The 90th National Honey Show Thursday 21st – Saturday 23rd October 2021

We are very pleased to tell you that the Show will be held this year, following its cancellation last year. The details have to be finalised as we have not yet fully returned to normal from Covid, but the following website has much more information, including the Schedule of Classes:

The following is quoted from that information:

‘Thank you for supporting the National Honey Show. After such a long period of lockdown I think we are all looking forward to seeing each other face to face (not too close though!). Do start preparing your entries so we can make the 2021 show a bumper celebration as we start our return to normality. We are doing everything we can to make this a normal show, but as we go to print, we are unsure of exactly what rules we will have to follow to comply with COVID-19 regulations. We may have to implement a time schedule for you to bring in your entries, so please take note of the changes to the entry form and look out for specific instructions that will be sent out with the entry.’

Surrey Honey Show, 10-11th September

The Honey Show that usually takes place annually in a marquee at the Surrey County Show in Guildford, will not take place again this year because of Covid restrictions.

However, The Show Committee decided that there will be a Show. Full details will be available later on, but for now here is some advance information:

Venue: Henfold Lane Apiary, Beare Green, Dorking (home of the Reigate Division)
Classes: 21 classes, similar to 2019 schedule, will be available later.

There is European foulbrood (EFB) in several parts of our area.


Look at the National Bee Unit (NBU) website for details and photos of the effects of the disease and check the larvae (unsealed brood) in your hives carefully. Report anything suspicious to our local Seasonal Bee Inspector, Steward Westsmith.

Over the last few years there has been a considerable amount of debate on the use of polystyrene hives. As usual with beekeepers and many beekeeping matters, there is a very wide division of opinion on this. Some have advocated their use in preference to wooden hives, while others, equally knowledgeable and skilled in beekeeping, have been totally opposed to them. The former have pointed out that they have heat insulating advantages in winter and claim that the colony grows more rapidly and to a greater size in spring. They also say that they are lighter to handle and that their cost is less than that of of wooden hives, but it should be remembered that the life of a poly hive is far less than that of a wooden hive, some of which are still perfectly usable after 50 years or more. It would be interesting to do a proper long-term comparison of the cost of the two types. A very rough estimate indicates that a conservative figure for the real cost of poly hives is at least twice that of wooden ones as they don’t last as long. Those who do not like them point out that polystyrene hives cannot be sterilized as effectively as wooden ones as a blowlamp obviously cannot be used for this purpose. However, a more sinister problem has come to my attention in recent weeks, now that EFB has been identified in our area. Apparently the NBU does not take responsibility for the sterilising of polystyrene hives (as they do by the flaming of wooden hives) when foulbrood (EFB or AFB) has been found in them and so this very important task is left to individual beekeepers to manage. Full details can be found under: Hive Cleaning and Sterilisation on their website ( Treatment of poly hives is on the 9th (unnumbered) page. Cleaning has to be done by careful scraping, then sterilisation by immersing and scrubbing the hives in a large container of water to which various chemicals (some dangerous to handle) have been added by the beekeeper and it is implied that this important process does not necessarily have to be carried out or observed by the NBU inspector. It does not take much imagination to realise that infected or inadequately cleaned polystyrene hives may well be put back into use, or taken to the local authority’s dump from where polystyrene currently goes to landfill, complete with AFB or EFB, which bees in the area could easily pick up. As poly hives cannot be expected to last for as long as wooden ones, we could expect a greater rate of replacement of them with the possibility of more infected hives being dumped (with or without sterilising). This all seems to be a great way of spreading these highly infectious diseases after the wonderful work done by the Bee Inspectors and others over many years to reduce them to tolerable levels, their work could well be undermined by the practices described above. Then, of course, there is the serious matter of AFB with its long-lived (40 or more years) highly infectious spores that could be spread around as a result of careless polyhive disposal. Also, there is the further damage to the environment by the scrapping of more plastic materials. There are currently moves afoot to influence the NBU in view of the likely effect of their proposals and no doubt we shall hear more of this in time.

Of course the simple way to stop this serious source of spreading of AFB and EFB is to make the manufacture, sale, importation and use of polystyrene beehives illegal. It would also reduce the mounting problem of plastic in the environment which is another major cause of concern. This would raise another set of problems, but I would suggest that these would be more easily solvable and of significantly less importance than disease spread.

I realise that there is a lot of disagreement among beekeepers on the use of polyhives, and I fear that the opinions of many beekeepers are deeply entrenched on this, one way or the other, as with many other beekeeping opinions! However, I would suggest that new beekeepers do make a very serious attempt to look into and weigh up the pros and cons of polystyrene before taking one view or the other.

I welcome any comments on this article. Do please point out any errors or false assumptions. I assure you that I will not be offended by anything you write. I hope there will be plenty to put into the next Newsletter, either with or without your name as you wish. This is too important a subject to take comments personally. I think that we need to deal in facts. The important point is to establish what the actual facts are, among the vast number of opinions.

Future Events

UPDATE: WBK Summer Social Meeting, August 21st, 3.30pm

Given the lockdown we have all endured for the last year or so we thought it would be a good idea for us all to meet up and catch up.  Hoping that the weather is good, Paul and Helen Bunclark have very kindly agreed to let us use their facility; most beginners and students of recent years will already be aware of it from the summer practicals they will have attended there.  A map and details of where Paul’s place is for those that do not know were enclosed in the recent News Letter.

The structure will be that WBK will provide Sausages, Burgers, Buns, etc. with attendees asked to bring along any special foods they want as well as salads and desserts to share. Please bring any drink you want other than tea and coffee – for which please bring your own mug.  As we will be buying the food we would like to get an indication of numbers in advance, please therefore email David Parker (address below) with ‘Coming to BBQ’ in the subject line with how many e.g. Coming to BBQ 2 or Coming to BBQ 1, thanks.  If you require a vegetarian option please also put that in the subject line.

The invitation is open to all members and we hope you will bring your partner. It would be great to get as many people along as possible so some of our new members can meet the older ones.  We do hope you can join us for what I am sure will be a great afternoon. 

David Parker (

HOLD THE DATE: Summer Social. August 21st, 3:30pm

Given the lockdown we have all endured for the last year or so we thought it would be a good idea for us all to meet up and catch up.  Hoping that the weather is good, Paul and Helen Bunclark have very kindly agreed to let us use their facility; most beginners will already be aware of it from the summer practicals they will have attended there this year.  The idea is to have a bring along BBQ. Closer to the time we will ask people to give us an indication if they are attending and the division will supply rolls, sausages, burgers with everyone invited to bring any special foods they want as well as salads and desserts to share.  
September 18th, 2.30pm

Preparing for Winter. This meeting will be hosted at David Parker’s Fairoaks Airport apiary.  There is more than one way to prepare for winter so in addition to breaking into groups and going through some hives looking at stores, etc. David will take us through how he takes his bees through winter, his method of two National 8-frame boxes.  It is also hoped that one or two other beekeepers will talk about how they take their bees through winter.  When to feed syrup, when to use fondant, what ratios of sugar to water for syrup, how much syrup to feed, can you over feed your bees?  All these and other questions will be addressed along with talking about winter chemical treatments and options for controlling Varroa.
David Parker 07712 07930

WBK Summer Meeting 19th June 2021 at Marion & Geoff Cooper’s Apiary, Painshill Park

As the Covid rules about maximum numbers of people gathering were still in force, Marion had organised a QR code for track and trace purposes, for those with a smartphone and the NHS app to scan on arrival. For those unable to do that, Jane and Michael were on hand, both to arrange the parking and to list names.

The main purpose of the meeting was about setting up colonies for the anticipated nectar flow.

We were all given a programme of items that would be covered, on the back of which was a diagram of the apiary, with comments about each of the colonies.

For various reasons, I hadn’t seen Marion & Geoff for quite a while and was surprised to find that Geoff had reverted to the (nineteen) sixties, with his “rocker” look. He did seem to have left the Harley at home, though.

Marion welcomed us to the apiary, making a few remarks about Geoff’s appearance, explaining about the set up of the apiary and the reason for the extra “fencing” (to deter keen visitors from approaching the hives). She made the point that they do what they have found to be the best way for them, in their apiary, since there are various ways to run one. She explained that they normally change the comb on most frames in each hive every other year, but that some of the hives currently have quite “dirty” brood comb as they were not strong enough to stand the disruption of a major comb change this year.
They run their hives on 14×12 brood boxes, so that each frame has the equivalent area of a brood and a half of a “normal” national hive.

She handed over to Geoff, with instructions to “keep it short” and on point.

Since quite a lot of the attendees, 29 I counted, were from the latest training courses, Geoff started by defining the summer flow and the likely/usual timing, mentioning the blooming of various plants, to be aware that the flow had started. He then went on to stress the importance of checking that you have enough equipment to cope with demand, whether that is supers with frames of drawn comb from previous years, or with foundation; how to space the frames, for personal preference, which prompted conversations around how many frames to put in a super and the pros and cons of each.

He briefly discussed extraction, with the usual invitation to new members to visit the Cooper household when they do theirs, later in the summer. This prompted a short discussion on the benefits of owning an extractor and the type, tangential or radial. At this point Michael Main explained about the association ones that are available to members for a nominal fee.

We got the usual, amusing, interaction between Marion & Geoff, in terms of keeping on subject. All this, of course, was done with the help of equipment from their inventory, to illustrate the talk.

Geoff then handed over to David Parker, who gave us a talk about cut comb and the various ways to produce and package it for sale. Unfortunately, one of the bits of equipment failed in demonstration, but we were all able to get the gist of how it is supposed to work.

By now, the assumed timing had overrun slightly and it was time to inspect a couple of the hives.
The group split in two. Geoff went through a hive in which the bees had ‘chewed’ almost every frame of comb! I stayed with Marion, who showed us a hive that was used earlier this year for queen rearing, by packing the bees from the brood box and two supers into a small area (only 6 frames), so that several queen cells were created as swarm preparation. The queen was removed into a prepared 2-frame nuc just before the queen cells were sealed. Before the queens emerged the queen cells were removed and put in nucs or mini-nucs made up from the main colony. The space in the colony was then restored, and the queen nuc reunited with it. Our group also looked into a couple of the nucs in the apiary. The queen was spotted in each one. Following this Geoff showed us his Asian Hornet trap. He has made his own patterned on an original that he looked at, which he felt was of inferior quality. It hasn’t caught any Asian Hornets yet (on Guernsey), though it has trapped some wasps. Let’s hope it’s a long time before any Asian Hornets are in the area.

I was unable to stay for the socialising that was set to follow the talk and demonstration, so I can’t comment on that, but I expect that some more useful time was spent by all. (I think that must have been the case as some of the members did not leave until nearly 6.00 pm, and we had the pleasure of receiving some appreciative comments. Everyone had brought cakes and savouries to make a lovely picnic which was enjoyed by all. – Ed.)

Thank you to Marion and Geoff for this opportunity to visit their apiary and especially for the time they devote to helping all the members of WBK. Paul Hildersley

Thank you Paul for your report and appreciative comments. Sorry you were not able to stay to the end.