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: www.honeyshow.co.uk

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.

Editorial

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 (https://nationalbeeunit.com). 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 (davidparker@polymathconsulting.com)

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  davidparker@polymathconsulting.com 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.

Weybridge Beekeepers Summer Meetings

I am pleased to be able to firm up the dates now for the summer meeting schedule, Covid issues allowing.  This year we have deliberately ensured that all three meetings are particularly relevant to those from this year’s and last year’s beginners courses.  I would stress that everyone is of course welcome and it would be great for the beginners to  meet some more of the division members.  Please put the dates in your diary and I hope as many of you as possible will attend.  The more bees you see the better you are able to understand what is normal behaviour as bees are often challenging in that they do not read the text books!
 
June 19th, 2.30pm
Preparing for the Flow. 
Geoff and Marion have kindly offered to host this meeting at their Painshill Apiary.
 
July 31st, 2.30pm
‘An Inspector Calls’. Our seasonal Bee Inspector, Stewart Westsmith, will inspect several hives, taking us through what they look for and how they look.  A masterclass in Bee Disease inspection but rather than ‘in theory’, this is the real practice.  Essential for all beginners and more experienced beekeepers alike.
 
We are very fortunate that Aslam has again offered to open his amazing garden(s) to us. For those who have been before you will remember what a wonderful location it is. Please contact us for his address or see the emailed newsletter.
 
August 21st, probably 4pm but time tbc 
Summer Social. 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.  
 
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 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  davidparker@polymathconsulting.com

Weybridge Town Business Group market on 26th June 2021 – volunteers wanted

Weybridge Town Business Group market on 26th June 2021 – volunteers wanted

We are once again taking a stall at the market on Monument Green (near Waitrose/Ship Inn).  It would be great to have some volunteers for this.  I will allocate shifts once I know how many people will be helping, but it is usually a couple of hours of chatting to the public and selling honey and candles.  We are looking to have a contactless card payment system for the day. Volunteers can bring honey to sell, which is usually very popular.  

Contact Jane Hunter on 01932 857427 or email weybridgebees.sec@gmail.com More information about the market can be found at:  www.allaboutweybridge.co.uk/weybridge-market

Jane Hunter

COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes)

COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes) is an international, non-profit association headquartered in Bern, Switzerland that is focussed on improving the well-being of bees at a global level.

We are composed of scientific professionals that include researchers, veterinarians, agriculture extension specialists and students. We understand that cooperation and open dialogue are key to better understanding the reasons why bee populations are threatened in today’s world. (Bold highlighting is mine. – Ed)

In the last decade, elevated losses of western honey bee colonies have been observed, mainly in Europe and North America, but the underlying causes still remain unclear. In 2008, European and USA honey bee experts formed a network “COLOSS” realising that efforts by individual countries to identify the drivers of losses were unlikely to succeed, given the current consensus that causes are complex and can be different between regions and between the years. Now more than 1000 scientists are working together in this network in specific working groups. This information was extracted from the COLOSS website.

A request from COLOSS for help in identifying the cause of honey bee losses

The epidemiological working group have developed a standardised questionnaire to identify the underlying causal factors of losses and provide beekeepers with sustainable management strategies.We now invite you to fill in the questionnaire for 2021 which you will find below.

https://www.bee-survey.com/index.php/253937

This will enable us to compare your answers with those of other beekeepers. With your data we can estimate the relative risk of colony losses for beekeeper decisions such as Varroa treatment, migration of colonies and comb replacement. We also aim to identify differences in relative mortality risk between regions. This will enable follow up research projects in specific regions.

At your option your personal details may be recorded, however we undertake not to disclose them to any third party to protect your privacy.

Finally your help is much appreciated. Please can I ask you to promote this survey and the questionnaire link through this open letter to as many English beekeepers as you are able to do so. Feel free to share the link by email, word of mouth, newsletters or social media and to your local beekeeping organisations. In doing so you will be making a contribution to tackling the problem of colony losses and ensuring that English data is represented as an equal partner in the COLOSS European community.

Norman Carreck, Member of Coloss for England


Surrey Honey Show

The usual 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 last week that there will be a Show. Full details will be available later on, but for now here is some advance information:

Date: 10-11 September 2021
Venue: Henfold Lane Apiary (home of the Reigate Division)
Classes: 21 classes, similar to 2019 schedule

Weybridge Beekeepers meeting Thursday 22nd April 2021

The views expressed in this article are personal and may not correspond with the views of other people present. I’m sorry this is long but I really had to do the evening justice.

It was a beautiful evening, the pubs were open, some Covid restrictions had been lifted meaning we could now sit in a garden with a friend enjoying a gin and tonic so why tune in to a Zoom meeting with Weybridge Beekeepers? My excuse is that my arm had been twisted (somebody has to write a report).

The first of four (yes four!!!) presenters was Jane Hunter who told us about her “Bees for Development” beekeeping safari in Trinidad and Tobago. Whilst I drooled over the images of sunny sandy beaches and tropical vegetation, Jane told us about beekeeping on the two islands. Trinidad, close to Venezuela, has bee stocks infiltrated by aggressive “Africanised” bees. Excitement mounted, would we hear of Jane and her colleagues being terrorised by these bees? It wasn’t to be. Gladstone, their beekeeping guide, kept the bees in order – maybe it was the long machete he used as a hive tool. Honey there is traditionally sold in rum bottles- it makes one look at recycling in a different light.

Tobago – more isolated – still has a population of native stingless bees from which extracted honey is used by the locals for medicinal purposes. Utrecht University is working with local beekeepers in a project to make manageable hives for these bees. This was a well presented, fascinating talk. You felt humbled by the simplicity of the beekeeping in a country where less is definitely more.

Next came Vanessa and Alan, alumni of the 2018 Beginners course. They talked about what had drawn them into beekeeping and the trials, tribulations and joys of their first 2 years. They have thrown themselves into most aspects of beekeeping whether it’s collecting swarms, constructing hives, making polish or extracting honey. We saw hives constructed by Alan and lovingly painted by Vanessa and heard about their passion for collecting and hiving swarms. Their acquisition of an out apiary on an allotment site and the conversion of their garage into an extracting room are the latest developments. The sheer enthusiasm for the craft, their description of how beekeeping changed family life and their love of the bees themselves reminded us hardened, cynical old hands that this is what beekeeping is really about. If the evening had finished there, we’d have left the meeting flushed with re-found enthusiasm for beekeeping – but no.

There was a short break – enough time for a stiff drink to fortify us for the “hardcore” beekeeping of the second half.

David Parker talked about “Running a 2 Queen Hive”. We all know that more than one queen can happily be on the go in a colony undergoing supersedure. David’s extensive researches (the Internet is a wonderful thing) showed that 2 queens definitely seem to be better than 1 and that a vertical hive system with a queen in brood boxes top and bottom separated by honey supers should give more honey and save apiary space at the same time. David is going to give this a whirl and run this system through the whole beekeeping season with 2 of his colonies (detailed instructions can be seen in the video detailed by Andrew below).

We entered the exhilarating realms of “macho” beekeeping. Images (American bee farming of course) of not only vertical towers of boxes but vertical and horizontal splits combined (not sure where the space saving comes into that) were shown. The height of the stacks was staggering as honey supers mount up, but if you’ve got 2 burly cowboys in a pick -up with a winch to do your inspections lifting isn’t a problem is it? Replacing brood boxes and supers at head height every time would certainly be challenging but I’m sure David (and his back) is up to it; his courage in tackling this project is awesome and I really look forward to seeing his results in terms of honey yield advantage as compared to running hives separately in a future newsletter.

We finally limped into the home straight but stamina levels were flagging. How much more excitement could a jaded beekeeper take?

Geoff Cooper took us gently by the hand to encourage us to have a go at queen rearing. Geoff described the golden past when you could buy a replacement for your 4 years old, failing queen from a reputable supplier for £30 and they were good queens that lasted almost 5 years! Ah those were the days! This year, Thorne’s will sell you a queen (if they’ve got one) at £80!!!

Queen failure rates are increasing too. Many beekeepers report that queens are lasting only 1-2 years and that some are being superseded in their first year. (Maybe your £80 would be better spent on the Lottery.) With a potential import ban of foreign bees, bee smuggling will be a growth industry. As we speak, inflatable boats loaded with Slovenian, Greek and Italian bees may be stealthily crossing the Channel escaping the eagle eyes of our Border Force.

Geoff talked us through a little known (there’s probably a reason for that), Irish beekeeper’s method (instructions on pp. 12-13) where you cram a colony of bees in a single brood box to get them to prepare to swarm. Then you split up the queen cells into lots of nucs and hey presto – loads of new queens / colonies. Simples! If only….
Geoff and Marion Cooper who have zillions of years of beekeeping experience between them, will be trying this at their apiary. The method used by the Northern Ireland beekeeper originates from a beekeeper with non-prolific British native bees in an isolated part of Scotland, a very different environment from suburban Surrey. I’m not sure how easy this would work for a new back garden beekeeper managing prolific Surrey mongrels of an uncertain temperament.

In fairness to Geoff, he stressed that you really need to be on the ball with your handling skills, your observational skills and your understanding of bee behaviour, queen mating and development as well as knowledgeable in making up and running nucs. Not much of a skill base needed there then.

To think that these are things that all members have acquired and are proficient in after the average Beginners course is rather naïve. Is it no wonder that many hobby beekeepers’ eyes glaze over when experienced people stand up and talk with gusto of the multi-various methods of queen rearing?

Seriously, this is a BIG topic and deserves far more than a 20 minute slot at the arse end of an overlong evening. How do we, as an association, help our members get started in making simple increases of their stock without frightening them to death?

The answer? Tune in to Roger Patterson’s (BIBBA) webinars on how to improve our bees and raise queens. Starting at the most basic (how to choose and harvest swarm cells and how to fix them to a frame – yes that simple) to the more ambitious, Roger is not a man to make simple things complicated. These are well worth watching on the BIBBA You Tube channel and give lots of useful ideas on how to meet these challenges with a bit more confidence than we all have at the moment. I encourage every member to look at them.

Edwina Waddle

Many thanks for your very comprehesive report Edwina and your thoughts about the content of the meeting. I wholeheartedly agree with your admiration of Roger Patterson’s instructional talks, of which the lockdown has been the means of so many being conveniently available to us in recent weeks. We too have had a lot of pleasure from them. I hope that our student beekeepers have listened / will listen to some of them as well.

The talks given at our meeting have been put on YouTube as limited access videos. Only people with the links given below will be able to find and view these videos.

Jane Hunter’s talk ”Stingless bees in Trinidad and Tobago” https://youtu.be/4i0SPq1eIdo

David Parker’s talk ”Running a two-queen hive” https://youtu.be/QaTaTEYiUbo

Vanessa and Alan’s talk ”Experiences of novice beekeepers” https://youtu.be/7lctze7GVgY

Geoff Cooper’s talk ”Taking the sting out of queen rearing” https://youtu.be/qdGCsCW5AWQ

Andrew Halstead

The full details of the method Geoff described are included in this newsletter (p.14).

Shook Swarms

I usually do shook swarms on all my hives each year. This year I invited the students on the beginners course to join me; 5 took up the offer so I split them into two sessions to ensure we complied with the Covid rules. I decided to do just one hive in each session. The process went well but I always think it a waste of the brood removed to destroy it so I made up two nucs with the brood shaking a couple of combs into the nucs to provide enough bees to keep the brood from getting chilled. Then I fed the colonies with 4 pints of food to encourage them to draw the new comb. The benefit of a shook swarm is to remove a large load of varroa and removes any disease spores from the hive. Unfortunately the following day the weather turned cold and remained like that for two weeks. As a result they have not expanded as they usually do but they are on new comb and have drawn and started laying in five of the frames.

Meanwhile the two nucs produced several queen cells which I reduced to two in each box. The brood has all hatched and there is now a period of another 2 weeks before the new queen has mated and started to lay. This gives a queenless period to help reduce the varroa load in the nuc. I am now removing the old empty frames and replacing them with drawn comb. One queen has been given to a past student whose hive had become queenless and the remaining bees united back to the parent colony. I decided not to shook swarm the other two colonies but change all combs gradually over the coming season. These two colonies have performed much better than the shook swarmed colonies which is the reverse of past trends on my hives.

Michael Main

Thanks for this report Michael. There are several important beekeeping points you have covered which will be helpful to many of our members, especially our new students. I am delighted that you do not just scrap the sealed brood which is common practice for many.

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