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Asian hornet

Dear Members,
It is with deep regret, that EDBK is suspending all meetings and activities for the foreseeable future. Under the current coronavirus guidelines, it is essential we respect the situation and the health of our members and that of their families.
Beginners classes are being looked at and we hope to be able to offer some sort of remote tuition.
We will keep you all up to date as and when the situation changes.
Alasdair Bruce (Acting Chair).

Click HERE for Richard’s Notes for Beginners

Click HERE for Colin Osborne’s Notes for Beginners


2nd Zoom meeting, 27th June 2020

‘There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Tempered Bee’

As with the 1st virtual meeting, Richard Simpson organised and Nick Silver hosted the event. The following Report includes the PowerPoint slides that John Badley used to give the presentation plus the notes used with each slide. In addition, we have included further notes that newer beekeepers may find helpful. Lastly, Keith Bone and Richard Simpson have kindly included their observations on bad tempered bees that were discussed during Question Time.

Slide 1
Slide 1 – This is to remind people that the bees are only doing what comes naturally!


Slide 2
Slide 2


Slide 3
Slide 3

3. Temper – There is no such thing as bad-tempered bees! Just defensive behaviour.
‘Bad temper’ is not a very helpful description so the following scheme has been devised:
Ease of handling – Three columns on the record card: Running, Following, Stinging


Slide 4
Slide 4

4. Running – makes handling the colony difficult. Not ideal behaviour. Change the queen to improve your stock.
Following – a good colony will not follow more than a few metres. A poor colony may follow for 100m or more. These colonies should be improved by re-queening and should not be kept in areas with surrounding houses.
Followers will also ‘Meet and Greet’ the beekeeper, the beekeepers’ spouse (bad news!), neighbours, passers-by, horses, etc. Need to be improved.
Stinging – not acceptable in urban areas. Many reasons for stinging behaviour. Mention genetic trait, rough handling by beekeeper, beekeeper’s clothing with sting pheromone, leather gloves and leather smoker bellows with sting pheromone, weather, etc.
Make sure it is the temper of the bees. Keep records and compare with other colonies to eliminate temporary factors such as weather.


Slide 5
Slide 5

5. Clean kit – sting pheromone and sweaty beekeeper smells guaranteed to rile bees!
Gentle handling – watch how bee inspector handles the colony
Minimal smoke – some fuels disliked by bees so check e.g. cardboard with synthetic glue.
Minimal disturbance – do you need to do a full inspection or would a quick check do?
Use of cover cloth – an easy way to keep control of a colony. Roll it back as your inspection progresses, then swap it round so that the greater part of the frames is covered, or use two with just the active slot exposed. IF USED, KEEP IT CLEAN.
Use of wedges – to make separation of hive parts with less disturbance if you need to reposition your hive tool.


Slide 6
Slide 6


6. Additional reasons for change of circumstances:

  • Vibration/noise on shared stand
  • Rocking of hive – needs to be steady
  • Queenless colony, as in swarm control split or post swarming
  • Protective of honey stores against wasps


Slide 7
Slide 7

7. As the genetic stock was satisfactory it is usually quite acceptable to raise a new queen from them.


Slide 8
Slide 8

8. If they have always been bad then this is most likely a genetic trait and they are unlikely to improve on its own.

The only way to deal with this is to replace the queen with a new queen with better genetic qualities.

It may take 6 – 9 weeks or more for all the old genetically bad-tempered bees to die off, but a better queen may moderate behaviour sooner.

Isolate to avoid problems with neighbours.

Cull drone brood. Don’t want the aggressive attribute passed on to surrounding colonies through mating with virgin queens from currently good-tempered stock.


Slide 9
Slide 9

9. Bee vision – includes infrared – heat. The hottest place they can see will be their primary target.
Smell receptors – on the antennae – often for specific odour chemicals. Very sensitive to sting pheromones.
Protective gear – what’s needed – what’s available – discuss
Always wear two layers of clothing when dealing with defensive bees
Ensure no gaps in protection. Use tape on ankles and wrists if necessary
Leather gloves not recommended – difficult to clean. There are lots of different types of rubber or vinyl glove which give more than adequate protection when dealing with difficult bee, and they are cleanable.
ALL kit should be clean.


Other things that upset bees:

  • Some products used by dental practices will cause bees to buzz round the veil.
  • Lawn mowers/strimmers. Probably a combination of vibration and cut grass smell.
  • Digging in the garden. Again, probably vibration and earthy smell.
  • Throwing bone meal fertiliser onto the ground near bees has been known to provoke a sting response.
  • Too many beekeepers crowding round a hive demo may cause trouble. Try to stay out of their flight path.
  • Incorrect bee space caused by hive parts that are not to specification. Causing difficulty with hive manipulation and disruption of bees.


Notes from Keith Bone on his observations of bad-tempered bees:

I have noticed over the past two years that there has been a strong correlation between unusual warm weather and bad temper within colonies. Last year we had a warm spell in February and again in March which resulted in the colonies building up very quickly and early in the season. Come April this resulted in there being a lot of bees in each hive at a time when forage was still fairly scarce.

Consequently, I feel there were a lot of bees who were idle and, either as part of the hierarchy or they took it upon themselves, they became guard bees. Not only guarding the hive but all the territory around it too. We had to wear bee suits in the garden up until about mid-June when the following bees seemed to die off. After that all colonies acted calmly and normal so it wasn’t in their genes.

All this is very reminiscent of keeping bees on oil seed rape. There is so much forage available early in the season that queens lay brood like mad to keep up with the flow that by the time this brood is hatching the flow is over and there is nothing for the bees to do. Inevitably the bees are grumpy and turn to guard duty to protect their recently acquired honey stores and the whole apiary. All this for about 4 – 6 weeks after the flow stops when these intimidating bees die off.


Observation from Richard Simpson:

Bees can suffer from several stressors, not least being overcrowded or struggling with nest temperature. Direct sun with a thin-walled wooden bee hive and metal roof can be one such stressor.

The way they handle excess heat is to cool the colony by bringing in and evaporating water, but also circulating air and hanging outside the box rather than inside.

One colony supplied earlier in the year was docile when in afternoon shade. If it is the same colony that has now gone “bad-tempered”, consider whether a position in full sun is causing stress now that temperature and population have risen, or whether the queen has been changed.

If considering raising a replacement queen yourself (another talk for another day), bear in mind that a queen raised today will be mating (all being well) in mid-July, just as the drones are being expelled. Successful mating will be difficult if the drone population is falling or non-existent. Time is now of the essence.

Thanks to all who participated.

EDBK’s first Zoom meeting!

At last, East Devon are up and running with virtual meetings

‘Catching Your Honey Crop’

For our first venture we decided to float a topic that will be coming up soon, ‘Catching Your Honey Crop’.

Nick Silver volunteered to be the Host, arranging the meeting time and sending out the invitations. We eventually had 40 participants, largely made up of 2019 and 2020 Beginners group members, plus a few ‘old hands’ willing to share their knowledge.

First off, Richard introduced the session as an overview of how to get honey and honey products in various forms (liquid, cut comb, sections, chunk), and emphasised the need to be ready in plenty of time for the Main Flow, which would hopefully be upon us shortly.

John followed with details of the Main Flow and the options for supering.

In East Devon the natural nectar flow occurs around the last three weeks of JULY, but can be very variable or non-existent. This period coincides with the maximum number of bees in the colony. Working back from the date of the flow means the colony needs to be packed full of developing brood in early JUNE, 6 weeks previously (3 weeks as brood + 3 weeks to reach foraging age).
If you have been creating splits for swarm control these small colonies need to be re-united before the Main Flow.


Simply put, the colony needs to be organised so the foragers can respond the moment the flow starts. This means ensuring supers are in place well in advance of potential flow.

Questions often asked:
How many? Always aim for too many rather than too few! Don’t forget that extra space is required for the bees to process the nectar.

Above or below existing super(s)? If there is a flow on the bees will fill supers wherever they are. It is really a matter of personal preference.

Nick followed on with an illustrated talk on Sections and Cut Comb Honey.

A comparison of the two types of presentation are shown in the table.

✓ Less plastic. Nicer packing ✓ Easier? but need to watch frame spacing
✓ Bees do all the work… ✓ Flexible
✗ …but will they draw them out? ✗ A bit messy
General comments:
✓ No uncapping ✓ Thin foundation or no foundation
✓ No extracting ✓ No wire
✓ No tanks and buckets ✗ Avoid high glucose honey e.g.OSR
✓ No jars ✗ You lose the comb


Some hints and tips for Sections.

Honeycomb Sections

  • Decide between Section Racks or Hanging Section Frames (see suppliers’ catalogues).
  • Get the foundation the right way up!
  • A strong colony is needed during a flow. Look where the bees are working and move the Sections there.
  • Store Sections in the freezer indefinitely.
  • Many customers value them highly. They sell for approx. double the price of jarred honey (lb for lb) and involve less work!
  • Best to put Hanging Section Frames in the 2nd super to avoid pollen.
  • Nick suggests supers with plain runners and use Hoffman frames to fill between the Hanging Section Frames. See illustration below. With mixed frames and Sections, the flexible plastic spacer covering the Sections is a bit tricky and needs to be wedged in place to maintain correct spacing.

Cut Comb

Cut comb

  • Generally, these are more flexible than Sections as they can be harvested from any part of any super frame.
  • Can be cut with a sharp knife or a special cutter.
  • Draining the Cut Comb pieces makes a neater product. This is not essential unless entering exhibits in a competition.
  • As with Sections, Cut Comb can be stored in the freezer indefinitely.
  • Cut Comb is a valuable product, slightly less so than Sections.

Richard finished off the talks with a general discussion about getting comb filled and capped. Get your mentor to show you how to test a frame with some remaining unsealed cells.

We then had time for a general Q&A session which covered a wide range of topics that we would normally cover at our apiary meetings. The only thing we missed was the tea and cakes!

Thanks to all the participants for making this first virtual meeting a great success.



Asian Hornet. Jersey Experience – Devon Actions?

A talk by Dr Sarah Bunker, 5th March 2020

Sarah is a member of Okehampton branch of Devon Beekeepers and, in 2018, was inspired to visit Jersey, along with other Devon members, to help with the tracking of Asian hornets and nest location. The experience she gained prompted her to research the available literature and write ‘The Asian Hornet Handbook’. This book is the most comprehensive guide we have in the UK on the life cycle, biology and protection strategy for the Asian hornet if/when it arrives in this country.
The life cycle of the Asian hornet is different to that of the European hornet and needs to be understood in some detail in order to control infestation in the UK. Sarah admitted there were some aspects of the life cycle that we have yet to work out, such as how the insect will behave in our cold, wet climate.

Queen emerges

Studies so far suggest the mated queen hornet will emerge from hibernation when the average temperature reaches 13°C, which is likely to be sometime in March in the South West. She will feed on sugary materials to boost her reserves, so is likely to be spotted feeding on Camellia nectar or tree sap. During this feeding period ‘foundress’ queens are able to migrate tens of kilometres before searching for a suitable primary nest site and start the building process.

The primary nest

Primary nest beginning
Primary nest started *
Primary nest entrance
Primary nest entrance *
The primary nest is made of plant material pulped with saliva and water, then shaped into the structure by the mouthparts in a similar way to wasps and European hornets. The nest starts with a stalk or petiole attached to a convenient structure, preferably in a dry and sheltered area. Out houses and sheds are ideal. The cells face down with the bottom end open and the entrance is at the bottom of the structure. The foundress queen builds the nest alone until the first cohort of workers emerge and take over. At this stage the development time from egg to adult takes about 50 days.
The larvae are fed balls of mashed up insect meat and sugary material. They will also regurgitate sugary saliva when requested by the workers. This material is the preferred food of the queen and workers.
As the primary nest grows the development time reduces to around 29 days due to better thermoregulation. If the primary nest site is deemed adequate the nest will be expanded continuously throughout the year but in about 70% of cases the colony will relocate to a secondary nest site within a few meters of the primary site.

The secondary nest

Secondary nest
Secondary nest *
Comb structure
Comb structure*

The same fibrous papier mâché material is used to construct the new nest. The entrance is at the side and the walls are built with many bubbles or pockets which help improve thermal insulation. The nest continues to increase in size and may reach 50cm or more, although the nests found so far in the UK have been around 20-25cm.

Sarah pointed out that secondary nests can be anywhere from the tops of tall trees, roof spaces or bramble patches near the ground.
Larvae and cocoons
Larvae and cocoons *
Asian hornet 'hawking'
Asian hornet ‘hawking’ *

Drones and gynes

By September the queen switches to laying drone eggs, then the female eggs are laid that will become the new queens (gynes). Both types of hornet will spend a few weeks in the nest feeding before flying off. In France, this is usually complete by the end of November. Only the fertilised females survive to hibernate over winter.


Sarah showed an interesting series of pie-charts with the proportions of insect prey captured by hornets in different environments, summarised below. This acts as a warning to anyone keeping bees in urban areas!
Species Urban Agricultural Forest
Apidae (bees) 65.7% 35.0% 33.4%
Diptera (flies) 17.9% 33.6% 31.5%
Asian hornets ‘hawk’ near bee hives and prey may be caught on the wing or grabbed when it lands on a surface. The hornets then fly to a nearby branch and proceed to dismember the insect, taking only the thorax back to the nest, as it contains the major flight muscles used for feeding the larvae.
The disruption to the bee colony is therefore two-fold: direct predation, and predation pressure which makes the forager bees reluctant to leave the nest, leading to reduced winter stores and high stress levels within the colony.


Sarah went on to describe the various methods of tracking Asian hornets back to the nest site. For beekeepers with only basic equipment the Jersey method has proved effective. This consists of marking workers at feeding sites, spotting the direction they take back to the nest, and timing their return to the bait. By moving the bait station closer to the nest and using further bait stations from different angles, the flight paths noted can be plotted to give a reasonable indication of the nest location. Then you have to find the nest!
Asian hornets do not generally fly more than 700m from the secondary nest, but there could be more than one nest in the area.
Various other methods to help with tracking were described at the end of the talk and also during the discussion. In Asia they tie a small feather to the hornet which makes it easier to follow back to the nest. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been combined with infrared detectors with limited success (nests are well hidden in foliage and well insulated). Harmonic radar has been tried and will work in open spaces but radio telemetry using tagged hornets and a directional antenna/receiver has good potential at the moment. However, tags cost over £100 each, but can be re-used if recovered from the nest.

The talk was attended by over 70 members.

* All images Courtesy The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Crown Copyright


The Asian Hornet Handbook by Sarah Bunker
Buy your copy from the author’s website

The Management of Honeybees for Oil Seed Rape

A talk by Lynne Ingram, February 2020

There was a good turnout of East Devon and West Dorset beekeepers to welcome Lynne back for another of her thought provoking talks. A quick show of hands revealed that the majority of the audience viewed oil seed rape (OSR) a curse to beekeeping, a view that Lynne was hoping to dispel.

Today, the crop makes a valuable contribution to the British economy, estimated at more than £650 million. It has in fact been in use for 4000 years and there are records of its use in 1649 for soap and oil production. The domestic market started in the 1950s and got a boost in the 1960s due to the newly perceived benefits of polyunsaturated fats found in rape seed oil.

In addition, the oilseed cake residue was a valuable animal feed. However, it became apparent that the erucic acid content of the varieties used at the time was causing heart damage. This brought about the introduction of low erucic acid varieties through plant breeding.

Another group of compounds found in oilseed cake were the glucosinolates, causing damage to thyroid and pituitary glands of animals fed large quantities of the material. This too was reduced by plant breeding, leading to the current ‘double low’ varieties.
More recently the 2013 ban on neonicotinoids has resulted in reduced plantings of OSR and lower yields.

What is OSR?

All varieties are derived from Brassica napus, a member of the cabbage Family. Winter sown crops will usually flower in mid-April for about 3 weeks whereas spring sown varieties drilled in early April will flower in July. Pollen and nectar are produced in huge quantities, with the added bonus that depleted nectaries are rapidly refilled. OSR can be partially wind pollinated but insect pollination increases the seed yield.

The advantages of OSR are the potential for a large crop of naturally setting, finely crystallised honey which can be used as a ‘seed’ for other honeys that are reluctant to set. Disadvantages include setting in the comb, possible poor flavour perception, lower yields with modern hybrid varieties and the need to process immediately the honey is ripe.

The perceived downside to OSR cropping usually relates to the rapid onset of crystallisation of the capped honey due to the high glucose content of the nectar. In order to overcome this problem Lynne outlined her strategy.

Lynne’s management strategy

If you intend to take advantage of OSR for honey production the colonies will need to be large and vigorous, so late winter/early spring feeding with 50:50 sugar syrup to stimulate egg laying will be required. Contact feeders are best. Pollen patties may also be needed to supply the extra protein for the brood production.

  • Prepare your site and time the move so that there is plenty of nectar available straight away.
  • During the flow, regular inspections will be needed to prevent possible swarming.
  • Ensure ample supering as it takes around 3x more space to process nectar as the ultimate volume of ripe honey.
  • Remove and process capped honey as it ripens. Immediate processing will minimise crystallisation.
  • Make sure you know when spraying will take place.
  • After the flow you will have large colonies with most of the stores removed, so ensure there is adequate space in the hives for the large colonies and feed if necessary.


Lynne recommended extracting any liquid honey and then scraping back partially set honey to the midrib to recover as much as possible. Any residue can be sprayed with water and replaced on the hive. Fully set honey has to be cut out of the frames, packed into tubs and warmed at 55°C for 12 hours. The wax rises up as a mush and eventually separates from the melted honey. Allow to cool to 30°C before pouring the honey off.

Honey processing

The procedure for bottling tubs of set OSR honey is to warm the set material until it is ‘porridgey’ at around 32°C, stir until smooth, allow to settle, then bottle and store at 14°C to optimise setting. If full filtering has not been achieved before putting in bulk tubs, the honey will have to be warmed sufficiently to flow through the filter. With partially crystallised honey this can be troublesome.

To prepare soft set / creamed honey with a 10% ‘seed’ of OSR honey, first warm your floral honey until liquid (up to 50°C) and cool to 30°C. Warm the ‘seed’ honey until ‘porridgey’ (c32°C) then combine the two portions with stirring, avoiding the introduction of air. Allow to settle, then bottle and store at 14°C. Recommended long term storage temperature is 10°C.

Question & Answer session

During the Question & Answer session the notable topic was temper of the bees during and after the OSR was in flower. Lynne explained this could be caused by removal of stores causing defensive behaviour. Any situation where there are unemployed and overcrowded foragers will tend to cause problems. There is also a “starvation” scenario which can arise from dietary insufficiency as well as lack of quantity for a very full nest, possibly the effect of erucic acid. Lynne stated she has not had too much bad temper as there are usually other high-yielding sources coming on, notably field beans.

The flowers of OSR have 4 petals, 4 sepals, 6 stamens (4 long and 2 short) and 4 nectaries (2 inner and 2 outer nectaries). The nectar is produced mainly by the inner nectaries and is capable of being replenished in ½hr after a visit by a forager.
The nectar of OSR has a higher concentration of glucose then fructose which leads to rapid crystallisation with a fine crystal structure. The highest sugar concentrations are at the beginning of the crop so timing your arrival at the site is crucial.


Self-sufficiency and Apicentric Beekeeping

Talk by Wally Shaw to a joint meeting of East Devon and West Dorset Beekeepers, 14th January 2020

Where did it all go wrong for honey bees?

Apis mellifera was introduced all over the world in 19th century, including Asia, where it met with Apis cerana and its long-established parasite, Varroa jacobsonii mites. The parasite jumped species and, at some point, became a genetically distinct species, Varroa destructor. This new mite entered the UK in 1992 and the rest is history.

What do we do about it?

Importing bees is not the answer with the attendant risks of importing exotic pests as well (Tropilaelaps, Small Hive beetle etc), plus the very real risk of disease organisms being imported with the bees. The Welsh Beekeepers Association (WBKA) have pledged to minimise imports and make Wales self-sufficient for bees. The WBKA’s pragmatic solution is to enable all beekeepers to make increase/raise queens for themselves. Wally believes this is not as difficult as it is often made to sound.

How queen rearing is taught in Anglesey.

Making increase
Click the pic

The WBKA publication ‘Simple Methods of Making Increase’, written by Wally and available on the WBKA website, is a good starting point. The simple, small-scale methods are arguably better for the bees and help to retain genetic diversity.
In their first year, ‘Beginners’ are provided with a starter colony, a 5-frame nuc of locally adapted bees. In their second year the ‘Improvers’ are taught to make their second colony for themselves, thereby acquiring a skill for life.

Swarm control
Click the pic

Locally adapted bees have been shown to be better adapted to our highly variable climate, need less management and on average produce higher yields (see COLOSS experiments). Local adaptation will only occur with minimal importation of ‘different’ strains of bee. They will be genetically stable and will be similar in beekeeper’s hives and local feral colonies. Two-way traffic between hives and feral colonies is desirable.

Anglesey bees and Apicentric beekeeping

The characteristics of Wally’s local bees are almost pure Apis mellifera mellifera. They are black without prominent stripes, thrifty with reduced brood rearing in poor conditions, they never exceed their resources and they hoard pollen.
Apicentric means the needs of the bees should be considered first, based on the biology and ecology of honeybees. This is not the same as natural beekeeping.

Anglesey bees
Anglesey bees

We need to understand bees

The apparent ‘intelligence’ of bees is a series of hard-wired programmes initiated by various stimulae or prompts, so bees can be conned into doing what we want e.g. with pre-emptive swarm control, but can be confused by, say, an artificial swarm using the Pagden method. Apicentric beekeeping allows the colony to choose the new queen for themselves.

Apicentric guidelines for making nucs

  1. Nucs should be populated with bees from the same colony that raised the queen cells.
  2. Each nuc given 2 or more queen cells on the frames on which they were raised.
  3. Queen cells harvested as soon as possible after sealing (day 8 or 9).
  4. The Nuc entrance should be blocked while being populated.
  5. Completed nucs IMMEDIATELY removed to remote mating apiary.

The reasons why this seems to work are:

  • It is more NATURAL. The new queens are raised by their own sisters.
  • Supplying multiple queen cells allows bees to exercise their choice.
  • Blocking the entrance and moving immediately to another apiary prevents loss of flying bees which ensures good age balance in the nuc.
  • Using newly sealed cells means there will be a minimum of 9 days to mating. The bees have time to familiarise with their new surroundings.

Selection criteria for breeder colonies

  • Performance of queen should be known e.g. a queen in her 3rd year.
  • Only make a small number of new colonies from any one queen. This helps to maintain genetic diversity.
  • The breeder queen’s colony should be healthy, a good honey cropper, not too prolific, of a reasonable temperament, and not too swarmy.

Varroa resistance

The second part of Wally’s talk focussed on ways in which bees might acquire Varroa resistance or tolerance.

Over the last 25-30 years breeding strategies have been looking at traits such as grooming, hygienic behaviour, Varroa sensitive hygiene (VSH) and shorter capping periods, with very limited success. When introduced into an open-mating situation the ‘improvements’ are often dissipated.

It has been assumed that natural selection would solve the problem given time, but any Varroa treatment will prevent or seriously slow down natural selection.

There are instances of colonies left untreated in honey production apiaries becoming resistant to mites and able to keep the mite population in check and still produce a good homey crop.

A completely new behavioural mechanism has been found – bees uncap and re-cap brood.

How is this done?

Recent studies have revealed the main mechanism.
A completely new behavioural mechanism has been found to be responsible. Bees uncap and re-cap brood.

The behavioural sequence is:

  • First bees investigate sealed brood cells by examining cappings with tongue and antennae.
  • Cells perceived to have a problem are uncapped with the mandibles, removing cappings and pupal skin.
  • Most cells later re-capped.
  • Some cells may be uncapped more than once.
  • Other cells may be left uncapped or partially re-capped.
  • A few cells may have brood removed and discarded (VSH).

It seems this behaviour reduces the number of viable daughter mites that finally emerge, but the uncapping and re-capping does not affect the emerging brood. Mostly, only brood cells in which Varroa has bred are uncapped, which implies bees can detect breeding mites. Whatever the mechanism, uncapping affects the mites but not the pupa and appears to be a result of natural selection.

Uncapping behaviour can be observed in ALL colonies so far investigated, so has probably arisen through natural selection acting on an inbuilt trait which is universal in Apis mellifera.

Wally’s parting remarks were:
For natural selection to work, we need to move towards non-treatment!

Strangely, uncapping behaviour does NOT appear to apply to drone brood. More work needed to clarify such issues.

Non-treatment apiary
Non-treatment apiary on Anglesey



EDBK Winter Meeting, 5th December 2019

“Call that tricky? I once had…. Swarms we have known”
(with apologies to Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

Who would have thought after all these years we would be in a village hall, sharing a cup of tea & talking about bees……
Alasdair: I remember when I was called to a huge swarm high up in a tree right next to a school gate. So there I was with my suit on but not protected by gloves or veil when the branch appeared in front of me – hauled down by an over-zealous council official!
Everybody was watching, so I calmly cut the end off the branch with my secateurs and held up the swarm like a trophy, to applause from the crowd.

Lovely big swarm. Pity the queen was a drone layer.


Ann: Well, I was at home, resting in my hammock, when I got a call from Devon Council to a swarm on Seaton seafront at fishermans gap. Huge swarm on the wall between two flower beds! I put the sheet on the ground next to the swarm and two little boys came and asked if they could help. So I asked them to stand at either end of the flower bed and warn passers by that there were live bees around. By this time I had an audience so quickly brushed the bulk of the swarm into the skep and turned it upside down onto the sheet. As if by magic the remaining bees walked DOWN the wall and into the skep. The queen must have been in there! After about 20 mins they were nearly all inside. Just had to brush up a few stragglers to complete the job.

Some grumpy old geezer said ‘Why did you put your bees there?’. Another nice person asked ‘How did you make them walk into the basket like that?’ ‘Easy’ I said. ‘I asked them to’. I don’t think he believed me, then the two little boys came up and said could they do the same next year when they came on holiday? ‘Of course.’ I said, then thanked them for their help and walked off with my swarm.


Peter: Mind you I had it tough. My swarm was in a postbox mounted in a wall, just 2′ from a main road. The most awkward place imaginable!
After a phone call the postman came round pretty quick with the key but didn’t hang around to see it openned up.
The swarm was ENORMOUSE. Took me days to scoop them all out into a poly nuc. In case you don’t know, these old postboxes have a huge cavity at the top. Big enough to get your arm up to the elbow!

When I came back that evening they had filled the poly nuc and were hanging out all over the front and side. So the first job was to get the bees on the outside into another box, then take them all back to the apiary and combine them in one hive.
The remaining bees were scooped up into a poly nuc. Given its size the swarm was probably an evicted colony looking for a new home.


Richard: I used to dream of easy swarms in a postbox. My swarm was a very grizzly experience!
Got a call from a man cutting trees down on the path beside the Grizzly Run near Seaton. Right mess it was too. Bees all over the place. Rotten bits of wood with chunks of comb littering the path. So I did a cut-and-paste job with combs, fastening them into empty frames with rubber bands, put the frames in a nuc and shovelled as many bees in as I could find.

Over night they decided my home was better than theirs and moved in!

News & Events

Bees force plants to flower early by cutting holes in their leaves
Hungry bumblebees can coax plants into flowering and making pollen up to a month earlier than usual by punching holes in their leaves.
Bees normally come out of hibernation in early spring to feast on the pollen of newly blooming flowers. However, they sometimes emerge too early and find that plants are still flowerless and devoid of pollen, which means the bees starve.
Read the article HERE.
Turkish beekeepers risk life and limb to harvest ‘mad’ honey
Mad honey, known to the Greeks and Romans, is still produced in small quantities by beekeepers in parts of Turkey where indigenous rhododendron species make a potent neurotoxin which ends up in local honey.Read the article.
Pesticide made from spider venom kills pests without harming bees
Funnel-web spiders have neurotoxins in their bite that can kill an adult human yet they might turn out to be our allies if the small hive beetle ever reaches the UK.
Scientists at the University of Durham and Fera Science think the spiders may provide the weapon we need to stop the beetles.
The spider venom contains a cocktail of ingredients and one of them – Hv1a – is toxic to most insects, including the small hive beetle, but does not seem to affect bees or humans.
Hv1a needs to be injected to be effective. Just swallowing the toxin is ineffective as it is degraded in their gut. To get round this the team have bound Hv1a to a molecule from the common snowdrop which effectively carries it through the gut barrier.
In the laboratory the team fed the “fusion protein” in a sugar solution to beetles and their larvae. Within a week, all the beetles and larvae were dead.
Next step was to put beetle eggs on bee comb with brood, and spray with the compound. The honeycomb and bees survived virtually untouched, but most of the new beetle larvae died.
The selfish case for saving bees: it’s how to save ourselves
These crucial pollinators keep our world alive. Yes, they are under threat – but all is not lost.  Click here to read the article.
World’s largest bumblebee under threat.
The Patagonian bumblebee, the worlds largest bumblebee, is under threat from the import of species native to Europe.The growth of the bumblebee trade for agricultural pollination since the 1980s has been identified as one of the top emerging environmental issues likely to affect global diversity.Follow this link to read the article.
Best plants for bees: 5 yr study results by RosyBee
Follow the link to see the results of 5 years of monitoring which bees visit a variety of ‘bee-friendly’ plants.