Apiary meeting report, Swanmore – Saturday 11 September

Zara, Phil, Catherine, Louise, Richard, Dawn, Colin, Nicky, Simon, Robin, Tom, Ceri (front row) Tim, George, Rachel, Denise (and Howard behind the camera); the attendees of Meridian’s last apiary meeting of 2021 at Swanmore on Saturday 11 September.

Here’s a short film from our last apiary meeting of the season (Saturday 11 September). Although overcast, it was a warm, dry day and the bees were very calm! Thanks to them for being on their best behaviour and thank you to Denise, Robin and Louise for leading the inspections and to Zara, Tom and Richard for taking notes. As always, our gratitude goes to the Hammond family for letting us use their meadow and putting-up with us all!

The meeting was well attended and enjoyable and we encountered a few interesting situations too. Don’t worry if you missed it, we still have the apiary tidy on Saturday 25 September when we’ll be getting the bees ready for winter as well as cleaning, repairing and building equipment. This event is always good fun and provides the perfect opportunity to get together at the end of summer to have a chat and ask questions.

The colonies inspected on Saturday were generally light on nectar and honey but seemed to be bringing-in and storing an impressive amount of pollen. We can only speculate as to the reasons, but either they’re busy raising winter bees or are confused by the late warm weather. Certainly, all that rain means that summer flowers are still going strong, providing good levels of late forage. We noticed too, that a few of the colonies were raising an impressive amount of brood and still had plenty of drones in evidence.

Louise’s group did varroa counts and found mite levels to be low. This is something many Meridian members have reported this year and Louise outlines possible explanations for this good news in the video.

Robin’s group found hive 1 has built-up strongly since it was created by splitting George’s hive (hive 5) on 2 August. Of all the colonies seen on Saturday, this had the greatest quantity of honey and nectar, with a fair amount in one of the supers. We will keep an eye on this though, as a change in weather could mean these stores are quickly depleted.

These bees, inspected by Denise’s group, are noticeably dark and small in nature, characteristics it’s said, of our native British bee. Notice the shiny lump of tree resin (collected to make propolis) on one of the bees’ legs

A couple of colonies were moved from West End recently to protect them from robbing and the video shows Denise inspecting one of these. The colony has built up strongly since it was transferred from a nuc a few weeks ago but it’s light on stores. Denise decided to move it back to West End to merge it with a queenless colony there. The queenless colony happens to have good reserves of honey and nectar and merging should create one strong colony and make feeding easier.

This is a piece of natural comb spotted in the bushes between the hives and the lane. Either swarming bees had decided to build a nest here and changed their minds (it’s very exposed) or the swarm remained in situ for a such a prolonged period that the bees started to build comb. I suspect the latter, I’ve noticed when I leave a swarm in cardboard box for a few hours, there’s often signs of wax building.

New Forest apiary meeting, 21 August 2021

The heather this year is magnificent. This photo from Richard’s drone (not that kinda drone!) gives an idea of the available forage.

“Shall we go or is it best to cancel?” The now familiar pre-apiary meeting phone call. The weather for Ocknell Pond wasn’t looking good, but as we’d cancelled or postponed most of our meetings in 2021, we decided to risk it. “We can always sit in the tent and have a chat!” Members with children decided that was not a recipe for a fun day out and politely cancelled, and whilst sitting in traffic in the pouring rain, I had to agree, they’d probably made the right choice.

Thankfully, by the time we arrived, there was a pause in the rain, Phil and Richard had set up our new gazebo and the teas and coffee were flowing. “At least we can wander down and look at the apiary!” Said Louise stoically. So we did.

Base Camp Meridian: our new pop up gazebo

And when we got there, the Sun came out. So we went back to the car park and pulled on our suits. Here is a video showing part of the hive inspections.

In the end, we had a lovely day. Denise and Louise guided us through the hives, the bees were on their best behaviour and the heather this year is magnificent; a benefit perhaps of all that rain.

Louise explained how colonies are prepared for the Forest and we all enjoyed the bees and the beautiful surroundings.

I haven’t yet taken my hives to the heather because I worried about unnecessary disruption to the bees but Louise explained the benefit to them. Their foraging season is extended by the heather and even in years where there isn’t a bumper harvest, the bees are able to add good quality stores to see them through winter.

The Meridian apiary at Ocknell Pond

Thank you to Louise and Derek, Denise and Phil and Richard for setting up (and for the drone pictures). Here’s hoping those who have bees at the Pond are able to harvest some honey. I’m looking forward to trying the Forest next year!

Taking bees to the heather

Strong colonies with a prolifically-laying queen should be selected. Any honey on the hive should be removed for processing before colonies are moved to the Forest.

That said, sufficient stores should be retained in the hive to sustain the bees (if bad weather persists) until at least your next visit.

Heather honey is thixotropic (jelly-like) and cannot be spun out, therefore it’s presented on the comb. Preparing Honey.

To ensure comb is pristine and edible, supers are fitted with frames containing only strips of foundation (which the bees draw down into fresh comb) or unwired foundation. Louise recommends strips of foundation in most frames but with every third or forth frame containing a sheet of foundation. This is to prevent the bees building wavy comb which would be difficult to process.

Bee Gym

Louise fitted ‘bee gyms’ to her hives while we were there and is trying an adaptation to the original design. The device was developed on the principle that bees can be encouraged to groom themselves. For further information on the product, visit the company’s website.

Winter bees

Winter bees feeding on fondant

Winter bees get the colony from autumn through to spring. They are sometimes termed diutinus bees from the Latin for “long lived”. Winter bees are responsible for keeping the queen warm through winter and rearing a small amount of brood to keep the colony ticking over. Here’s an interesting article from the apiarist.com which explains them. Winter bees


Sacbrood is a viral infection of the brood and occurs when a diseased larva fails to pupate after being sealed in its cell. Fluid then accumulates between the body of the larva and the unshed skin, forming a sac. It is a relatively common disease and can often go unnoticed, affecting only a small percentage of the brood. It does not usually cause severe colony loss.

Infected larva turns from its usual pearly white to a pale yellow colour. The larva dies and begin to dry out, turning a dark brown to black colour, giving rise to the characteristic ‘Chinese slippers’ scales. The workers uncap and expose them, creating an uneven brood pattern with discoloured, sunken or perforated cappings scattered through the brood area.

The skin of the dead larva also changes into a tough plastic-like sac, which is filled with fluid giving the virus its name. The sac can be carefully removed by using a pair of tweezers.

Varroa vectors Sacbrood virus and will spread it when feeding off honey bee larvae.

Re-queening the colony can help to alleviate the symptoms of sacbrood and controlling Varroa mite populations will help to control the spread of the virus. Beebase

Save the bees!

Pollinators are responsible for one in three of every mouthful we eat. They pollinate our crops, and are essential to the very existence of the plants and trees that support our wild animals and birds.

Honeybees in managed hives are responsible for up to 15% of the UK’s insect-pollinated crops. That means the other 85% are pollinated by wild insects like bumble bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Moths and beetles chip in too.

Three UK bumblebee species have already been lost and all the others face extinction or are in decline. These losses are directly linked to changes in the way we live, pollution, loss of habitat and chemicals like synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. If we want to keep our countryside, gardens and even our way of life, we have to change. Here are ten things each of us can do to help.

1. Stop using chemicals

The single most important thing you can do is to stop using chemicals in your garden. All synthetic chemicals are the harmful to the environment if improperly used but pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides are deadly to bees and other pollinators.

Clattinger Farm - Barney Wilczak
Sprays can’t tell the difference between pest and pollinator. They kill both with ruthless efficiency

Avoid treating your garden with synthetics. Instead, use organic products and natural solutions such compost to aid soil health. You can encourage beneficial insects (like ladybugs and hoverflies) into your garden to keep pests away Gardening for pollinators.

2. Take an interest

We don’t usually notice them, so next time you’re in the garden, take time to study the bees, wasps and buzzy things working there. When we watch them, it’s easier to appreciate what they do for us and caring for them becomes second nature.

3. Put out a drinking fountain

A plant-pot saucer is ideal, drop in some gravel and stones and keep it topped-up through the summer. You’ll soon see how appreciated it is!

Bees work up quite a thirst collecting pollen and nectar. Fill a shallow dish or bowl with water and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they can safely drink.

4. Go wild in your garden

It doesn’t have to look untidy, mow through paths or leave feature areas in corners and around trees.

One easy thing most people can do is change how we look at Dandelions and Daisies. Rather than seeing them as weeds, how about recognising them as the beautiful pollinator-friendly flowers they actually are?

Consider leaving them in your lawn and cutting down on feed and weed killer. If you have a bigger garden, why not leave wild areas in corners or around trees?

5. Plant a Pollinator Garden

You don’t need lots of space; herbs and alpines in pots are great for pollinators.

One of the biggest threats to bees and butterflies is the lack of safe habitats. By planting flowers that are naturally rich in pollen and nectar, you’ll attract them to your garden.

This helps to create safe havens and corridors to allow pollinating species to move around. You don’t need loads of space; pollinator-friendly plants can be grown in pots, on patios and even on balconies. Gardening for pollinators

or plant a tree for the bees

Apple or Cherry blossom is a firm favourite

Did you know that bees get most of their food from trees? When a tree blooms, it provides thousands of blossoms for bees feed to on, even if you don’t notice them. Trees are not only a great food source but also an essential habitat. Tree leaves and resin provide nesting material for bees, while natural wood cavities make excellent shelters. With deforestation and development on the rise, you can help bolster bee habitats by caring for trees and planting new ones. Friends of the Earth.

6. Learn about the Asian hornet

The Asian Hornet is a non-native, invasive species which has arrived on our shores several times in the past ten years. If it became established in the UK, as it has in continental Europe, it would wreak havoc on our bees.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our beneficial native hornet and has very distinctive yellow legs.

In France where it’s spread has gone unchecked, it’s decimated wild and managed bee populations alike. It can also be a significant risk to humans where there’s a nest nearby. In the UK, a decisive response by the authorities and volunteer beekeepers has so far prevented this hornet becoming established. Members of the public can help with this, by learning how to recognise the Asian Hornet and knowing how to report it if seen. Asian hornet.

7. Put up a bee hotel

Unlike honeybees, most bee species are solitary and two-thirds of them live underground. Most of the others live in tree trunks or hollow stems.

Species like bumble bees build their nests in undisturbed land, and you can provide safe haven for them by leaving an untouched plot in your garden.

“Bee hotels” which are a collection of different-sized tubes, provide places for species like mason bees to nest. A bee hotel can be easily made or inexpensively purchased.

8. Become a Citizen Scientist

Join a world-wide movement to collect data on our under-researched pollinators by gathering photos and information about native bees and other insects. Why not make it a group activity for friends and family? Together, you can learn about pollinators and how they live in cities and rural locations. There are always scientific studies requiring assistance. Check out these examples; Insect week, BBC, Imperial College, or search Citizen Scientist (your chosen subject) UK.

9. Inspire tomorrow’s eco-warriors

Get the next generation buzzing about bees with fun-packed lessons and activities. There are loads of engaging resources available on subjects ranging from environmental protection and ecology to pollination and food production. Many of these resources are free from a wide range of charities including the British Beekeepers’ Association’s Bees in the curriculum.

Teachers can use these free resources to bring nature into the classroom and into the hearts and minds of children of all ages. You can also contact your local beekeepers’ association who may be able to arrange a guest speaker at your school.

10. Get involved

Meridian Beekeepers’ apiary meeting

Local beekeepers work hard to nurture their bees and the local community. The easiest way to show your appreciation is to buy locally-made honey and beeswax products. Many beekeepers use hive products to create soaps, lotions and beeswax candles. Local honey is delicious and is made from local flora which may help with seasonal allergies.

Or maybe you’ve thought about becoming a beekeeper yourself? If so, there’s a beekeeping club near you and they’ll likely run a beginner’s course to help you get started.

If you’re feeling generous you can donate to an environmental charity or give money towards research. For example, the British Beekeepers’ Association raises funds for essential research into the threats facing honeybees.

Garden bumblebee
Bombus hortorum

Some of the suggestions here are easy to implement, others are maybe a bigger ask but there’s a lot at stake. Our bees and other pollinators have never been more threatened and unless we make changes soon, our environment will be damaged beyond repair.

Itchen Valley photography competition

Episyrphus balteatus, sometimes called the Marmalade fly is a type of Hoverfly. Does anyone know what those other little critter are?

Here’s Esm’ee McConnell’s photograph. I think you’ll agree, it’s a definite winner! Esm’ee’s hoping her picture raises awareness in her age group, highlighting that hoverflies won’t hurt you (they have no stings) and are important pollinators and predators of garden pests.

Esm’ee took her picture while walking in one of her favourite places, Itchen Valley Country Park. The Hoverfly caught her eye and she won a competition run by the park. Esm’ee called her photo Think of me as a precious pollinator and not a pest.

Part of Esm’ee’s prize is that her picture will be displayed at the Park’s visitor centre. “It’ll be blown-up so big that it will make people stop, look and think and hopefully, learn how to identify different insects.

Esm’ee’s looking into how she can help pollinators to help save the planet! She loves taking photos and is studying GCSE Art & Photography. She wants to learn more about hoverflies and what role they play in the environment. Bees, wasps and buzzy things. She also wants to find out how these under-researched insects are being affected by viruses and other pathogens.

Esm’ee adores animals and takes a keen interest in her surroundings; taking photos and making art from nature. She also loves tennis and baking!

We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this rising talent!

Esm’ee is Meridian members’ Zara and Phil McConnell’s daughter.

Autumn in the apiary

Dipanju and Becky on the honey trail

For many of us, the wet weather earlier in the year held back our bees but with a bit of luck, you’ll still have taken a bit of honey at the end of last month. If you didn’t manage a harvest, let’s hope your bees have stored sufficient to see them through winter and if they haven’t, it’s not too late to feed.

One bit of good news, many Meridian members report varroa levels are lower than usual. Some queens stopped laying during the rain and other colonies were unable to raise viable queens and had to be merged. Whatever the reason, a break in the brood cycle means a reduction in mites. Perhaps a good thing to have come out of the poor summer weather.

Now the active season is coming to an end, it’s time to think about getting ready for next year with all the hope and promise that brings!


Any measures taken under Integrated Pest Management should have prevented a large varroa build-up but now is a good time to check mite levels and if your honey has been removed, apply varroa treatment if needed.

Any chemicals applied should be used strictly in accordance with the instructions. Some treatments can be continued until October.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s not too late to assess your colonies and unite weaker ones in preparation for winter. Merges can be done easily using the newspaper method and should be completed as soon as possible.

Place the weaker colony directly on top of the stronger one, separated only by a perforated sheet of newspaper. Full instructions can be found at Dave Cushman


Feed thick sugar syrup to those colonies low in stores (1kg of sugar dissolved in 660ml of warm water is the desired strength) but Autumn feeding must be completed by the end of September to allow the bees to ripen the feed and seal it before the cold weather begins.

Non-ripened feed may ferment and lead to dysentery. Only use white, granulated sugar to make your feed as any other kind is harmful to the bees.

Feeding is best done whilst the colony is still strong, it’s warm enough for bees to move up into the feeder and take syrup down, invert it and store it properly in the comb.

An average honeybee colony requires about 20 kg of winter stores. A British Standard brood frame, when full of honey contains about 2.5kg. A 14×12 frame contains about 3.75kg and a super frame holds approximately 1kg. Hence your bees need the equivalent of 8 (or 6) brood frames of honey.

So, assess the existing colony stores and feed the required balance using sugar syrup. Beebase, feeding sugar.

Note: Beebase estimates that 1kg of sugar (plus an equivalent quantity of water) will create 1.25Kg of stores in the brood box.

Remember to wear a veil when you’re feeding your bees. They may not appear very active later in the month but they’ll still surge through the crown board if the feeder is disturbed or taken off.


Watch for signs of robbing – bees fighting or trying to enter a hive without meeting the guards. If robbing starts, reduce the entrance to one bee space using an entrance block and/or grass. This enables bees to guard the colony more effectively.

Whilst feeding, care should be taken to prevent robbing. It’s a good idea to feed in the evening and to reduce the hive entrance to small.


As if by way of a timely illustration, here is an example of robbing at our West End apiary. Denise visited the bees on Monday 24 August and found robbers gaining access through a leaky roof. Denise replaced the roof and and changed the floor; she didn’t have an entrance block to fit the original and a smaller entrance has now been provided. As the robbers already know the location of the hive, they will continue to attack it. If the bees still cannot defend themselves, the hive can be moved as a last resort.

Wax collected throughout the active season can be rendered and if preferred, swapped for fresh foundation ready for next year.

September is also the time to start hefting hives to assess stores. This should continue periodically until the end of October as this will help you decide if fondant will be required later in winter.


Fit mouse guards to all hives at the beginning of the month and make a final check for winter security. Are your boxes fitted tightly together? Are roofed well-fitted and dry?

Continue to watch colonies for signs of robbing by wasps and bees. Reduce entrances if they have a been set wide and move heavily-affected colonies as necessary as a last resort. Wasp traps may be needed.

Protect hives from woodpeckers by wrapping them in chicken wire.

Strap hives down and insulate.

Chemical treatments for varroa should be completed by the end of the month.


Winter provides a good opportunity to clean and repair your equipment. The National Bee Unit’s fact sheet on hive cleaning and sterilisation provides a useful checklist of things to do. The fumigation of comb for reuse is also best done in winter. Although cleaning equipment doesn’t always seem attractive in the cold of winter, having your equipment ready for the spring rush is always preferable.

Periodic checks should be carried out to ensure hives have not been disturbed by weather, critters or vandals. 

Do not disturb the bees.

If treatment for varroa with oxalic acid is selected, this is the month to apply it. If correctly used it involves minimum disturbance to your bees.


Hefting of hives is recommended throughout winter to monitor stores or a quick visual checks under the crown board can be made every three weeks or so.

If bees are short of stores and likely to starve, fondant can be placed over the crown board feed hole. The crown board may need turning to position a feed hole over the bee cluster. Bees require water, often taken as condensation within the hive, to make use of candy.

If there’s snow, don’t remove it from hive entrances but clear it off roofs. Bees are best left lightly imprisoned in bright snowy weather because sometimes they come out and can be chilled on clear frosty days.

Towards the end of winter, check natural varroa drop in case spring treatment is needed for heavily infested colonies.

Dates for your diary

Apiary meeting, Saturday 11 September,

Here’s a report from our last apiary meeting of the season.

Apiary and equipment tidy, Saturday 25 September

Making and cleaning frames and boxes, stores tidy, winter preparation and general apiary tidy.

Robin on mentoring

Robin and his son Nat, having just closed-up the hives. Howbery Park, Wallingford, Oxon.

I was first introduced to beekeeping in 2013 by my employer, who wanted to build our business biodiversity and events opportunities. I took a basic beekeeping course and what began as a skill acquired for work purposes quickly became a passion. One that my whole family has become involved in.

I was thrown in at the deep end right from the start, looking after 13 hives in 5 apiaries spread across 5 counties. These hives belonged to clients, so I couldn’t afford to make rookie mistakes.

During this steep learning curve, I was lucky enough to be mentored (from a distance) by a veteran beekeeper. His learned advice, at the end of the phone, was invaluable to me as I developed my new skills.

Robin at work. Sounds like he has the dream job!

I realise now, 8 years later, that sometimes this is all a new beekeeper needs. Just the positivity of an experienced voice to push their confidence in the right direction. The opportunity to talk through concerns and ideas and the encouragement to commit to a course of action, rather than catastrophising on the multiple probabilities of failure. It is only in occasional circumstances that physical intervention is required by the mentor.

I joined Meridian BKA in April 2019, shortly after setting up my own personal hives (one in the New Forest and one at the Swanmore apiary). The association has given me the opportunity to meet with other local beekeepers and improve my own knowledge through contact with those with greater experience.

I had run educational beekeeping events for clients for a few years, so was happy to accept the opportunity to mentor for Meridian when they asked me. I thought it a privilege to support local people on their beekeeping journey but somewhat daunting. I was no longer telling a group of children and parents how many bees it took to make a teaspoon of honey, or educating them on the parts that make up a colony and hive.

I now had the responsibility to enthuse and guide novice beekeepers at an early stage of their new interest and put the knowledge and experience I had learned to the test. I could now advise on the fundamental need for bee health checks, record keeping, provisioning for winter and potentially technical manipulations of artificial swarming, swarm management and colony uniting.

The opportunity to mentor is a great learning experience on both sides. It allows you to confirm what you know 100% and pushes you to learn more about what you don’t.

Things I look out for when mentoring in the apiary –

* Has the trainee done any online research/basic beekeeping training? Do they have awareness of beekeeping ups and downs?

* Have they got the correct equipment to safely attend an apiary or open hive?

* Do they have any known allergic reaction to be aware of?

* Are they comfortable throughout the hive inspection? I feel this is hugely important for the first few encounters with 20,000+ buzzing sources of potential harm!

* Are they willing to handle the frames with bees and look up close at the cells?

* Are they calm and gentle when handling the bees?

I encourage them to identify what they know and ask about what they don’t. Everyone has a first day at something new. If I don’t know the answer, I defer and get back to them with the right one, rather than giving an inaccurate answer. If there is no right answer, I explain the options.

I thoroughly enjoy helping people.

What I enjoy about mentoring

I love seeing people enthused and inspired.

I hope to enable people to link what they are doing with their captive bees, in order to benefit other pollinators in their local natural environment.

Being asked questions makes me search for the right answers and improves my own knowledge.

Great sources of knowledge-

https://meridianbeekeepers.com/ (obviously!)

http://www.dave-cushman.net/  (a lifetime of encyclopaedic experience now taken on by BIBBA president – Roger Patterson)


I would recommend becoming a mentor or ‘buddying’ to anyone with intermediate experience for all of the above reasons. 

Beekeeping is an infinite learning experience, much of which will come from gleaning knowledge from those around you.

To anyone looking to progress…

never be afraid to ask questions, question everything and learn as much as possible.

“The opportunity to mentor is a great learning experience on both sides.”


Common bee viruses and what you need to know

Here is a 35 minute presentation by Kirsty Stainton on the most commonly found bee viruses in the UK including Sacbrood, Chronic Bee Paralysis and Deformed Wing Virus. The talk shows how to identify these viruses and what to do if you find them.

Kirsty is a post-doctoral research scientist working at the Pirbright Institute. She worked at Fera from 2016 to 2020 where she performed research for the National Bee Unit that included molecular detection of the invasive pests Vespa velutina nigrithorax (Asian hornet) and Aethina tumida (Small hive beetle), molecular analysis of the Asian hornet diet and research into the use of antivirals to treat honey bees. Before working at Fera, Kirsty worked for 8 years on a bacterial endosymbiont called Wolbachia, and researched its ability to inhibit arboviruses in mosquitoes. These experiences have led to Kirsty’s current research project at Pirbright, investigating the potential ability for Wolbachia to inhibit honey bee viruses, such as DWV and CBPV.

Kirsty’s project is part-funded by Bee Disease Insurance Limited (BDI). BDI uses part of your premium to fund research into bee diseases, with £48,000 invested in this area in 2020. Details of all the projects being funded by BDI can be found on the research pages of their website.

Directions to Ocknell Pond

The easiest way to find your way is using What3Words:olive.months.galloped This will take you directly to the car park and picnic area.

Ocknell Pond can also be found using maps on most mobile devices.

The OS grid reference (for Satnav) is SU235117

Old school

From Southampton take the westbound M27 and leave at exit 1 for New Forest and Lyndhurst.

After just under half a mile, enter the roundabout and take the third exit (Lyndhurst Road) towards Brook and Branshaw

After just over a mile, keep left on Roger Penny Way

After a further one and a half miles, bear left on Janesmoor Plain Road.

After another 1.1 miles, turn right

Carry on for a further one and a half miles then turn left. You have arrived at the car park.

Swanmore apiary report – August 2021

Here are the latest reports from Swanmore on the progress of our apiary. As of 9 August, four of our five colonies are between queens following recent swarms and splits. Fingers crossed that all colonies will be queen-right by the end of the month so they can concentrate on their winter preparations!

Hive 5 (George’s)

Lets look at George’s hive (number 5) first, because it’s the start of the story for hive 1 too! Until Monday, the colony was on double brood and had four well-stocked supers.

When opened, multiple queen cells were found, most of them charged. Denise and Richard estimated the larvae inside were four or five days old; so a couple more days and a swarm would have gone. A very fortuitously-timed inspection!

Hive 5 (position 9)

Because of the colony’s strength (not to mention the weight of it on the stand) Denise and Richard decided to split the two brood boxes to create separate colonies. The upper brood box (including the queen) was moved to position 1 in the apiary.

One strong-looking queen cell was left in hive 5 but the bees may now raise further queen cells from eggs. If they do, these can be removed to prevent a secondary (cast) swarm so the hive will be checked again within seven days.

One full super of honey was removed from hive 5 and given to the new hive 1.

Hive 5 Update: 9 August

Richard working hive 5, 9 August

Since the last inspection, one week ago, the bees have been busy creating multiple queen cells to add to one left deliberately in the hive by the beekeepers. Most of these cells were on one frame.

There are three supers on the hive which between them were about 60% full. In the brood box, there was also one frame with capped honey on both sides.

We also found nearly three frames of capped brood but as expected, no unsealed brood or eggs were seen. We decided to use the frame with multiple cells to make-up a three frame nuc and we additionally transferred to the nuc, the frame of capped honey and another containing capped brood.

Finally, we shook in some extra bees for good measure and added another frame of drawn comb. The nuc has now been transferred to the West End apiary.

Back in Hive 5, we removed most of the queen cells on other frames leaving only two. We will now leave the bees alone until at the end of the month when hopefully, they’ll be queen right and can get in with their winter preparations.

Note, hive 5 needs five new frames of foundation which will be added within the next couple of days. This is to replace the frames taken for the nuc and some dirty comb.

Hive 1

Colony created on Monday 2 August. Brood box containing brood, stores and the laying queen removed from hive 5 (George’s) and placed on position 1 in the apiary.

It was noted that this is a very productive queen and she has been earmarked for the breeding programme next year provided we can get her through winter.

One full super was removed from hive 5 and placed on hive 1 to ensure new colony is adequately provisioned.

The box removed from hive 5 contained five frames of sealed brood. There were also seven queen cells (five of which were charged) and these were destroyed to remove the immediate possibility of swarming.

Hive one is made up of a new floor, queen excluder, crown board, new roof (all association equipment) but the brood box belongs to George.

Hive 1, position 1

This colony will be checked again within seven days in case the bees are still feeling swarmy and produce more queen cells.

Hive 1 Update: 9 August

Still plenty of capped brood in the newly created hive 1.

Although the population of Hive 1 wasn’t noticeably reduced (seven days after colony split), it was soon apparent a swarm had gone. The weather was changeable with occasional showers but the bees were perfectly calm throughout allowing for a thorough inspection. We checked through the frames three times but the queen (marked white) had gone. What a shame! There was no uncapped brood or eggs either.

It seems that the bees swarm preparations were too advanced to stop and they continued with their original plan despite last week’s manipulation. Based on the estimated age of the queen cells last week, the swarm probably issued on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In all, four emergency cells were found which we reduced to two. There was a good level of stores both in the brood box and super, although the bees seem to be moving stores from the super to the brood box. We concluded this because there was plenty of very freshly capped honey is the brood box and a reduced amount in the supers.There was also capped brood on five frames.

The hive entrance was set to small because the beekeepers noticed the presence of wasps at the entrance.

Hive 2

By the time hive 2 was opened, the weather had turned (only 17 degrees and stormy) and the bees were getting agitated. Queen was seen (still marked blue) and there were eggs across two frames, along with two frames of larvae and five frames of wall-to wall brood. One brood frame was solid with stores including honey and pollen. An empty frame from the back of the box was moved to the front to provide more space for the queen to lay in.

Of the two supers on hive 2, one was full and the other only recently added.

It was noted that one brood frame needed replacing due to the age of the comb and potential for disease and pathogens. This frame was changed on 9 August.

Queen is a very good layer and may be another candidate for next year’s breeding programme.

Hive 4 (position 8)

Those present at the apiary meeting on 17 July will remember this hive had recently swarmed. One frame supporting seven impressive-looking sealed cells was transferred to a nuc and the remaining more-developed cells were removed leaving only two, less developed ones in the hive.

By removing the more developed cells, the bees are given more time to settle down which reduces the urge to issue secondary (cast) swarms.


Upon opening, Denise and Richard were lucky enough to witness a ‘tooting‘ queen which is a very rare privilege indeed. Tooting is a signal emitted by recently emerged virgin queens by pressing themselves against the comb and vibrating their flight muscles without moving their wings. It starts with one or two pulses of about one second’s duration followed by a number of short pulses of about a quarter of a second.

The emerged virgin is ‘tooting’ to announce her presence in the hive and is answered by the other mature virgins still confined in their queen cells. Those still confined, use another piping sound called quacking. “When several confined queens are present in the nest, a chorus of synchronized quacking follows each tooting” (Wenner 1962; Michelsen et al. 1986).

The role of these piping signals (which are used in the period after a primary swarm has issued) is to let everybody in the hive know what’s happening! Virgin queens meeting on the comb will fight to the death (and the first to emerge is sometimes allowed to kill her sisters in their cells) but a strong colony will keep virgins apart (and delay the emergence of those trapped in their cells) so that cast swarms can issue, each led by one of the virgin queens. For more information on the piping signals click here.

The inspection of the colony revealed that only one cell had hatched. The second cell was still sealed however the queen could be seen emerging and would have got out within the hour. The frame containing this cell was moved to Hive 3 (see below) to solve a queenless situation in that hive.

Otherwise the colony had plenty of stores and capped brood awaiting hatching. The hive will be checked in 14 days to confirm a laying queen. It was also noted that the hive stand needs repairing and this might be a job for the apiary day in September.

Hive 3

This National deep belonging to Howard was also inspected at the apiary meeting. It was in a sorry story indeed! The hive was moved from Botley in an emergency last month and had been queenless for sometime. It was due to be merged with another colony this week using the newspaper method.

Upon opening, Richard and Denise noticed erratic wax building over several frames, also the bees had removed foundation from other frames for use elsewhere. They noticed all the bees were older, some with torn wings and they attributed the erratic wax building to bees that had passed the age where they can produce wax effectively. Another contributory factor could have been the foundation used was dry and past its best.

Nevertheless, the bees were busy filling the frames with honey; some of it seemed older suggesting they don’t need it currently; no brood to feed! There was also lots of stored pollen.

The supers were generally empty but there was a small amount of freshly-stored nectar.

Denise and Richard remembered the hatching queen from hive 4 and transferred her to this hive on the frame of capped brood supporting her cell. The additional brood will give the colony a population boost. They both crossed their fingers, hoping that the queen still had sufficient time before fully emerging to be accepted by her new colony. Thank you both very much for your efforts!

A note was made that a standard size frame had been added to the deep brood box which will need replacing in time. The hive will be checked again in 14 days to confirm a laying queen and several brood frames will need replacing as the bees have filled all the laying space with honey and pollen.

Hive 6

This hive was created from the frames taken from hive 4 at the apiary meeting on 17 July. There were seven sealed cells on the frame at the time and a three frame nuc was created using a small patch of brood and stores. We knew the nuc was light on stores at the time of splitting (there were no brood frames with stores and the nuc did not accommodate a super) so so Louise transferred the bees to a full size hive a week later to facilitate feeding.

Hive 6, position 10

Denise and Richard found no activity at the front of the hive which initially led them to believe the hive was empty but on opening, they found brace comb in the roof (which was removed) and a viable population.

Most of the bees would not be old enough to have commence their foraging duties and any flyers that were transferred on the 17 July would have likely returned to the parent colony.

There was no sealed brood or eggs but they saw the remnants of two (of the seven) queen cells which had been mostly dismantled. The bees were grumpy (another sign of not being queenright) and stung Richard multiple times on both hands. He was last seen running down Mayhill Road in a South-easterly direction and if anyone sees him please let us know as we’re concerned for his welfare!

The empty feeder (and eke) was removed for cleaning. The hive will be checked again in seven days for signs of a mated queen. Eggs can be added from another colony if necessary.

Asian Hornet Week 2021

The Asian hornet is slightly smaller than our native European hornet which is beneficial to our environment. The Asian hornet appears almost entirely dark (especially when viewed from above) and has these characteristic yellow legs. It’s important to know the difference between the Asian hornet and our European one.

This year’s Asian Hornet week is 6-10 September. It’s purpose is to increase public awareness around this invasive species with the aim of encouraging people to learn how to identify it, remain vigilant for its presence and to report it if seen. If the Asian Hornet becomes established in the UK it would wreck havoc on our eco-system and devastate our already beleaguered bee populations. It also poses a significant risk to the human population.

Beekeepers and members of the public are being asked to do three simple things:

  1. Learn how to identify the Asian Hornet; it’s important not to confuse it with our beneficial native hornet.
  2. Remain vigilant
  3. Report it if seen

Please click here to find out how to identify the Asian Hornet (Vespa Veluntina) and learn what to do if you see one. Asian hornet

In addition, Beekeepers are being asked to:

  1. Monitor their apiaries (It’s vital beekeepers can identify the Asian hornet)
  2. Consider joining the Asian Hornet Team

Monitoring your apiary

In Autumn, when wasps and hornets lose their usual sources of floral nectar, honeybee hives become very attractive to them. The BBKA is asking beekeepers to put aside an hour a day during Asian Hornet Week to watch for hornets ‘hawking’ at the entrances of their hives. 

Asian hornet (Vespa Veluntina) ‘hawking’ at the hive entrance.

You can also make monitoring traps to place in your apiary and the National Bee Unit has produced some helpful resources to show how to do this. There is a downloadable leaflet or if you prefer, an instructional video in the best ‘here’s one I did earlier‘ tradition of Blue Peter!

Asian Hornet Team

The BBKA is asking every association to create a team to assist with local requests for help in identifying Asian Hornets. The idea is to have a network of local volunteers so that individuals will not be asked to travel vast distances.

Being a member of the team is not currently an onerous responsibility and with any luck, you will not be called upon at all but the aim of the team is to:

  • form a network of local people confident in identifying the Asian Hornet
  • know how to report a suspected hornet
  • distribute literature in their area about the Asian hornet.
  • know how to set-up traps and advise the public about monitoring them
  • establish monitoring traps in their area or as directed by bee inspectors

The National Bee Unit may call upon the Asian Hornet Team if a confirmed siting results in a mobilisation to locate and destroy the nest. Last year, when an Asian hornet was discovered in Gosport, we were placed on ‘stand-by’ but in the end, were not required. Additional insurance is provided for team members and there is a quick multiple choice test to take. Test

If you would be happy to be part of the Asian Hornet team, please let Howard know by email; howard.towl@btinternet.com