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.

Annual General Meeting of the Surrey Beekeepers Association Saturday December 5th

The annual General Meeting of the Surrey Beekeepers Association will be held on Saturday, December 5th

142ND ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Saturday 5 December 2020

Hosted by Guildford Beekeepers Association

Due to the present COVID19 epidemic the AGM will be held virtually.

Here is the Zoom link


2.00pm AGM

3.00pm Francesca Mahoney of the charity “Wild Survivors” will present a talk “Bees and Elephants” 4.00pm Close of meeting

We have heard a previous Bees and Elephants talk by Francesca, so can strongly recommend it to you

Weybridge Summer Market

Weybridge Town Business Group held it’s first post-lockdown Summer Market on Sunday, 16th August. The event was very well supported by the local community who grabbed the opportunity to come out and shop and enjoy the music provided by Brooklands Radio and local band, Shuffle.

The Mayor of Elmbridge, Mary Sheldon, opened the event and 18 stallholders came to sell everything from cakes and doggie accessories to local English wines and South African food.

It was lovely to see so many local enterprises including Weybridge Beekeepers, Sew Weybridge, Weybridge Pottery and Stoked Wood fire Pizza.

WTBG has donated £50 each to two local charities, Weybridge Beekeepers & Sew Weybridge.

Gill Eastwood August 2020

Asian Hornet – update

At the time of writing (16th July), there have been no sightings of Asian hornet in Britain this year. If there are any Asian hornet nests in our area, it is in August – October when they will be most evident. The nests will be coming to peak strength and worker hornets will be searching for food around bee hives. When you are near your hives, spend some time looking for the hornets, which are 25-30mm long and mostly black with an orange band near the rear end of the abdomen. They are likely to be flying around the front of the hive and snatching worker bees as they emerge or return to their hive. If you see an Asian hornet, try and get a photograph or capture a specimen so the identification can be confirmed. If in doubt, contact Andrew Halstead (01483 489581;

If you are certain it is an Asian hornet, contact or use the Asian Hornet Watch app on smart phones.

Last year the Weybridge division put up ”Not wanted” posters on public noticeboards and in supermarkets, garden centres, etc. A digital copy is attached; paper copies (A4 and A5 size) are available from Jessica Kazimierczak ( If you can help spread the digital poster within the Weybridge division area (not nationally!) or you can put paper posters on noticeboards, please do so. The aim is to alert the non-beekeeping public to the Asian hornet problem and provide local contacts who can sift out false reports. The government agencies that deal with Asian hornet receive thousands of reports each summer, most of which are for insects that are not the target species.

BBKA has arranged insurance cover for up to 15 named persons in our division who are part of our Asian Hornet Action Team. This provides third party public liability cover in the event of a claim being made while AHAT persons are investigating a report of an Asian hornet sighting. We have not yet filled our quota of 15 persons, so if anyone wants to join the Weybridge AHAT team, please contact me for further details. A simple online test has to be taken before you can be registered with BBKA for the insurance cover.

Andrew Halstead

Do take Andrew’s appeal very seriously. We must be grateful to have gone through another season so far without the hornet. This is almost certainly the fruit of much work in making them known, finding and destroying their nests successfully in the last year or two.

Marion Cooper August 2020

Warning of possible colony starvation

The good spring honey flow that many of us had was followed by a poor or non-existent summer flow, so starvation losses could occur even in late summer or in autumn this year, before we even think of winter. Indeed it could well be advisable to check you colonies for stores now. Honey shortage could be serious at this stage because there is little or no nectar being collected and several beekeepers have noted an unusually large amount of sealed brood still present in the colonies; when it hatches, all of the new bees are going to need to feed, thus depleting early what would normally be their winter stores. If you took a significant amount of honey off your colonies earlier this year, do take special care when preparing your bees for winter. You won’t want to add to the serious (and I suspect mainly unnecessary) colony loss figures for previous years, as reported by The National Bee Unit (BeeCraft, August p. 27).

Geoff Cooper August 2020

Will there be a Summer Honey Flow this year or will it be only a Honey Trickle?

At the end of last month you may recall that I was confident that the summer flow would be starting very soon. After all, there had been an excellent spring with more honey coming in than in most years, my scale hive colony was queenright and strong, it had plenty of bees and the hive weight had increased by more than 50lb between 14th April and 8th June.

Since then the flow into the hive has been very poor apart from a few
unsubstainable short blips which promised for a day or two the start of a summer honey flow. The lime trees have been flowering and currently there are sweet chestnut trees in our road in full blossom. Why aren’t the bees finding them? Some of them have already passed their best with the tassles lying on the ground.

I am now wondering if the bees are saying, “I told you so!” as I had dared to question their foreknowledge in the last issue.

Since writing this I have received David Brassington’s latest figures please click here to view, which you will see seem to make nonsense of the above, but I still have to wonder what is going on with my bees, so have left my comments unchanged.

Geoff Cooper

“National Honey Show 2020

Due to concerns about holding such a large show under the cloud of Covid 19, the Committee have reluctantly decided that this year’s National Honey Show will now be a virtual event to which everyone is invited both in the UK and worldwide.

Whilst we will greatly miss seeing you all in person, as part of the National Honey Show community we hope you will enjoy our series of virtual workshops and lectures, with the opportunity to ask questions afterwards in real time.

If you’ve never physically attended the show before, this will offer a taster for what will be on offer in the future in addition to our usual display of honey, hive products and craft entries, next year and at subsequent shows.

The show runs across three days. For this year, Thursday 22nd, Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th October 2020. We are planning pre-recorded demonstration workshops and lectures with live questions and answers during the day and on-line social events in the evenings.

More timetable and programme details will be available shortly. Please visit our website over the next few weeks for the latest information.”

Drones and Other Matters

I am writing this on Friday 26th June, the fourth very hot day in the current heat wave. It is undoubtedly too hot for beekeeping, all we have been doing is putting in clearer boards, extracting honey and returning the “wet” boxes for the bees to fill again. Obviously my earlier pessimism regarding lack of a “main flow” has been proven to be totally incorrect, the bees have just been refilling the boxes as soon as they are returned.

However, the Limes are now finishing so we only have the Sweet Chestnut, Heather and Himalayan Balsam to come, providing the environmentalists have not destroyed the latter.

A quick update on the two swarms we have taken this year. The “Rowtown” swarm is now located in one of our apiaries, occupying three deep boxes, good brood pattern and very docile, we look forward to extracting a small surplus from them during August. The large swarm, still in our garden, has already produced over 100lbs of extracted honey and are busy refilling the returned “wet” boxes.

Unfortunately, however, our queen rearing programme has been and is a complete disaster this year. We rely on the swarming instinct to produce the best queen cells for placing in the mating nucs, and this year swarming in our colonies just has not happened. Some colonies have tried to supersede, only a couple of queen cells, we have tried artificial swarming on these, destroying them and replacing the frame with eggs and young larvae from the colony we wanted to reproduce from. All they did was to produce another couple of queen cells and frequently one of these failed. Very frustrating! It looks like most of our colonies will be going into winter with either a 2019 or a 2020 supersedure queen.

Although, we and many other beekeepers have noticed a huge proliferation of drones in the colonies this year there has not been a similar significant increase in virgin queens. Many of us have noticed that the current queens do not last for more than one season, in the past a queen bee could remain viable for at least three years. In my opinion, probably as a result of varroa, drone virility is lacking. My theory is that we are possibly witnessing an evolutionary trend whereby the bees are trying to correct this phenomenon by producing more drones thus increasing drone numbers to facilitate better mating for the virgin queens.

Rob Chisholm (June 2020)