Effect of comb age on worker body size

The following is quoted from an abstract of a paper with the above title. The link below gives access to the

complete paper:

‘…It can be concluded that the dimensions of the comb cells and worker body size changed with the age of the comb. The obtained results recommend beekeepers to replace combs aged more than 3 years with a new comb to allow large workers to gather more nectar and pollen, rear a larger brood, and store more honey.’

It’s an interesting thing to do to measure the size of drone and worker cells on ‘wild’ comb (ie that drawn by the bees in the hive other than on foundation), and compare these with the size of cells on commercially produced wax foundation. In my experience there is a significant difference. This is most easily done by measuring the distance across (say) 10 cells. A number of beekeepers do not use foundation so that the bees are free to produce cells of the size, and in the part of the hive, that they prefer. For this reason these beekeepers usually install a couple of horizontal wires across the frame to give the wax mechanical strength for extraction purposes. In the past, foundation with extra large cells has been made to produce larger than normal bees as it was felt that they could carry larger loads, thus giving greater harvests. Some problems emerged from this practice, and I don’t think that it has been continued.

Link to article Here

Up and coming events

Summer Meetings

For many of us summer is a long way off, but as we all know the bees are already starting to prepare and build up as you read this newsletter. In the spirit of preparing for what is ahead, just like the bees, WBK has been busy planning the summer meetings again for 2022 – Covid and of course any other factor apart. To that end please put a date in your diary for the first two summer meetings of 2022 in April and May. Also if there are any volunteers to host the June/September meetings please email me and we can arrange to chat. Availability of 2 – 3 hives is required, but other WBK members are happy to support the actual content of the meeting. Looking forward to seeing all of you at these.

Local queen rearing initiative

If you would be interested in joining a new group for rearing local queens, please contact Michael Main (michaelfmain@hotmail.com)

JunePreparing for the flow and taking honey offTypes of super. How many? Types of clearers and clearing methods Calibrating a refractometer
Teaching ApiaryJuly 9thAn inspector callsStewart Westsmith, Seasonal Bee Inspector, takes us through an inspection.
Paul and Helen BunclarkAugust 14thSummer SocialPaul and Helen’s Row Town apiary site
SeptemberPreparing for winterA detailed look at preparing and feeding bees for winter.

Our summer meeting schedule is almost full and we have some exciting and amazing venues on the list. Please put the date in your diary for the Summer Social event on August 14th; partners welcome and a fun time for all.

Please do come, beginners and all as it is great to catch up and swap experiences. For summer meetings please bring a mug and something savoury or sweet to share with the coffee and tea after.

PS: If you would like to host the June or September meeting please do drop me an email at davidparker@polymathconsulting.com

Do your bees have enough to eat?

The NBU has issued a warning that colony losses through starvation have already occurred this winter as a result of the unusually high temperatures that we have had for the time of year, encouraging the bees to be active. Several local beekeepers have reported the same, e.g. Peter Webb, who wrote: ‘Terrible weather for bees, lots flying and nothing to feed on.’ Another of our members, David Parker, has reported that one of his hives consumed roughly 400g of fondant in about 7-8 days. Do check your own bees for the state of their stores. Going into the hive has to be done very carefully indeed in January, but gentle hefting should give enough indication and will cause no problems. If in doubt, put a bag of fondant on the crown board.

Just like modern humans, honeybees avoid each other amid plagues

Just like modern humans, honeybees avoid each other amid plagues

Bees segregate behaviours in different parts of their hives to prevent parasites from spreading, in other words thay use social distancing. Humans, as we all very well know, have used social distancing to fight infectious disease, both currently, and for past centuries. This article from The Economist explains, with the aid of some remarkable photgraphs, how the bees practice social distancing to combat varroa and other diseases: 

Use the link:


Thanks to David Parker and Peter Webb for this item.

Rare bees found in the woods at Blenheim Palace

“Thousands of rare forest honeybees that appear to be the last wild descendants of Britain’s native honeybees have been discovered in the ancient woodlands of Blenheim Palace. These bees appear to be resistant to the varroa mite. “The bees are very relaxed, and he (the beekeeper) does not need to wear any protective equipment” …“I can put my hand in the nest. They are very calm”… This finding is being taken very seriously, with DNA and cubital index (wing vein patterns) investigations proceeding.  You can read this very interesting article, published in The Guardian, in full using the link; 


Let us hope that there will be some very sensitive and unobtrusive  management of these wild bees and that they are not ruthlesly exploited in the interest of commercially motivated beekeepers. It does not auger well that they have already been exposed in the national media. I imagine that BIBBA will have a great interest in this article as it seems to be in the same area as their much discussed British Black bee. 

Thanks to Peter Webb and Claire Balla for making us aware of this.