Category Archives: News – local

Beekeeping in lock-down, April/May 2020

Activity 5: 7 – 12 May

When the BBKA Spring Convention was cancelled this year, we also lost the opportunity to hear one of the main speakers – ProfessorTom Seeley. With a bit of help and sponsorship, however, he has now recorded the talks he would have given and they are freely available via the link here – . The focus of the talks is something quite different to the more technical side of beekeeping that many people tend to stick to these days but provides a fascinating view of honey bees in the wild, as well as a more ‘natural’ style of beekeeping. Maybe this is something we all ought to be more aware of? Anyway, please watch and enjoy them over the next few days.


Activity 4: 1 – 5 May

A quiz, complied by Keith and with the intention of getting everyone looking round the BeeBase site at

BeeBase contains an enormous amount of useful info for all beekeepers and if you have hives and have not already registered your apiary with them (even if it’s your garden) then you really should.

Quiz – BeeBase 1

The following questions are all based on the national Healthy Bees Plan (Answers now available in blue)

  1. What is the overall aim of the plan Answer : To achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production…
  2. What does it set out? Answer : Key actions for protecting and improving the health of honeybees / The relative roles and responsibilities of government and other stakeholders
  3. What potential exotic pests should we be alert to? Answer : Small hive beetle, Tropilaelaps mites, Asian hornet
  4. How many amateur beekeepers (approximately) are there in the UK? Answer : 33,000
  5. What are beekeepers responsible for? What does their duty of care cover? List four items. Answers : A. Recognising pests and diseases and through knowing their legal obligations, reporting any suspicion of notifiable pests or disease to their local Bee Inspector or the NBU. B. Maintaining good husbandry and health practices to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases. C. Ensuring that their skills and competence levels are appropriate and up to date. D. Signing up to BeeBase. E. Complying with legislation on controlling pests and diseases, including standstill notices and import requirements. F. Using and storing medications and treatments appropriately. G. Maintaining records on the movement and location of their colonies within GB and making records available to their local Bee Inspector on request. H. Seeking specialist advice from their local BKA or the local Bee Inspector
  6. How many Outcomes from the Healthy Bees Plan are the government/DEFRA seeking? Answer : 5
  7. Why should individual beekeepers sign on/register with BeeBase? Answer : To help the NBU monitor and control pests and diseases and disseminate relevant information to beekeepers (e.g. disease alerts).


Activity 3: 26-30 April

So, how many people had a look at the two downloadable sheets below and worked out what alternative they would use, to get a colony on to fresh combs? It often comes down to time of year/weather forecast (as with most things in beekeeping…), plus any need to manage the bees’ health in relation to an incidence of pathogens in a hive. So, in Julie’s words “unless the bees were in a field of OSR with a forecast of 14 days of high temperature I would feed [while carrying out either technique]. This is actually unlikely as OSR blooms early and often temperatures are lower, particularly at night, AND I wouldn’t be doing a shook swarm in April, I’d probably leave it until late May early June.” The concensus these days seems to focus on feeding heavy syrup during either procedure (having removed any supers for the duration, obviously), no matter what the time of year – it used to be that light syrup was used to encourage the bees to draw comb but heavy is really just as accessible for them. For my own practice, I will be doing a shook swarm on one colony that has chalkbrood, so I can get them off the old comb asap and without them tracking the spores up into the fresh box all the time. Shook swarm is used as part of IPM in relation to varroa certainly. Thank you to Roger S, for his thoughtful feedback during this activity.


The third activity is focussed on something we all need to be sure of in the spring – that our colonies are on good clean comb for the year. There are two ways of changing all the comb in a brood box in one go, as opposed to changing a few frames each year by moving them further to the outside of the box and waiting until they’re empty of brood or stores (or nearly so). Doing it all in one go has a lot of advantages over the gradual method but it does mean that you need enough new frames made up, an extra brood box and queen excluder, probably also a large capacity feeder and plenty of syrup. The two methods are shook swarm, and Bailey comb change and they are useful procedures to carry out for a variety of reasons. Have a look through the two (downloadable) sheets below that Julie has kindly made available and, in relation to your own colonies, consider:

  1. are most of the frames in the brood box(es) of my colonies more than a year old, so that they are likely to have been in use during at least three anti-varroa treatments and therefore have chemical residues in the wax?
  2. are all the frames in the brood box(es) evenly and fully drawn across each frame face or do they have lumps of old drone comb, big holes that the bees have made through to the other side of the frame, or areas of incompletely drawn comb?
  3. are there any instances of chalk brood, sac brood, bald brood, or wax moth trails in among the current comb, or signs of incipient varoosis?

If any of the above applies to your colonies, which of the above methods of comb change will you carry out this spring, and what would be the deciding factors between methods for any colonies that you know need new comb? Answers by email to me, or Julie, or Keith, please. 🙂


Activity 2: 19-23 April

The activity for this period is to watch a short (c. 10 minutes) practical beekeeping video and then to give some examples of what you consider to be good practice from the video, as well as one that you’re not sure about. It is appreciated that for beginners this may be more difficult, but have a look at the video anyway – which is, generally speaking, showing a beekeeper who really knows what he’s doing – and have a go at picking out the good and any questionnable practices.

So, the video is here:

and the online form where you can enter your answers if you want to is here:


This is the first in a series of online activities that we will be adding to this post over the next few weeks. While those of us with hives are still carefully tending them in the gradually-warming weather, it’s always good to stretch the brain a bit. So check back here regularly, both to access the answers to any quizzes and to explore the links and associated activities we will be putting up.

Time’s up! This quiz has now finished, the answers are shown below in blue so you can see how you got on.

Winner of the quiz in this period was Peter Kingsley, who sent in a very full response, with proper citations for his answers in many cases. Well done Peter! 🙂

Activity 1: 14-18 April

  • What is the queen marking colour for this year?
    1. White
    2. Blue
    3. Red
  • What are the development days for drones to maturity?
    1. Egg 3, Larva 7, Capped/Pupa 14, Mature @ 38 days
    2. Egg 4, Larva 8, Capped/Pupa 14, Mature @ 30 days
    3. Egg 3, Larva 6, Capped/Pupa 13, Mature @ 28 days
  • A colony of honeybees has the following brood ratio: 1½ sides of eggs, 2¼ sides of larva, 4 sides of sealed brood, is it:
    1. Stationary
    2. Contracting
    3. Expanding
  • What is the standard foraging distance for a colony of honeybees?
    1. 1-2 miles
    2. 2-3 miles
    3. 3-4 miles
  • What is the temperature of a honeybee brood nest when brood is present?
    1. 31/32oC
    2. 33/34oC
    3. 34/35oC
  • What is the action of smoke on a colony?
    1. To make them panic and feed
    2. To quieten them down
    3. To distract the guards and disguise the alarm pheromone
  • What is a Snelgrove board
    1. A type of crown board
    2. A board for clearing bees out of supers
    3. A tool to assist preventing swarm control
  • An Apidea is used for:
    1. Catching swarms
    2. Mating Queens
    3. Keeping swarms in
  • When would you avoid giving syrup to a colony?
    1. During the summer
    2. When the daytime temperature is below 10 oC
    3. When you make up a fresh nuc
  • A ‘Thin’ syrup (1:1) is used for
    1. Spring stimulation
    2. Autumn feeding
    3. Winter feeding

The answers to these questions, for anyone not yet convinced that they have all the beekeeping knowledge needed, will be appended here on the 19th. We will then make the next activity visible. Anyone who emails their answers to me (preferably with a (very) brief note justifying each answer choice) before the 19th will be entered into a prize draw that will continue while the lockdown lasts.  🙂

The new beekeeping year starts here…

The calendar of events, and details of this coming March’s Beginner’s Course, have now been updated for 2019.

We had a very successful year in 2018, with healthy colonies in the branch’s two teaching apiaries, a good harvest of honey, and an even better ‘crop’ of new and beginner beekeepers joining us. Fingers crossed that 2019 is equally successful.

Best wishes for the year to all our members and Friends.

Amanda, Branch Sec.

Saving a small feral colony

Back in July, during the very hot period a couple of weeks ago, the Boughton golf course found that they had some inappropriate guests in the wall of one of their sheds, behind the cladding. They contacted the branch to see if we could remove them to a safe place. This club seems to be a magnet for swarms and feral colonies as we’ve had similar call-outs for the last couple of years.

Anyway, despite the tropical temperatures, some stalwarts from the branch went along and got kitted-up, and carried out what is technically known as ‘a cut-out’ from the wall of the building. It was a nice little colony that obviously hadn’t been there very long, going on the colour of the comb and the small space they were occupying. The bees have been put safely into a nuc and the beekeepers are now recovered from their exertions.

Surveying the scene and getting ready to remove the wall cladding







A nice small colony, that will do better in a proper home and away from the developing wasp nest in the adjacent section!







The amount of stores in the front comb is quite impressive, given the short time they’d been there.

Come and meet the beekeepers, June 2018

The branch will have a stall at both the Whitstable ‘Funday Sunday’ on 10th June and also the Faversham Garden Market on 24th June. We will have some local honey for sale as well as beeswax, but our main reason for taking part in each event is to talk with people about honey bees, and other bees, and help with identification of honey/bumble/solitary bees, or plants that are particularly suitable if you want to support bees and other pollinators. We will also have details of how to become a beekeeper, and will be selling ‘Bee Experience Day’ vouchers for anyone who’s stuck for a present for a nearby friend or relative.

Taster Day , 22 July 2017

A one-day event for members of the public who would like to know more about honey bees and beekeeping, either to see if they might wish to become beekeepers themselves or simply to learn a little about such a fascinating activity. To be held at the branch’s training apiary on the University of Kent campus at Canterbury.

We will start the day at 10.30 in the potting shed/training room where the W&HB branch Education Officer, Julie Coleman, will give a couple of hours instruction on the theory of modern beekeeping, together with some practical tips.  This will be interspersed with some hands on practical work and plenty of tea and coffee. At 12.30 we will break for lunch: we can provide tea, coffee, cold drinks, and biscuits. but please bring a packed lunch.

After lunch, about 1.30 we will suit up in protective clothing provided and go into the apiary to look at the hives.  You will be required to bring wellingtons or similar – something the suit can tuck into so there are no gaps, and marigold type washing up gloves.  A long sleeve shirt may also be advised as bees can occasionally sting through suits.  There will be several experienced beekeepers on hand so we can split into small groups where we can demonstrate handling bees and you can have a go if you wish.

We will then retire back to the shed where you can enjoy a hard earned cuppa and we can answer any questions and discuss the way forward if you decide beekeeping may be of interest to you.  We should finish by 4.00 depending on how the day goes and the number of questions we have along the way.  Beekeeping is a complex and fascinating pastime and there are always more questions than answers and always at least three answers to any question.

We have decided to levy a £10 fee for this event, payable on the day.  If you wish, we can use this for you to become a Friend of the branch when memberships renew at the end of September.  You will receive newsletters detailing monthly meetings and notices of events including our winter programme.  You will also be able to attend our apiary inspections with Keith, our apiary manager, on Friday or Saturday mornings.  If you decide not to continue we will take the £10 as a donation to branch funds, so we will be able to purchase more protective clothing for similar events in the future.  You can upgrade this to full membership when you have bees of your own and have completed our Beginners’ Course.

The branch will be offering a full Beginners’ Course in September 2017, with further details to be confirmed nearer the time.

Anyone interested in this event should contact the Branch Secretary, Amanda Lee-Riley as soon as possible, via the contact details shown on our ‘About us’ page, shown above.

Branch membership for 2016/17

For anyone who has not yet returned their completed membership form to Roger, the form can be downloaded here – whb-renewal-16-17

Membership runs from 1st October so please do return the form as soon as you can, so that we can be sure of our numbers for the coming year. For any of our new people who want to take part in branch activities and join in even though they haven’t got their own bees yet, please sign up under the ‘Friend’ category. The same would apply to any colleagues giving up their hives and moving away from active beekeeping.

Whitstable’s ‘Funday Sunday’ 2016

Just a reminder that the branch will have a stall at this event, this coming Sunday, 12th June. We will be talking to interested members of the public about honeybees (and other bee species), selling honey, wax, candles, etc, and generally enjoying the event. We will be using our bright and cheerful yellow and black gazebo, so that’s what to look out for. Fingers crossed for good weather.

Autumn courses and workshops

Now that it’s the time of year when we’re not involved in so much hands-on stuff with our colonies, it’s a good time to consider taking a course, attending a workshop or a bigger event, in order to gain more knowledge and insight.

a) The ‘Beekeepers@KSRC’ group has some good evening sessions coming up next month on the key skills for improvers (beekeepers with a little experience), details of which can be found on their website at

b) Another event is a talk by Jennifer Berry, leading American bee breeder, researcher, author and lecturer. 7.30pm Thursday 5th November, Crofton Hall, Orpington.

Sidcup beekeepers would like to remind everyone that Jennifer Berry, a world renowned expert and colleague of Keith Delapane at Georgia University, is giving a talk : ‘an American take on beekeeping’, on 5 November. For the past fourteen years, Jennifer has been the Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager for the University of Georgia Honey Bee Programme. Recently, she has also undertaken an ambitious campaign to educate the public about the importance of pollinators and other beneficial insects, including honey bees, and how to reduce pesticide use.This should be a fascinating evening – Jennifer has published many articles and academic papers, and some of her queens reside in colonies at the White House. We are very privileged that she has agreed to fit in this event for us whilst visiting the Northern Ireland annual conference – there will not be another opportunity this year to hear her lecture in SE England.

 Crofton Hall is immediately adjacent to Orpington railway station BR6 0SX , and also has good parking. Admission payable on the door is £5, which includes tea / coffee and cakes. To help us with catering arrangements, please let Melody Faulkner know if you plan to come on

c) The National Honey Show ( is on at the end of October, in Surrey. This is a major national event and a fascinating one, with so many good talks and workshops, exhibitions and seminars, as well as the mindboggling variety of items in the trade hall. It’s a very good day/weekend to consider attending whether you’re a complete beginner, an improver, or someone who is thinking about becoming a beekeeper.