these particular combs and then there are 2 combs of stores on the outsides of the combs of' brood: followed by a dummy board on each side. It is essential that the hive containing the Nucleus colony has a small entrance - which is completely closed with tightly packed grass for several days - which, as it dries out - the bees will remove. No bees must escape to return to the parent colony alongside - until the bees in the Nucleus eat their own way out. Once, the bees achieve this, and begin working normally from the small entrance, the surviving young queen should soon mate, and a check 14 days later should establish this. By the end of May it should be possible to boost the Nucleus colony with a comb'of emerging brood from the parent colony alongside and continuing at fortnightly intervals throughtout June: until the full complement of 10 BS is made up. By mid-July the Nucleus colony - with the young queen - should be packed with hatching bees and in an ideal condition to be taken to the heather - and at this stage it is provided with a super. On a warm afternoon - when there is a nectar flow in progress - move the parent colony away on to another stand in the apiary. So, the returning foragers will further boost the Nucleus colony built up during the summer, Really 'topping' heather going colonies are obtained this way, There, can be uniting -with newspaper upon return from the moors - if the object is to keep the number of honey producing colonies the same in the apiary - while maintaining a high level of production.

The move to the moors should always be made at break of day - loading up to be away by 5 a.m. - reaching the moors before the powerful rays of the sun can be felt - as many powerful colonies of bees are lost over the years from overheating and suffocation. (7) There is no more distressing sight than to lose a top colony of bees this way - which usually involves the collapse of the combs and honey pouring from the hive entrance. Unless it is a cool damp evening and you know exactly where you are going to, and you are not going to get stuck: moving bees at night can be fraught with difficulties - as during the warm evenings of late July and early August - the bees are often still returning to their hives as darkness falls and many actually stay out all night on flowers and return the following morning when the hives have gone much to their distress. If you have some colonies still left at home these 'lost'foragers will usually join them.

Grass, such as lawn mowings along with damp moss, is excellent for closing hive entrances, if the move - to and from the moor - is only a short one as it has the additional advantage of allowing the bees to eat their way out of the hive should the beekeeper overlook this. Unfortunately this happens somewhere in the country, every year. Having arrived on the moor safely with the bees and got the hives onto their stands - a feeling of satisfaction prevails - the possibility of a record crop of heather honey is within reach. Lulled, into a false sense of well being, the beekeeper and helpers set out for home: without double checking each hive to ensure that the bees in every one can get out. It is worth returning to the heather stance later in the day to ensure that all is well.

The small single brood chambers of National and Smith hives are ideal for heather work (8) ensuring that much of the honey goes into the single super and is sealed, and by the end of August the bees store honey in the brood combs - as the brood emerges - and bee colonies taken to the heather moors, are usually well provisioned for the winter, and as experienced beekeepers know the high protein content (9) of this honey, ensures that these colonies will have more 'zip' -to them than the colonies that have stayed at home and been over - wintered on blossom honey, - a large part of which is often crystallised Oil Seed Rape honey. The National hive - improved by the late Arthur Abbot of Mountain Grey Apiaries , Brough York's, with its splendid brood chamber and super handling features: allow these to be carried easily by beekeepers on their own. A great improvement on the ' cups' scooped out of the sides of hives assembled from four pieces of wood. With such hives some beekeepers screw a length of wood on each side of the brood chamber and super to facilitate lifting. The Smith hive (10) is often described as a small Langstroth. Beekeepers, such as Athole Kirkwood, have had success with the standard Langstroth hive on the moors, while, in North Yorkshire John Whent operates a thousand or more colonies of bees, working with standard Langstroth equipment and using brood chambers as supers on the moors. With such a large comb area there is often much unsealed heather honey - but, with modern moisture extracting equipment - the moisture content of the honey can be reduced down to an acceptable 20% and unsealed heather honey is now no longer the problem it once was. Many small scale beekeepers use simple moisture extraction devices in their honey stores. Spare bedrooms, too, with central heating, are sometimes used to store heather honey in the supers. (11) The Commercial hive with its 16'' x 10" frame and National and Smith hives taking the 14 " x 12 " frame are used by other beekeepers, with some measure of success at the heather. While, others work with the even larger Dadant. These larger hives are extremely heavy when filled with heather honey and the crops from simpler smaller hives can be equal and often better at the heather. For successful over-wintering, the honey from the Ling must be sealed and the bee colonies sited so the hives catch the mid-day sun, to encourage the bees to take cleansing flights in mid- winter. A top entrance to the hive can be an advantage too. All too often there can be much unsealed heather honey in the combs and unless such colonies are fed heavily with thick warm sugar syrup, there will be problems galore from fermentation. Honey from the Ling is notorious for absorbing moisture and, if left in the unsealed state on the hives will soon be frothing in the combs which is lethal to the bees. I have on a number of occasions visited moorland apiaries at the request of beekeepers where heather honey, much of it unsealed - had been left on the hives, to find brown excreta running from hive entrances and this unpleasant smell will always stay with you. In severe winters when the bees have been confined to their hives for weeks on end the first cleansing flight will be remembered for the pungrent smell of heather honey in the apiary, as the bees on the wing void their feces.

When supers have been removed and hefting of the hives with the roofs off reveals that they feel light in weight and have little reserves of stores in the brood chambers. Then, such colonies must be provided with slabs of fondant placed immediately above the bees - and, then, checks are made throughout the winter as the bees consume this.


Strains of the north European dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) adapted to the district, give over a period of years,the best performance at the heather. (13) Many of the dark bees found in the British Isles stem from the extensive imports of Dutch bees, Ligurians from Northern Italy, and French, Blacks,which the Scottish firm of Steele & Brodie made available to British beekeepers from their supplier William Wilson. These LE GATINAIS Bees from Grigneville, Loiret, and Faronville, France,were, apart from their uncertain temperament - highly thought of amongst

comb honey producers in this country: as the firm's 1927 advert shows. "As recommended by J.M.Ellis of Gretna Green whose two stocks produced 240 finished sections which sold for £20" Both, the late Brother Adam and Ted Humphreys recalled that for heather honey production these bees had no equal. But, on a number of occasions these gentlemen had to retreat from the bees firey onslaughts. Brother Adam himself, standing half submerged in the mill race which meanders through the Abbey grounds. Thornes,too, had their own supplier. Like many other beekeepers I have tried light coloured American and New Zealand bees over a period of 50 years. The extreme docility of these bees is their main claim to fame but for serious heather work they should be avoided. They, will certainly fill supers of heather honey in their first season,but invariably the colonies collapse with Acarine infestation and Nosema during the winter months and following spring. The crosses,from the colonies that do survive, are, as as a general rule, unpleasant bees to work with as Woodbury observed in the 1850's when he first introduced Ligurian bees into Devon. (12) Charlton, who started the Northumberland BKA in 1888, favoured the Ligurian bee for out-crossing as many colonies of the local dark bee had serious defects of the brood, which the introduction of the Ligurian, corrected.

William Herrod - Hempsall, Brother Adam, Manley and Gale (14) all enthused, at various times, about the virtures of the yellow bee when they were obliged to restock following the enormous losses to the honey bee population of this country, up to, and following the first WORLD WAR. It is now thought that this was brought about by a combination of factors: including the mite Acarapis woodi - along with viruses - and poor beekeeping practice.

Following the adoption of the movable comb hive - which allowed beekeepers to remove almost all the honey from the bees - replacing it with sugar syrup and candy Manley gave beekeepers a clear warning of the folly of this in his book BEEKEEPING IN BRITAIN ( 1948 ) page 367. This, along with his remarks about the brood defects of bees, should be carefully considered today. William Herrod - Hempsall, after losing the dark bees which he so much loved, worked with Root's Red Clover strain from the USA and developed a strain of yellow banded bee, which, surprisingly, could be accommodated on 10 B.S. combs. But, he went on to encounter serious over-wintering problems which he attributed to Nosema.

Traditional heather going beekeeping in many parts of the country is now intrinsically tied up with coping with winter sown Oil Seed Rape which flowers from April through to June and then the spring sown varieties which flower in mid-June and July, a small brood chamber of 10 B.S. combs, (15) use of a queen excluder and lack of adequate supering results in a spate of swarming from mid-April onwards. Often, swarms 'come off' without queen cells being started in the hive. A new generation of beekeeper has appeared to take advantage of the situation, and they collect all the swarms they can, and set them up in hives: and, if prudent, treating them for mites. Hived, initially, on 5 B.S,frames fitted with sheets of wired worker base foundation and dummy boards on the outsides of the frames and some lose sacking in the outside space to prevent the bees from building wild comb, along with a feeder, and some simple packing to conserve heat above the bees. New, additional frames are added as the original complement are drawn out. By the end of July these are usually 'topping' stocks to go to the moor on a single brood chamber and one super.

P R 0 B L E M S 0 N T H E M 0 0 R S

There are seasons of complete failure on the moors such as 1912, 1946, 1954 and 1985 when, many bee colonies taken to the moors, were lost from starvation. I well recall going round the stances of many northern beekeepers during August 1946 and August 1954 and finding the ground in front of the hives carpeted with crawling dying bees. (16) Milk churns filled with sugar syrup were taken to the moors and where ever possible the crawling bees were swept up on to shovels and dumped into the tops of nearby hives then lightly sprayed with syrup. After, an hour or so, when there was some response from the bees, and they were gently humming - the old type of round feeders were put on every hive. The feeders were replenished every other day and eventually among those colonies that had not died out - a small amount of heather honey was stored in the brood combs and with further heavy feeding of the colonies upon their return home some of these stocks of bees managed to survive the dreadful winter which set in around January 20th 1947 and continued until April of that year. But, honey again poured into the hives in August and September 1947.

It would appear that hours of sunshine play an important part in the equation when the colonies are on the moors. Similarly, after the dreadful summer of 1954, the bees stored a small amount of heather honey in September of that year and then, virtually, no more honey was taken into the hives until July 1955, when, an altogether fantastic nectar flow went on and on into September. Again, hours of sunshine, played their part in this. Sometimes, during a heavy nectar flow at the heather, honey / nectar will be deposited in cells containing eggs - submerging them completely. In some years the Heather Beetle LOCHMOEA suturalis becomes a nuisance. (17) Dr Guy Morison described the activities of the beetle in 1936 . A swarm of beetles had been seen to land on the waters of Loch Awe in Argyllshire and were speedily devoured by the trout as they struggled on the surface. Their habit is to take wing in swarms in Spring and travel wherever the wind takes them - which may be up to two miles and cover hundreds of acres. In Britain, and particularly in Scotland in 1935, severe damage by the heather beetle was wide - spread, the West and South-West areas appeared to suffer most. Heather of any age is liable to attack: but whereas young vigorous heather up to eight or ten years is seldom killed, old heather of twenty years or more often succumbs to the attack of the beetle, and on moors where severe damage occurs most of the heather is very old. During the 1970's the heather moors of the northern Pennines - between Blanchland and Stanhope - where, incidently, there are some fine stands of Bell heather ( Erica cinerea ) were attacked by the beetle on several-occasions.


Early in September clearer boards are put on the hives during late afternoons, boards, which hold several porter bee escapes - making sure that the springs are functioning and not stuck with propolis. An alternative is to use the Canadian cone escapes or, the Hexagonal and Rhombus escapes listed in the bee appliance catalogues. Some beekeepers use Benzaldehyde on an absorbent pad - on a cool day - to drive bees from the supers. When, using clearer boards, the supers, hopefully cleared of bees will be ready for collecting early the following morning. Set out at break of day when things are still cool on the moors. If, left too late, it can suddenly become hot. Then the smell of heather honey will incite the bees into a frenzy and an unnecessary spate of robbing is sparked off. Load the pickup, or van quickly,and depart. There may be some colonies - where the bees have not left the supers - and it will be necessary to shake the bees off the combs; This, is best left until another day, when the bees have settled down and the clearer boards can be removed and the travelling screens - when used - put back on under the roofs and the hives made secure and ready for lifting. This, is best done during daylight hours on some, damp cool day, when all the bees are in their hives and the entrances can again be closed quickly with moss, strips of foam rubber, etc. Never-use bee blowers to get bees out of the supers on the moors - as the stress factor invariably brings about over - wintering problems associated with Nosema.

When the hives are small, with only one super on each, the usual practice is to leave the honey on the hives, and bring them off the moors as they are. Leaving the honey until the first sharp night frost, when the bees leave the supers of their own accord as they go into cluster. The supers can then be lifted off the hives the following morning - clear of bees - after first breaking the seal between the brood chamber and super with the hive tool. Fastening devices are best removed as soon as the hives are brought back to their permanent apiary sites. Should straps be left on hives during the winter, shrinkage can damage hive parts. The entrance blocks with 12 inch wide and 3/8th high apertures will usually deter mice.

Watch that Braula larvae and Wax moth don't ruin the heather comb honey.(19) Honey from the Ling is extremely sensitive to over- heating and freezing so take great care when handling it. Pressing heather honey is a time consuming business but the MG Press introduced by the late Arthur Abbot has invariably given years of sterling service since it appeared 50 years ago. In more recent times, STEELE & BRODIE made a stainless steel water operated Press available. It is essential to have a really good mains pressure water supply for this. Larger producers of heather honey make use of mechanical full frame looseners which enables them to extract the honey tantentially. Smaller producers sometimes use a heather honey roller and spin drier for extraction in a room which is warm and dry, and where, if possible the supers of heather honey have been stored for several days. Heather honey extracted in this way is certainly not as attractive in appearance as that pressed slowly in a MG, Peebles or, STEEL & BRODIE Press.


Both Hamilton and Tinsley .give interesting accounts of how to prepare Heather Honey for the Show Bench. (18) While, the well known Exhibitor of honey, the late Bernard Leafe, contributed a fine article on the subject to the 1982 Yorkshire BKA Centenary Handbook.


Small scale beekeepers usually dispose of their cut- comb and pressed honey to business colleagues who are anxious to obtain such a wonderful natural product, rich in protein, off the hills. (20) Larger producers of heather honey often market their crop through Co-operatives and Packers, or, aggressively sell their product at Country Fairs and Agricultural Shows. Northumberland's first commercial beekeeper Robert Reed, who, worked-several hundred skep colonies around Acklington and Morpeth, between 1760 and 1812, was a pioneer in such marketing, attracting large crowds at Fairs as completely unprotected he drove his quiet brown bees from their skeps and then scooped them up with his bare hands to fill empty skeps.

S H R I M P B R 0 0 D

One condition of the brood which I have seen on a few occasions during my 50 years of heather-going beekeeping, was first described by the late Bob Couston as SHRIMP BROOD

page 72 "THE PRINCIPLES OF PRACTICAL BEEKEEPING" During the months of June, in 1957 and 1962 and early July 1975, there were heavy death rates amongst sealed brood in hundreds of apiaries throughout the East of Scotland. The worst colonies had over a third of the sealed brood affected all of which had died on the 13th or 14th day stage of development, having the body segments formed and the pigment of the eyes just starting. The dead pupae - were quite firm - almost crisp - and were reminiscent of the consistency and appearance of small, freshly cooked peeled shrimps. The affected cells were scattered about in random fashion - some being next to normal pupae of the same age. In all cases, the malady cleared up within a three-week period of the onset of the condition - but, on observering this in their apiaries, many beekeepers became worried because the initial appearance with dark and sometimes perforated cell- cappings - resembled that of A.F.B. The outbreak always followed a poor heather season the year before - and it is interesting to record that not one case of the malady was seen amongst the thousands of stock inspections during the intervening years. There, is certainly an opportunity here for Rothamsted or Sheffield to do some serious work on this.


The small scale beekeeper can obtain some measure of control by systematic removal of combs of sealed drone brood from colonies - during the active season - replacing with drone base foundation. Other beekeepers will alternate the use of Bayvarol and Apistan strips in their colonies. But, only, after the supers of surplus heather honey have been removed. Keep in close touch with MAFF for guidance on the clearance and release of other Medicants.


The BBKA reminds us that indirect misdescription is illegal, eg,giving the name of a plant such as heather or showing an illustration of it, on a label when the container does not hold predominantly heather honey. The term predominantly is not defined but a proportion of at least 75% is thought by many to be reasonable. If in doubt consult your local Trading Officer.

Advice from STEELE & BRODIE "Whether honey is eaten by family,given away, sold at the door, marketed through retail outlets or prepared for the show -bench, it must always be clean and strained of all foreign bodies. Increasingly, as more chemicals are added to other foods, honey must be able to stand the scrutiny of Public Health Officers and an evermore demanding, health conscious public."

The Heather Areas of Scotland

N 0 T E S

4: THE PRODUCTION OF HEATHER HONEY Brother Adam's lecture to the Newcastle & District BKA: December 1934. Had great success with a single 10 B.S. frame brood chamber which- had been reduced from 20 combs - on Dartmoor. Favoured French Black bees along with Heath bees from Germany and Holland. Printed privately 1934. Re-issued 1990

2: HEATHER HONEY: Major Sitwell's lecture to the BBKA 1912: Which made the British beekeeper -take an interest in this honey. ISBN 0 95168 7 5 Sitwell, first makes use of the word ' stance' to describe a heather apiary.

William Herrod -Hempsall's BEEKEEPING NEW & OLD Chapter 12: Vol 1 An interesting account of 'old time' heather going beekeeping. While, having no personal heather going experience himself; Chapter 12 was the Author's own favourite in this great two volume work on beekeeping.

14: R.O.B. Manley deals with heather honey in HONEY PRODUCTION 1936 & 1947:Chapter 17 HONEY FARMING - 1946 Chapter 10 BEEKEEPING IN BRITAIN 1948 pages 305-12

6: William Hamilton: THE ART OF BEEKEEPING - 1945 - pages 121 - 128 . Hamilton makes the point that a small brood chamber of 10 B.S. combs, reduced from 20 B.S. combs or more, essential for success at the heather - with as many bees of foraging age as possible - crowded into the hives. Adequate packing required to conserve heat, if completely sealed combs of heather honey are being sought. Favoured, French and Dutch bees, or, adapted local strains, for moorland work.

21: I.A.Khalifman - Pchelovodstvo: No 8 - HEATHER BEEKEEPING IN NORTHUMBERLAND 1958

John Phillips THE CASE FOR HEATHER RASE Journal - 1990 - pages 96-102

Cecil Pawson: RASE SURVEY OF NORTHUMBERLAND - 1961 - Chapter 10 BEES pages 143/4

15: Donald Sims: SIXTY YEARS WITH BEES - 1997 - Chapter 11 - Heather Honey

ISBN 0-907908-799

Joseph Tinsley: BEEKEEPING -1945 Chapter 11 - Production of Heather Honey

12: George Charlton: BEEKEEPING IN NORTHUMBERLAND - Hexham Herald - 1887 -

Re-issued, 1990

17: THE NORTHERN APIARIST: Journal of the Northern Federation BKA's 1945 - 1954.

18: Bernard Leafe: PREPARING HEATHER HONEY - Yorkshire BKA Centenary Handbook 1982

REFERENCES & PAPERS RELATING TO HEATHER HONEY -.In the Scottish Beekeepers Association - MOIR LIBRARY - housed in Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street, Edinburgh

James Cunningham W.W.SMITH - Scottish Beekeeper - June 1969

Dr. C.L. WHITTLES: Survey of Heather Areas - Scottish Beekeeper - September 1950

Anna Maurizio: THE HEATHER HONEYS OF EUROPE 1973 SF 539 18 H

J.Louveaux: HEATHER - 1973



AFTER PRESSING - Scottish Beekeeper: November 1971 - page 190

Neil Price: DEMONSTRATES HIS COMB CUTTER - Scottish beekeeper: August 1972


Beekeeper April 1982.

5: Ellrig: NO QUEEN EXCLUDERS AT THE HEATHER - Scottish Beekeeper -

November 1978

8: THE B.S. FRAME HARD TO BEAT AT THE HEATHER - S.Beekeeper - October 1968

Willie Robson: WEATHER FORECASTING WITH BEES - Scottish Beekeeper -

November :1978


A.E.McArthur: Reports that Dr.Frederick Ruttner introduced the VARROA mite into

Germany & Europe in 1972 - Scottish Beekeeper - September 1979- Subsequently, first

reported in England, at the Saffrey's apiary at Cockington, Torbay, Devon: on Saturday

April 4th,1992 at 2.30 pm.


Interviewed-by SELBY ROBSON. Published by Beekeeping Centre Kirkley Hall,

Northumberland: March 1962

C.Neil Anderson:W.W.SMITH OF INNERLEITHEN - Scottish Beekeeper - May 1980

7: Rambler: MOVING BEE COLONIES - Scottish Beekeeper - April 1980, 1985 & 1986


16: HEATHER FLOW IN SEPTEMBER - Scottish Beekeeper October 1986

Athole Kirkwood: 1985 THE WORST SEASON IN 40 YEARS - Scottish Beekeeper - Jan 1986

19: George Green:HEATHER HONEY - Scottish Beekeeper - July 1955

9: J.Pryce-Jones: HEATHER HONEY - Bee World - 1936 & 1950- Scottish Beekeeper 1941


Beekeeper - July 1998.

3: Ted Humphreys: CLOUDBURST ON THE HEATHER MOORS - Bee Craft - February 1951


Beekeeper -Editorial -July 1996

13: H.E.Hitchen: The Leics beekeeper who contributed to the BBJ and Bee Craft in the 1930's believed that honey bees adapt to the district they work in and were greatly influenced by environmental factors: and that it was essential to develop local strains of bees: BBJ - April 1934

Brother Adam's elequent description of Heather Honey made all those years ago to the 300 beekeepers who assembled to hear him at Newcastle in December 1934:

" Red brown, like the water of the peat bog. A Gift of Nature carrying the tang of moorland air." still applies today.