Next Meeting – April

April 2018
Thursday 5th – 7.30pm – Kilmington Village Hall

“Queen not Seen – Not in the Books”

Dave Maslen, President of Avon Beekeepers, has been keeping bees since 1980. He is the voice of practical experience – what works, what doesn’t, what you won’t get out of the books plus running a two queen system. Not to be missed.

Saturday 7th – 2.30pm – Hunthay Apiary
Beginners first Apiary Meeting – equipment, bee suits, smokers and meet the bees!

Report of the February 2018 winter meeting

Time Saving Inventions for the Practical Beekeeper, a talk by Will Steynor.
Report of the February winter meeting 2018.

Last year Will Steynor told us how he successfully combined running 70 colonies, a profitable beekeeping business and his job as a full time commercial airline pilot. He came back this year to show us some of the inventions and adaptations that made it possible.


Will uses the Smith design made from weather resistant plywood. His hives are of simple construction, using only four pieces of timber screwed together, with a rebate cut into the end wall to take the shortened lugs of the National frame. By using slightly thinner plywood on the side walls it is possible to fit 12 frames as opposed to the normal 11, which goes some way towards offsetting the lack of brood space in a standard Smith hive.

Smith hive

As can be seen in the photo all the hive parts are held together with toggle clips, and with the addition of simple wooden handles this makes the hives easily transportable for migratory beekeeping without the need for additional strapping.

Mesh floors are made with an 8mm rim and a pivoted entrance. A small clip (just visible on the right of the alighting board) allows the entrance to be securely closed for transport or held open in the apiary with no danger of accidental closure. These built-in features avoid the need for entrance blocks or mouse guards.

Out Apiaries

The only pieces of kit that Will takes to and from his out apiaries are supers and sugar syrup. Everything else that might be needed is kept with each hive. This includes a rapid feeder which is left on all year round, a queen excluder and a crown board (no holes).

View of feeder
Rapid feeder internal layout

Feeder with cover
Rapid feeder with covers

The feeder is based on a standard design with a few additions and modifications. Bees come up through the slot and feed on the syrup in the normal way. A small hole near the base allows bees into the main part of the feeder to clean up, which avoids mould growth.

By changing the cover to include a couple of Porter escapes the feeder then acts as a clearer. A small quantity of syrup seems to attract bees from the supers above and clearing only takes about 3 hrs instead of the normal 24 hrs.Feeder/clearer diagram

Stands – simple and durable. Standard breeze blocks placed on the ground and levelled, with a large hollow block placed on each. 2” x 4” timber frames on top.
Roof – uses 9mm ply to make a deep (9”) roof. The advantages are that it does not blow off and there is sufficient space to accommodate the feeder and spare equipment at all times of year.

Solar wax extractor

His extractor is large enough to take several brood frames at once. Frames straight from the hive are left in the extractor for several days so that all the wax has drained and the wood work sterilised by the heat. By knocking each frame while still warm nearly all the cocoons can be dislodged leaving very little scraping to do. Cost? Nil!

Will also makes his own foundation from the recycled wax. When attaching to the frames he pours molten wax along the top edge instead of using a wedge. Saves time and fiddly nailing plus there are fewer places for wax moth larvae to hide.

Queen rearing

Half width super frames form the basis of a simple technique. 24 of these frames can be fitted into a modified super and placed on a strong colony for the queen to lay in. When eggs and larvae are present the frames can be distributed to small boxes where queen cells will be built. The new queens can then be introduced into existing colonies using hair curlers.

There were lots of other gadgets on display including a modified kitchen sink for uncapping supers, a bain marie for wax melting, made from two stainless steel bowls, a kettle element and a cooker thermostat, and a simple honey warming cabinet using lamps as heaters and a fan from a computer.

We hope this talk will stimulate ideas for making your beekeeping easier.


Report of the January 2018 winter meeting

Dead Bees don’t Buzz – Surviving the Winter
Report of talk by Roger Patterson at the joint meeting of West Dorset and East Devon Beekeepers, January 2018

Roger started off by reminding us that bees are wild animals with a yearly cycle of nest expansion in the spring and contraction in autumn, and although they are very adaptable it is often the case that beekeepers work against the natural cycles leading to loss of bees through beekeeping errors.

Beekeeping advice is very variable, possibly based on human perceptions, and there is therefore a need to consider the situation from the bees’ point of view. Simply put they try to maintain population stability and prepare for the future.

In the wild it is definitely a question of survival of the fittest. Weak or diseased colonies are less adaptable and will die out, so wild colonies tend to be strong, healthy and adapted to their environment.

Roger went on to show how a wild colony behaves through the yearly cycle, with the cluster moving up to fresh stores in winter then the queen starting to lay in the empty cells below the nest as the weather warms up.

Other characteristics of successful wild colonies that we should take note of are:

  • the bees tend to be dark
  • nests are well above ground level and are therefore less prone to damp
  • the entrance is defendable
  • usually well insulated in a tree or building
  • the interior is 100% propolised
  • they always have their food stores above or behind the brood
  • they tend to have the brood nest near the entrance

How can we copy them and improve our beekeeping and winter survival?

Allow the bees plenty of time at the end of the summer to arrange their stores where they want them. Consider putting frames “cold way” over winter to reduce the risk of isolation starvation.

Isolation starvation diagram
Isolation starvation in the winter months

With frames ‘warm way’ the cluster near the entrance (green area) will not move to stores at the back of the hive (red) during cold weather.

Make sure there is adequate air circulation round the hive to reduce dampness.

Ensure colonies going into winter are strong, healthy and well populated with plenty of young bees. A small colony can be given surplus frames of brood to boost numbers.

Unite weak colonies, especially those colonies with poorly performing queens.

When feeding in the autumn feed little and often to allow the bees to keep up with pollen collection and storage in proportion to the quantity of syrup, otherwise they will not have sufficient protein to produce healthy brood during the winter months.

Conditions are something the beekeeper can do something about. Remember that cold doesn’t kill bees but damp conditions do. Roger advised to always leave the tray out of the mesh floor for this reason. The beekeeper can also ensure protection against pests such as wasps, mice and woodpeckers.

Monitoring during the winter months usually involves hefting the hives. A word of warning! This only works if the stores are still liquid. Any honey which has solidified, such as ivy, will be unavailable to the bees.

Photo of dead bees due to isolation starvation

The picture shows solidified stores next to the cluster preventing the bees from moving to liquid honey, just a few inches away, during cold weather. If in doubt feeding a small quantity of fondant will let you know whether the bees are ok or need help.

Finally, remember that Varroa has not gone away. You need to monitor throughout the year and do something about high counts BEFORE it gets out of control.



Report of East Devon AGM, 2017

Report of East Devon Beekeepers AGM, 2017

The reports discussed at the AGM show the branch has a full programme of activities and financially has managed to break even over the past year. The Chairman thanked the Committee for their hard work organising these activities for the benefit of members.

The Beginners Course was well attended in the classroom sessions and continued to attract good attendance at the practical apiary sessions.
The teaching apiary is now back up to strength after a poor start thanks to the work of David Shale, Andy Legg and helpers. The strimming team were also thanked for their efforts to keep the grass under control.

Successful Basic candidates with President Hilary Kirkcaldie
Successful Basic candidates with President Hilary Kirkcaldie (centre)

This year 5 candidates prepared for the Basic Assessment and took the exam with 5 passes, 2 with credit.
The Craythorne cup for the Basic candidate with the highest marks in East Devon went to Nick Silver. Congratulations to all of them.

Voting took place for Committee members. Chairman – John Badley, Secretary and Membership – Val Bone, Treasurer – Keith Bone, Committee – Andy Legg, Sue Babey, Mary Boulton, Alasdair Bruce, Ralph Cox, Rosemary Maggs, Colin Osborne and Richard Simpson.

After refreshments, Ruth and Ian Homer gave a fascinating talk on the 8th International Meeting of Young Beekeepers event, largely organised by them, that was held at Marlborough College in July of this year.

Planning was well under way 1½ years before the event and, as Ian and Ruth explained, there were many hurdles to overcome. In the end IMYB 2017 was attended by 19 teams speaking 13 different languages!
All the participants were divided up into small international teams, each team identified by their own coloured baseball cap. The tasks included activities such as frame making, grafting larvae, inspection and handling bees to show the competitors basic skills. Other tasks required problem solving with discussion and team working.

IMYB assessments in the grounds of Marlborough College
IMYB assessments in the grounds of Marlborough College

The assessments took place in the mornings. On the first afternoon the competitors were treated to a tour of Stonehenge and on the second afternoon they all departed for a DCA hunt on nearby Marlborough Downs. This proved to be the highlight of the event for some of the competitors as they had never witnessed the phenomenon before.

The accompanying adults were treated to tours of Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury.
In conclusion, the weather was perfect, the bees behaved perfectly and the competitors and accompanying adults voted IMYB 2017 as the best yet.

It is now up to us to encourage more young beekeepers into the craft.

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Recent update = Asian Hornet Meetings page

News & Events

Nosema Testing at Hunthay Apiary
Please note that on Thursday 12th April between 1000 & 1230 there will be an opportunity for you to test your bees for Nosema.
Members should bring samples (c.30 bees) from each hive.
Calling Notice for the rescheduled Devon Beekeepers’ Association Annual General Meeting
Download details: DBKA Calling Notice 2018
Please note that the Raffle Draw for the cedar wood hive donated by National Bee Supplies will take place on 7th April, so still time to buy tickets if you wish.
BBKA documents fyi
Spring Convention
Note: Now rescheduled for April 7th at Meldon Village Hall
Devon Beekeepers Day Raffle Prize!
Dear Member,
You will recall I gave details of the Devon Beekeepers Day in your February Buzz. We now have the raffle tickets available for the National hive kindly being donated by National Bee Supplies. Tickets can only be purchased by members and are priced at £2 each. See your emails for details of how to purchase raffle tickets.Proceeds from the raffle go to the Presidents Fund which in turn helps to support bee related projects throughout the county.The beekeepers day on March 3rd promises to be an interesting event (your February Beekeeping magazine has all the details) – so come along if you can. Regards, Val

Gove – UK will back total ban on bee harming pesticides Click link to see details

Asian Hornet in North Devon
The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in North Devon which was spotted by a beekeeper in their apiary on the 18th September 2017. The contingency response has been initiated and a press release has been issued by Defra.