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by ThePath

“British” Honey Harvest Devastated

October 31, 2012 in , ,

The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) has announced the results of their survey of beekeepers honey yeilds. Many experienced beekepers have descrbed 2012 as their “most difficult beekeeping year ever”.

The figures are disturbing with the average drop in yeild being 72%! So from an average of 30 pounds of honey down to 8 pounds this year. Thats absolutely huge and I would expect that the price of British honey to rise considerabley.

So whats caused this massive drop in honey yeild. Well 88% of the beekeepers surveyed blamed the poor summer; a lot of rain and relatively cold weather being the main factors. This poor summer may have longer term ramifications as queens may not have been able to produce enough brood to see the colonies through the Winter months.

The BBKA even issued an unprecidented mid-summer warning to check stores and feed them if necessary to prevent starvation.

Apparently London beekeepers faired the worst and Northern Ireland the best but still suffering a drop of 50%.

Check out the full report from the BBKA here.

So now that Ive covered the main story and issue Id also like to point out that as far as Im aware Scotland is still part of Britain, so how can this survey be “British” when not one Scottish beekeeper was surveyed? As a Scottish beekeeper Im slightly offended that for some reason we have been deemed not important enough to talk too. I now wonder how many of the 2712 beekeepers surveyed where actually English. Id really like to know that ratio as I suspect it could be verging on an English survey.

Does this affect the validity of this survey some what? The cynic in me feels like its a way of creating a bit of media hysteria to drum up donations to the adopt a beehive initiative the BBKA run. Which is advertised in the survey pdf document.
Are you a Scottish beekeeper feeling slightly left out? Even if there are no Scottish beekeeper reports, the BBKA have only survey a very small percentage of their total membership to come up with these results. Infact its less than 9% of their total membership that have been surveyed. Their total membership can only bee a small number of the total beekeepers in the UK anyway…especially as it seems they have no Scottish members!
However the results are still disturbing for those beekeepers surveyed. Where your honey yeilds down this year?

Please let us know!

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Help save our bees from Bayers pesticides! 24 hours to act!

April 27, 2012 in , ,

The excellent organisation Avaaz is running a 24 hours campaign to put pressure on the company Bayer. The campaign aims to make Bayer stop selling or Governments to ban a select group of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

Bayer has lobbied hard to keep these poisons on the market but already four european countries have banned them.

Bayer shareholders will vote on a motion that could stop these toxic chemicals in just 24 hours. Let’s all act now and shame the shareholders to stop killing bees, you can do this via the Avvaz website:

Click here to send a message to the shareholders of Bayer via Avaaz 


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Brand new site for Honey Beekeeping

January 13, 2012 in , ,

Well a bit behind schedule and not completely finished but the new site has been launched anyway! There has been some struggles, it definitely was not easy transfering all the data from the old site. However, I think most of the info has survived intact and I will be reviewing it all and adding more as I go (bare with me on that, and if you have anything you wish to add to the pages then just email me). Read the rest of this entry →

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Abruzzo Tornareccio Honey

June 27, 2011 in , ,

Abruzzo is the region in a central Italy, home to three protected national parks with most spectacular mountain- and sea landscapes. Due to the climate, altitude and protected status you can find a wealth of trees old beech woods, mixed with Turkey oaks and Austrian pines form most of the forests, with maple, mountain ash, fir, yew, laburnum, hazel, wild pear, wild cherry and apple trees also present. The area is not very well known to travellers, but is very popular with Italians itself. We think they are very good in keeping their best secret holiday spots. The area is very popular for all kind of sports, trekking, horse riding, photography and fishing.

Read the rest of this entry →

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Swarming – Things to look out for

August 18, 2010 in

I thought Id write a quick article regarding swarming, in particular some signs to look out for which may denote that your hive is about to or will soon swarm.

Queen Cells1. Queen Cups
One of the most obvious swarming behaviours is the building of queen cells. These cells normally reside on the edge of frames but they can appear almost anywhere. To prevent swarming remove these queen cells, unless you require to superseed etc. See the picture on the right:

2. Queing and Overcrowding
If the hive entrance is fully open (i.e. no mouse guards etc) and bees are queing or you notice a lot of bees gathered around the hive entrance this could be a pre-cursor to swarming. If a lot of bees exit the hive and cluster around the entrance when you approach it, this too could be a sign the bees lack a bit of space. Add more space by adding another brood box and/or super.

3. Large Cluster Bottom
If you look through the hive entrance and the bottom of the bee cluster fills the hive width then they are lacking space and will probably be looking to swarm. Add more space by adding another brood box and/or super.

4. No Laying Room
If the brood frames are all full of brood and honey stores then the hive could look to start swarming. Add another broodbox and frames to help prevent this.

Swarming is most likely to occur between the beginning of June to the end of August. Bit late me writing this now really but hey Ive been busy!!

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by jstone

Choosing The Site For an Apiary

August 6, 2010 in ,

You need to know what to look for when choosing a site:

1. Books may tell you that the hives should be in full sun all day, and in this country that may well be a good rule of thumb to stick to. However, having kept bees in South Africa for many years, I found that that was not a good idea for two reasons.
The first was that wax melts at 110 deg. F. If we start getting very warm summers, being in full sun may cause a problem. The bees will be spending a lot of time collecting water to cool the hive instead of collecting nectar to make honey. The bees collect water then evaporate it by flapping their wings at the entrance of the hive. This cools the hive using the same principles that your fridge uses at home.
The second is comfort. Mainly your own comfort. Remember that you will have to spend time working on your hive, not only when you rob the hive, but also when to spend time ‘managing’ it, and we’ll come to that at a later stage. You must also consider the bees’ comfort. Bees do not like to be disturbed if it is too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet – and they will let you know that too (adding to your discomfort!).

2. Next we should consider security. I shouldn’t imagine there would be the same problems with human thieving in this country as there is in South Africa. It was heartbreaking to come to an apiary to find £500 damage to the hives and a couple of small swarms left, out of 30+, all for about £10-£20 worth of honey. That was done by the indigenous people, but the same sort of damage could be wrought by badgers. If you have badgers in your area try to make the apiary badger-proof. Failing that you could get some strong luggage straps and strap the hive together.

3. If you have any sort of traffic nearby, people walking past, etc. make sure you have a solid fence. A board fence, wall, or hedge 6ft or higher. Make sure that the bees cannon fly straight out and hit somebody walking past Having a solid fence will force the bees to fly up and over the heads of passers by.

4. Make sure that the hives are out of the wind. Wind will either cause the bees to abscond (leave) to find a better place, or it will cause them to block the entrance with propolis, or ‘bee gum/glue’ as it is sometimes referred to. The bees collect resin from trees and mix it with, amongst other things, wax and pollen, to make propolis. This is not good for two reasons. First, they leave small holes in the propolis for access. This restricts the movement of the bees and ‘slows down’ the work.
Second, it takes seven times as much foraging to make 1 unit of propolis as it does to make 1 unit of honey – waste of the bees’ time.

5. This should have been No. 1 as it is the most important: Proximity to a nectar supply. Bees will forage up to 3km from the hive, but if there isn’t a good enough source of nectar nearby, they have been known to fly up to 12km in search of food. Once they find it they will leave the hive and move closer to the source. This is not good for the beekeeper who will come back and find an empty hive.
Bees need a lot of flowers. When I was running a bee farm in South Africa we would ‘chase’ the crops, moving from one crop to another so we could have honey all year round. We would work on about one acre of eucalyptus, or 5 acres of beans, or 2 acres of citrus trees per hive to provide a good yield of honey. As a hobbyist you could keep a fair number more hives in an area than a commercial beekeeper might.

A few more considerations, not dealing on the position of the apiary, but important none-the-less are:

a. Make sure people, especially children and animals, cannot enter the apiary by accident. If you are keeping the bees at home you need to just warn guests of the presence of bees. If your bees are on somebody else’s property, a farmer for example, make sure the site is secure.

b. The hives should be placed on stands as:
i. It raises the hive and places less strain on your back when you’re working on it.
ii. It keeps the hive off the ground. This is to prevent rain from splashing into the entrance and also keeps it above the damp of the soil and surrounding vegetation. This helps to prevent rotting of the floor and sides of the brood chamber.
iii. It (should) raise the hive above the weeds which would impede the flow of bees going to and from the hive. Proper maintenance of the site should include periodic weeding in front of the hives. This should be done in the evening after a few good puffs of smoke into the entrance of the hive as bees do not like the smell of cut grass or disturbed vegetation too close to the hive.
iv. This may not apply in the UK, but if there is an ant problem in your area, there are ways of making the stand ant-proof. Ants are tolerated by bees but a large enough colony of ants nearby can have a serious effect on the amount of honey there is left for you to take.

I’ve said quite a lot about the apiary here, all of which is important, but have not left any time to go on to the ‘paraphernalia’ as I had promised. We’ll have to do that next time.

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by jstone

So You Want To Keep Bees

August 4, 2010 in ,

First of all “Why keep bees?”

Beekeeping is something you will either love or hate. You will either become extremely passionate about it or you will give up in a very short time. There are two things which may cause you to give up: Stings and impatience on you part.

Can you stand the stings? They say “No pain, no gain”. When I was a boy my dad used to say “It is a good thing that bees sting. If they didn’t, then everybody would keep bees and there would be nobody to sell honey to”. That may not be entirely true but he did have a point.

The second is also true. My dad gave me my first hive when I was about twelve. I was so chuffed that I looked in it almost every day. Needless to say there was (visibly) no more honey in the hive than there had been the day before. It wasn’t long before I lost interest and my dad incorporated ‘my hive’ in with his own. Every couple of weeks he’d give me a few bob for ‘my share’ of the honey.

He also made quite a bit by selling hives, with bees, plus a whole lot of the paraphernalia that goes with it, then, a few months later, buying it all back again at half the price.

Some very important considerations will be:
1. It will cost a lot of money to get started. This can be recouped within two to three years if you sell your honey, though it could also take longer, depending on the source of the nectar.
2. There will be w-o-r-k involved.
3. You will also have to learn about bees. It is not enough to get a bunch of bees, put them in a box then sit back and wait. You could have a hive with 100 000 bees in it one day and the next there may be only 10 000. Or worse still, it could be empty.
Bees require proper management to prevent, or reduce the likelihood of them absconding.
4. You will need a safe site. They must be safe from robbery, either by people or animals such as badgers. They must also be in a position where they will not be a nuisance to other people or animals (especially horses). Bees and horses really don’t get along and it’s usually the horses that fare the worse. And that will lead you into a lot of hot water.

In my next article I will deal with choosing a site and some of the ‘paraphernalia’ you will require.

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The Dutiful Beekeeper

May 3, 2010 in

Well June will soon be upon us and the dutiful beekeeper will be checking their hive(s) in a 7 day cycle. Why? Well the early summer honey should be due for removal before the first week in June.

Honey left where it is and the bees left to their own devices will result in (if the early summer bloom has been good) bees gradually taking back the honey ready to swarm. The bees will take the stored honey ready to feed the swarm for the three to five days it takes to relocate and get settled. If the honey is removed the bees do not have this option and you will gain a larger early harvest.

If the early bloom is not so good it simpy take longer for the above process to happen. They probably will still swarm but the honey extracted for the process will be over a longer period. Also the bees will be producing more brood to replace the innevitable swarm later in the Summer, which could result in Queen fatigue or congestion, plus the bees wont have much to do because of the lack of forage!!

Not sure if your bees are going to swarm? Well if they are short of space (lebensraum) they will swarm!! Is the brood box rammed full of bees (another delay tactic would be to add another super for brood)? Are there queens cells or even other queens? If yes a swarm is imminent.

One of the best solutions and certainly the easiest is to remove the early honey harvest (sealed honey) at the end of May and create a couple of “mini” swarms with the bees which would otherwise have not much to do. So give these new nuclei a couple of frames of eggs and open brood and remove to another locale. Feed all the hives well with 1 part sugar to 2 parts water syrup.

Now you have a queen right colony and perhaps two “mini” colonies with the right tools to re-queen start anew!! Awesome!

The other good thing about this whole process is the opportunity to treat Varroa and look out for EFB and AFB!!

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by ThePath

Scottish Government Rebuff Black Bee Nature Reserve

April 2, 2010 in ,

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

The Scottish Government has rebuffed a reserve for Black bees on Colonsay. The reserve was brain child of Andrew Abraham, Andrew spent years trying to secure the reserve on Colonsay only to have it Squashed by the Scottish Government early this year.

Scotland on Sunday published an article where the Scottish Government said; “the black bee is considered a domesticated creature”. This was the reason they said no to the black bee reserve! The Countryside and Wildlife act 1981 can only be used to protect and secure reserves for wild animals, as it has be used before for Red Deer on the Isles of Rum, Jura and Arran.

I find this completely insane! How can black bees be considered a domestic creature, there must be 1000’s of wild hives of black bees in Scotland!! And of course going by this idiotic thinking the Scottish Government has failed to take pro-active measures in helping our native black bee!

I urge all who disagree with the Scottish Parliments decision to write a letter of complaint and send to:

Alex Salmond MSP,
First Minister,
Scottish Parliment,
St Andrews House,
Regent Road,

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Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) Honeybees

February 27, 2010 in ,

Agricultural Research Services (ARS) are making positive strides in creating a strain of honeybee which is proactive in attacking the Varroa mite head on!

ARS are focusing on creating honeybees with a certain genetic trait; Varroa Sensitive Hygiene. The VSH trait in the bee means it is more likely to find and remove mite infested pupae from the capped brood developing sealed inside the comb cells. This can be obviously difficult for the bees to detect as the mite attacks the brood within the capped cells and so rely on the protective layer of wax to escape the bees natural sanitation tendencies.

ARS scientists at the agency’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, LA have developed honey bees with a high expression of this VSH trait. The VSH is a specific trait and form of hive hygeine that not all honeybees possess. The VSH developed bees show an aggressive pursuit of Varroa in the hive.

Varroa on LarvaeThe Bees form groups and chew through an mite infested cell cap, lift out the infected brood and eject them from the broodnest.

This hygiene destroys the mite’s frail offspring preventing the reproductive output of the mites and preventing the usual Varroa mite hive takeover!

The team at ARS conducted field trials using 40 colonies with varying levels of VSH bees contained in each colony. The mite population growth was significantly lower in the VSH and hybrid colonies than in the colonies without VSH developed bees.

Of course if you believe in evolution the bees will eventually develop this trait on their own but would the bee population be too decimated by then to recover. After all bee breeders have been messing around with bee behaviour for years, perhaps to the detriment of the bees themselves; perhaps breeders have been focusing on certain traits like honey production and temperament and not hygiene and disease resistance.

Personally I think the discovery of the VSH trait is good for bees and humankind. I just wonder if fiddling with genetics is ever a good thing to do? What are your thoughts?

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