APRIL EVENTS Weybridge Beekeepers final Winter Meeting, Thursday 22nd April 2021 at 7:30pm

As explained before, this meeting was to have been our Nosema clinic, but as this is not possible I am pleased to give details of a Zoom meeting devoted to short contributions from our own members.

The final order has not yet been arranged, but there will be 4 contributions, as follows:

Jane – stingless bees, Illustrated report of a holiday encounter with them

Vanessa and Alan – students on our 2018 Beginners Course – report of their experiences

David – Running a 2 Queen hive

Geoff – Taking the sting out of Queen rearing

Please see your emailed newsletter for the link to the Zoom meeting and login details. If you have been missed off of the news letter list do get in touch.

Weybridge Winter Meeting, Whats’s going wrong with our queens? A talk by Roger Patterson Wednesday 10th March (virtual)

I received this report from Anne, prefaced by the following:

‘The queen we’ve got are failing, we don’t know why, there is little point replacing them as the new ones might be duds as well. If I can’t get them through the winter because the queen fails, what exactly am I supposed to do?’

Having experienced a range of queen problems over the last few years – missing queens, queens stopping laying, quenelles hives refusing to make queen cells from test frames, I was interested to hear Roger’s views.

Roger introduced himself as a ‘practical beekeeper’ not a scientist, and has been keeping bees for over 54 years. During this time he has seen extreme changes in queen longevity. He saw the golden age of queens prior to 1990, when queen rearing, and life expectancy was relatively easy and they lasted several years and superseded naturally. Now due to many causes successful queen rearing is proving increasingly problematic.

He accepted that the problems could happen naturally, but the levels of failure were not natural.

In the past queens typically lived 3-5 years: swarmed 0-3 times in their life time and were superseded naturally at the end of a season (July – September). Queen failure used to be in spring.

Now queen cells are not always resulting in laying queens, young queens are being superseded and queens are failing or disappearing.

These cannot all be the fault of the weather or birds taking queens on mating flights.

Roger went on to describe new queens with deformed wings (not the result of Deformed Wing Virus) which means they could not fly to mate, so could not raise new workers, queens who laid drones peppered in amongst worker cells, queens being superseded almost as soon as their first brood was sealed and those that suddenly stopped laying. Queen cells are increasingly being found on stores frames are taking longer to emerge. Swarms are often failing, or have virgin queens.

The reasons may be many, including varroa or the treatment we are giving them; research is needed.

Roger encouraged us to do full inspections all the time to be alert to queen cells anywhere in the colony, to keep good records and to look for eggs at every inspection. He encouraged running extra colonies so a spare queen was available and to raise double the number of queens you need to cover failures. he did not recommend re-queening every year, as you could not guarantee that the new queen would be any better than the old one.

Roger warmly recommended making use of his books and of Dave Cushman’s website, which Roger now maintains and updates.

The talk was followed by questions and answers and the complete meeting can be seen in full (details below).

Thank you to Roger for the talk, Marion for arranging it and the techno wizards behind the scenes for thematic that is Zoom.

Anne Miller

Thank you Anne for this report.

Her emails ends like this:

‘I’m off to find a new hobby …’, but it’s good to report that she’s not.

This was truly an excellent meeting. It was far from yet another repeat of the ‘same old stuff’, and as Anne writes above, it was all from Roger’s own observations and personal experience. The attendance was disappointing. Do consider listening to it on the link shown if you were not there. Andrew has sent this note:

I have put Roger Patterson’s talk on ”Queen failure” on You Tube as an unlisted video, or rather two videos, that can be accessed through the links below. The jinx on recording Weybridge division talks struck again. With Matthew Ingram’s talk in February, the ‘record’ button was not turned on until about half way through the talk. Matthew very kindly repeated the missing part for us.

About three quarters of the way through Roger’s talk, I noticed that the light that shows recording is taking place had gone off – don’t know why. I was able to restart in less than a minute so very little was lost.

Roger Patterson’s Queen failure talk Part 1

Roger Patterson’s Queen failure talk Part 2

Andrew Halstead

Weybridge Winter Meeting (virtual) Thursday 11th February

Matthew Ingram talking about his beekeeping experiences in Australia and England

This was really a most refreshing, and ‘different’ talk by a very unusual young man. He told us that he was 24 years old.

Matthew started his beekeeping with two old hives and gave us the impression that these were pretty grotty. He joined his local Association and was given a swarm, then later three more hives and his beekeeping took off. So far he has built up to 120 colonies in apiaries at several sites and housed in hives mostly made by him. He was able to renovate some old disused dairy buildings, and has equipped them for his own extracting, bottling and other beekeeping purposes. He later extended their use for him to extract and bottle other local beekeepers’ honey.

Matthew went to University and obtained a qualification in accountancy. Then, while his fellow students were enthusiastically exploring the relevant employment field, he could only think of pursuing his great ambition – to make a career in beekeeping.
He then arranged to gain beekeeping experience with a bee farmer in Australia, and the main part of his talk dealt with that time – and what an impressive time it was. In this report it is not easy to convey the feel of his talk and the incredible work load undertaken by the bee farmers over there. I would very strongly encourage you to watch the recording of this. Matthew was a full member of the working staff and took part in all of their activities in many apiaries.

In air temperatures of 40ºC, water had to be taken to the bees regularly, and two tons of pollen had to be collected and supplied, mainly to the many nucs to (the trees do not supply a significant quantity of pollen). They raised 300 queens a week, by grafting. The bee farmers run about 2500 colonies each, and travel about 1000 miles a week in the course of their migratory beekeeping. Although Carniolan queens are used there is not much swarming. The hives they use are all deep Langstroth (for both brood and super) so about 80lb to lift when the supers are full!! Major sources of forage are the Eucalyptus and Macadamia trees.

As with beekeeping everwhere, there are plenty of problems. These include giant centipedes (20 cm long), iguanas, snakes, scorpions, kangaroos, red back spiders, cockroaches and more. Then there are bush fires which can necessitate the rapid removal of entire apiaries to another site.

AFB is very common and can be found in most colonies. No control is attempted apart from dealing with it in nucleus colonies where it is found to be necessary for their survival. Otherwise infected boxes are stacked in the bee yard (in the open!) and then taken for irradiation. The honey is extracted from AFB colonies with the rest. EFB is also widespread but is not seen as an issue. Antibiotics and an unlicenced cockroach killer are used routinely. The Small Hive Beetle is common and the ‘slimed out‘ boxes produce an unimaginable smell. The beekeepers do not wear protective gloves.

Matthew’s talk was delivered in a relaxed way at a leisurely pace and was nicely illustrated with slides, again at a pace that we could take in (many other presenters could well follow his example).

It has to be said that we were not left with a good impression of bee farming practices in Australia. The attitudes towards the bees ring very much of those that we hear prevail in parts of the USA.

As I said, Matthew is an unusual young man and I hope this report has given you some idea of his capabilities and achievements – and isn’t it great to hear such an accomplished YOUNG beekeeper? He has spurned the opportunity to become one of the people who are commonly said to run the world (with vast incomes) to be a bee farmer who we all know are not so likely to reach the wealthy class level despite a huge work load, physical and mental.

We wish him every success in his chosen career, and are sure that we will hear a lot more of him in the future.

Geoff Cooper

Here are links to Matthew’s talk, in two parts:

Part 1   https://youtu.be/kt75MANe7bg
Part 2   https://youtu.be/lbRsq9janlY

Asian honeybees ‘defend hives from hornets with faeces’

The following are quotations from an article which can be read in full via link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55255290

Researchers have found that honeybees in Vietnam collect and smear animal faeces around their nests to prevent deadly raids by giant hornets.
The bees used chicken poo, buffalo dung and even human urine to defend their hives.

The scientists behind the study, said the research was sparked when a Vietnamese beekeeper told them that the mysterious dark spots they had spotted at hive entrances was excrement.

“We thought that’d be crazy because bees don’t collect dung,” lead author Heather Mattila told AFP news agency.

But the study confirmed that the poo was indeed a defence being deployed by the bees, specifically against giant hornets.

Dr Mattila, a biology professor at Wellesley College in the US state of Massachusetts, said it adds to “an already impressive list of defences they have to prevent these hornets from destroying their colonies”.

It seems surprising that (as far as I know) this is the first that we have heard of this apparently important defence mechanism.

BBKA Module Exams update

BBKA Module exams: some important information from the BBKA for new candidates

I know you have been wondering what is going to happen with the Module Exams next year.  We are currently in the second wave of Covid and another National lockdown.  The experts are not able to say when things might improve but the main body of opinion is that this may not be until a vaccine is available.   The Exam Board took the hard decision to cancel all exams and assessments in 2019. 

Unfortunately we have no way of knowing what the situation will be next March so the Exam Board has been looking at an alternative solution.  Even before Covid-19 the board had been considering the use of online facilities to aid with the delivery of exams.  For various reasons, not least suitability and cost, this was not a priority, but events as well as the rapid development of the online invigilation service have opened opportunities for us to consider an invigilation system which will allow candidates to sit the exam in their own home. 

The education sector as a whole has had to embrace this technology and it particularly suits our geographically spread cohort. We recognise that we will have candidates who do not have the confidence or computer skills for online exams and we will continue, when possible, to offer the handwritten option albeit at a reduced number of venues.The Board has investigated a number of companies and found the one to offer a suitable service for our needs is called Inspera.  Extensive research and trials by the Board resulted in the decision to offer the Module exams online in the Spring.  This decision and the financial support needed has been approved by the Trustees. In order to do this successfully, a number of changes will be needed in this first year.  I will summarise the main factors and hopefully answer your most immediate questions.

·         The exam papers will not change, they will have the same layout and type of questions

·         Only online module exams will be available in the Spring 2021.  We hope to offer some hand written opportunities in the Autumn but this will depend on the Covid situation.

·         We will be sending you the list of transferred module exam entries for your Area and asking you to contact your candidates to find out if they wish to take online modules. If they do not feel able to cope online, their entry will be transferred to November 2021.

·         Candidates will be allowed to sit a maximum of 2 modules

·         The closing dates for new entries will be January 31st 2021  to allow more time for setting up and training.

·         The date for the exams will move to 24th/25th April 2021 – probably 24th April but at this stage we are not ruling out two days. Again this is to allow more time for the preparation.

·         Candidates and invigilators will receive training on the system and computer access will be checked beforehand.

·         Invigilators for the online modules will be arranged centrally. Please let us know if you are interested in being considered.

We will be keeping you up to date on developments.
Val and Nicky


I was horrified to learn a few minutes ago (2nd December) that old, dark brood comb is being offered for sale on ebay at £15 per frame. It is intended for use as a lure in bait hives.

All beekeepers, especially new beginners, must make themselves and other beekeepers aware of this threat which at the very least could start a huge wave of foul bood in the UK, plus goodness knows what else from the undesirable disease-causing matter that could be present in old combs; such combs should be destroyed.

Read about this for yourselves on the ebay link below:


Thanks to David Parker for bringing this to our attention – perhaps the most important thing that he or anyone else has ever sent.

Geoff Cooper
Editor – Newsletter

BBKA online talks watch them while you can

Circulation: Area Association and Branch Secretaries

The online BBKA talks that have been taking place over the past few weeks have proved to be immensely popular, so much so that demand has outstripped supply of the places available.

Thanks to the kind permission of the speakers, you can view the talks via the BBKA website:


The talks will be available for approximately one month only so please share this information with your members asap.

Kind regards

Leigh Sidaway
General Manager

Winter update from your Chairman Andrew

Dear Members,

Mid winter is a relatively quiet time for beekeeping but there are two tasks that can be carried out at this time of year. Most important is to check the weight of your hives by hefting them. This means putting your hand under the hive and tilting it forwards or sideways to assess the weight. If it is hard to lift all should be well but an easy lift could mean stores are getting low. If you have more than one hive, it is easier to detect which ones are lighter. Bees will not accept liquid feeds in winter, so if extra feeding is needed now, use candy, which you can make yourself, or buy fondant.

Making bee candy

Making bee candy can be a bit like making porridge for Goldilocks. Too much heat and the candy sets too hard for the bees to eat; not enough heat and the candy may be soft enough to drip out of the container onto the frames and bees.

Dissolve 2kg white granulated sugar in 600ml of hot water. Using a sweet/jam maker’s thermometer, heat the solution to 117⁰C (soft ball in sweet maker’s terms). Watch the pan carefully to make sure the syrup does not boil over. When the required temperature has been reached, remove from the heat and stir continuously as it cools (the pan can be stood in cold water in the sink). When the liquid starts to become thick and opaque, quickly pour the solution into suitable containers, such as aluminium food trays. Leave to set. Place the candy tray upside down on the frames above where the bees are clustering. Use an empty super to provide space for the candy tray and cover the frames and candy with a piece of blanket or other thick cloth to keep warmth in the brood box.

The other winter beekeeping activity is treatment against Varroa with oxalic acid. In December around Christmas time there is generally little or no sealed brood in hives, so the Varroa mites will be exposed on the adult bees. Oxalic acid can be applied by trickling 5ml of the prepared solution between combs that are occupied by bees. There is a useful video on this technique on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgHmGGXRDzg The oxalic acid part starts 1 minute and 40 seconds into this video. An alternative means of applying oxalic acid is to heat the crystals using a car battery-powered heating device that is inserted into the hive. This causes the chemical to vaporise and as it cools it crystalizes again on the bees and hive parts. It is a more effective means of contacting the mites but oxalic acid vapour is a human health hazard if breathed in or if it comes into contact with eyes. A proper face mask and protective gloves are essential. Covid 19 masks will not do! A video of heat treatment with oxalic acid (sublimation) can be seen on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xjuFdSQv00. The Weybridge division has an oxalic acid sublimation applicator that can be hired, The user must supply their own car battery and have the necessary protective mask and gloves. See https://www.weybridgebeekeepers.org/wbk-equipment-hire.html for information about hiring Weybridge division equipment.

With most of Surrey now having been placed in Tier 4, we are advised to stay at home. This does not mean that you cannot travel to your bees if you have an out apiary. Caring for bees and other livestock is a permitted activity that allows travel for that purpose. I have attached a document that was circulated earlier this year when Covid restriction first came in. It may be useful to keep this in your car, particularly if going to your bees means travelling from Tier 4 into a Tier 3 area.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for successful beekeeping in 2021,

Andrew Halstead
Weybridge division Chairman

Co-op Community Fund

Weybridge Beekeepers has been chosen as one of the good causes that will benefit from the Co-op Community Fund scheme for a year ending on 31 October 2021. The way in which the scheme works is that three good causes are linked to a Co-op business. Our linked store is the Co-op food store at Shepperton. Perhaps not the most obvious location for the Weybridge division but at least, unlike some good causes, we have not been partnered with a branch of the Co-op funeral service!

As explained below, donations of 2p in the pound are donated to the Weybridge division when selected goods or services are purchased from the Co-op. This can be in any Co-op store but the person making the purchase must be a Co-op member (costs £1) and must nominate Weybridge Beekeepers [https://membership.coop.co.uk/causes/51630 ] as their chosen good cause.

There is more information about the scheme below.

How does a Co-op Member select us as their cause?

Co-op Members can select their cause by either logging in to their Membership account https://www.coop.co.uk/membership, or downloading our Co-op app https://www.coop.co.uk/coop-app, or phoning our Membership Support Centre. A member will see three local causes in their immediate community, however there is an option to see more causes within a 15 mile radius.

Co-op is not like other retailers, we do not have coins or tokens in stores or in our funeral homes. All cause selections are made digitally or by phone.

Can Co-op Members only raise funds for us when they shop in their local Co-op store?

No, every time a member buys selected Co-op own brand products and services from a Co-op Group Food store or Co-op Funeralcare, anywhere in the UK, an equal split of the 2p of every pound they spend is put into their account to allocate to a local cause. So your supporters can help your cause by shopping in any of our Co-op Group outlets. The important thing is that people swipe their membership card when shopping in our stores or inform our Funeralcare colleagues that they are a Member. If they don’t do this, they’ll miss out on their membership rewards and they won’t be able to generate any funding for their chosen cause – which could be Weybridge Beekeepers.

Is it only Co-op Members who live in my community that can raise funds for my cause?

No, the good news is any Co-op Member across the UK can support your cause, however they will need the link to your unique cause profile page [https://membership.coop.co.uk/causes/51630] to do this directly. When Members log in to their Membership account they can only select a cause within 15 miles of their registered postcode – unless they have the direct link to your cause profile page.

How much does it cost to become a Co-op Member?

To become a Member, you pay £1 – see https://www.coop.co.uk/membership. That £1 buys you one share in Co-op Group – this means you own part of the business and can have your say in how it’s run, such as at our Annual General Meeting (AGM). By joining Co-op you’ll get personalised offers across our Co-op Group Food Stores and Funeral homes as well as raising much needed funds for your community.

How can someone become a Co-op Member if they are not digitally savvy?

If you don’t have a computer or are unable to download the Co-op app, you can call our Membership Support Centre on 0800 0686 727 to become a Member and select a cause. Lines are open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.

Sniffer dogs join Asian hornet hunt, a short update on the hornet situation in Jersey

The following is an abbreviated report; you can access the full version in the link below.

Published: Oct 2, 2020

A NEW method of tracking Asian hornets involving a springer spaniel and a Leonberger was tested this week. Jersey’s Asian Hornet Group, spearheaded by Alastair Christie – Jersey’s Asian hornet coordinator – has been exploring the feasibility of using dogs to ‘sniff out’ the invasive species. Alastair was accompanied by local dog handler Caroline Germain and her dog, Eric, as well as a search dog handler from the UK, Tony Warren and his dog, Jess, a springer spaniel which is trained to find bodies. Up until now Jess has only worked with dead-nest material sent over by the group. ‘Tony is a beekeeper so he is aware of Asian hornets and the work we are doing, and is also aware of how dogs can be used to track different scents,’ said Mr. Christie.

Also joined by Asian Hornet Group volunteer Bob Tompkins, the hunters began testing the new method in a field in Trouville to see whether the dogs could pick up and successfully track the scent of the hornets to a pre-determined nest in a tremor Christie said the initial results were ‘very encouraging… It needs more time but it looks very promising,’ Meanwhile, it emerged this week in a Scrutiny hearing that the government was spending £65,000 this year tackling Asian hornets.

Director for Natural Environment, Willie Peggie, said: ‘We are operating with a paid coordinator and we now have 16 volunteers. We are finding fewer hornets this season compared to previous years which we think is down to a damp, mild winter and a damp spring ‘Early tracking of queen hornets has taken place on the east coast and we are seeing improvements in modern technology which is underpinning our tracking techniques.’

https://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2020/10/02/sniffer-dogs-join-asian-hornet- hunt/?fbclid=IwAR0zbgwyyRy5lMhUZOERUUE–I7SFeZ6ys2U0nTKc3RzEl2l-tI0jLwhPCM

Thanks to Claire Balla for sending in the links and to Jill Witham for the newspaper article.