Asian honeybees ‘defend hives from hornets with faeces’

The following are quotations from an article which can be read in full via link:

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 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 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 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 [ ] 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, or downloading our Co-op 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 [] 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 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.’ hunt/?fbclid=IwAR0zbgwyyRy5lMhUZOERUUE–I7SFeZ6ys2U0nTKc3RzEl2l-tI0jLwhPCM

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

Supermarket brands of honey are ‘bulked out with cheap sugar syrups made from rice and corn’

  • Tests conducted on own-brand honeys from Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda
  • Results suggest they’ve been bulked out with cheap syrups made from rice and corn – without retailers’ knowledge
  • Honey importers and shops say tests – which analyse types of sugar in honey and pick out those which came from factory rather than bees – are inaccurate
  • UK imports 50,000 tons of honey each year – about a third of it from China 

This article is taken from ‘Mail Online’ please click HERE to read the article in full.

“Beekeeping in cities is harming other wildlife, study finds; and (beekeeping is) a trendy hobby”

“Urban beekeeping becoming an ‘unsustainable’ hobby that is doing more harm than good, scientists say”. These are quotations from two articles, one from Kew Gardens and the other from The Natural History Museum. I think that these statements will be read with surprise by many people, not least by beekeepers, especially as they come from notable champions of natural history. I asked Andrew Halstead to comment on them. When you have accessed the article through the links and read them, I suggest that you read Andrew’s comments below, and I think that you will have your faith in our beekeeping restored. Perhaps you will let us all have any thoughts of your own on the content of the articles. latest-670304

Andrew’s comments:

There may be competition for nectar and pollen between honeybees and other bee species in intensively built up areas, such as city centres. However, these are not the places where I would expect the rarer species of bees to be found. Most cities and larger towns can do more to support the needs of all bees by changing the ways in which highways and public open spaces are managed. Less frequent mowing of grass areas will give plants the chance to flower. Planting schemes should take note of the plentiful advice that is available regarding plants that benefit pollinating insects. Geraniums and petunias look pretty but they are ignored by bees.

A continuation of the above topic was started by Marion in the following email to Andrew:

When I drive along roads like Seven Hills Road in late summer and see the sweet chestnut trees laden with their inflorescences, each of which may be comprised of a hundred or so flowers, I seriously wonder if there really is a shortage of flowers for bees, as stated in one of the articles Claire sent:

“Beekeeping in cities is now becoming so popular it’s actually becoming unsustainable,” warned Professor Phil Stevenson, a scientist at Kew Gardens. “There’s insufficient nectar and pollen available to support the numbers of hives, let alone the wild species we have… honeybees are now outcompeting these other species for food they all need.”

My question is, “Have you ever seen an article on this subject with details of the actual flowers, not just the bees, i.e. evidence of inadequate numbers of flowers for bees (all types) to visit, or do you think, as I do, that it’s an assumption based on bee decline, which IS measurable?” Then a related question: “How many flowers does a bee need?” Has anyone tried to estimate that, from actual observations? It seems to me that in this, as in many other aspects of beekeeping, Person 1 suggests a possible explanation for an observation. Person 2 quotes Person 1, then Person 3 repeats Person 2, without saying this started only as a suggestion by Person 1, then Person 4 states the explanation as a fact, which gets into the general mass of ‘received wisdom’, then into the literature, which is seldom questioned (the written word is considered to be more accurate than the spoken word) – or am I being cynical?

Andrew’s reply:

The University of Bristol has done some research on pollinating insects in urban areas, see

Marion Cooper

Their research indicates that urban areas can be flower-rich oases compared to the wider countryside around towns.

Andrew Halstead

Thanks to Claire Balla for sending the two articles, to Marion for adding to the discussion, and to Andrew for his helpful comments.

Asian Hornet update September 2020

The beginning of this month produced the first Asian Hornet to be found this year. It was spotted in Gosport by a member of the public in his conservatory, it was then identified by a local beekeeper and confirmed by the lab on Tuesday 8th September. The small, football sized nest was found by the NBU on Thursday and it was destroyed on Friday 11th. It took a small team of inspectors to track it down (they were using Suterra bait to monitor flight directions and visit frequencies). We can safely say that from start to finish, the successful outcome was pretty fast and a great example of how the system works. Well done NBU and all concerned!

This is also a sharp reminder for us all to stay vigilant and wherever we can, inform the public about this threat so that there are more eyes open.
Another example of the system working well was that on the 14th September. I received a call from the regional inspectorate to help to identify a possible AH sighting by a member of the APHA Vet team who thought she spotted an Asian hornet in the Heather Garden at Great Windsor Park. I immediately passed this on to the AHAT team lead of Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead BKA and the following day the area was searched and traps were set in the garden and around also using Suterra bait. Traps were also set up in a nearby apiary.

The traps have been monitored now for two weeks and only European hornets and a few wasps have been caught or seen. So hopefully, another mistaken sighting.

So, to conclude, all well so far… although let’s not become complacent.
To illustrate our situation, I’d like to quote an old Arab saying – “Man makes many plans, but what actually happens is God’s will…and don’t forget to tie up your camel!”

Jonathan Brookhouse

Thanks to Jonathan for keeping us up to date.