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Report of February meeting 2019

Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV) – A talk by Clare Densley, Manager of Buckfast Abbey Apiaries

What is CBPV?
CBPV mainly attacks adult bees and causes two forms of ‘‘paralysis’’ symptoms. The most common form is characterised by an abnormal trembling of the body and wings, an inability to fly leading to crawling on the ground, bloated abdomens, and dislocated wings. The other form is identified by the presence of hairless, shiny black bees that are attacked and rejected by guard bees at the entrance to the colony. Both forms of symptoms can be seen in bees from the same colony.

Diagnosis of CBPV

Bees infected with CBPV
Bees infected with CBPV *

The virus multiplies to millions within the bee affecting most organs with little chance of the individual bee surviving. In addition to the signs above you may find, on the top bars, slow, slightly shaky bees which do not react to smoke.
Check all the symptoms before deciding the cause of dead bees inside and/or outside the hive. Do not assume that many dead bees means pesticide poisoning. CBPV is, as its name suggests, a chronic problem. Not all bees will die at once, stress can accelerate the spread of infection or improving conditions can cause it to clear up.

In Clare’s experience queens often seems to remain unaffected and can carry on laying as long as they are well fed. This has also been noted by Giles Budge. Advice from older books and the NBU suggest re-queening with a queen from a less susceptible strain of bee. Clare found that re-queening made no difference to a colony which was suffering badly. Also removing a queen from an infected colony and introducing her to a healthy colony did not cause disease to develop.

What is a virus?

Hairless, shiny bees
Hairless, shiny bees *

A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses are basically parasites. They invade an organism, take over their cells and turn them into factories for producing more viruses. There are 23+ viruses that affect honey bees. Viruses normally range from 30 to 100 nanometres (1 nanometre = 1 millionth of a millimetre).

How does CBPV infect bees?
Infection often initiates when the colony is stressed (overcrowding, nutritional stress, but not via varroa infestation). Usually passed from bee to bee with a few virus particles entering the cuticle where hairs are broken off. By comparison, transmission by feeding requires hundreds of virus particles.

CBPV can also infect some ant species which act as a reservoir in the wild.

Drifting has been implicated in spreading the disease between colonies.

How does the virus act?
Infected bees contain millions of viral particles, half of which concentrate in the head causing the symptoms associated with the nervous system. Many more accumulate in the hind gut adding to viral load inside the hive.

‘Good’ gut bacteria are important in bee health, helping to fight pathogens by blocking entry into bee cells. Good nutrition is therefore essential for fighting the disease.

Treating CBPV

Bee with the virus
Bee with the virus *

The NBU recommends that in strong colonies showing signs of CBPV, beekeepers ensure there is plenty of room by adding supers or an extra brood box and also that colonies are well fed.

Clare doses the bees with Varromed (formally Hive Clean) right from the outset. This seems to activate not only the grooming process but also seems to encourage the bees to clear out their dead.

Infected colonies may be short of readily available food due to a lack of foragers and will benefit from feeding direct to the comb in the brood area. Spray or pour liquid feed onto an empty brood frame and put it next to brood. Dribble syrup onto the bees as well. These methods work better than feeders.

Clare uses garlic powder and probiotic capsule powder added to the syrup which prompts an immediate feeding response. See below for Clare’s recipes for a Fondant Recipe for Bees and a Garlic Syrup for Bees

Clean up dead bees inside and outside the hive.

Don’t overcrowd your apiaries. If hives are badly infected, set up a new apiary and move the affected hives.

Practice good apiary hygiene.

A mixture of normal and affected bees

* Images courtesy of The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Crown Copyright

Clare’s Fondant Recipe for Bees
Icing sugar- 1kg
Water- 100 ml
Garlic powder (optional)- 1tsp
Honey or invert sugar (ambrosia)- a dashMethod
Empty the icing sugar into a clean washing up bowl and add the garlic powder and honey or ambrosia.
Add the water and mix with your hands until you are able to knead the mixture like dough.
Put into a greaseproof wrapping or a plastic bag so that it doesn’t dry out.
Place over the feed hole on the crown board of the hive.

Clare’s Garlic Syrup for BeesMethod
Make up 2:1 sugar syrup (or use Ambrosia)
2 heaped teaspoons of pure garlic powder (not garlic salt) should be placed in a large mixing jug.
Add a tiny bit of syrup so that you can mix it to a paste (as you would cocoa or custard powder).
Then dilute this mixture with a little more syrup.
Stir thoroughly so that it all amalgamates.
Do this again.
Continue this process until the mixture is liquid enough to pour freely.
When you get to this point you can add more syrup until you have 5 litres in all.
Mix thoroughly and pour the solution into bottles or a canister.

With thanks to Clare Densley for sharing her recipes for use in combating CBPV.


Report of January 2019 joint meeting with West Dorset
The Accidental Apitherapist. A talk by Dr Gerry Brierley

Gerry started off by relating her experiences after suffering from Lyme disease, an infection transmitted by ticks. Standard treatment with antibiotics was not entirely successful. After a chance meeting with an ex BBKA President she attended a bee venom workshop and decided to try the treatment on herself.

3 years and several thousand stings later she is now clear of the disease. This experience has sparked an interested in apitherapy and what bee-related products can do for us.

Apitherapy can be defined as “The use of honeybee hive products for therapeutic and pharmacological purposes”.

Bee Venom.

Nearly 400 compounds have been identified in bee venom, among them many physiologically active compounds such as the hyaluronidase enzyme which breaks down cell structures. Bee venom therapy for desensitization is widely used under medical supervision with standardised doses and is not recommended for home therapy.

The product we as beekeepers are most familiar with is:

Honey processing
Honey processing

The healing and curative properties of honey have been known for a very long time. The Sumerians prescribed honey in 3000BC and many cultures have used honey for treating wounds and burns. The source of this healing ability is the presence of glucose oxidase, an enzyme secreted by bees, which on contact with skin produces hydrogen peroxide which is a powerful sterilising agent.

In addition, some plants produce nectar containing antimicrobial substances which carry over into the honey. Manuka honey is a good example of this.

Honey has one other property beneficial for healing. The high concentration of sugars is hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb moisture when exposed to atmosphere. When used in wound dressings the honey draws excess fluids from wounds helping to reduce the bacterial load on the immune system.

Gamma irradiated (sterile) honey is used by the medical profession for many wound healing applications, among them control of superbugs such as MRSA.

Pollen and Bee Bread

Pear blossom pollen
Pear blossom pollen

Pollen brought back to the hive is packed into cells in the brood chamber and undergoes changes while stored. It is then called bee bread. Not surprisingly the medicinal properties of honey are reflected by bee bread. It also contains all the essential nutrients for life such as proteins, minerals and vitamins. It is commonly used as a nutritional supplement, either fresh, dried or freeze dried, put in smoothies or sprinkled on food.


The 150 or so compounds found in propolis are derived from plant resins and waxes as well as pollen, beeswax and essential oils. It has been known for millennia that propolis has curative properties. This is due to the anti-microbial substances in its composition. It can be ingested or used on the skin. Modern treatments often use tinctures or creams and are effective for burns, oral wounds and gum disorders. Care should be taken when using for the first time as it is possible to invoke an allergic reaction.


Claimed to be antiseptic, beeswax is a collection of hydrocarbons produced in the eight wax glands on the abdomen of worker bees, plus secretions from the bees added during comb building. Today, the most common medicinal use is in skin cream preparations.

Royal Jelly

Queen cell
Queen cell

Royal jelly is only found in queen cells and is a very nutritious secretion made by young worker bee mandibular and hypopharyngeal glands. It also contains some pollen. 185 compounds have been found in Royal jelly including Royalactin which is the agent responsible for the morphological changes of a larva into a fertile queen rather than a worker. As Royal jelly is only found in queen cells this limits the quantity available for use in apitherapy. It is claimed to be an anti-aging compound. Royal jelly should be used fresh, as it degrades quickly, or it can be freeze dried while fresh and used in powder form.


Drone cells
Drone cells

The term Apilarnil was created by Romanian beekeeper Nicolae V. Ilieşiu in 1980 (Api=bee, Lar=larva, N=Nicolae, Il= Ilieşiu). It is essentially the product obtained from the whole contents of drone larvae comb 10 days after eggs are laid. At this stage of development Apilarnil will contain all the elements and nutrients of the drone larval body but obviously no venom compounds. It is thus a very nutritious material and can be used as extracted or freeze dried and made into capsules. The properties are reputed to be similar to Royal jelly but in a more widely available form.

Use of any honeybee-related substance for apitherapy comes with a warning. Information in this document does not constitute or replace any medical advice. If you are concerned about a medical condition please seek advice from a Medical Doctor. Nothing contained in this document is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice.



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News & Events

What’s that Buzz? Plants hear when bees are coming
New research has shown that plants can ‘hear’ sounds around them and flowers respond to the buzz of approaching bees by producing sweeter nectar. The research biologists from Tel Aviv University played recordings of flying bee sounds to evening primrose flowers and found that after a few minutes the sugar concentration in the flower’s nectar had increased by 20% on average when compared with flowers left in silence or submitted to higher pitched sounds.
The authors of the report say that, for the first time, they have shown plants can rapidly respond to pollinator sounds in an ecologically relevant way.
Producing sweeter nectar in response to the sounds of bees can help entice the insects to visit the flowers and increase the chances of its pollen being distributed.
Thanks to Ann P. for spotting this article in the Times.
Scientists sew trackers to Asian Hornets to find and destroy nests before they kill honeybees
Britain’s beekeepers are turning to technology to prevent aggressive Asian hornets destroying their colonies. In a first successful trial, experts at the University of Exeter attached tracking devices to the backs of the voracious hornets and then followed them back to their nests.
Asian hornet information
The June edition of the BBKA News has extensive information about the Asian hornet threat. In particular, pages 209 and 210 have full colour reproductions of the Asian hornet alert document issued by the Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) for you to cut out and use as your personal guide to identification of this invasive species.
EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides
More information can be found at:          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/27/eu-agrees-total-ban-on-bee-harming-pesticides?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other