Here are the BeeHolders for 2011. This saves menu space and makes it easier to find what you're looking for.

October 2011

The BeeHolder, October 2011

front cover cartoon

Does anybody remember the original caption for this Cordwell classic?


This edition of the BeeHolder is dedicated to the memory of Dennis Cordwell.
MBKA member, bee keeper, cartoonist and a former editor of the BeeHolder.


Here is the BeeHolder in glorious colour (except the black and white bits). Navigate through using the links at the side or at the bottom of each page. You can download a version in portable document format (PDF) using the link below.


BeeHolder Oct 11 e-version.pdf905.8 KB


The BeeHolder, October 2011

As we start to prepare our bees for the winter, and another beekeeping year slips into the past, we can reflect on very mixed results across our region. Whilst some have had a bountiful honey harvest and increased the size of their apiaries, those less fortunate have had barely enough to cover a slice of toast and/or will be putting the odd empty hive into storage for the winter.

I don't know if it has been the way the weather has fallen across the area, the variations between the diferent strains of bee, some mixture of the two or something completely different! Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that no two beekeepers keep their bees exactly the same way? If anybody has an answer to the mystery, perhaps it would make an interesting article for a future BeeHolder? In any event, it is something to think about when planning for the next bee year.

Chris Leech

We Welcome as New Members

The BeeHolder, October 2011

Jim and Anne Wren [Newtown], Maggie Summerfield [Welshpool], Richard Hayes [Welshpool], Gail Gwesyn-Pryce [Caersws], Russell Davies [Llanymynech], Carolle Doyle [Meifod], Annabel West [Newtown], Leslie Venis [Montgomery], Neil Griffiths [Oswestry], Anne Hooper [Machynlleth] Rodger Stewart [Oswestry] and Elaine Willetts [Newtown].

We look forward to seeing you at the various events coming up during the next few months. Also, if you have not already done so, why not sign up to the Montybees web site to keep track of the latest developments and join in on the forum pages?

Note that the place names given are nearest town rather than individual villages.

Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, October 2011

What is a beekeeper?

Several events have occurred recently causing me to ask that question. At a committee meeting the question was asked whether we should discourage people to keep bees until after they had had some training. This is because there is a great attrition rate in new beekeepers. Many take up the hobby before realising the implications. They give up at the first obstacle and often a neglected or abandoned hive becomes a source of disease in a district to the detriment of other beekeepers. But to actively deter people from keeping bees is that right? We have many members who have no bees in their direct care. Some have lost colonies and intend to restock. Some have had a policy of keeping empty hives in the hope of catching a swarm. These will call themselves ”beekeeper”.

Other members have no intention of keeping bees but don’t want to give up the title “beekeeper”. So obviously a person can be a beekeeper before ever having bees in their care. But we do need to give the training and even mentoring before the bees arrive. A trainee beekeeper without bees is probably more entitled to the term “beekeeper” than someone who dashes in with a hive and bees bought at a whim from the internet. My own view is that we must welcome the later as much as any retired beekeeper. We must never dampen enthusiasm. Our task as an association is to supply support for bees through helping beekeepers and by educating the public about the importance of both bees and beekeepers.

Dennis Cordwell proudly described himself as a beekeeper right up to his death on 6th September. But he had not kept bees for many years. Dennis’ style of beekeeping can best be summed up by the joke “How does a queen get round her hive?" Answer “she’s throne”. He could be a bit rough with his bees but what a great contribution he made in encouraging beginners, mentoring and serving in all the great Offices of State (as they say in politics). We have reprinted on the following page of this edition one of Dennis’ cartoons for the BeeHolder and what he called his “filler pieces” - the amusingly punned “Beeattitudes” and “Beesop’s Foibles” (see page 16). Dennis got a great kick out of how many times his cartoons were repeated in beekeeping magazines throughout the UK and acknowledgement was always given to the Montgomeryshire BKA. He put our county as well as beekeeping firmly on the map. So here was a person who did Montgomeryshire beekeeping proud.

Bees helping with the washngAndy Brown, (New members’ Representative) was a neighbour of Dennis in Oswestry and brought him to the MBKA Xmas Dinner last January. I thanked Andy on behalf of all those at the funeral who said how much Dennis had appreciated being bought to the dinner. “Not A bit” said Andy “It was a pleasure. I learnt more about beekeeping during the drive than from all the meetings and all the books I had ever read”. It made me think; What is a beekeeper? A beekeeper is someone who has within them a knowledge and experience about bees that can be shared. Everyone who has ever kept bees should share. Maybe we should have an “OLD Members’ Representative” whose task it is to root out experienced and exbeekeepers and encourage them to share and mentor with the novices. Volunteers please!

When asked what I did, I sometimes said “Construction Manager” or “ I’m in Construction” or “I just fester” or “I’m a beekeeper”. “I’m a Beekeeper” produces much the best response and by far the most interesting conversations. We need to make it more worth while for Old Beekeepers to come to meetings.

Tony Shaw
Chairman MBKA

Bees in Berriew

The BeeHolder, October 2011

Late last summer we took our first look at Upper Rectory. Upon our arrival, a chap up a ladder informed us that there was a wasp's nest in the wall of the house, but we weren't to worry because he has squirted silicone into the entrance so they would no longer bother us. Now, we are no experts, but even to the untrained eye, one could see that these creatures were bees. Luckily, the bees had several entrances, no harm was done, and so our love affair accidentally began.

A while after we moved into the rectory, the daughter of the previous occupants came to visit. They had moved there in 1935 and the feral bees were already in residence and had been for some considerable time. Her mother had tried without success to have them removed but they kept returning. The family finally gave up and allowed the bees to remain, where they stay to this day. At first we were wary of them, we have a little boy and I am allergic to them. They nest in the wall, at the front of the house, quite near to a bedroom window - this has proved a pleasure and all our misgivings unfounded. When they are really active you can listen to them and feel the heat they produce through the wall in the bedroom. We have since opened a restaurant and shepherd hut bed and breakfast and have regular visits to "the bee room", as its known, by our customers, curious to find out more and get close to them. These little fuzzy creatures are so content and docile they will sit happily on your hand. We leave the window open, and the drones spend their last hours sat on the flowery curtains. I put the radiator on high, last winter, just as a precautionary measure, which I am now assured was totally unnecessary. We have a very small knowledge of bees and would appreciate any advice. We shall be on tenterhooks this winter, until spring comes, when we hope to see activity again.

Next year, we would like to catch a swarm they throw, and hive it. A friend of ours recently told us that, in folklore, having bees in the wall of your home brings great happiness and luck to the occupants. We feel lucky to have them... they have survived for all these years, against all odds, and we can closely interact with them as they go about their daily life.

If you are interested in visiting our bees We can be contacted via our website, here.

Kerry and Steve Houlker

Reports on meetings

The BeeHolder, October 2011

Here are the reports on the various meetings we have had since the last edition. Feedback is, as usual, most welcome.

Apiary visit July 31st – The Hobbyist Apiary

The BeeHolder, October 2011

We arrived to the threat of rain (in 1 ½ hours) so it was decided that we should get on with it.

There were about 30 people so we split into two groups. My Dutch Wwoofer friend, Bergit, and I followed the smaller group led by Roy Norris to the far side of the veg plot, where we found two hives, one of which was Graham’s strongest colony: a brood and a half with three supers from which he’d extracted 150lbs honey this year.

Graham told us he’d dusted with icing sugar a few days previously, so (after being reminded to zip up his hood) Roy started by inspecting the varroa board which had been there for four days. 5 or 6 mites were spotted and we also saw some varroa damaged bees in the hive, but not many.

Despite the weather being rather heavy and threatening, the bees were very patient and well beehaved as Roy meticulously inspected the hive. We felt the weight of frames heavy with delicious smelling honey, saw some eggs and new bees emerging. There was also a little chalk brood.

The supers had been stacked hot/cold. Graham told us that if the frames were pointing the same way the upper ones would stick to the lower and pull them up rolling the bees and upsetting them. His bees are very good at making glue!

Roy discovered a mysterious waxy tube – it turned out to be an empty bee bait phial. Eventually to Roy’s relief the queen was spotted so the hive could be reassembled. “Did we want to look at the other hive?” no thanks, we were more than ready for tea and cakes!

There was plenty of nice food and an interesting selection of honeys to taste including lime, bell heather, and Graham’s own. The eucalyptus wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but I thought they were all yummy!

I asked Graham how it went with his group. They had opened up two hives and examined them in ‘hefty detail’, frames were handed round to see drone cells and queen cells. They talked about getting ready for feeding. There were interesting discussions regarding the stacking of frames and Himalayan balsam as we observed bees white with pollen coming in. The main point which Graham wanted to make was that he doesn’t use smoke anymore.

Bergit really enjoyed her first apiary visit, and was thrilled to have seen bees emerging from the cells. She loved the outfit and the cakes, although struggled a bit with the new language – that of beekeepers.

A big thanks to Graham and Jean for a lovely afternoon.

Anna Lockwood

Glansevern Food Festival – 3rd & 4th September

The BeeHolder, October 2011

The Glansevern Food Festival were happy to have us back once more to help spread the word about bees to the masses. Once again the festival was well attended and it seemed as though everybody was keen to find out more about bees.

The weekend weather was mostly exccellent which allowed all of the outdoor activities to take place without any disruption.

Our marquee was well stocked with honey for sale, wax candle making, information about bees, the ever popular observation hive and a children's activity area supervised by Lis and Vicky Farrington. Outside on the grass were the mandatory hive raffle prize, the virtual hive for the nervous and also the demonstration hive on a trailer with a bee-proof cage around it so that people could see bees, beekeepers and what they do to each other.

The children learn about bees in the MBKA marquee at Glansevern ...

The children learn about bees in the MBKA marquee at Glansevern ...

... before going into action in the bee cage.

... before going into action in the bee cage.

The added twist this year was that groups of 5 children, having been trained by Vicky in the marquee, could get their first taste of real bee keeping in the cage supervised by North Montgomeryshire's SBI John Beavan. The children were clearly enjoying themselves, even when they had their hands filled with live bees (one of the best ways to overcome potential fear of bees is to literally “handle” some live bees).

To round off their special day, all the children received a certificate (see photo, including Chairman Tony Shaw (third from left) and teacher Vicky Farrington (fourth from left)). It was great to see so much enthusiasm for the hobby from ones so young. Money raised by the introductory courses will be used to buy more bee suits in children's sizes for the association.

Proud graduates of their first bee classes

Proud graduates of their first bee classes

It was an extremely successful day for the association. Three organisations asked us to repeat the demonstration and teaching format at their events next year. And the raffle raised some very useful funds. However it was a lot of hard work and it will be difficult to keep doing things like this without some more members helping out. It is definitely a case of many hands make light work, and the more people to help out on the stall, the more time each will have to look at the rest of the festival too. All the improvements came from fresh helpers but we do need more of them.

Volunteers finish packing up at Glansevern

Volunteers finish packing up at Glansevern, including Mr Baxter standing in for Dave Bennett.

The children learn about bees in the MBKA marquee at Glansevern ...

Aberystwyth “Coach Trip” – 28th September

The BeeHolder, October 2011

A Sweet Success of a Trip

Sunday afternoon is a sensible time for a trip out. Chores done and feeling relaxed we arrived at Tropical Forest Honey Products in deepest Ceredigion. A dozen or so Montgomeryshire Bee Keepers were keen to see the Forest Honey Factory and talk to David Wainwright who owns and runs the business.

David has about 750 hives in the UK, mainly in Wales, Shropshire, Lincolnshire and on Salisbury Plain. He produces set and runny honey (though he says he prefers to sell set honey as this produces less problems with consumers and retailers).

Smurfs inspecting the honey production line at Tropical Froest

Smurfs inspecting the honey production line at Tropical Froest

Alongside his UK production, David has been working with African honey producers and over the last 20 years he has travelled to many African countries to source honey and to help local people to set up and run their own honey production companies. David’s fair-trade business approach is admirable and he has built up a successful business as a partnership with the African producers. He has invested in these businesses and helped to provide a living for many families in a number of countries.

The African producers use traditional bark hives which allow them to crop some of the honey and leave about half for the bees. The tube shaped “hives” are placed high up in the trees and the producers (usually families), climb up to the hives to harvest the honey. The family members, some quite young children, don’t use any safety equipment or protective clothing which David believes results in a more natural production and calmer, less aggressive bees! If you have access to the internet, there are lots of photos of the production in Africa on David’s website which can be found at www.tropicalforest.com.

Over the years, David has worked to produce bees that are adapted to the Welsh climate and has been part of a research project with Bangor University called the West Wales Bee Breeding ProgrammeNow that's what I call a bee suit. David and university researcher Ian Williams are trying to re-invigorate bees in Wales and during our visit we were able to listen to a presentation by Ian and discuss the programme. Ian told us that genetics are playing a key role in breeding strong bees which are adapted to life in our climate, are resistant to Varroa and to other bee diseases.

Members asked copious questions about bees, honey, wax, equipment, product demand, cost, production and a number of other topics. David showed us around each of the production and packing areas starting with the drums of honey that are imported from Africa and some which are sourced in the UK. Inside the factory which we toured, adorned with attractive blue hair nets (see photo), the filtering area where the honey is warmed and filtered to remove impurities. David does not use very fine filters as this can remove all of the pollen and also some of the taste. We were then shown the filling and packing areas and David showed us some of the different packaging used for specific customers. He supplies a wide variety of retailers including Fortnum and Mason.

After our tour, David kindly made us tea (thankfully there were less than 18 of us as this is the number of cups they have at the factory!) which was very welcome after standing for a couple of hours. Tony proposed a vote of thanks to David and to Ian for giving up their time to talk to us and a number of members purchased a jar of the forest honey (I can confirm that it is delicious).

The day was rounded off with a very good carvery meal at LLety Ceiro Guest House, to be recommended, an excellent end to an interesting and enjoyable half day out.

Liz Barnes

Apiary Report

The BeeHolder, October 2011

Whilst the apiary is looking very good with the new observation hut, and we have held several successful apiary visits and training sessions there since opening, we have to say that this year has not been an unqualified success.

Losses have been considerable and in spite of having bought in five new colonies, we will be going into the winter with the same number of hives as we went into last winter. Further there is very little honey to harvest from the hives that have survived. Perhaps it is not in a good place, but Eric Franklin is only a couple of miles away and has 17 hives with tons of honey. Several local beekeepers said it was a good place for bees, and the estate manager told us that lots of swarms used to come in to the estate.

The plan was to concentrate on making increase in the early part of the season (whilst the rhododendrons were in bloom), and then add supers for a honey harvest towards the end of the season. Perhaps this was too optimistic, or other factors were in play which meant that both objectives were not met.

There was some damage to the bee mesh of one of the observation hut windows. People have complained about the number. of bees that get caught inside the hut, trying to get back to the hives, so perhaps this was deliberate damage? When the hut is finished off (just a few bits of tidying up and cladding to do) a bee space sized gap will be left so that returning bees can negotiate the hut safely.

On a positive note, we do have a good range of different types of hive (including Warre and top bar hives) and colonies at different stages of development, both of which are good for educational purposes.

Chris Leech

Home-made honey could fight superbugs

The BeeHolder, October 2011

University researchers and the National Botanic Garden of Wales are appealing for help in building up a DNA profile of the nation’s honey. They hope to use the information to identify plants which could fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as the ‘superbug’ MRSA. The honey project could also help fight the diseases currently attacking Britain’s bees.

Honeys have long been known to have antibacterial properties and are used in wound dressings today. Different honeys act against different microbes depending on the chemicals in the plants visited by bees.

Now the Welsh School of Pharmacy and the National Botanic Garden of Wales with support from the Society for Applied Microbiology is asking honey-makers across the country to send them samples, along with a list of plants near their beehives. A screening test developed at Cardiff will test for activity against two of the most common hospital acquired infections antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales will identify the plants which contributed to the most powerful honeys, using a DNA profiling process being developed as an application of their Barcode Wales project, that has DNA barcoded the flowering plants of Wales. The team will then investigate the plants found in honey for the potential to develop new drugs. The Botanic Garden has 14 beehives and an inhouse bee keeper, Lynda Christie, who will provide key expertise in support of this project.

The joint University and Garden team will also be looking for honeys which help bees resist pests and bugs. In particular, they will test for resistance to the Varroa mite, which has caused a rapid decline in the UK bee population, and the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, responsible for American Foulbrood, which is one of the most destructive of all bee diseases. Bee pollination is worth an estimated £100m to British agriculture every year, and it is vital to halt the fall in bee numbers.

Professor Les Baillie of the Welsh School of Pharmacy said: "A lot of drug development involves expensive laboratory screening of a huge variety of plant products, often without success. We’re hoping to cut out the middle man and let the bees do a lot of the hard work, guiding to us those plants which work. We’re hoping the public can provide us with as much home-made honey as possible – they could supply the vital breakthrough in fighting these bacteria."

Dr Natasha de Vere, National Botanic Garden of Wales, said: "We have nearly completed our Barcode Wales project to DNA barcode each of the 1143 flowering plants in Wales and are excited to be developing our first applications that use this fantastic resource. We can see which honeys have the best results against infectious diseases that affect humans and bees and use DNA barcoding to identify the plants making the honey.

Anyone who wants to contribute their honey to the research project should send a 200 gram pot with their address, postcode, and details of the plants their bees feed on to:

Jenny Hawkins,
Welsh School of Pharmacy,
Cardiff University,
Redwood Building
King Edward VII Avenue
CF10 3NB

Reproduced from Gwent BKA newsletter courtesy of eBees


The BeeHolder, October 2011

I was thinking about my pastimes and hobbies and realised that many, if not all, tended to look back to supposedly better times. Then I thought about beekeeping.

If ever there is a craft that demands a forward-looking optimism it is beekeeping. I've been keeping bees (or trying to) for just over 10 years. Nowadays many more people are giving it a go. And why not? It is absorbing, challenging to the physical condition and to the little grey cells, relatively inexpensive and if you work hard enough at it, it can pay for itself. Not yet for me -- you understand!

There are loads of books about beekeeping and getting a selection is a sure way to madness. Buy one book and if you like it -- follow it. If you don't -- recycle it and get another. Don't keep both -- if four beekeepers are asked one question about beekeeping you will be given at least five very different answers. And (unfortunately perhaps) they will all be correct. So you have to find an approach or method that you like and one that works for you and that's about it!

But the bees don't read the books and will usually do what they decide they will do unless you are a very cunning and clever beekeeper. To be a cunning and clever beekeeper you have to keep bees for at least five years longer than you have already kept bees. Yes; you can never outsmart all the bees all the time. So you have to keep alert. Where did I put mine, I know I saw it recently. That would be just before the swarm which I was sure I had anticipated and prevented.

Most of my bees are housed in a custom built bee shelter. Here is a picture to save 1,000 words.

Roy Norris' bee shelter - ideal for the Welsh winterIt is really a shed with a concrete floor, slatted sides, open front and a solid back (to thwart frosts rolling down the hill to the pond), built by one of our members – not me. This is the first year of use but so far the signs are encouraging. Bees inside the house are much better tempered when compared to those left outside. On the other hand, it may be that I am getting tired when I reach the outside bees. The bees really appreciate a clumsy beekeeper and show this by rising -- as if one body -- from the hive and indicating to the hapless beekeeper in a gentle spirit of warning, that one should be more careful - if there is to be a next time.

Do you recognise any of my comments as reflecting your experience? If so, perhaps you would share your experiences of beekeeping. There is no need to bother too much about the downsides to beekeeping. Just tell of the joys, great honey, making wax candles, balms and polishes, of "making increase”, of Queen rearing and swarm management.

Roy Norris

I'm sure that a lot of our beekeepers have experiences and knowledge well worth passing on. Why not write an article for the next BeeHolder? If you are interested, get in touch before 16th December!


Toby's Top Tip

Candy canesCandy canesThe BeeHolder, October 2011


If you don't feed enough in the autumn you can feed candy in the winter, last year I gave my bees lots.

Toby Beavan

Dennis The Mentor

The BeeHolder, October 2011

It was a Saturday morning some years ago now that I was standing on my plant stall selling (amongst other things) some small cotoneaster shrubs that were in flower. A man with silver grey hair walked past and pointed to a bee on the shrub and made the comment that the shrub was very good for bees. After asking him if he kept bees and a bit about keeping them we talked about moving bees some distance and my garden became a staging post for two hives.

Over that season I had one or two hives in my garden most of the time and whenever Dennis came to work them I joined in and became hooked by his humour, enthusiasm and expertise and bought an old hive and a colony from him.

What is the point of this little story?

It is that I had a whole season with expert advice and practice of helping with hives and learning a fair bit from my MENTOR without any outlay. It benefited us both - me learning and he moving hives.

My point is that with all the publicity about bees dieing out and the disaster it could be. Many people think they can just buy a hive or two, a couple of colonies and at the end of the season they can harvest many jars of free honey whilst saving the planet. In other words they have the right intention but not a clue, and if they don't have some help with handling and all the work that goes into it they loose interest and sell their kit at a huge loss.

After my mentoring period was over, for several years Dennis would pop in and we would chat about things, and he would suggest better ways of managing my (by now) eight colonies and lending books on Mini Neucs and Swarm control etc.

So why do we not have a Mentor scheme in the association? So that if someone wants to start an beekeeping, an experienced member local to the new person acts as a Mentor. Ideally the experienced member would put a hive of bees in the new member's apiary and the new member would assist in the day to day upkeep of the hive learning “hands on” how to keep bees. The experienced member gets help with his beekeeping, a (temporary) out apiary and that smug feeling that comes with helping someone. The new member gets a trial period (with help) of keeping bees and that their neighbours and family don't mind, before making any outlay.

Graham Winchester

Dennis Cordwell passed away in September and was a keen beekeeper. Graham's tribute above is a reminder of what a good beekeeper and friend he was to many in the association.


The lighter side of beekeeping

The BeeHolder, October 2011

A bee inspector had been seconded to an area where he was not familiar with the location of out-apiaries. He was searching for this particular apiary on foot having left his car in a nearby lane. He suddenly came to a river which appeared to have no means of crossing. Seeing an old beekeeper on the other bank, he called out, 'Hey, how do I get to the other side?' The old fellow looked carefully along the bank to the left, then carefully along the bank to the right, thought a bit, then called back, 'You are on the other side.'

One morning a bee inspector stops at this farm. He rings the doorbell and Mavis, the farmer’s wife, opens the front door. 'Is your husband home, Ma'am?’ he asks politely. 'Aargh, that he is,' answers Mavis, 'He's over int’ apiary near the horses and pigs.' 'Well, I have some important items to show him, Ma'am. Will I have any difficulty finding him?”
'Oooo now, I wouldn't think so. Harry will be the one in a beesuit'

Having arrived at his out-apiary, a beekeeper saw a little mouse passing by who had caught a waxmoth. The beekeeper snatched up the mouse and the moth dropped into the long grass. Feeling sorry for the little mouse with no lunch, he poured a little beer down his throat. He put down the mouse went about his beekeeping. A bit later the beekeeper felt a tug on a leg of his beesuit. Looking down, he saw the same mouse with three more moths in his mouth...

A certain beekeeper, notorious for his sponging proclivities, met an equally mean friend at his apiary one morning, and opened the conversation by saying: "Can ye len' us a match, John?" John having supplied him with the match, the first man began to look in his toolbox ostentatiously, and then remarked dolefully, "Man, I seem to have left my smoker fuel at hame." John, however, was equal to the occasion, and holding out his hand, remarked: "Aweel, ye'll no be needin' that match then."

The dentist’s receptionist kept his diary of appointments. The dentist did not work at the weekends as that was the time he tended his bees. Looking at his August appointments he noticed that one weekend had the word “TOOTHACHE” written across both days. He queried this with his receptionist. She replied, “It’s quite simple really. Toothache – time for extraction!”

Two bees met in a field. One said to the other, "How are things going?" "Really bad," said the second bee. "The weather has been cold, wet and damp, and there aren't any flowers, so I can't make honey." "No problem," said the first bee. "Just fly down five blocks and turn left. Keep going until you see all the cars. There's a Bar Mitzvah going on and there are all kinds of fresh flowers and fresh fruit." "Thanks for the tip," said the second bee, and flew away.
A few hours later the two bees ran into each other again. The first bee asked, "How'd it go?" "Great!" said the second bee. "It was everything you said it would be. There was plenty of fruit and, oh, such huge floral arrangements on every table." "Uh, what's that thing on your head?" asked the first bee.
"That's my yarmulke," said the second bee. "I didn't want them to think I was a wasp."

The beekeeping supply shop sold Varroa sticky sheet by the yard in either of two widths: 36 inches or 48 inches.
Customer: "Can you please cut some sticky sheet for me?"
Assistant: "Certainly, what width?"
Customer: (confused and slightly annoyed) "Thissors?"

What do you do with a swarm if bees in your bed? Sleep somewhere else!

Reproduced from “The Eke” courtesy of eBees

Beesop's Foibles

The BeeHolder, October 2011

The members of the Little Mudpuddle and District BKA were all feeling somewhat frustrated - well, nearly all; Old Fred, who had kept bees in the area since there were bees, was being his usual taciturn self and grinning smugly at the unsuccessful efforts of his colleagues to get their smokers going in the stiff breeze. He couldn't help feeling sorry for Young Harry, though, who was trying pathetically hard to impress the pretty, young new member and failing miserably. After a while he gently led Yourig Harry aside and said quietly "Wot you needs young feller is a few drops of Bee Elixir. Works wonders, it does — specially if yer knows the Magic Words as goes wiv It. Gimme yer smoker and I'll show yer!" Obligingly, Young Harry handed over the reluctant smoker and watched as the old man took a small plastic bottle from his capacious pocket and, unscrewing the cap, sprinkled about five drops of a pale red liquid on the end of the smoke cartridge and chanted "S'ereh lesied won ekoms timmad!" Then, taking an old lighter from another pocket he flicked the wheel and grinned to see Young Harry's look of stupefaction as the cartridge burst into flame. A moment later it was eased into the smoker and going like Kenneth Clark. "That's amazing" said Young Harry "What do those magic words mean, Fred?"

"Nuffink really" grinned the old man "it was just 'Here's Diesel now smoke dammit!' only I said it backwards to impress yer and I fink it did. After a meaningful silence he added "P'raps you could try it on the young leddy young feller” Young Harry did - and it did! He also discovered that BBQ Lighting Fluid is equally good but Diesel is easier to obtain – and cheaper too. Old Fred was wise in more ways than one.

MORAL There's no fuel like an oiled fuel.

Dennis Cordwell

Please note that MBKA does not endorse the use of accelerants for lighting stubborn smokers.

The True Significance of Winter Brood Rearing

The BeeHolder, October 2011

The recent scientific confirmation of winter brood rearing in the honeybee colony has real significance for the survival of over-wintering colonies in the present circumstances. Despite the fact that there are many beekeepers who either never questioned the accepted wisdom of a hiatus in rearing brood in the bee colony in the dormant period or who have rejected the concept out of hand; winter brood rearing in the presence of the Varroa mite takes on a whole new dimension.

The jury is still out on the causes of the massive bee colony losses world wide but there is increasing focus on the neuro-toxic pesticides such as Imidacloprid, Clothiniadin, Fipronil etc, in the areas where crops like maize and OSR are grown and where the seed and development of these crops is treated with these suspect substances. There is little doubt that the nicotinoid pesticides are deeply implicated in colony losses, however the mystery of the losses deepens when despite the argument that pesticides are the culprit, heavy colony losses are also being incurred in areas well away from intensive agriculture. The issue of winter brood rearing becomes a critical factor when these late winter/early spring losses are addressed.

Recent information coming from Germany advocates that the infestation level in any colony infested with Varroa should not exceed 50 mites at the end of December. A drop of 1 mite/2 days on the floor insert at this time seems to be a good indicator that a mite population of between 35-50 has been reached. If a fall greater than this is registered the colony MUST be treated immediately. Even in Germany many beekeepers, up until the present time at least, still hold the popular belief that there is a hiatus to brood rearing in winter (personal correspondence), however notwithstanding it has been noted that colonies entering winter with low mite infestations have a greater survival rate than otherwise.

A simple calculation might drive home the critical importance of low mite numbers in colonies in early winter:

  • Every larva produced as a result of winter breeding will be a target for a female mite, which will live for around two months.
  • The mite average reproduction rate is reckoned to be some 1:1 new mites per generation
  • Consider a colony entering winter with a mite burden of 50; every 18 days the mite population will double; using mid December as a start date – best case scenario is that by mid January there will be 105 mites, by early February there will be 220, by the end of February 460, by late March 968 and by mid April 1800.
  • The adult bee population is of course meantime being parasitised and debilitated as well. Believe it or not that is the good news.
  • Now consider a colony with a mite population level of just 200, which is quite low by the current accepted standards of the ’winter breeding hiatus’ beekeeper advocate:
  • Initially each developing winter larva will be ‘multiple parasitised’, every 18 days the mite population will increase dramatically and to boot each emerging bee will be a total loss to the colony:
  • Using mid December as a start date – best case scenario is that by mid January there could be 500 mites, by early February there could be 1250, by the end of February 3125, by late 189 March 7860 and by mid April – best case scenario 19,440. The figures postulated could be questioned but the order of increasing magnitude is indisputable. By late April this hypothetical colony could be in real crisis or may have already succumbed.

It is unsurprising that many colonies entering the winter with mite burdens of over 200, especially in the possession of beekeepers who do not carry out their anti-mite treatments diligently or correctly, fail to survive past late winter or early spring. The phenomenon of winter brood rearing in the honeybee colony will be ignored at beekeeper peril. If age-old dogma can be cast aside, who knows, we in Scotland at least could really begin to take control of our colony health and winter survival. By ensuring that the mite has as few potential hosts on which to do her wicked work and really getting to grips with the necessary work of winter mite control – which entails any treatment method, applied at the correct time, that kills mites in the brood cells. Formic acid is, to date, the only substance which does just that. Applied correctly around early April this treatment method could just be the tipping point to get your colonies through to summer to become an effective honey gathering force.

The effectiveness of any late winter treatment will have to be closely monitored to ensure that the mite burden is as low or ideally lower than recommended. Thymol or oxalic acid treatment used correctly will achieve this aim.

Eric McArthur, Scottish BKA
Reproduced courtesy of eBees

I resisted the temptation to re-title this article “How the mitey have fallen”


The BeeHolder, October 2011

Here is one of Dennis's and a few further Beeattitudes - small filler pieces to help the spacing of a magazine.


Blessed are they who bid at MBKA auctions for they shall gain bargains
Yea verily – not half

Dennis Cordwell

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
philosopher, author, naturalist


Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn`t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn`t know it so it goes on flying anyway.

Mary Kay Ash

Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.

Anders Aslund

July 2011

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Queen stabbing as a sport

Whoops! Well, it was the queen

Boffins explaining the brood frame at the apiary family day.

(No queens were harmed in the making of this BeeHolder)

Photo courtesy of Gekkko

Here is the BeeHolder in glorious colour (except the black and white bits). Navigate through using the links at the side or at the bottom of each page. You can download a version in portable document format (PDF) using the link below.

BeeHolder Jul 11.pdf600.53 KB


The BeeHolder, July 2011

Well, this is my second stab at the BeeHolder editing job, and so far it has not gone as smoothly as hoped. July 5th already and the thing is only half done. Still, it has to get easier as I go along, doesn't it?

I hinted in my last editorial that the winter had not been a bad one for bees and beekeepers, but now the dust has completely settled it is clear that I have lost both my hives. Not strictly true – I still have them, but they are empty. Perhaps I should concentrate more on the keeping aspect of beekeeping.

My hopes of catching a swarm to keep things going have pretty much evaporated for this season, but with a lot of other things going on perhaps it is better to put off keeping bees till next year. I expect there will be a lot of angry, unpollinated plants about who won't thank me for that.

(Also I must apologise for cutting down to 16 pages from 20, but due to a car crash everything got even more hectic than usual right at the end. Perhaps this quarter I should work to a deadline of September 1st for issue! This paragraph added after the BeeHolder went to press).

Chris Leech



This space for rent !


If you would like to advertise in the BeeHolder and reach over 100 beekeepers directly plus many more on the internet, please contact a member of the committee






We Welcome as New Members ...

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Debbie Gurden [Shrewsbury], Simon Church [Newtown], John Sanford [Felindre] and Veronica White [Llanymynech].

We look forward to seeing you at the various events coming up during the next few months. Also, if you have not already done so, why not sign up to the Montybees web site to keep track of the latest developments and join in on the forum pages?

Busy bee BrianBRIAN NORRIS







Little Garth,
Garth Lane,
SY16 3LN

01686 625250

Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, July 2011

At the last committee meeting there was criticism that the MBKA had perhaps spent too much time trying to make the meetings attractive and sociable and not provided enough training courses. It is a balance that it is hard to get right.

The big increase in membership and the average attendance at meetings suggests that we are doing something right. Then, during casual conversations, one notices the fathomless depth of ignorance of a fellow beekeeper to the seemingly obvious and is driven to despair. But one cannot show the despair because that would cut off the learning process. One has always to show concern and encouragement. Could there be a way of having a course for say.”assembling a brood frame from a kit of bits of wood”? Of course too few would come, but how many times have you noticed a frame nailed wrongly and causing trouble in the hive? Or, another example, could we have a course on the genetics of insects? I suspect it would either be deemed to be to esoteric or too simplistic. Yet I know of many members who are full of enthusiasm for helping the environment through keeping bees or desperate for the honey for their family and yet are totally ignorant about simple insect biology.“..what is a drone?” . These questions do not come out in formal training courses, but in the casual walk towards a hive and whilst stacking the tea cups.

During the life of this edition of BeeHolder we are going from the second blast of nectar flow to taking off the honey and shutting down the hives for winter. July to October is a busy time for beekeepers and yet it one where many, especially novice beekeeper, maybe approaching without knowledge or guidance. The courses that we have run at the beginning of the year seem a far distant ...memory... no not even memory... because most of what was said would have been forgotten. Beekeeping is a craft that can really only be learnt by closely following the hand movements of a more experienced beekeeper. A book may describe how to light a smoker and administer smoke to a hive. Only the sight of an experienced beekeeper smoking can show the lazy waft of the smoke over the frames drifted into crevices by the wind.

The Training Apiary at Gregynog is manned regularly by Apiary Manager Dave Bennett and Seasonal Bee Inspector John Beavan. For hands-on experience of bees there can be no better opportunity than to be at Gregynog whilst these guys are working the hives. They have both done courses on how to teach beekeeping. And both have a natural way with bees. Phone up to check on a date. Often Dave and John can arrange for their next vist to the apiary to coincide when you are free to be in the area.

In the next MBKA meeting, in Newtown on July 31st, host Graham Winchester has promised us a couple of deliberate mistakes. Bring along your children and grandchildren in the hope that Graham will again throw himself into his pond to bring out newts and dragonfly larvae for the amusement of children and adults alike. Learning is easier when there is delight and he who plays the fool has often the highest of motives at heart.

Tony Shaw

If you have any views on this, or if you have some ideas for courses you would like to see, don't hesitate to get in touch with somebody on the committee or start a thread on the forum area of the website.


Bee Safari

The BeeHolder, July 2011

When Regional Bee Inspector John Beavan first mentioned the idea of a “bee safari” to me I was a little confused. Immediately my thoughts turned to pith helmets, khaki shorts, native-bearers and blunderbusses. I began to wonder if Apis Mellifera would look a bit out of place mounted on the wall next to the moose’s head.

The correct dress for a bee safariHowever, with a bit of explanation I began to understand that FERA’s bee safari idea was one that could be really useful to new and experienced beekeepers alike. The simple premise was that John would organise a group of us, all living relatively near to each other, to meet up and take a look at each others’ bees. We’d move from apiary to apiary, inspect the bees, and then finish the day with a bring-and-share lunch.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing by e-mail a date was agreed and I began to start worrying about whether my rather feisty bees would behave themselves on the day! When the day arrived I awoke ot the sound of rain on the roof – not a good start. However, John picked me up at around 10am and we headed off to meet the others at the first apiary. Our fellow beekeepers on the safari were Ros, Richard and Ivor – all members of the Oswestry Beekeepers Association.

We arrived at Richard’s apiary where he keeps his two hives in the beautiful countryside up near Rhiwlas and the sun began to emerge from the clouds. John treated us to a few jokes from the FERA Bee Inspectors’ Joke Book – including the hilarious “your bees are all dead”. How we laughed!

Richard’s bees were a fairly dark strain and were almost as ferocious as mine have been over the last few weeks – John sustained a few stings and Ivor ended up with a few hundreds of bees on his back and a couple inside his veil. But, the bees seemed to be doing well and his recently artificially-swarmed colony was building up nicely.

One of the “rules” of the bee safari is that you are not allowed to inspect your own bees. It was exciting to handle someone else’s bees but made us all a bit nervous of committing some kind of terrible mistake. For the first time in years my hands were trembling as I pulled out each frame!

Don't expect to see this...After a brief break for tea, cake and chat we moved on to Ros’s apiary. Ros’s two colonies and two nucs had been giving her cause for concern lately as they had been hell-bent on swarming. We carefully opened up Ros’s hives and found a mixed bag – the two nucs were doing really well but one of colonies seemed to be almost “swarmed out” and the other was in desperate need of feeding. The poor weather over the last month had left the bees with little or no stores. Ros headed off to find a feeder asap!

Next came my apiary. I had been looking forward all week to proudly showing off my bees but, surprise surprise, as we reached my house the heavens opened and a torrential downpour began. So, as we were already running a bit late, we reluctantly decided to skip my bees and move straight onto lunch. Over our feast of sandwiches, salads and cakes we discussed everything from varroa to hive thefts, and John gave us all some very insightful tips on disease control.

.. but expect to see theseI was disappointed that we didn’t get to look at my bees but, I have to say, I benefited immensely from the bee safari. The chance to see how other people manage their bees, the equipment they use and the problems they encounter, was an enriching and educational experience as well as being a fun, social day. I would highly recommend it to new and experienced beekeepers alike.

As we parted we exchanged phone nos and e-mails and all agreed that we would carry on meeting as a small group every now and then and would assist each other with swarms etc. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting when, hopefully, my bees will be the main attraction!

If you would like to go on safari with beekeepers in your local area please get in touch with  John Beavan.

Bee picture courtesy of Gekkko.

Andy Brown

Reports on meetings

The BeeHolder, July 2011

I've split the reports down to one a page, so navigate using the links below for reports on alll the meetings since the last BeeHolder.

Varroa management for beginners - 17th April

The BeeHolder, July 2011

We had booked SBI John Beavan for two varroa courses at Gregynog. John had advised that there should be a course for novice beekeepers and another for experienced beekeepers. Novices on the 17th and the more experienced on the 30th April. That way John would be able to pitch the courses at the level of experience of the audience.

The novice course, on 17th April, was well attended - perhaps even a little oversubscribed. John gave the lecture in the morning, and the attending beginners left with a more confident attitude towards the varroa problem. John then drove to Churchstoke to inspect a Member’s hives (before they were sold on to a new member) and then drove back to Gregynog for our first Open Apiary meeting with an emphasis on family friendliness in the afternoon.

This was a pleasant afternoon spent in the apiary whilst some wives and children played outside. Some beekeepers remarked that they would not have been able to attend had they not been able to bring their children. Afterwards there was an opening of the hives in the Gregynog apiary which all could attend, and finally the traditional (and to some, all important) apiary visit tea and chat.

Varroa management for more experienced keepers - 30th April

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Unfortunately this event was cancelled due to undersubscription, and then tragically several beekeepers turned up on the day, not realizing that they had needed to reserve a place in advance. Unlike normal apiary meetings, for a course the lecture room at Gregynog has to be paid for, John Beavan cannot afford the time to come all the way from Oswestry for a non-event, and so we need to know in advance if there is sufficient interest in a course to justify holding it. Perhaps it is appropriate to mention that the rate of colony loss is greater in apiaries of “the more experienced” beekeepers than in those of novice beekeepers.

This was an unfortunate mix up, but hopefully the course will be re-scheduled to run at another time as varroa management is clearly a key skill for beekeepers of all experience levels.

Open Hives at Gregynog – 15th May

The BeeHolder, July 2011

The theme of the open hives meeting at our Gregynog training apiary was “American and European Foul Brood”. Again this was a meeting designed to be family friendly, and as the pictures (also front cover) show, the meeting was well attended by beekeepers both young and old. Many thanks to Trisha Marlow (© Gekkko) for taking the photographs and allowing their use here. Note that I have reduced the quality somewhat for a smaller file size and hence a shorter time to download.

A first encounter with bees, and only slight trepidation!

SBI John Beavan had used the apiary equipment shed to arrange posters, booklets and even some infected brood frames to demonstrate how to spot AFB and EFB. This was organised so that the members could file through, whilst John was available for questions and more detailed explanation. A simple concept but one which was very effective.

You have to learn your WBCs

Whilst this was going on, in the apiary proper president Jim Crundwell and apiary manager David Bennett went through hives with the other members. For many it was the first time at the apiary, and there is a lot to take in with the number and variety of hives. The younger attendees were clearly delighted to handle frames of bees and look at them – you can't start 'em too young getting an interest in beekeeping!

Eyes downAfter the serious business with the bees, an apiary tea took place with plenty of sandwiches, cales, teas, coffee and chat. After some re-organisation, the picnic tables and benches between the car park and the apiary made a very serviceable picnic site. And I dare say that the children enjoyed the cakes too.

Apiary Grand Opening, Gregynog – 5th June

The BeeHolder, July 2011

The official opening of the Gregynog Apiary was on Sunday 5th June 2011 coinciding with the Gregynog Hall Garden Festival.

Help us help beesThere were many stallholders as well as demonstrations of birds of prey flying and sheep dogs herding ducks. In spite of the weather forecast, which had talked of downpours and storms, it was a pleasant day if a little cooler than of late and overcast at times.

The MBKA marquee was the biggest and most obvious one there and contained bee and honey related stalls. Bees abroad organised candle making for children and Pam Gregory gave an interesting talk about their work in Africa. See here for more information about what they do.

The Great Oak Bookshop of Llanidloes had a table in the tent with an extensive range of books about bees and beekeeping. Their shop is well worth a visit - it is like a little piece of Hay-on-Wye in the middle of Wales.

The chairman on his chair. (Photo courtesy of You've Been Framed)Our association president, Jim Crundwell, brought along some of the extensive collection of equipment which he has amassed over his beekeeping career. Quite a few people had to ask what some of the stranger looking items were used for.

As a special treat, Brian Goodwin (known to many of us for his beekeeping instruction classes) brought along his male voice choir who entertained the crowd with a selection of anecdotes and songs. The MBKA members who had volunteered to help out on the day also assisted the choir in demolishing a delicious tea laid on for the occasion.

Although no actual ribbon was cut, chairman Tony Shaw made a brief speech to welcome everyone to the opening of the apiary. The viewing hut was not then completely finished, but the crowd filled it up and the overflow arranged themslves along the bee-proof fencing to either side.

There were then two demonstrations of beekeeping at the apiary, ably presented by Dave Bennett and SBI John Beavan. They gave informative and yet entertaining performances which were well received, and yet still found time to go though all nine hives thoroughly.

Thanks again to all the members who helped make it a successful day.

Tŷ Capel Deildre - 26th June

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Dr Beverly Evans-Britt had an open garden day at Tŷ Capel Deildre near Llanidloes in aid of Bees Abroad and MBKA apiary at Gregynog. Although the weather was glorious, the event was not as well attended as it has been in the past. Was this due to insufficient advertising, the recession or the radio advising people to stay indorrs and keep cool to avoid spontaneous combustion?

The garden is at 1,350 ft (411 m) and was created 42 years ago from a very windswept waste site. It is amazing to see what treees and plants she has managed to cultivate here at the top of mid-Wales.

Cage fighting with bees?For the kids there was a bouncy castle whilst the grown-ups restocked their own gardens at the well stocked plant sale. Bee interests were met by the firtual hive, an observation hive as well as the demonstration opening of one of the apiary hives by John Beavan and his son Toby inside the bee proof cage originally builst for Glansevern last year. Croquet and badminton were set up for those who wanted some competitive excitement. Bees abroad had their stall set up to demonstrate their work in Africa.

After the general public were turfed out and the barbecue was fired up. In the absence of regular barbecue gourmet Graham Winchester, it was all a bit haphazard and disorganised, but there wasn't a lot left at the end, so we must have done something right.

After the meal, those who had them donned bee suits and went to look at some of the highest bees in Wales, if not Britain. Tony has three hives here which seem to do surprisinglywell on their diet of mountain flora and clouds.

The Role of the Swarm Co-ordinator

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Ideally, the swarm coordinator would be available at home 24 hours a day during the swarming season, with access to telephone and the internet. It is a distinct advantage if his/her telephone contract is one with free outgoing calls at any time!

Before the swarming season, the coordinator makes contact with the Local Authority, the Police, Fire and Ambulance Services, both at local stations and their respective headquarters, to inform them of the services we provide for the removal of swarms, giving contact details. At the same time the swarm removal service is publicesed in prominent places, such as doctors' and dentists' surgeries, free public advertising sites in supermarkets and the like.

The press are also be asked to publish information about the Association giving details about bees, swarming, and who to contact. As the public generally are unable to differentiate between bees and wasps we indicate that we are willing to give advice. This information appears twice, once at the start of the swarm season and again a couple of weeks later if possible (a jar of local honey works wonders). Another useful contact is using the local freegle groups internet site to advertise our work.

So far as the members are concerned, a list is made of those requiring swarms. This includes names and locations, telephone numbers, distance willing to travel to collect a swarm and whether or not assistance is required for their first swarm. Members putting their names on the list should ensure that they have the facility and equipment required to collect a swarm. A cardboard box perhaps? And a hive to put the bees in at the apiary or home?

On report of a swarm the first person on the list in that area is telephoned and given the available details of the swarm together with names and telephone number of the person reporting. They can then get any further information from the source such as the requirement for special equipment - a ladder may be required or deatiled directions by mobile phone.

It would be nice, but not essential, to receive a return call on the completion of the collection : it is essential to get a return call if the person going has a change of mind and decides not to go for any reason. This enables the call to be passed down to the next person on the list. A phone call is essential, not an email as the computer is not manned 24/7 If you find that you no longer need a swarm please let the coordinator know as soon as possible to save unnecessary phone calls.

It is an required skill to be able to fend off calls diplomatically without bringing the Association into disrepute. Numerous calls are received from householders who say they have a swarm, but in reality have a wasps nest. Some are genuinely worried not knowing the difference between bees and wasps, and just want advice and reassurance, but others are just trying to get the wasps removed for free, as the local authority and pest controllers charge heavily for this service.

You have to be prepared to receive calls into the night, like one I received from a vicar at 11-30 p.m. who wanted, nay, demanded, that we do something immediately with the masonry bees that were allegedly eating his church. Fortunately his church was in Shropshire so he was provided with the telephone number of the Shropshire bee keepers

Another late one was from a lady who also demanded that we removed four bees that were threatening to sting her children. When asked where the four bees were she replied that they were in the window. She was advised to open the window.

You meet a lot of nice people doing the job, mainly on the phone and it is nice to be able to help them to help us.

Roy Mander

Bee Inspector's newsletter

The BeeHolder, July 2011

I have been holding back from writing a Wales inspectorate’s newsletter until we have our new recruits in place and I can introduce them. The process has been slow because of the public sector recruitment freeze and it is still not finalised. However, I am confident that we will fill the vacancies and that they will be in post very soon. I will send out details of our new inspectors and the new inspection areas as soon as I can confirm them. Until then, I am pleased to say that our newsletter has been missed and, because events are threatening to overtake us, I will wait no longer.

As usual, the highs and lows of our beekeeping fortunes are dictated by the weather. After a warm April, when colonies built up very well, May turned cool and wet in West Wales, and drier and cool in East Wales. Those close to oil seed rape found that the flow ended abruptly while it was still in flower due to the drought conditions and that only pollen continued to come in. At the same time, the tree blossom fell prematurely and the nectar flow from the ground plants dried up. For most of May, we have had cool windy damp weather, cold nights and not much rain in many areas so that there is a serious soil water deficiency.

These conditions do not stop the swarming impulse. In fact, colonies that had built up strongly on the rape and then were idle in the hive with no foraging to do, have now turned their energies to swarming - if they had not done so previously. I fear that many of these have gone feral and perished due to starvation. You should inspect your bees regularly, weekly at this time of year. Only then can you be up to speed with what’s going on in the hives and manage any potential swarming.

Queen mating and requeening after swarming, splits and so on, has been very slow. This makes for irritable bees when they have no open brood to look after. On our travels, we have seen splits, nucs and even some slow developing colonies that missed the April nectar flow, on the point of starvation. If you find that your colony is light and lethargic, give it a feed of 1kg/1 litre of sugar syrup, spraying some on the bees or dribbling on the top bars in extreme circumstances. If you are doubtful that there is a queen in the colony, then give it a frame of eggs and young brood from a queen right colony. Provided the bees have not been left too long and become weak and demoralized, they should make emergency queen cells and right the hive. To subdue a restless, hungry hive, you can carry a hand sprayer containing weak sugar solution to wet them and keep them under control while inspecting.

The warm, calmer weather now should allow all those unmated virgins to get out and mate at last. Remember that they need five days to mature after emergence and then have a three week window of time in which to mate before they become stale. This fine spell has come just in time. Meanwhile, the blackberry, clover and rosebay willow herb promise to be in flower early and we await a flow from them.

The inspectorate team has been busy working on the National Bee Unit’s two year Random Apiary Survey sampling programme. This came to a close on 31st May. I am assured that the results of the pathogen screening of the samples collected from around Wales will be posted on Beebase by November this year. We will be visiting new beekeepers in the coming weeks so, when you get your bees, please visit Beebase and self register your details, and we will be in touch.

I will sign off with thanks to David Coles, Seasonal Bee Inspector for South Powys, for allowing me to use some of his seasonal notes and wish you a very productive summer.

Frank Gellatly
Regional Bee Inspector

Toby's Top Tip

The BeeHolder, July 2011

Do you want this to happen to you?... or this?



Make sure the hood on your bee suit is zipped up properly before you open the hive.


Toby Beavan


Bees without frontiers

The BeeHolder, July 2011

The Czech Republic started the international competition and meeting of young beekeepers in 2010. This was a very well-organized event in which both the beekeeping as well as entertainment and sociability were not neglected. The understanding of young people across the borders should be, in this era of globalization, developed and not taken for granted.

Austria is going to hold this event in 2011 which was welcomed and accepted by last year’s participants in a very positive way. There are representatives from up to 20 nations expected this year. Monty Bees are one of the supporters who are sending a Welsh team of 3 young people from Ceredigion, Anglesey and Ruthin to Warth in Austria to represent the nation of Wales and learn from the other nations taking part.

Find out more on the internet here.

John Beavan
Seasonal Bee Inspector

Spot the Queen

The BeeHolder, July 2011

I went beekeeping this morning – began to take off the supers – and then found to my dismay that there was brood in the super frames. For the beginners this can mean that when you took off your queen excluder you either did not:

a) Check to see if the queen was on your excluder – put it the same side down onto the super you had previously taken off instead of reversing it – brood side upwards.
b) Zinc excluder had a tear in the slots
c) Zinc excluder had a bump of wax under and had widened the slot.

I realised that I had to find the queen and put her downstairs. Took off another super and got down to the zinc queen excluder and there she was – good as gold - walking across the queen excluder  just waiting for me to pick her up and return her to the brood box.

It is not always like that. Most times you have to check and flick each super frame in turn into the brood box which is quite labour intensive, especially at the moment, with the number of supers being put on the hives.

I then went through the brood box to see if the bees had brought up any queen cells. They had and each frame had to be checked carefully so that the next time I go to the hive I do not find that the colony has swarmed. As far as the bees were concerned the queen was not around.

This was the case of having a spare queen excluder to replace the one taken off. That one’s slot had stretched. But wasn’t I lucky that the queen was so helpful?.

This is something that most beekeepers have experienced at one time or another.

Jenny Gammon

Thank you for this Jenny. Every beekeeper, beginners as well as the ‘old hands’ experience this at some time. It also happens with my wired, (Waldron) excluders when one of the wires becomes bent or lifts. What is surprising, is that it has been known for the queens to return to the brood chamber thus remembering the route she took in the first place!

Ed (of Bee Lines)
courtesy of Bee Lines, Newsletter of Taunton and District BeeKeepers

April 2011

The BeeHolder, April 2011

First know your bee

First, know your bee!

You can navigate through this copy of the BeeHolder using the links at the bottom of this page and the arrows at the bottom of each subsequent page, or the links in the sidebar of the page. If you prefer, you can access the magazine as a PDF (Portable Document Format) by selecting the attachment below. This requires Acrobat Reader, which is provided as a free download by Adobe.

BH Apr 11.pdf1.02 MB


The BeeHolder, April 2011

Well, this is my first stab at the BeeHolder editing job, and so far it has not gone as smoothly as hoped. April 3rd already and the thing is only half done. Still, it has to get easier as I go along, doesn't it?

Is the winter completely over? It certainly came in like a snow leopard but seems to have gone out like a lamb. Talking to other bee keepers it would appear that colony survival was good this winter, and the couple of slightly warmer days which broke up the cold spell in December were enough for the bees to recluster on fresh stores and get through. Having said that, I know of at least two keepers who have lost all their bees, and my own colonies are very weak and still at risk, I would say.

So another bee keeping year awaits, and MBKA have lined up some interesting speakers for meetings, apiary visits and events. Take a bit of time to read through the information on forthcoming events and, if you have some suggestions for other activities or thoughts on how we can improve the ones proposed, don't be too shy to tell us!

Chris Leech


We Welcome as ...

The BeeHolder, April 2011

... New Members

Janet Peacock [nr Montgomery], Cathie Ackroyd and Melfyn Davies [nr Llanidloes], Medina Brock and Richard Roberts [Felindre], Catherine Corbet [nr Montgomery], Catharyn Edwards [Abermule], Dave Evans [Berriew], Christine Gittins [Aberdovey], Andy and Sue Hughes [Meifod], Andrew Jenkins [nr Newtown] and Jane Milner [nr Newtown].

... New Bee Inspectors

Some of you will have noticed that list of bee inspectors has changed slightly. Peter Guthrie has retired as a seasonal bee inspector so that he can spend more time with his bees. This year's regime of seasonal bee inspectors includes John Beavan (East Montgomeryshire), David Coles (South West Montgomeryshire) and Peter Haywood (North West Montgomeryshire). That seems like a lot of bee inspectors for our county, but in fact it works out at well over 7.4 million bees each.

Actually it is because bee inspectors are not attached to bee keeping associations, but operate independently as officers of FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency). Hence the geographical areas covered by bee inspectors do not coincide with the geographical areas of bee associations.

If you are interested in what is involved in becoming a seasonal bee inspector, follow this link.

Go on a safari with John!

The BeeHolder, April 2011

At the last committee meeting, John Beavan suggested the idea of Bee Safaris. A bee safari is a day of bee-related activity, usually moving from hive to hive and site to site. To make these more informative, John suggested that instead of him just going and inspecting three or four hives in a day's work, all of the bee keepers whose hives he is scheduled to inspect will go along too and join in on the inspections.

That way people can pick up on different things, see how others keep their bees and generally have a bee good day out. It is important that we do not spread disease so hive tools & other equipment will be sterilised as we go along.

If you are interested in this idea, please get in touch wiyh a member of the committee.

Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, April 2011

It hasn’t been officially confirmed yet but according to rumour, colony losses during this last winter have been much less than in several previous years and less than expected. The Seasonal Bee Inspectors have taken some credit for this saying that the emphasis on disease disease disease has paid off. Bee keepers really are looking after their bees better. Another rumour is that throughout the UK membership of Bee Keeping Associations is down about 25%. That does not mean that there are fewer bee keepers: just that bee keepers are feeling the economic pinch and not rejoining an association. They will be missing out on insurance and the latest knowledge and the consequence of this is that an increase in colony mortality throughout the UK is expected next winter.

We have all to keep costs down and one way is to rely on the internet to send out information. Frankly we just cannot afford to buy so many stamps. From now on information will be sent along with the hard copy of the BeeHolder and updates will be posted regularly on our website. We will also use the phone more. Some of us even have packages that allow us to make free phone calls.

The term “going viral” may strike fear in the hearts of bee keepers when Varroa is mention but when it is about helpful information or an amusing video “Going Viral” is definitely good. Please tell all your contacts about our Grand Opening of the Apiary on 5th June and also about our open Garden day on 26th June. And tell your friends to tell their friends. Distribute via your email contacts list, twitter, Utube Twitter, blogs and Facebook .. whatever..whatever..just gossip... get people to those events; it is all in a good cause ...Bees Abroad and the MBKA.

Andy Brown, our New Members Secretary reports how difficult it is for members with young families to attend meetings. So from now on we will make every effort to have child friendly apiary meetings. As one member reported “I’d love my children to be able to watch me handle bees”. They can do so in safety at our Gregynog apiary and, if they get bored, we will ensure that there is plenty for them to do outside the apiary. So parents please bring your children along. Grandchildren can be brought along too. Make an afternoon out of an apiary visit. We need to whet the appetite of the next generation(s) of bee keepers.

Tony Shaw

MBKA Dinner 17th January 2011

The BeeHolder, April 2011

After lovingly tending their bees and feeding them in the late summer and autumn the members of Montgomeryshire Beekeepers Association took it upon themselves to swarm to Gregynog and feed themselves at their annual dinner and social evening.

No syrup for them; nothing less than a sumptuous and lavish four course meal would suffice for the 60 odd members and guests who were present under the watchful eye of a very capable and humorous MC, Tony Shaw.

Celebrities and others were strategically spread amongst the tables and were introduced by the MC.

Celebrities present were:-

John Bevan, Seasonal Bee Inspector; Charles Miller, Seasonal Bee Inspector; Peter Guthrie, Seasonal Bee Inspector; Karen Armstrong, Warden at Gregynog, (her idea to start an apiary at Gregynog); Steve Griffiths, Gregynog Estate Manager; Mr. & Mrs. Brian Goodwin President of Shrewsbury Flower Show; Paul Edwards, Welsh Oak Frames and supplier of the observation hut for the Gregynog apiary; Graham Winchester host of ‘Who Wants to Nearly Be a Millionaire’ which was conducted during coffee; Jim Crundwell, current president of MBKA; Dennis Cordwell a previous secretary and very capable and innovative beekeeper. (He produced a lot of gadgets, also his cartoons DRAC will go on for ever); Mike Compton, ex member, beekeeper and producer of the BeeHolder.

To the dismay of everyone present, due to plane travel problems, Lembit Opik was unable to join us in person. I say in person because our MC did the next best thing and during coffee we enjoyed Lembit’s presence courtesy of ‘Skype’. He was an even bigger personality on the big screen and members were able to ask him questions which resulted in some witty answers. The banter between Lembit and Tony was much appreciated.

Also during coffee Graham Winchester came into his own and got ‘Who Wants to Nearly Be a Millionaire’ off the ground: this was interspersed with wit and humour. As the game progressed participants fell by the wayside until just one participant (the winner) was left standing, Mrs. Goodwin. As is her nature she made a most generous gesture by donating her winnings to the Gregynog Apiary.

At this point the bar came into its own and everyone was able to mingle and catch up with old friends.

It should not be left unsaid just how nice the room and the setting was with the tables decorated with silver crackers (not the diners!) and the party poppers produced colourful streams of ribbon draped over fellow guests. As one would expect at Gregynog, the table service was super efficient and friendly. In view of the walk from the car park Gregynog Hall even arranged for the rain to keep away. Long live MBKA dinners.

Mike Compton

Thanks for the report, Mike. Please note that plans are afoot for the next Christmas dinner, lightly pencilled in for January 14th 2012 (as Christmas dinners for bee keepers are traditionally held on St Mythelmroyd's Day, or as in this case the nearest Saturday to it). The venue will once again be Gregynog, though we can't guarantee a satellite link with Lembit.


EU beekeepers stage win against GM crop producers

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Bee flyingThe EU's highest court may classify honey containing traces of genetically modified material as "food produced" from modified plants. Such a ruling may enable beekeepers with hives close to GM crops to seek damages.

Beekeepers with hives close to fields of Monsanto genetically modified maize can't sell their honey in the European Union without regulatory approval, an adviser to the European Court of Justice has said. The presence in honey "even of a minute quantity of pollen" from the maize is reason enough to restrict its sale, Advocate General Yves Bot told the court last week.

This would be a huge success for "anyone wanting to prevent food and animal feed from being more and more contaminated with genetically modified material," said Achim Willand, a lawyer representing food producers. "Beekeepers are especially susceptible because bees collect the pollen of GM plants within a radius of three to five kilometers," he told Deutsche Welle.

Busy beesMonsanto's genetically modified corn type MON 810 has not been authorized for sale on the European food market. If new regulations are established, making it impossible for beekeepers to sell their product because it has been contaminated by pollen from MON 810 crops, the beekeepers may be able to claim damages from Monsanto.

Beekeeper Karl-Heinz Bablok, from Kaisheim near Augsburg in Southern Germany, originally brought the case to court. His hives were two kilometers away from fields where research was being conducted with Monsanto's MON 810 maize. He went to court trying to get the research stopped or get protection for his produce. Researchers argued that the bees weren’t interested in pollen from maize.

In an attempt to prove the researchers wrong, Bablok put his hives 500 meters away from the maize fields. He had to throw away the honey his bees produced, because he found it was contaminated with traces of GM pollen.

The new rule wouldn't just affect beekeepers, it would have implications on granting GM plant growth permissions in general. Thomas Radetzki of the beekeepers' action group said beekeepers who have hives close to GM crop fields have not had enough protection, despite the existence of protective laws.

MonsantoCurrently, Monsanto is banned from testing its maize in Germany. Meanwhile, the beekeepers case is being watched closely by the agricultural sector. "If we're successful, others may follow, and then the matter may be brought to other national courts too," said Radetzki.

Achim Willand, the lawyer representing food producers, said the Advocate General's suggested ruling could have implications for anyone seeking permission to grow genetically modified plants in the EU. But Thomas Radetzki said, while opponents of GM crops may be pleased at the moment, the case hadn’t been won yet. Advocate General Yves Bot based his suggested ruling on laws which are in place right now. Radetzki warned that, even if the EU tribunal were to follow Bot's advice, "the EU Commission can always change its laws. Then we'd have to start from scratch."

Author: Nina Haase (Bloomberg, taz)
Editor: Saroja Coelho

Reports on Meetings

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Annual General Meeting - February 24th

As in the past three years the AGM was well attended. The bribe of a free raffle ticket for a National Hive was undoubtedly successful. This year the hive was won by Dr Jim Pratt who has now given up bee keeping and announced that he would donate the hive to our training Apiary at Gregynog. Another reason for high attendance might have been the custom of getting the formal business over in about 10 minutes. Doug Wood stood down as chairman, and the Bennetts stood down as joint secretary. Many thanks for all of their hard work over the past years. The new chairman (Tony Shaw) announced some administrative changes (splitting the rôle of secretary) and got unanimous agreement from those present that personal information such as address and telephone number could be shared with other members of the Association. Several members volunteered as committee members, but the assignment of rôles was deferred to the first meeting of the new committee.

With the formal part of the meeting quickly over, John Beavan gave an interesting and amusing report on the IBRA Varroa conference which he attended earlier in the month. The remaining part of the evening was in the style of Gardeners' Question Time, but about bee keeping with John Beavan and Jim Crundwell answering a multitude of seasonal questions.

Note: At the first committee meeting it was decided to go cautiously with the amount of information shared. There was concern that the location of apiaries might be of interest to persons of larcenous intent, and so this information should not necessarily be circulated to all members. Yet it would be very useful for people to know who their immediate bee keeping neighbours are for bee safaris (see page 5), car pooling or even just for help with bee problems, swarms etc. It was decided that a straw poll of the membership by means of a questionnaire would be the best approach.

Please complete the questionnaire enclosed in your copy of the BeeHolder and return it either at the next bee meeting you attend (save a stamp) or by post as directed on the questionnaire. (I'll try and get a questionnaire on the web site too).

At the first committee meeting, the old position of secretary was resolved into three separate rôles. Joe Bidwell will act as Secretary, the point of first contact for people outside the association on top of his rôle as Education Officer. Jane Frank as Minutes Secretary will record the meetings and Michelle Boudin as Membership Secretary will handle the initial contact and signing up of new members.

Climate Change and Bees - March 24th

Dr Rob McCall of the Welsh Climate unit was expected to talk on Climate Change and Bees, but cancelled due to “..the impact of travel on the environment ..I’m sure you’ll understand.” Since he commutes between Bangor and Newport we had hoped he would just find a way to pop in on his route.. But it was not to be. He had sent a copy of his PowerPoint Presentation which Tony attempted, without much conviction, to deliver. Graham Winchester, who is fast getting a reputation as Montgomeryshire’s professional sceptic on all climate change issues, did his best to upset the speaker with giggles, blusters and poignant heckles. I didn’t know our chairman could stutter and blush so much. However there was a lively discussion between many of the audience and some very interesting anecdotes from Jim Crundwell. The consensus seemed to be that Dr McCall was obviously not a bee keeper. If he had attended we would probably have been too polite to heckle him and the participation in discussion would have been far less.

At the end of the meeting Jim Crundwell announced that he was downsizing his apiary and donating many of his interesting collection of hives to our Training Apiary. This is really fantastic news.

To bee or not to bee

The BeeHolder, April 2011

To bee, or not to bee: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the hive to hurl
the stings and buzzes of enrag'ed workers,
or to take smoke against a sea of troubles,
and by sedation end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to hope we end
the thousand pests and pesticides
that bees are prone to, 'tis a consummation
devoutly to be wish'd. To hibernate;
to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
for in that sleep of death what dreams may come
of halcyon hives beyond a flowering sea,
must give us pause: there's the respect
of bees for keepers calm and kind;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of wild,
the raiding bears, the scratching mites,
the colony collapse disorder, spring's delay,

the insolence of kids with stones
and dogs that stink a stinkhorn out,
When happy bees their treaty make
With but a gift of honey homely made.
To wax and weary dance a busy life,
bearing the dread of winters famine,
the undiscover'd country from whose chill
no colony returns, puzzles the will
and makes us rather bear those ills we have
than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus fearfulness makes cowards us all;
And thus the natural drive to forage
is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And, enterprise of great collusion,
with this regard our swarming turned awry,
and lost the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Melliferal Nymph, in thy prayers
be all our stings forgiven.

by William Shakespeare

This little known piece was written by Shakespeare in the late 1570s when he was in his teens and shows an amazing maturity of style. It has been largely forgotten since his adaptation of it to Hamlet about 20 years later. Shakespeare was much taken with the drama of the hive, queen flight and the personality of drones. He, with his contemporaries, believed that all female bee-keepers were known by their bees as ‘Ophelia’ but recent bee neuro-science shows that there is regional variation, with ‘Loveday’ occurring in the south-west and Nuala among Irish bees, so we have adopted a more generic name here.

Nick Tregenza
An Hes, The Newsletter of the West Cornwall BKA

Future meetings

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Courses on Varroa Management

Please note that the we have two varroa management courses from 10am till 1pm on the 17th and from 1pm to 4pm on the 30th April. The first is for novices and the second for more experienced bee keepers. Both sessions will be lead by SBI John Beavan and there is a charge of £5 for the day. There will be an open apiary session from 2pm on 17th April when everyone will be welcome whether they attended the course or not.

There are still places left for each course. Please contact the secretary if you are interested.

Open Apiary Days

Formal Open Apiary Days at the Gregynog Apiary are on April 17th and May 15Th and August 28th. We hope to make each of these Family Friendly events where children and friends will be welcome to play and picnic outside the apiary whilst the bee keeper is working the hives inside the Apiary. Please bring a contribution to the picnic. If it is raining we will be holding a meeting inside Gregynog Hall.

Catch the SBI at the Apiary

SBI John Beavan will be at the Gregynog Apiary every two weeks on Saturdays. He will be talking and demonstrating bee keeping techniques to any member who turns up. However it will be best to check with John first because he can only help a few bee keepers at a time - e-mail or see the contact page for other contact details.

Gregynog Apiary Grand Opening

This will be on Sunday June 5th and will co-incide with the first Gregynog Garden Festival. Entry will be free for MBKA Members (don't forget to bring your membership card). There will be lots of celebrities there. We will have our marquee filled with bee themed stalls, workshops, a male voice choir conducted by master beekeeper Brian Goodwin and the Welshpool High School jazz band. We will be making a collection for Bees Abroad and ourselves. Pam Gregory of Bees Abroad will be bringing a stall talking about the work of Bees Abroad. The garden festival itself will have its own range of stalls and attractions. For this, the first year of the Gregynog Garden Festival, we are giving out free stalls to worthy bee themed enterprises. These stalls will be in the MBKA Marquee and in the Music Room of Gregynog Hall. However places are limited, please contact the secretary with an explanation about what you want to do on your stall. The MBKA committee will decide on the worthiness of your application. This will be a big day for the MBKA and we will be asking for volunteers to help. Keep a watch on our website for updates about this event.

Midsummer Open Garden Day

Midsummer Open Garden Day in aid of Bees Abroad and our MBKA June 26th by kind permission of Dr Dr Beverly Evans-Britt being interviewed by Derek Brockways for his TV series Gardening in the ExtremesBeverly Evans-Britt (pictured right being interviewed by Derek Brockways for his TV series Gardening in the Extremes). There will be a bouncy castle and other things to amuse the family while the serious gardeners look round this fabulous garden.

Two years ago we did some stewarding in this garden in return for all the money from Plant Sales, which was very rewarding for the Association. This year all of the proceeds will be for MBKA to share with Bees Abroad. Do volunteer for stewarding duties, help in making the teas etc. Volunteers don't have to pay admission, and we need all the volunteers we can get! For a report of our last adventure in this garden see BeeHolder July 2009.

At 5 o'clock we will shoo away the public and have our private MBKA open hive meeting followed by a BBQ and social at 6pm. At 1,350 feet, Capel Deildre is reputed to be the highest apiary in Wales.

Please start collecting plants that can be sold at this event. We all have something that grows too well in our own garden yet is thought of as a gem in another’s.

July Apiary Visit

Saturday 23rd July is the day we visit Graham Winchester’s Apiary in Newtown because Graham said that members should see a warts-and-all apiary because there is limited learning in the sort of professional Apiary where nobody makes any of the kind of mistakes that you or I do.

Glanseven Garden Festival

This year the Glanseven Garden Festival is on September 2 and 3rd is another occasion where we need volunteers to man our bee tent and displays. We make money and have fun, with the added bonus that volunteers helping will have free admission and a chance to see and sample the interesting and varied stands. Watch the website for further information.

Coach Trip to Tropical Forest Products

A coach trip to Tropical Forest Products, Nr Aberystwyth is on Sunday 25th September. This is a large commercial honey farm as well as a company importing and packing honeys from Africa. We will be seeing the production facilities and also getting a talk from Director David Wainright about his work with the Honey producers of Africa. The plan is to have the coach start from Newtown with several stops en route, and then to have a meal afterwards. We have not worked out the price of the coach yet; keep a watch on the website.

Apiary Report

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Those visiting recently (see pictures on the back cover) will have noticed the gorgeous daffodils in the apiary and the bright paint on the hives. We found that despite putting new hives into the apiary they were looking a bit tatty after the winter. It was getting difficult to tell the new from the old. This will make it easier for us to stock the apiary for now we can receive old hives, sterilise them and then paint them in jolly colours. So any spare hives or other equipment you may have would be gratefully received to help stock up this new and valuable asset for the MBKA!

Colourful hivesApart from the painting, nothing else has been changed over the winter period. The new viewing hut has been delivered in kit form and we are just waiting for some bureaucratic form filling to be completed (planning permissions). Then we will need a rush team of helpers to wheelbarrow concrete into the trenches, some strong arms to hold the first few uprights and then some nimble fingers to help tack the safety wire into place. Please volunteer your services to Dave Bennett.

The MBKA is responsible for slating the roof. Weathered slates are preferred and unfortunately we have had no success in getting any. Has anybody an idea to help here? Any source of free or cheap slates?

Gregynog in bloom

Please remember that car parking at Gregynog is free for MBKA members. If you haven’t got your Car Park Pass yet just announce yourself to Reception who will give you one valid for a month.

Tony Shaw



The Gregynog Apiary - a bee's eye view

The Gregynog Apiary from above

Using the link below you can download the jpeg image in order to print it off using photograph or other image editing software. Contact the web manager if you have trouble doing this.

map all.jpg336.4 KB

Genetic weapon against bee killer

The BeeHolder, April 2011


One in the eye for Varroa

Researchers have developed a genetic technique, which could revitalise the fight against the honeybee's worst enemy - the Varroa mite. The method enables researchers to "switch off" genes in the Varroa mite, a parasite that targets the honeybee. The scientists say this could eventually be used to force the mites to "self-destruct". The treatment is now at an early, experimental stage but could be developed into an anti-Varroa medicine.

Varroa destructor is widely accepted to be the major pest affecting the European honeybee, and has been linked to a worldwide decline in these important pollinating insects. Dr Giles Budge from the National Bee Unit in York, who was involved in the study, said the mites operated a particularly "severe form of parasitism". The human equivalent, he illustrated, would be having "an organism on your back that's about the size of a dinner plate, which creates a hole through which it can feed and through which its family can feed". "The hole doesn't seal up - they drink blood through it and inject viruses into it."

To tackle this particularly nasty pest, bee researchers and parasite specialists came together to harness a method called RNA interference (RNAi). This involves putting a tiny chunk of genetic code into an organism. This code cancels out a specific gene, essentially switching it off. The researchers added this piece of genetic material to a solution that they soaked the Varroa mites in. They described in the journal Parasites and Vectors that, via this soaking, their experimental treatment found its way into the mites and switched off the gene they were targeting.

Dr Alan Bowman from the University of Aberdeen led the research. He told BBC News that the approach "fooled the immune sysAnother nasty piece of worktem of the mite" into attacking itself.

Dr Budge explained that this proved it was possible to "control gene expression in the mite. In the experiment, we've targeted a non-lethal gene, because we were able to monitor if we has successfully silenced it. Now, we'll be looking to target genes which, when we silence them, the mite won't be able to function."

In the coming years, the researchers hope to develop this into a medicine, which could be added to the bees' food in order to protect them against Varroa. "The mites hide in the food that is being provided by the other bees in the colony for honeybee larvae," Dr Budge explained. "They will hide for several days in that food, so [a beekeeper could] put the treatment into the brood food and the mite, through its normal behaviour, would come into contact with that treatment." This could solve a conundrum for beekeepers - how to tackle the mites without damaging the bees they live so intimately with.

Currently, beekeepers use chemicals, or mitocides, in carefully conMore goretrolled doses to control the parasite. They even use trapping methods - physically removing mites from hives. Dr Bowman said: "This [new method] can target the mite in the hive. It would be completely selective - it wouldn't target the bees and wouldn't affect any other pollinating insects, such as ladybirds."

Professor Francis Ratnieks, a bee researcher from the University of Sussex cautioned that it would be a long time before this technique could be applied in the control of Varroa. "It may be possible to use gene knockout techniques such as RNAi to learn more about the physiology of pests and to use this to develop ways of controlling them, maybe by the development and application of novel pesticides," he said. "But to do this is a huge undertaking involving [many years] of testing and certification."

By Victoria Gill, Science and nature reporter, BBC News

Dancing inherited from Daddy

The BeeHolder, April 2011

In the dance world, not all bees are equal. In a colony of bees at any one moment, each element has a special task, be it laying of eggs (the queen) collecting propolis, or scouting for nectar and performing dances (the round dance for nearby forage, the figure of 8 dance if it is more than 100 metres away), to increase her comrades enthusiasm for a good source or diminish it when the supply is running low. However some foragers master this type of communication perfectly, while others are noticeably less gifted.

Wolfgang Kirchner and his team, at the university of Bochum in the Ruhr have discovered in their research into bee behaviour that specialisation even extends to the dances. The workers must perform several types of dance, but those that are more gifted for one type of dance are less so for another.

The most surprising thing is that this 'gift' is hereditary! All the workers in a hive have the same mother but they may have different fathers. At any given time there will be sisters and half sisters. Kirchner's team examined the dancers' genes after noting the frequency with which each bee practised one or other of the dances. The result was astonishing! The 17 groups of 'true' sisters were noted and sorted according to their preference for each type of dance. The results showed that the predilection for using the figure of 8 dance over the round dance or vice-versa was significantly related to the sibling grouping.

For Kirchner's team, that proves the importance of genes inherited from the father. According to which father she has, a forager will be more or less specialised in one or other of the dances, more or less assiduous in the performance of two communication codes that are related but different. If it were not the genetic inheritance, you would have to suppose that true sisters can recognise each other and regroup inside the colony to practise a kind of nepotism in certain activities!

Impossible! says Kirchner. How on earth would they manage it?

Article from Huntingdonshire BKA, AMC and courtesy of BEES

The Drone Family Tree Riddle

The BeeHolder, April 2011

The DroneThe drone is a male bee.
He develops from an unfertilised egg.
He has a Mother but no Father.
He has but one Grandfather.
He cannot have sons but he can have daughters.
He may have grandsons.
Can he have granddaughters?

Don't be fooled into thinking that the information to answer the question is included in the riddle. Just enjoy the sensation of your brain writhing in discomfort.

An Hes, The Newsletter of the West Cornwall BKA

Acquiring Bees

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Remember when making or acquiring nukes that there is a standard (leaflet available from the BBKA website). Also it is the policy of BBKA and WBKA to encourage people to acquire 'local' bees as far as possible to reduce the chances of the introduction of disease and to maximise the chances of the bees being able to survive in our climate. While your on the BBKA website, why not have a look round – there seems to be a wealth of useful information there.

Pesticides Ban Campaign

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Gordon Banks, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire has submitted an 'Early Day Motion' to the House of Commons to ban all Neo-Nicotinoid Pesticides from use in the UK. This follows hot on the heels of the Avaaz petition to ban neonicotinoids in Europe and America. It all seems to be based on unpublished research in America but has obviously opened up the debate once more.

The EDM is quoted below and you may wish to write to your MP in support of this motion.


“That this House is gravely concerned by the contents of a recently leaked memo from the US Environment Protection Agency whose scientists warn that bees and other non-target invertebrates are at risk from a new neonicotinoid pesticide and that tests in the US approval process are insufficient to detect the environmental damage caused; acknowledges that these findings reflect the conclusions of a 2009 `Buglife' report that identified similar inadequacies in the European approval regime with regard to neonicotinoids; notes reports that bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these chemicals; and therefore calls on the Government to act urgently to suspend all existing approvals for products containing neonicotinoids and fipronil pending more exhaustive tests and the development of international methodologies for properly assessing the long-term effects of systemic pesticides on invertebrate populations.“

Buglife have produced a draft letter which is available on their website and the website for the Avaaz petition is here. Clearly, the sooner the American research is published the better!

Theresa Simkin

 The insidious effects of neonicotinoids

picture by courtesy of Helen Hastings

Statement from the BBKA on Neonicotinoid Pesticides

The BBKA shares the concerns expressed relating to reports of possible harm to honey bees that may be caused by the neonicotinoid group of pesticides. It calls for an urgent review of all the available data on the effects of these compounds. The BBKA has consistently urged for more research into this group of compounds as evidenced in its paper Honey Bee Health Research Concepts (Jan 2009) and earlier papers submitted to Government. The BBKA itself is funding research on pesticide residues in bee colonies at Keele University.

This urgent review, based not only on existing literature but also encompassing any new and as yet unpublished data, should involve a thorough re-evaluation and up to date risk assessment of these agents and their effects on honey bees by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate in the UK and competent European authorities, the outcome of which must lead to appropriate action.

Martin Smith
24th January 2011

Toby's Top Tip

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Check your hive tool is clean and true before use.

"When you are not using your hive tool try to keep it in the pocket of your bee suit or in your hand. If you put them down they are easy to lose."
Toby Beavan


This is the first of what we hope to be a regular contribution from Toby Beavan. See the back of The Welsh Beekeeper, Spring 2011 for an article about Toby. You're never too old to learn or too young to teach.


Please note that the picture is not of Toby but a stock picture from the internet.


Plus ca change?

The BeeHolder, April 2011

The history (and future?) of bee diseases and their treatment in a nutshell.

1800 AD - Here, use this root.

1850 AD - That root is heathen – use a prayer.

1900 AD - That prayer is superstition – use this potion.

1950 AD - That potion is taboo – try this remedy.

2000 AD - That remedy is ineffective – try this miticide.

2050 AD? - That miticide has produced resistant mites – here, use this root.

Courtesy of eBees

Obituary: Dave A. Cushman

The BeeHolder, April 2011

Dave was a generous man who produced a website to help beekeepers. Throughout the world Dave’s website became the first port of call when needing bee advice. Rather than extol his virtue let this piece of writing by Dave himself serve as his memorial. His site is being preserved and will remain a treasure for beekeepers everywhere.

Tony Shaw

The usefulness of Internet information

Many beginning beekeepers use the internet as their first port of call when looking for information, but all beekeepers use the internet at some time or other. This can give some misleading information to the unwary as, indeed, can many books and research papers which can sometimes give a narrowly focused view.

Let me explain that bee research is carried out in many different parts of the world, mainly using the bees that are locally available to the researchers. Bees are not all the same, all races have different characteristics and behaviour anDave A Cushmand exist in various degrees of racial purity, so information gathered and conclusions drawn in any particular study cannot be applied universally to all other bees and circumstances.

The UK and Ireland have a population that contains a large proportion of Dark European Honey Bee genes and as such are very different in behaviour to the majority of bees commonly studied by scientists, so we have to be particularly careful about interpreting and applying information that we read in books and gather from the internet.

When reading papers and books you should try to fix in your mind where the bees concerned were and what racial type they may have been. For instance, in USA the bees are generally a mixture of Italian and Carniolan types, with less than three percent Dark European Honey Bee genes; parts of Germany can be Carniolan or Dark European; Slovenia and Czech Republic are almost exclusively Carniolan – and many parts of South America are Africanised.

There is another problem with online information, in that the internet is not policed, so Joe beekeeper can promote his favourite theory just as easily as a university researcher can publish genuine research. There are no checks as to whether the information is right or wrong so that someone who is a glib writer may easily promote misinformation just as easily as accurate data. Books pose other, additional problems in interpretation. During the period either side of year 1900, many of the beekeeping authors were members of the clergy, some of whom imparted a religious or moral 'spin' to their information. However the main problem with books is the propagation of inaccurate information, which in turn is repeated in subsequent books written by others that have done their learning from the earlier books. The fact that said piece of inaccurate information occurs in several books then lends weight for such information to be believed. There is another tendency with belief of printed texts and that is that 'it must be true because it has been published'.

I cannot give you any method of sorting the wheat from the chaff other than by improving your own education on bee matters. The best way of achieving this is by attending meetings, lectures and conferences and getting to know the researchers and lecturers themselves, so that you can ask them direct questions. This requires an investment in time and sometimes incurs travel costs, but over a few years you will gain enough knowledge to make sensible judgment on what you are reading. This process is also fun and you will meet many beekeepers in the process. I visit many conferences every year. I also get to meet many beekeepers as I also do a bit of lecturing. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last ten years, during which I have attended hundreds of conferences and have met thousands of beekeepers from all over the world. I hope you all get as much enjoyment from your own self education as I have had during mine.

(the late) Dave A. Cushman
Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeepers Association
Newsletter, via eBEES.

January 2011

The BeeHolder, January 2011

Some of the Hives at the MBKA Training Apiary at Gregynog

Some of the Hives at the MBKA Training Apiary at Gregynog

You can navigate through this copy of the BeeHolder using the links at the bottom of this page and the arrows at the bottom of each subsequent page, or the links in the sidebar of the page. If you prefer, you can access the magazine as a PDF (Portable Document Format) by selecting the attachment below. This requires Acrobat Reader, which is provided as a free download by Adobe.

BH Jan 11.pdf1.48 MB


The BeeHolder, January 2011

I write this with snow blocking the front door; snow piled high on the hives and ice everywhere. Is it climate change? I don’t know. But I am comforted by the fact that I have never lost a hive during a long cold winter. Our speaker in March Dr Rob McCall will no doubt tell us how we can cope. I am hoping he will tell us that fascinating bees such as Osmia rufohirta (featured on our cover) will be common place in the UK and that we will have the balmy weather of the Loire Valley and the grapes and wine to match. I am tired of struggling through the ice.

The frozen ground is holding up the building of our Bee Viewing Shelter in our Training Apiary at Gregynog. All the components are ready; we just need to wait for the ground to thaw to do the foundations. The gap between the double security barrier was supposed to have been planted with David Austin roses but the ground has been too hard for them to be dug up.

But there is one job that is best done after a long cold spell; Oxalic Acid Treatment. This is best done when there is no brood present and the recommended time is between Xmas and mid January. However, in past years some of us have actually noticed brood during this time. With the prolonged cold spell so early there won’t be any brood in the hives this year. So the treatment can go ahead. There was an article on oxalic acid vapour in the last BeeHolder. This time we give a fuller explanation of how to apply it (see here). A MBKA member has promised to put up a better U-Tube video of the oxalic acid procedure than the one mentioned in the article. We will email you when it is loaded up.

When I told SBI Peter Guthrie of my kitchen fire caused by neglecting a pan of dissolving sugar he laughed and reminded me of his bulk buy of Ambrosia. The cost is higher than the cheap deals that one can get from Price Jones for cane sugar but cheaper than sugar from a regular supermarket and certainly a saving on the excess one has to pay before the insurance provides a new kitchen. Those who attended Peter’s talk last year may have been cynical about his euphoria about the Ambrosia but the sheer convenience of ready dissolved bee food has convinced me. Now is the time to book up a delivery from Peter; his Ambrosia does give the girls a tremendous spring boost.

We now have a tradition of having our New Year/Xmas Dinner during January. It is a kick off for what should be a great new year rather than a celebration of the one just finished. Perhaps indeed we should forget 2010 and look forward to 2011. The dinner should be great. It is in the newly refurbished Music Room at Gregynog. And we will have our old friend Lembit Opik entertaining us and bullying us to be ebullient about the future. Then we have a series of Training sessions starting in Mid February and continuing till May. There may be more from June onward depending on demand.

Apiary visits will mostly be at Gregynog this year. If there is rain we will hold a meeting indoors in one of the Lecture rooms. The Apiary at Gregynog will allow us to have two meetings going on simultaneously: one for the novices and one for those more experienced beekeepers. Our aim next year must be to satisfy all those interested in bees from the nursery classes of 5 year olds using our secure Bee-Viewing Shelter, to the “5-generations-beekeeping-in-my-family” patriarch.

We welcome as new members

Scott Davies/Newtown, Jane Milner/Bettws,

Happy Xmas and a happy and productive New Year to you all

Tony Shaw


Reports on meetings

The BeeHolder, January 2011

See the pages below for reports on the last two meetings.

What goes around, comes around: honey for wounds

The BeeHolder, January 2011

In October, Dr Rose Cooper, Professor of Microbiology at the Cardiff University gave a fascinating lecture on the anti-bacterial properties of honey and how it may treat wounds, ulcers, lesions, burns etc.

Honey is composed of moisture, fructose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, other sugars, ash, nitrogen and over 600 low level components such as flavonoids, terpenes, organic acids and newly discovered bee-defensin-1. It has a pH of around 3.9 (acidic). The anti-microbial properties were first identified in 1892 by Von Ketel and in 1937 Dold discovered “inhibine”, the magic anti-bacterial component. Different types of honey have different types of properties, and darker honey is richer in anti-oxidants.

Author Michelle Boudin wanted a grisly picture of a wound healed by a Manuka dressing but Professor Cooper replied  “Unfortunately I am not able to give you the grisly photos, as they are restricted by copyright agreements and patient confidentiality issues. Here is a picture of a manuka  plant, though”Dr Cooper specialises in monofloral honey, in particular Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), a tree native to New Zealand. It grows abundantly there but with its mild anti-septic taste, beekeepers unable to sell the honey, considered the trees a nuisance and dug them up until their anti-microbial properties were discovered. Only New Zealand’s Manuka honey can be labelled with a Unique Manuka Factor, UMF (5 , 10 or 15). The antimicrobial properties are compared to phenol. If Manuka is as effective as a solution of 5% phenol it is UMF5, if it is as effective as 10% then UMF10 etc.

Manuka honey is a broad spectrum anti-microbial agent, treating bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. Dr Cooper's work on MRSA has shown that it prevents cell division and in pseudomonas it affects the surface causing the bacteria to ruptures and die. Studies reveal that bacteria are unlikely to develop resistance to honey. Other studies show that diluting honey by 50% is more effective as small amounts of hydrogen peroxide is created.

Manuka doesn't grow well in the UK. Some specimen trees can be found in the Isle of Wight, Kew and the National Botanical Garden of Wales. A plantation in Cornwall at Lord Falmouth's Tregothnan estate sells its British “Manuka” honey exclusively to Harrods.

Dr Cooper showed some graphic before and after pictures of typical untreatable wounds seen in the clinic. In particular she recounted a landmark case of a boy aged 15 who was admitted to hospital in January 1999 with life threatening meningococcal septicaemia. He was in intensive care and his fingers and lower legs amputated. By September 1999, still hospitalised, he required a general anaesthetic just to have his dressings changed due to the severe pain. As a last resort medicinal honey dressings were applied, on one leg only, the other left as a control. The results were simply astonishing and by Christmas he was allowed home.

1% of the population under 65 suffers from wounds but after 65 this increases to 4% as wound healing slows down as we age. Circulatory disorders such as diabetes, chemo or radiotherapy and some medications also delay healing. Treatment costs are high, antibiotics, antiseptics, dressings, ongoing nursing care, increased hospital stays meant in 2007 the NHS spent £29.3m on silver dressings alone! Medihoney licensed in 1999 in Australia is used in open heart surgery across the world. Other commercial dressings are now available. So why isn't honey routinely used in the UK?

The NHS has been slow to adopt the honey dressings over the silver ones as evidence is supposedly lacking (in spite of 17 clinical randomised controlled trials). However further studies are ongoing in Bonn with cancer patients and elsewhere.

Can we use our own honey to treat wounds? Sadly not. As Dr Cooper points out, honey is usually sterile until uncapped but 10% of honey is contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, (Botulism). Medicinal honey is irradiated making it sterile though Germany is investigating a filtration method

Dr Cooper firmly believes that whole honey must be used and attempts by pharmaceutical companies to isolate the one active constituent is unwise because honey is so complex. Once again the marvellous healing power of honey was clearly demonstrated in this lecture.

Michelle Boudin (Herbalist MAMH)

November meeting

The BeeHolder, January 2011

(Jane Frank who was due to speak was taken ill and had to cancel. Let’s wish her well in her recovery. Jane says we can book her in for the same time next year (2011) this time Michelle Boudin will be assisting in what can be a difficult set of demonstrations. We are not allowed to say “potentially dangerous” in case the H&S people rush in with their truncheons.)

Aging Well Research Project

On the 25th November 2010 we, the 'Ageing Well Research Project' attended a Beekeepers meeting with the Montgomeryshire Beekeepers group in Plas Dolerw. As a project we were very pleasantly welcomed by the MBKA. Our aim for the evening was to generate some interest in our project which is exploring the beneficial effects of beekeeping and honey consumption on the ageing process. We came prepared to do some recruitment however we were overwhelmed with the positive response we had from the members. In fact we came away from the evening with close to 30 blood samples! This is a tremendous response, one of the most successful evenings of recruitment we have had to date.

What is the purpose of the Ageing Well Project?

The Ageing Well Project aims to provide information on how diet, physical activity, socio-economic status, psychological factors, the environment and outdoor recreational activities influence biological ageing.

Evidence suggests that particular lifestyle factors may have anti-ageing effects, but there is a lack of sufficient integrative data. By analysing answers, measurements and blood samples collected from participants we might be able to find out to which extent different aspects of our lifestyle impact on the biological ageing process, beyond our genetic make-up.

The Ageing Well Project is not intended to help individual participants directly. Instead it aims to identify ways of enhancing the health and wellbeing of the ageing population as a whole and to prevent early disability and death from many age-related disorders.

What happens to the results of this research?

The project aims to observe what happens to participants over time so that future generations can benefit. It is not intended to change directly what happens to people who take part. The results of the project will be published in medical or scientific journals. In exceptional circumstances these results may lead to the discovery of new drugs and/ or treatments to fight disease.

Who can I contact for more information?

If you would like more information about this project you can contact us by telephone on 029 2020 1172 or email us your query. A member of our team will respond as soon as possible. Alternatively visit our website.

Thanks to the kind help of the Montgomeryshire group we are now able to move to a more advanced analysis of the data. You do not need to be a beekeeper to take part in the study - anyone can take part. We are currently adding the data gained from the Montgomeryshire groups with that from participants of many organisations including the BBC.

We noticed that between the discussion of our project, the questionnaires and the blood-taking your members consumed a hearty amount of tea cakes and biscuits and were animatedly discussing bees with your Seasonal Bee Inspector.

On behalf of the Ageing Well group I would like to say a big thank you to the Montgomeryshire group for making the evening such a pleasant experience and huge success.

Joann Warner, Research assistant

Please will all those who have received questionnaires through the post fill them in and return to the team in the envelope provide? This research is important. We do need to know whether there is any truth in the “rumour” that we beekeepers live better and longer lives. And why. (Ed)


Future Events

The BeeHolder, January 2011

Here is the first announcement of some interesting events coming up in 2011...

Saturday 15th MBKA Xmas Dinner

January 7.00pm Music Room, Gregynog Hall, Tregynon

It was a great evening last year and this year will be even BETTER Great Menu, fantastic value As well as Brian Goodwin, Chief of the Shrewsbury Flower Show and our favourite trainer, there will be our Bee Inspectors in attendance, plus the Warden and Estate Manager of Gregynog, and, drawing the Raffle and generally amusing us, will be Lembit Opik our one time MP and MBKA member. You must book and pay by the 31st December

February 12th Beginners Training Day with Brian Goodwin.

Saturday 9am to 5pm Gregynog Hall Lecture Room

This event has been a great success in previous years and considerably oversubscribed. If the weather is kind it maybe possible to visit the training Apiary and open some of the hives. The cost is £20 for the one day course. This includes all teaching materials and tea, coffee and biscuits throughout the day. Bring your own lunch or eat in the Gregynog Café. Send cheque to Jessica Bennett Plas Heulwen, Llanfair Road, Newtown, Powys SY16 3JY

February 24th AGM and Question Forum with our Seasonal Bee Inspectors

As usual we will be raffling a National hive. all those members attending get one free draw. In past years this has proved a big incentive to attend and the event has been jolly and informative. We keep the AGM business to a minimum.

March 24th The Future of the Honey Bee in a Changing Climate’ Dr Rob McCall

Rob is a Climate Change Adviser at the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). He is responsible for the implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation measures affecting biodiversity and land use over which CCW has influence throughout Wales. He also manages a beef and sheep smallholding in Carmarthenshire. Rob will speak about how climate changes in the past and projected for the future affect our bees and the crops they pollinate.

April 16th Training for Beginners in Varroa Management with SBI John Beavan

Saturday 10am to 12noon. In the Lecture Room at Gregynog and then in the Training Apiary.

There is a £5 charge for this course which covers course materials and light refreshment. Book early and send cheque to Jessica Bennett Plas Heulwen, Llanfair Road, Newtown, Powys SY16 3JY

April 16th SATURDAY 2pm at Gregynog

The first Open Hive Day will be at our Training Apiary where the theme will be preparation for the year ahead. Those not veiled-up can watch the bees in safety from the Bee Viewing Shelter which should be completed before Easter. Those attending the Varroa training session in the morning can have lunch in the Gregynog Café.

April 30th Training in Varroa (more suitable for experienced beekeepers) with SBI John Beavan

10am to 12noon. In the Lecture Room at Gregynog and then in the Training Apiary.

There is a £5 charge for this course which covers course materials and light refreshments. Book early and send cheque to Jessica Bennett Plas Heulwen, Llanfair Road, Newtown, Powys SY16 3JY

May 15th SUNDAY 2pm at Gregynog

Open Hive Day at the Training Apiary where the theme will be European and American Foul Brood: How to prevent and spot. Fortunately most beekeepers have never seen either of these diseases BUT they can be so devastating that all beekeepers should be aware of what to look out for.

Varroa, Know your Enemy

The BeeHolder, January 2011

At the Bee Disease day in Gregynog I was quite horrified that some members were expressing delight at the sight of varroa under the microscopes. I hope it was delight at the journey into a microscopic world rather than admiration for the varroa mite The fertile workings of Tony Shaw's mind - imagine yourself the size of a bee larvaeitself.

Varroa mites are for me the epitome of revulsion. Not only do brothers incestuously mate with their sisters but oral sex reaches a new level of depravation; they ejaculate through their mouths!! And of course they kill bees. The male, understandably, looses interest in eating; in fact it can’t, and has a very short life. Since sex does not introduce any new genes, reproduction is akin to pathogenesis, virgin birth, cloning.

But somehow a genetic change must have happened for, as we all know Varroa has made the transition from the Asian bee to the European Honey Bee. The ranges of Apis cerana and Apis melifera have overlapped for many centuries and yet varroa is a comparatively recent pest to our European Honey bee. The Asian bee has learned to live benignly with both Varroa destructor and the related Varroa jacobsoni.

In the original host, Apis cerana, the mite enters a drone cell before it is capped. It will be a fertilised female, ready to lay eggs. With no eyes and only smell to go by it apparently gets a signal from the larva indicating that it is the right age to receive eggs; not too young to bear the parasites but old enough to give time for the young mites to mature before the drone emerges. Incidentally drones take that little bit longer to emerge than workers which is critical to the mite’s development. Things happen quickly: the mite lays about five eggs; the first to hatch is a male and he inseminates all the others that hatch, his sisters. The females then attach themselves to the drone and draw nourishment until the weakene

drone emerges. The four or so young mites jump out at the same time and scramble around looking for another drone cell to infect. They hitch rides on workers and often fall or are groomed off. By attaching to foragers and drones the mites spread from colony to colony since both of these occasionally 'drift’.

Varroa has been seen on a number of species: a bumble bee heavily infected is not an uncommon sight. Other insects infected are the sacab beetle and flower fly, Palpada vinetorum. But in these cases the parasite is merely sucking the haemolymph of its host; we have no evidence yet that it is actually breeding on these species. The original infestation of the European Honey bee was the same. At first varroa did not reproduce with colonies of the European Honey bee. That's because the mite failed to detect that vital signal from the bee larva that it was time to lay eggs. Varroa Destructor from the colder parts of Asia Korea, Japan and the mountains of the Philippines, first learnt to detect that vital signal probably sometime in the 1960ies. Only recently have we found that V jacobsoni has also learnt the signal If we can understand the nature of this signal we might find a way to the effective control of the mite.

Tony Shaw

Using Oxalic Acid

The BeeHolder, January 2011

The organic acids, Oxalic Acid, Formic Acid, and Lactic Acid are NOT LICENSED for use in the United Kingdom as treatments for bees for varroa control. No mention of any of the alternatives to the approved product or their method of use should be taken as an endorsement or recommendation to treat. The dribble or trickle method referred to for oxalic acid is commonly used in the UK and throughout Europe, and should you decide to use it you should ensure that you apply it in a safe and informed manner.

Remember that oxalic acid is a poisonous chemical and so should be treated with some care and caution. See here for more information (also information on extracting oxalic acid from rhubarb).

This short article is something that has been put together from reading about oxalic acid, listening to the experiences of others and also from my own experience of using it in my hives for the last few years. First we have to remember that oxalic acid is a dangerous chemical and should be treated with care. When mixing solutions gloves, goggles, overalls and ideally a breathing mask should be worn. Some methods are more dangerous than others and will be mentioned briefly below. Second we need to remember why we are using it. Legally in the UK as far as the Veterinary Medicines Directive is concerned it is just used as a ‘hive cleanser’ in beehives. However, as we all know it has the side effect whilst doing this of killing off varroa mites. General understanding is that it does this by burning the mouthparts, feet and other parts of the carapace, so damaging the mite that it can no longer function.

Formic acid CH2O2The acid treatment has greatest efficacy when the colony is broodless as the acid does not get into sealed brood and so cannot kill off any mites reproducing there. Having said that, with a small area of brood in the colony it will still have a reasonable effect on the mite population. Hence the best time for treatment is usually recommended as December and the first half of January.

There are 3 ways of treating with oxalic acid that are described here. The first is spraying, where the oxalic crystals are mixed with water and applied to the face of the frames and bees using a hand held sprayer like those used for indoor plants. The disadvantages of this method are the great disturbance to the bees and also, as the solution is just water and acid, it does not ‘stick’ to the bees very well.

Oxalic acid C2H2O4The second method is sublimation where the oxalic acid crystals are heated on a small tray or in an open-ended pipe and the gases permeate through the hive. With this method the hive has to be sealed (no open mesh floor or holes in the crown board) with foam or something similar along the entrance to stop the gases escaping. Also inhalation by humans of the gas is very dangerous. Getting this application correct and carrying it out safely is very difficult and is not recommended for the average beekeeper.

Lactic acid C3H6O3The third method is to mix the crystals with a sugar solution and apply it using the trickle method. This means using a syringe or some other small applicator with a measured quantity of solution and dribbling 5 ml per seam of bees (a seam is the gap between two brood frames where you can see the bees clustering). About 30-40 ml is needed for most colonies, as this would be sufficient for six to eight full seams of bees in a National hive. Adjustments need to be made for other frame sizes. As this is a sugar solution it sticks to the bees and is spread around more effectively and affects more mites. Most hobbyist beekeepers tend to buy in the oxalic acid in a pre-mixed sugar solution that is ready to apply. This is not very expensive but the downside is that we do not know how long ago it was made. Marion Ellis from the US related at the Somerset special lecture in 2007 that the HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural, previously known as hydroxymethylfurfuraldehyde) level in the solution increases over time and so should not be stored. The general recommendation is to make up the solution with sugar and use immediately or store in the fridge for up to one month. With just a water and acid solution no HMF can be formed (it requires a reaction between the acid and the sugar) so the solution can be kept for a long time like this and sugar added when required..

It is not difficult to make up the solution and this can be done when needed using the following proportions, which give a 3.5% treatment: -

1:1 Water to Sugar (weight to volume) made into 1 litre of syrup
Oxalic acid crystals 35g

Mix up the syrup first with hot water to dissolve the sugar more easily, allow it to cool and then weigh the oxalic crystals on electronic kitchen scales and add them to the syrup. If you put it all in a large bottle with a lid and give it a good shake it should all mix nicely and be contained and so safer. When you make up a larger quantity like this the margin of error when weighing the oxalic acid becomes smaller (2g out on 3.5g is more than a 50% increase in the dose whereas 2g out on 35g is only about 6% out on the dose). Once made, this solution can be stored in the fridge and what is needed for treatment can be decanted into a smaller bottle. Warming this like a baby’s milk bottle - standing it in a jug of hot water – before treating the bees will mean they will not be so chilled and fewer bees will die.

Like all treatments it is a good idea to carry them out at the same time as your neighbouring beekeepers. There is a U Tube video of oxalic treatment by our SBI, John Beavan, here.

Adapted from an article by Megan Seymour courtesy Warwickshire Beekeeper

Database shows how bees see the world in UV

The BeeHolder, January 2011

Beekeepers and researchers are being offered a glimpse of how bees may see flowers in all their ultra-violet (UV) glory. The Floral Reflectance Database (FReD) was created by researchers at Imperial College London and Queen Mary, University of London. It enables beekeepers, with phot-manipulative software and some patience to manipulate the data, to "see" plant colours through the eyes of bees and other pollinating insects.

Bees have different colour detection systems from humans, and can see in the UV spectrum. This research highlights that the world we see is not the physical or the 'real' world - different animals have very different senses, depending on the environment the animals operate in," said Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

"Much of the coloured world that's accessible to bees and other animals with UV receptors is entirely invisible for us. In order to see that invisible part of the world, we need this special machinery."

Creeping Zinnia as we see it (left) and with UV shades made visible (right). The petals appear two-toned to bees, the concentric colours drawing them towards the nectarThe researchers collected what's called "spectroreflective" measurements of the petals and leaves of a large number of different plants . These measurements show the colour of plants across both the visible and invisible spectrum. Users of the database can then calculate how these plants appear to different pollinating insects, based on studies of what different parts of the spectrum different species see.

Scientists have inferred what colours insects see by inserting microelectrodes into their photoreceptors, and by using less invasive behavioural studies. Seeing the world as insects may see it can reveal "landing strips" which are invisible to the human eye. These act to guide insects to the nectar they feed on. These landing strips might take the form of concentric circles of colour or dots.

"Quite often, you will find in radial symmetrical patterns that there is a central area which is differently coloured. In other flowers there are also dots in the centre which indicate where there is basically an orifice for the bee to put in its tongue to extract the goods."

But what is the point of such a tool beyond giving researchers an insect's view? Professor Chittka says seeing these invisible colours may have commercial applications in the greenhouse and beyond.

How a cactus appears in UV light"Every third bite that you consume at the dinner table is the result of insect pollinators' work. In order to utilise insects for commercial pollination purposes, we need to understand how insects see flowers. We need to understand what kind of a light climate we need to generate in commercial glass houses to facilitate detection of flowers by bees.

Co-author Professor Vincent Savolainen, from Imperial College London, says the database also offers us new perspectives on how plant colour evolved.

"We hope this work can help biologists understand how plants have evolved in different habitats, from biodiversity hotspots in South Africa to the cold habitats of northern Europe," he says. "FReD's global records may show how flower colour could have changed over time, and how this relates to the different insects that pollinate them, and other factors in their local environment."

Try it out here : the results can be spectacular, but be warned you will need patience.

Adapted from an article by Neil Bowdler, BBC



Swarm Collecting Rustic Style

The BeeHolder, January 2011

Once upon a time, one fine sunny morning in late May, I was enjoying myself in my garden wondering if it was time to go down to go down to the pub when I heard the sound we all dread; no not the Mother in law coming to stay, worse, a swarm leaving my only hive, and it was on a double brood.

 It was enormous. The sky so black with bees I couldn’t afford to lose them.

 I was in luck both good and bad. They settled close by in a tree. Good. 25 ft up right on the thinnest branches BAD. There’s no way a ladder could reach and nothing to lean it on. So bait an empty hive, cup of tea and think.

 Indian rope trick? No. (I was born north of Islamabad but never learned it)

English rope trick ? This involves throwing a weighted rope over a branch and giving a sharp tug. Usually resulting in a cut head or an overcoat of angry bees. Or both. Forget it.

 The Tony Bosworth method. Lay a large sheet under said swarm. Fetch .410 shotgun, aim at branch or swarm or close ones eyes and pull trigger.

 Today I am in luck. Move swarm in sheet to hive where 10,000 pairs of innocent eyes look up, say what did we do??? Point gun at swarm. Point finger at hive and, in a mad scramble like honey flowing uphill in they jolly well went.

 Later the Queen went to the ball, had loads of babies and they all lived happily ever after.

 This is a true story. I promise you. Although it did happen when I had long hair wore Cuban heels and flared trousers.

 Warning! Don’t do this unless you can’t see your neighbour’s house.

Tony Bosworth

Book Review - The Bee-Friendly Beekeeper

The BeeHolder, January 2011

The Bee-Friendly Beekeeper - A Sustainable Approach. Author: David Heaf
Published by: Northern Bee Books ISBN 978-1-904846-60-4

This book although not by the same author is perhaps best seen as a follow on from the book written by P J Chandler, The Barefoot Beekeeper. It gives much information on the ideology and practical techniques to be used with a top-bar hive, in particular the Warré Hive of the type currently placed in MBKA’s training apiary at Gregynog. It invites the beekeeper to examine some of the accepted practices of modern beekeeping techniques.

“In recent years, beekeepers on several continents have been suffering heavy losses of colonies. If we systematically investigate factors causing the losses, we can justifiably ask whether the way in which honey bees are kept is part of the problem. Could hive design, frames, foundation, intrusion, artificial queen breeding, drone suppression, queen excluders, artificial feeding, medication, transhumance and overstocking – all elements of modern beekeeping - be reducing the vitality of bees?”

This book examines the issues surrounding these practices, drawing where possible on the primary literature in bee biology and apiculture, in order to identify an approach to keeping bees that is more appropriate. It also analyses the fundamental attitudes underlying the different ways in which we chose to keep bees"

Our “traditional” ways are only a little over a hundred years old and mankind has kept bees for many thousands of years. Honeycomb is now known to be much more than just the skeleton of the bee colony super-organism. A case is presented for making natural comb the centre of a way of beekeeping that better respects the nature of the honey bee by allowing its species specific behaviours to be expressed.

Among the hives based on relatively natural comb, the author presents the top-bar hive of Emile Warré as a practical and economical alternative to frame hives and describes the bee friendly features of it’s operation. The book includes construction plans and modern tips for its management."

If the beekeepers sole intent is to maximise honey production at the expense of all else, then this approach to beekeeping will probably not appeal. If however the beekeeper has the health and welfare of the bees as a prime objective and is content to share the honey harvest with the bees then this methodology has much to commend it. In time to come the bee-friendly ethos may turn out to be the accepted way in which we are recommended, or even able, to sustainably keep bees at all – only time will tell.

I can recommend this book to any beekeeper interested in looking at alternatives to the accepted norms of modern beekeeping. It will certainly help to lift the veil of mystery and suspicion which sometimes seems to be evident when discussing the Warré hives in our club apiary, it answers almost every question I have ever heard asked about them. Definitely a recommended winter read, and who knows we might well have a few more top bar hive enthusiasts next summer.

Noel Eaton

On Nosema

The BeeHolder, January 2010

Two Nosema species have been identified in honey bees in England and Wales, Nosema apis and more recently the Asian species Nosema ceranae. Both are highly specialised parasitic Micro Sporidian fungal pathogens. Nosema spp. Invade the digestive cells lining the mid-gut of the bee, there they multiply rapidly and within a few days the cells are packed with spores, the resting stage of the parasite. When the host cell ruptures, it sheds the spores into the gut where they accumulate in masses, to be later excreted by the bees. If spores from the excreta are picked up and swallowed by another bee, they can germinate and once more become active, starting another round of infection and multiplication.

Symptoms of Nosema

There are no outward symptoms of the disease. Dysentery is often seen in association with N. apis infections; this may be seen as ‘spotting’ at the hive entrance or across the frames. The dysentery is not caused by the pathogen, but as a consequence of infection and can be exacerbated during periods of prolonged confinement during inclement weather, especially during the spring. This can lead to the bees being forced to defecate in the hive, therefore contaminating it further. In Spain it has been The gut of the honeybee is shown distended due to Nosema infectionreported that N. ceranae infections are characterised by a progressive reduction in the number of bees in a colony until the point of collapse. The beekeeper may also see a significant decline in colony productivity. In the final phase of decline, secondary diseases frequently appear, including chalk brood and American foul brood. Eventually the affected colonies contain insufficient bees to carry out basic colony tasks and they collapse. Mortality in front of the hives is not a frequent symptom of N. ceranae infection. Dysentery and visible adult bee mortality in front of the hives are reported to be absent in N. ceranae infections. Dwindling can sometimes be rapid or take place over several months. Nosema is readily spread through the use of contaminated combs. The spores can remain viable for up to a year, it is therefore important not to transfer contaminated combs between colonies and as always to practice good husbandry and apiary management, maintaining vigorous, healthy stocks, which are better able to withstand infestations.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The simplest method of diagnosis of infections is by microscopic examination. Both N. apis and N. ceranae can be identified in adult bee samples using a standard adult disease screen - under the light microscope the spores of N. apis and N. ceranae appear as white/green, rice shaped bodies. However, both species are virtually identical when viewed using conventional microscopy, but can be distinguished by an expert eye. However, more accurate discriminatory tests are available which detect differences between the two species using genetic methods Currently treatment with the antibiotic Fumidil B available in the UK is an effective control against both Nosema species. As with all medicines ensure that the label instructions are followed.

Apologies to all those who have already read this article at BeeBase the website of the National Bee Unit www.nationalbeeunit.com . All beekeepers should be registered at BeeBase and use the facilities to get the latest informed information on bees. (Ed)

Hive Health Check List

The BeeHolder, January 2011

Over the last month or two, I have had a number of calls from new beekeepers phoning to check about problems which they have encountered with their bees this season. As always, my advice is to get to know what normal healthy bees and brood look like and check if you are unhappy or not sure about what you see in your colony - quite often Sally or I will go and have a look at them with the beekeeper.

Inspecting the brood combs of a honeybee colony is the only way to determine the health and general condition of the colony. However, you have to know what you are looking at and what it means in order to make a diagnosis.

In general, a healthy brood comb simply 'looks healthy'. The brood cappings have a ‘digestive biscuit’ colour; the larvae are white, glistening and 'fat'. The cappings of the brood cells are uniform and the overall pattern is solid, with few holes. A good queen will start laying eggs in the lower centre of the combs and radiate out from there.

Once the oldest brood emerges, the queen lays in those cells, and the youngest brood on the comb will now be in the centre. Once the brood-rearing cycle gets underway in the spring or following the introduction of a new queen, all stages of brood should be found at each inspection.


There will be a Seasonal Bee Inspector in attendance in the Training Apiary at Gregynog most Saturday mornings between April 16th and October 15th

(phone day before visit to check)

The SBI will be there to answer questions and show the working of the hives. This is a unique opportunity for both novice and experienced beekeepers to upgrade beekeeping skills. The apiary will be run to produce Nucs for sale at a discount to MBKA members.


I came across this check list recently which would be helpful when inspecting your colonies. Here are some conditions you may observe during your brood inspections and their possible causes:

No eggs, no brood present
(a) Not brood-rearing season.
(b) No queen.
(c) New queen not yet laying.
(d) Extended shortage of pollen.

No eggs, but brood present
(a) Brood-rearing ceased - end of the season.
(b) Queen has died or colony is preparing to swarm
(c) Lack of pollen curtailed brood-rearing.

Test for Presence of a Queen
If there are no eggs and you can't determine if there is a queen present, put in a brood comb with young larvae from another colony. Check back in three days; if the suspect hive starts queen cells, it has no queen.

Eggs present, but no brood
Brood-rearing has just resumed after being halted for some reason.

Wet-looking pollen - in the centre of the broodnest
If there is no queen and during the off-season, pollen may be stored in the centre of the brood nest and can take on an unkempt look - wet or glazed over. When the workers anticipate needing the pollen to feed brood, they move the pollen and freshen it up and it has a dry look.

Clean, empty cells - in the centre of the broodnest
The opposite of the wet-pollen look. When the workers anticipate that brood cells will be needed for eggs, they move nectar and pollen out of the way and give the cells a polish.

Too many eggs per cell
(a) Young, inexperienced queen, usually settles down quickly to laying one egg per cell.
(b) Something happened to queen and laying workers developed.

Scattered brood
Same-age brood scattered over the comb, not in adjacent cells, means:
(a) A failing queen running out of sperm.
(b) Something is killing the brood. In early spring, cold nights when there are too few adult bees to keep the brood warm can result in chilled brood. Sometimes pesticides or poison pollen can cause scattered patterns.

Clue: Is only one colony showing the symptoms, or are several?

Raised cappings on worker cells
The cappings look like the ends of bullets. Cause: Drone brood is developing in worker cells, because:
(a) Queen has become a drone-layer. Usually her sperm reserves are depleted, due to her age.
(b) Laying workers; lay only infertile eggs, resulting in drones.

Raised cappings in drone cells
Normal drone brood has a 'bullet' look, but not as pronounced as when it is in worker cells. Normally, queens lay unfertilized eggs in the larger (both in circumference and depth) drone cells. These are frequently found around the bottom edges of the brood comb and in areas where the comb has been damaged. The presence of some drone brood indicates a vigorous, well-nourished colony.

Queen cells
Queen cells are constructed along a vertical plane, as contrasted with the horizontal plane of worker and drone brood cells. They somewhat resemble peanuts (in the shells).
(a) Queen cells near the centre of the comb, growing out of worker brood cells – these are replacement cells the workers have developed in emergency, loss of a queen.
(b) Queen cells everywhere, particularly near bottom of comb. This is swarm preparation - the old queen will soon depart with about half the bees (called the 'prime swarm').

Tip: For a quick check of swarm preparation, in a hive with two brood boxes, break the boxes apart and look along the bottom bars and bottoms of the combs in the top box. Most colonies preparing to swarm will show cells along comb bottoms.

Dead larvae (not white)
(a) Chilled due to cold snap (usually in spring) when there are too few adult bees to keep the brood warm.
(b) Died due to lack of care for some reason.
(c) Disease: Sacbrood, American foulbrood, European foulbrood. Call the Bee Inspector.
(d) Pesticide damage.

Mummified larvae
Older stage larvae turn white and hard . This is probably Chalkbrood.

Mouldy pollen
Soft, white stuff in pollen cells - probably due to insufficient hive ventilation.

What about mites?
After some training, you can pretty easily identify Varroa mites on adult bees' abdomens and on your open mesh floor tray. Also, you can uncap pupae and pull them out of the cells and check for dark Varroa attached to the white pupae. Varroa are especially attracted to drone brood and can often be found in the bottom end of the cells from which drone pupae are extracted. They may run out of the cells as pupae are being extracted.

Adapted from the Beehive, published by Northwest Ohio Beekeepers Association.
Spotted by Somerton BKA.

Incidentally the Welsh Society of Central Ohio is the most active Welsh cultural group outside Wales!

It is worth looking at their website

Honey Bees: Genetic Labelling Decides Blue Blood

The BeeHolder, January 2011

It is hard to believe that they belong to the same species: The large, long-lived queen bee is busy producing offspring throughout her lifetime. The much smaller worker bees, on the other hand, gather food, take care of the beehive, look after and feed the brood – but they are infertile.

“The honey bee is an extreme example of different larval development,” Professor Frank Lyko explains. Lyko, a scientist at DKFZ, studies how genes are regulated by chemical labelling with methyl groups. This type of regulation is part of what are called epigenetic regulation mechanisms – chemical alterations in the genetic material which do not change the sequence of DNA building blocks. This regulation mechanism enables the cell to adapt to changing environmental conditions. .

Why are cancer researchers interested in bees? “Cancer cells and healthy cells have identical genomes, but they behave very differently. To a large extent this is due to differences in the methylation of genes. Queen bees and worker bees also share the same genome, despite all differences in appearance. Here, too, methyl labels could be responsible for different larval development,” says LykSo.

In a beehive, it is the food alone which determines the future of the offspring: If the larvae are fed pollen, they develop into worker bees. If they are to grow into queen bees, their only food is royal jelly, which is rich in fat and protein. Australian researchers have recently imitated the effects of this power food by turning off the enzyme that labels DNA with methyl groups in bee larvae. These larvae all turned into queens – completely without any royal jelly.

This was a clear indication that it is methyl labels that determine the larvae’s fate by influencing the activity of particular genes. In their current work, Lyko and his team have investigated which genes turn a bee into a queen. While previous epigenetic investigations concentrated on the methyl labelling of individual genes, the Heidelberg researchers, jointly with bee experts from Australia, have been the first to compare methylation of the whole genomes of queens and workers. “The bee with its small genome has served as a model for us to test the method. By now, we are able to perform such investigations also in the human genome,” Frank Lyko explains. .

Other than the richly methylated human genome, the bee genome carries considerably less methyl labels. In more than 550 genes the investigators found clear differences between worker bees and queen bees. These genes have often remained largely unchanged in the course of evolution, which is an indication for researchers that they fulfill important tasks of the cell. Moreover, Lyko’s team identified a previously unknown mechanism by which gene methylation might influence character production. In bees, methyl labels are frequently found at so-called splice sites of genes where the blueprint for protein production is cut.

If these recognition sites are made unrecognizable by chemical labels, the cell may possibly produce an altered protein with a different function. “So far, the theory has been that methyl labels block gene activity at the gene switches and thus produce diverging characteristics,” Frank Lyko says. “But now we have found evidence to suggest that the mechanism discovered in bees may also play a role in cancer cells.” This would mean that epigenetic factors in cancer not only turn genes on or off, but may also be responsible for production of proteins of a completely different kind.

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
spotted by Jemima Watson, Scottish Beekeeper

Christmas Meal

The BeeHolder, January 2011


The MBKA New Year/Xmas Dinner

is being held in the Music Room at Gregynog Hall.

7.00 for 7.30pm Saturday 15th January.


It was a great evening last year and this year will be even BETTER

Great Menu fantastic value


As well as Brian Goodwin, Chief of the Shrewsbury Flower Show

and our favourite trainer, there will be our Bee Inspectors in attendance,

plus the Warden and Estate Manager of Gregynog,

and, drawing the Raffle and generally amusing us, will be

Lembit Opik our one time MP and MBKA member.


You must book and pay by the 31st December

Send cheque for £18 to Jessica Bennett

Plas Heulwen, Llanfair Road, Newtown, Powys SY16 3JY

01686 626872

Montgomeryshire Training Apiary at Gregynog

The BeeHolder, January 2011

An oak from the Gregynog Estate has been felled. It was planked in Guisfield and cut and worked by Welsh Oak Frames of Caersws to a design developed in conjunction with the MBKA. When the weather gets better the foundations will be dug and a slab poured. Then the fun begins as the Viewing shelter is erected. We will need some volunteers to help staple to protective wire mesh to the windows: please say what times your can be called upon. We hope to have everything finished by Easter. It is amazing how fast things happen when there is enthusiasm from all parties! We really want to see school children using the Shelter during the summer term. See also the apiary pages for more details of the shelter.

The first log from Gregynog being loaded.  This is the first time for about 100 years that an Oak from the Estate has actually been used for a Gregynog BuildingThe Boss which holds the bracing horizontals  and the  rafters together.