Increasingly it seems that some of the beekeeping fraternity are realising that they are ageing and still wanting to continue with their lifelong hobby, writes Somerset BKA member Garry Rucklidge.
The lifting of supers prior to examining a brood box is no easy task with a full super weighing 40lbs (in “old money”) and a box full of brood and stores likely in excess of that. Attention of these beekeepers has been grabbed by the proliferation of the top bar or long hive. I have recently joined the ranks of gentle back pain sufferers and with an eye to the future have designed and constructed a long hive which I shall be trying next year.
Based on over 40 years of beekeeping I wanted to incorporate a few features which I felt are important. Firstly the colony has to be warm and in the case of the long hive this is less achievable as heat from the brood and supers rising upwards in a standard format is just not going to happen. Heat will have to travel horizontally but helps to be somewhat retained by good insulation by the walls and above the entire colony. This can be achieved by the use of Celotex, Kingspan or polystyrene. At this point I appreciated that my woodworking skills are not sufficient to make a hive with insulated walls with a perfect bee space over the length required for a long hive. For many years I have kept my bees in a poly Langstroth hive modified so that National frames with shortened lugs are used at right angles to the direction of the Langstroth frames for which the box was designed thus utilising the insulation properties. I therefore designed the long hive using two Swienty polystyrene brood boxes which were dowelled and butt jointed using the two spare ends to increase the length which I calculated would hold 31 National Hoffman brood frames plus dummy boards and queen excluders of which more later.
The big plus is that the Swienty hives arrive in the flat and go together with dovetail joints as can be seen laid out above and below, being glued clamped to a straight edge and the two sides ready for the ends to be fixed to the sides with the dove tails.
Another essential was that there had to be an open mesh floor in one section of the hive and that this floor should be level with the entrance to allow easy removal of the hive debris by the bees as it was not going to be possible to lift the entire hive off the floor for cleaning. This section is built in the centre of the hive where there are 22mm holes drilled into the supporting floor and box bearers as many as you want centrally so that any mated queen will return there into the brood box area and not into the stores area.
The entrance holes can be simply blocked or opened as needed with wine corks – I don’t run my poly hives with anything more than a 120 x 8mm entrance all year round in a normal set up as it is easier to defend against wasps and it keeps mice out in winter.
On either side of the brood area below the store section are removable solid floors which can be dropped down and removed by turning the set of cupboard catches, then scraped and flamed before and after winter to aid hygiene.
The vertical queen excluders are framed as shown and both those and the dummy boards are a perfect fit to prevent the queen getting where she is not wanted.
I will be able to expand the brood area as and when required one frame at a time using the dummy board or excluder depending on flow.
The roof is kept lightweight and is hinged using three piano hinges (see two above) so that it does not need to be completely lifted off for inspections. Do remember to have the entrance holes on the opposite side from where you inspect so as not to get in the way of leaving and returning bees. I intend to use linen cloths topping the frames in the different sections so not all frames are exposed at a time. These are topped with Celotex in 3 sections again not all will need to be removed in an inspection. The space below the roof is deep so a 6 litre feeder can be easily fitted in the autumn or fondant in the winter.
The hive dimensions are 1220mm x 480mm, and the hive stands 780mm off the ground at the top of the brood/stores box but this can be adjusted to your own comfortable working height with angled legs for stability. I used 2mm correx sheet for the roof using 6mm car panel plastic fasteners pushed into a drilled hole in the wood framing of the roof. Solvent based paint can’t be used with poly hives but Ronseal wood stain 10 year varnish does a nice job with a glossy finish.
The bees were transferred on 17 March and seem to be all settled.
For more photos, see Somerset BKA's Spring Newsletter 2022.
Congratulations to Megan Seymour who has been appointed as the new Regional Bee Inspector for Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
She takes the place of Simon Jones who has stepped down after spending the last 12 years helping the region’s beekeepers.
Megan said in an email to members: “I am sure you will join me in wishing him all the best with his future pursuits.”
She explained that there have been a number of changes of staff within the National Bee Unit over the last year and recruitment is still ongoing for replacement staff. “Therefore, please bear with us if you see an unfamiliar name in an e-mail from one of us or get called by a new bee inspector.
We welcome Cathy Mudge in South Devon who will largely be covering Martin Hann’s old area (for those that know it) and will be accompanying other members of the team while she is being trained. There will be large parts of Somerset that will be covered by several of us while we adjust to no longer having Simon and to changes in the adjacent regions.
My old ‘patch’ of North Somerset and Avon will mainly be covered by Western Region Inspectors, with Jon Axe being the Regional Bee Inspector for that area. His contact details are: email@example.com mobile: 07867 151641. However, we will be working closely together to cover any problems so either one of us will do!
Please feel free to contact me via e-mail, WhatsApp or text using the information below.
Once we are all back in April, you can find your local Inspector here although there will still be changes during that month: https://www.nationalbeeunit.com/public/Contacts/contacts.cfm
Regional Bee Inspector for Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
National Bee Unit
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
M. 07775 119475
Photo: A frame of pepperpot brood with chewed cell cappings © Crown copyright
Stewart Gould from Ditcheat near Shepton Mallet is the winner of the greatest honour Somerset Beekeepers’ Association can bestow in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the craft.
He was presented with the magnificent West Country Honey Farms Award at the Association’s annual meeting by Joe King, Chair of the Award committee.
Stewart, who is Chair of Somerset Beekeepers and has previously been the editor of the year book and newsletter, has made a major contribution to beekeeping at a county and a local level.
Eric Mclaughlin, Chair of Somerton beekeepers, said in the award citation that during lockdown Stewart had opened up their new beekeepers’ course to people across the county and further afield: “There were over 90 participants for the Zoom sessions followed by successful practical sessions for the 30 allowed by Covid regulations at the time.”
He praised Stewart’s drive and determination which led to Somerton division getting its own apiary and for organising bulk purchase schemes to help members get the best price for a range of beekeeping essentials.
Taunton's popular spring equipment auction is back after a two year absence! It takes place on Sunday, 3 April, 2022 at Ruishton Village Hall, Taunton, Somerset TA3 5JD.
There's sure to be a miscellany of second hand hives, smokers and honey extraction equipment.
Auctioneer Chris Harries will be wielding the gavel for the 36th time and urged beekeepers to make sure they were well prepared for the coming season.
“Bees don’t wait for anybody!” said Chris. “This is a great opportunity to get ahead of the bees. Beekeepers need to have their equipment ready to go if they’re going to be able to cope once the bees ‘wake up’.”
Beekeeping involves a considerable amount of equipment, protective clothing, hive tools, a smoker, a feeder to provide bees with sugar syrup if needed in the winter, a good reference book, honey extraction equipment and among many other items of paraphernalia.
Chris, who runs Sedgemoor Honey, added: “We always get a good selection of equipment and someone just taking up the craft could quite easily get started and save money. But buyers need to remember to thoroughly clean any equipment to prevent the spread of diseases.”
Items received from 10:00am
Auction starts at 2:00pm
Free car parking
A petition instigated by Somerset beekeepers and calling on government to do more to clear the supermarket shelves of adulterated honey is live.
Honey selling for as little as 69p a pot has been spotted in Somerset shops. Large quantities of imported honey – mainly from China – are believed to be cut with cheap fillers. Consumers are not given the information on the labels to make an informed choice.
Somerset BKA seconded Devon BKA’s propositions at the BBKA’s Annual Delegates Meeting last month calling on the BBKA to join efforts to stamp out adulterated honey. They were passed by an overwhelming majority.
A petition created by some of the people behind the propositions – from Somerset and Devon – is calling for government to do more.
There’s been a long standing, but light hearted, rivalry between Devon and Somerset. Let’s carry on that tradition and see if we can get more signatures than Devon!
The petition calls for a full review of the honey market and Honey Regulations, to review evidence of honey fraud within the honey market, and reform regulations and arrangements for enforcement, to prevent future fraud.
Honey is adulterated, purely for profit, on an industrial scale across the globe. We believe current measures to ensure authenticity of honey are woeful. Public health, the free market, livelihoods, food security, consumer confidence and bee health issues are all at risk.
Current regulations, testing and enforcement are inadequate to protect and inform consumers, and there is a need for an urgent comprehensive review in order to detect honey fraud.
Please sign this petition and share it with everyone you know!
[When you sign, you'll receive an automatic email asking you to confirm your signature].
Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/588674292271458 to find out more about honey adulteration.
Dr Pete Kennedy (pictured), a Research Fellow at The University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute, will give us an update on current Asian hornet research and spread in Europe at our AGM on Saturday, 12 March, 2022.
The AGM will be hosted by Burnham division at Burnham and Berrow Golf Club, St. Christopher's Way, Burnham-on-Sea TA8 2PE. Members are very welcome to attend for both the lunch and the lecture which precede the AGM; there will obviously be no charge for lunch if you choose to attend just the lecture and AGM.
A two course carvery costs £19 and numbers are required by Friday 4 March 2022. Tea and coffee will be available at extra charge. Please pay by bank transfer to:
The Burnham and District Beekeepers
Sort code 30-91-20
If you have any further queries please contact Richard Tiley from Burnham Division at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Kennedy's talk examines the Asian hornet Vespa velutina, an invasive alien species, that is rapidly spreading through parts of Europe. Living in large nests of 5,000 to 20,000 individuals, Asian hornets are voracious predators of insects – including honey bees, wild bees and wasps. They are having a significant impact on the viability of beekeeping and honey production in mainland Europe, and they have been poised to spread into the UK over the last five years, where they could pose a significant threat to both wild and managed pollinators. This could jeopardise the essential pollination service these species provide to crops and wild flowers.
"Efforts to halt or limit the spread of the Asian hornet in the UK are reliant upon finding and destroying nests as soon as possible. In 2017, in response to a request by Defra, we developed a new method for finding Asian hornet nests, by radio-tracking individual hornets as they flew back to their nests (Kennedy et al 2018). We now have two research projects, collaborating with our European partners (funded by BBSRC and funded by EU Interreg Atlantic Area) to further develop this technique and find new ways of managing the spread of the Asian Hornet. At the same time, we are actively measuring and modelling the potential impact of this invasive species on wild and managed pollinators to understand the level of threat posed by this invasive species."
1200hrs - Arrive
12.30hrs - Two course carvery lunch
1400hrs - Welcome
14.05hrs - Lecture: "Asian hornets: An update on current research and spread in Europe" with Dr Pete Kennedy from Exeter University.
15.5hrs - Afternoon tea
15.30hrs - AGM
Well! It’s the end of another year and, as always, somebody will chime up with ‘and it’s been a strange one’. It now seems that every year defies what we would like to consider as the norm. It was, for most, a poor year for honey harvests with my own crop down by two thirds, but reading an article recently, I realised that honey harvests have been declining for many years, and you don’t have to look far to see why. Ten years ago, the field opposite was alive with dandelions in the springtime, and the adjacent orchard, which also hosted dandelions, was awash with apple blossom in late April. No more. All fields in the vicinity have been sprayed with weedkiller and daren’t produce a single dandelion, and the trees in the orchard have been left to their own devices for so long, that most have fallen over. The sheep take care of the dandelions there, and it is soon to become the site of eight up-market houses.
What good news then? There seems to be an upsurge in beekeeping interest. At the beginning of the year, because of COVID restrictions, I hosted a Zoom course which attracted 100 ‘would be’ beekeepers from far and wide, although originally intended for Somerset residents only. They came from Cornwall, South Wales and even Whitley Bay: not to mention Channel 4 property guru Sarah Beeny. To put the tin lid firmly on that one, during October, I was sitting in a car park in Cape Cornwall, near Land’s End, and I rolled down my car window to ask a passing birdwatcher if he had seen anything interesting. He pointed at me accusingly and said ‘I know you!’ For a moment I was worried. Still pointing, he said ‘You’re the bee man!’. It seems he had been on the course, and although I couldn’t see him, he had been looking at my mug and listening to my voice for six weeks during the previous winter.
Most divisions of Somerset BKA will be holding courses again this winter, but thanks to the Omicron variant, only time and the wisdom of our illustrious leader will decide if these can be held in person, or will be broadcast from ‘lofty garrets’ all over the county. Either way, there is one element of good news. Becky Wright, who is a motivational speaker, specialising in workplace wellbeing, has donated a significant sum of money to Somerset Beekeepers Association to enable someone, or a group, who would otherwise find it financially difficult to take up beekeeping, to be able to do so with a hefty financial subsidy. Nominations (with as much background as possible) should be sent to Maggie Norris – secretary of Somerset Beekeepers Association, as soon as possible. You can nominate yourself, another person or a project, but give as much information as you can. Maggie will give you all the details and conditions of the New Leaf Award.
It only remains for me to wish you all a successful beekeeping new year, and I hope that all other aspects of your lives will bring what you wish for. In the immortal words of most beekeepers ‘It’s got to be better than last year’.
Chair of Somerset BKA
In Sarah Beeny’s latest Channel 4 series – New Life in the Country - she continues her beekeeping story after attending an online beginners’ course run by Somerton Division.
In the first episode of the new series Sarah catches a swarm with her beekeeper mentor Lionel Horler. She shares the experience on her Facebook page saying: “I’ve learnt so much over the past year from the amazing Somerset Beekeeping [sic] Association - thank you Lionel for showing me such a magical moment.”
A new pressure group made up of UK beekeepers - Honey Authenticity Network UK (HAN UK) - is calling for better information for shoppers starting with stricter labelling for honey blends.
Two members of Somerset BKA are members of HAN UK – Lynne Ingram is Chair and Anne Pike is a committee member.
The group’s first outing in the media was in the Observer on Sunday, November 29, ’21.
”British beekeepers are calling for a requirement on supermarkets and other retailers to label cheap honey imports from China and other nations with the country of origin after claims that part of the global supply is bulked out with sugar syrup.
The UK is the world’s biggest importer of Chinese honey, which can be one sixth of the price of the honey produced by bees in Britain. Supermarket own-label honey from China can be bought for as little as 69p a jar. Supermarkets say every jar of honey is “100% pure” and can be traced back to the beekeeper, but there is no requirement to identify the countries of origin of honey blended from more than one country. The European Union is now considering new rules to improve consumer information for honey and ensure the country of origin is clearly identified on the jar.”
To read the article in full, click here.
Meanwhile, the group has set up a Facebook group to raise awareness of honey adulteration. Anyone interested in the subject is warmly invited to join.
Somerset BKA and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd (BDI) are jointly funding PhD student Hollie Pufal at Newcastle University.
Hollie is exploring the virulent ST2 strain of EFB which is uniquely associated with Somerset and north Dorset.
Hollie and her supervisor Prof Giles Budge will be involved in our Lecture Day on 12 February, 2022.
After completing her first year, she has provided a brief report on her work to date:
"Thank you for your generous funding that has allowed me to pursue research in this exciting area. Over the past 6 months I have been establishing methods to develop a molecular workflow that could be used to generate whole genome sequencing data from infected larvae at outbreak sites, I also tested supers from infected apiaries for the presence of EFB.
I tested 4 locations on each frame for the presence of EFB, as well as capped honey and pollen, using DNA extractions and Realtime PCR. The results showed only a small trace of EFB in a couple of samples both from the frame, pollen and honey.
I plan to sequence using handheld sequencing technology, which is a cheaper and more efficient sequencing platform, so has the potential to be used more readily in the future for assessing EFB outbreaks. The issue with sequencing infected larvae material is that most of the sequence generated will be honeybee DNA, so I originally tested various methods that deplete the bee DNA and enrich the bacterial DNA. Initially I used homogenised larvae mixed with M.plutonius culture and then I moved on to infected larvae from the field. I used qPCR assays to detect both EFB and insect DNA to assess the efficiency of the depletion methods, and I now have a selection of promising methods that I will take forward to sequencing and assess the quality."