Reading

BBKA Guide to Beekeeping

This is the only book for beginners endorsed by the BBKA. It’s enjoyable and easy to read, has clear photography and illustrations and is the definitive text for the basic assessment.

The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping introduces the reader to the craft and includes sections on the workings of the colony, the structure of a hive, how to acquire bees and keep them healthy and each month of the beekeeping year.

Each chapter is accompanied by anecdotes, answers to frequently asked questions and fascinating facts about bees and honey. The second edition includes new step-by-step sequences illustrating procedures such as containing a swarm, identifying the queen, using a smoker and cleaning a hive as well disease management and many other key subjects. Authors: Ivor Davis NDB and Roger Cullum-Kenyon. https://www.bbka.org.uk/shop/bbka-guide-to-beekeeping-2nd-edition

Guide to Bees and Honey


Former President of the British Beekeepers’ Association Ted Hooper MBE was the influential author of Guide to Bees and Honey which has sold more than 200,000 copies and has been translated into more than 12 languages since publication in 1976.

The fourth edition, updated by one of his pupils, includes techniques to control Varroa, a problem unknown to Hooper before his retirement in 1984. This is still the best-selling beekeeping book of all time and one of the most highly recommended books for new beekeepers. Author: Ted Hooper MBE

BBKA Special Editions

The BBKA has a range of special editions covering a whole range of subjects including colony management, feeding honey bees, natural varroa-resistant honey bees, general husbandry, queen rearing and practical mead making.

The special issue on Advanced Husbandry for example offers guidance to all beekeepers (not just those wishing to take the Advanced Husbandry Assessment) and includes articles written by experienced beekeepers. Each article presents personal experiences of beekeeping topics.

There is also a range of lamented sheets which summarise various manipulations for example, Bailey Comb Change, Pagden artificial swarm and shook swarm. The special editions and lamented sheets are all available from the BBKA website. https://www.bbka.org.uk/pages/shop/department/bbka-resourceshttps://www.bbka.org.uk/pages/shop/department/bbka-resources

The Collins Beekeeping Bible

A bit of a coffee table book this one. It covers all the essentials from caring for bees, hive management and has clear instructions and step-by-step guides. It also contains a wealth of information on the culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and domestic uses of honey, beeswax and pollen. There’s also information on candle-making, making home-made furniture polish and beeswax hand cream plus honey recipes for cakes and breads, sauces and marinades, drinks and even flavoured spirits.

It also covers lots of background subjects like folklore, history of beekeeping, bees in literature and bee trivia. Illustrated with photography, illustrations and etchings, this is an invaluable handbook for a beekeeper and a good read for everyone else!

Haynes Bee Manual

The Haynes Bee Manual is a clear and concise introduction into the fascinating world of the honey bee. For anyone wishing to start beekeeping, this step-by-step guide full of colour photographs and and practical advice is a very good starting point. There is something reassuring about the scale and simplicity of this book which helps to make the idea of staring in beekeeping a bit less daunting.

Author: Claire Waring

For your delectation, an absolutely beautiful video showing a mating flight:

Youtube

Type any beekeeping subject into the search engine of Youtube and you’re more than likely to find a selection of videos. There’s some really good stuff on Youtube but there’s a lot of rubbish on there too! It’s recommended that new beekeepers are cautious about treating YouTube as a definitive source of information.

Many of the videos are from overseas (particularly the US) and whilst we’re very fond of our American cousins, their climate is often different to ours and consequently, so are some of their practices. If you find a good video, please send details or a link to howard.towl@btinternet.com and I’ll add a link to this page.

Honey bee under the microscope

Get up close and personal with our favourite Hymenoptera in this beautiful five minute video.

Three minutes on varroa

Watch this fascinating three minute video by Samuel Ramsey, doctoral candidate in entomology. He summarises his dissertation on Varroa which may offer some hope in the eradication of the biggest threat to our honey bees. If you’re interested, he also has some longer videos on Youtube.

BBKA Asian hornet conference 2021

This is an epic (nearly six hours) but covers absolutely everything there is to know about the Asian hornet. It’s definitely worth a watch but for most people, it would have to be in bite-sized chunks!

Beekeeping Events

The Beekeeping Events website https://beekeeping.events/ compiles details of current and forthcoming local and national beekeeping events. There are details of both ‘in person’ events and webinars.

The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeder Association (BIBBA) has an excellent programme of talks and events, mostly free, for beekeepers at all levels. Speakers include their President Roger Patterson and subjects range from bee improvement and queen rearing to the role of the bee inspector and beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. https://bibba.com/

The National Honey Show

The Honey Show has some excellent lectures in their archive on many diverse subjects including managing varroa, queen rearing, practical beekeeping and honey bee biology: https://www.honeyshow.co.uk/lecture-videos.php

Shook swarm

Shook Swarm

This is a temporary page, a step-by-step guide will appear here shortly.

The shook swarm or shakedown method is a simple and effective process. Although it may seem drastic, when it is carried out in the spring it usually has the benefit of invigorating the bees.

Newer beekeepers are sometimes squeamish about carrying out a shook swarm; it does after all involve the destruction of brood and stores but if the colony is on very dirty comb (which maybe infected with pathogens and high levels of varroa and other pests), it’s a very good way of protecting the bees’ health by getting them onto fresh comb.

This manipulation can only be carried out on a strong colony which has been building-up well. It is best done in the spring when the weather has improved.

The process involves placing a clean box fitted with foundation (including a new or clean floor and crownboard) adjacent to the target hive. All the bees from the hive are vigorously shaken from the old comb into the new box, one frame at a time. The new box is then placed on the site of the original hive for the flying bees to return to.

The old frames and comb are then removed and destroyed.

Shook Swarm can be used for a number of reasons, including combs change or to separate the bees from pathogens or disease spores. It is an accepted method of treating a colony that has been infected with European Foulbrood. Shook swarm has become a useful manipulation where a colony is heavily infected with Varroa. Beebase has some excellent information: http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/searchResults.cfm

Varroa, an overview

Varroa destructor is an external parasite of honey bees. It is non-native to the UK and Europe and was accidently introduced in the early 1990s via the movement of infested honeybees from Asia. It has now spread worldwide.

Varroa lives harmoniously with the Asian honeybee (Apis cerana) which has adapted to it. Elsewhere, Varroa has caused untold damage to worldwide populations of honey bees including the European honeybee (Apis mellifera).

Asian worker bees have developed highly effective grooming techniques to detect and remove mites from each other.

Worker bees also learnt to detect infested younger drone brood and remove it.

The cappings of drone brood in the Asian Honeybee contain a central pore to allow gaseous exchange. When worker bees detect disease or Varroa mites in a cell, they plug the pore with wax. This suffocates and entombs the developing drone and inhibits the spread of the mite.

Apis cerana and varroa now co-exist quite happily.

The life cycle of the Varroa mite consists of two phases – phoretic (feeding and travelling on the back of a mature bee) and reproductive. In the phoretic stage, a mated female mite detects the capping pheromone produced by the brood when it’s time for workers to cap them over ready for pupation. At this point, this ‘mother’ mite enters the cell and hides in the pool of brood food underneath the larva.The cell is then capped.  As the larva gradually consumes the food, the ‘mother’ mite is revealed and attaches herself to the larva and starts to feed on it.   The larva is weakened but continues to pupate. The ‘mother’ mite produces 5 – 6 eggs.The first mite to hatch is always a male followed by four or five females. The male mates with the females and then dies within the cell. The ‘mother’ mite and any other mated females leaves the cell on the emerging worker or drone.  

The mite can spread between different colonies as it hitches a ride on drifting bees. Perhaps we should be re-thinking keeping hives in straight lines so close to each other? Beekeepers can easily spread Varroa during manipulations.  

Varroa weakens the honeybee and makes it more susceptible to other illnesses

Worker bees store food in their bodies and the Varroa feeds it depleting and weakening the worker.

‘Winter’ bees have highly developed fat bodies which enables them to live through the winter.

It is therefore vital to ensure Varroa numbers are low going into winter to limit damage.

Deformed Wing Virus

The parasitic Varroa mite weakens bees but it also vectors viruses which are what really causes the damage.

Deformed Wing Virus results in crumpled and deformed wings and stunts bees’ bodies. Infected bees are useless to the colony.  Eventually, there won’t be a sufficient number of foragers and the colony will starve. 

Factors controlling mite populations in honey bee colonies

(Those which we can affect are shown in bold)

Male Varroa have a high mortality rate so mating may not always occur.

Worker larvae have a shorter pupation period than drones resulting in an average of only two mated daughters leaving with the mother.

The reproductive rate of the mother Varroa varies and she may lay non-viable eggs.     

The beekeeper can limit Varroa numbers by maintaining good apiary hygiene and regularly changing comb.

A good apiary layout with hives well-spaced and not laid out in straight lines can help by preventing drifting.

The beekeeper can limit Varroa populations by sourcing local bees from reputable suppliers and raising her or his own queens.

Beekeepers can limit the movement of bee colonies to prevent Varroa spreading.

Swarming creates a broodless period which halt the reproductive cycle of the Varroa.

Artificial swarms or other swarm control manipulations also breaks the reproductive cycle of the Varroa mite.

The importation of bees, is it worth it?

Since January 2021 it illegal to import colonies and packages of honey bees into Great Britain. Importation of queen bees is still allowed but is strongly discouraged by the British Beekeepers Association, the National Bee Unit (DEFRA), Bees for Development and other organisations.

It may sometimes seem like a quick fix to import bees but it does pose an avoidable risk to the health of our bee population.

The Varroa mite was accidentally introduced by importation and look at the trouble that caused!  Small Hive Beetle is now confirmed in Italy but Italian bees are still regularly imported by some UK beekeepers.

Locally reared bees are best adapted to local forage and weather conditions.

Current best practice is to avoid the importation of queens or colonies in order to best assure the long-term sustainability of beekeeping in Britain.

Hygienic genes – increased grooming/mite detection and elimination.

Sugar dusting – see below

Drone trapping – see below

Queen trapping – see below

Varroa monitoring

The National Bee Unit cautiously considers a population of 1,000 Varroa mites to be a critical level for a colony of honey bees. There are various methods of counting the Varroa population in your hives and these have varying degrees of accuracy and complexity. All these methods are described in detail on BeeBase. Beebase, varroa

The simplest method is to use your Varroa boards. Click here to see a short video demonstrating this method Counting varroa. Insert a clean board under your hive and leave it for a number of days; it’s important to remember how many days! Remove the board and study it carefully. You will find fragments of wax and propolis, bits of dead bee and pollen and with a bit of practice and patience, you’ll be able to spot dead Varroa mites. Count them up and then visit the Beebase website where there’s a very useful calculator which estimates the population of mites in your colony. Varroa calculator.

The graph shows how keeping mite numbers low at the start of the season slows down the reproductive rate ensuring the colony is kept out of the danger zone for longer.

The graph also shows how Varroa numbers are increasing in August/September whilst bee numbers are decreasing. This means the colony could be in danger of being overwhelmed by Varroa if left unchecked.

Before the mite population of your bees reaches the critical level, you can consider a combination of tried and tested methods of control.

Described below are number of non-chemical treatments which can be used during the honey collecting season.

Most beekeepers use an ‘Integrated Pest Management’ system (IPM) and apply a chemical treatment after the honey harvest and non-chemical methods during the nectar flow. Other beekeepers do not use chemicals.

Treatments vary in their efficacy and so using the most effective treatment at the right time of year will help to ensure numbers take longer to increase again.

It is also best practice to treat all the colonies in the apiary at the same time to limit the opportunity of re- infestation via drifting.

There are several biotechnical (non-chemical) methods available to keep Varroa populations down and these may be used at different times of the year.

Spring

Queen trapping

This can be done at the beginning of the season after the queen has started laying. 

The National Bee Unit states that the technique has an efficacy of up to 95%. It works by restricting the queen to a single frame for nine days. A special queen excluder is placed on either side of a frame of drawn comb. Varroa attempting to reproduce enter the open brood cells within the caged comb. When the cells are capped over, the queen is released and the frame is removed along with any mites inside the cells.

The process interrupts the reproductive cycle of the Varroa mite. Full instructions on how to undertake the process are available from the National Bee Unit website: Queen trapping. If you search the site, there’s some other useful resources too and some photographs.

Culling drone brood

Varroa prefer to lay their eggs in drone brood because its capped for longer. It’s possible to use this information to your advantage in your efforts to reduce the mite population.

Simply replace a couple of frames at the edge of your brood box with super frames. The bees will typically draw-down wild comb below the super frame and raise drone brood within it.

Once the drone larvae is capped, you can cut it away from the frame.  Destroying these cells removes a large proportion of the total mite population.

Spring and summer

Sugar dusting

Sugar dusting encourages the bees to groom the mites from reach other. Sugar (icing sugar is best) is readily available, inexpensive, and harmless to your bees.

One cup of icing sugar per brood box is ideal and there are various suggested methods of application.

The sugar method only affects the phoretic mites which means that the sugar must be applied regularly in order to remove mites as they hatch.

Some experiments have shown the best coverage is achieved by removing every frame from the hive, treating both sides, and then replacing the frame. This is quite a lot of work but can be done during hive inspections. Other experiments have shown that dusting the top bars is more effective, as long as at least some of the sugar immediately falls through to the bottom of the hive.

Sugar dusting should only be done in dry weather and low-humidity conditions otherwise the sugar will clump on the bees instead of dusting them reducing the efficacy of the treatment.

Shook Swarm

The shook swarm or shakedown method is a simple and effective process. Although it may seem drastic, when it is carried out in the spring it usually has the benefit of invigorating the bees.

Shook Swarm can be used for a number of reasons, including combs change or to separate the bees from pathogens or disease spores. It is an accepted method of treating a colony that has been infected with European Foulbrood. Shook swarm has become a useful manipulation where a colony is heavily infected with Varroa. Beebase has some excellent information and photographs. Shook swarm

In the same way as the Asian honey bee developed tolerance to Varroa, there is growing evidence that leaving your colonies without chemical treatment allows them to build-up resistance or tolerance to the Varroa mite.

More beekeepers are going chemical free and there are encouraging studies showing that over a number of years, bees may be able to adapt and survive without chemical treatments. Where beekeepers have gone chemical free, they have often seen that they encounter initially high winter losses before the bees eventually reach an equilibrium.

For some small-scale beekeepers, these initial colony losses can be unacceptable and they therefore opt to control Varroa with chemical treatments.

European honeybees (Apis mellifera) have not yet fully developed a comprehensive armoury of defence against the mite. Some scientists argue however that chemical controls are hindering the development of their natural defences.

Chemical treatments, autumn post honey harvest

Currently, there are 15 authorised chemical treatments. As new products gain authorisation, they are added to the list found on the Veterinary Medicines Directorate website.

Each of these products has been rigorously tested to ensure efficacy of treatment against Varroa and safety for the bees and beekeeper although they are only safe if used correctly.

The product information leaflet about each treatment including season of application and duration of treatment can be found on the Veterinary Medicines Directorate or from suppliers such as Thorne Beekeeping or the Beebase website.

It is vital to use any treatment at the right time and to follow the instructions carefully to ensure that it is applied at the correct concentration for the size of colony and that it is removed when completed and any residue disposed of safely.

Currently, there are 15 authorised chemical treatments. As new products gain authorisation, they are added to the list found on the Veterinary Medicines Directorate website.

Each of these products has been rigorously tested to ensure efficacy of treatment against Varroa and safety for the bees and beekeeper although they are only safe if used correctly.

The product information leaflet about each treatment including season of application and duration of treatment can be found on the Veterinary Medicines Directorate or from suppliers such as Thorne Beekeeping or the Beebase website.

It is vital to use any treatment at the right time and to follow the instructions carefully to ensure that it is applied at the correct concentration for the size of colony and that it is removed when completed and any residue disposed of safely.

API-Bioxal, 886 mg/g Powder                                            Oxalic acid

Apguard Gel                                                                          25% Thymol

Apilife Var Bee-Hive Strip                                                  Camphor, Eucalypus oil, Menthol Levo, Thymol

Apistan 10.3% w/w                                                             Tau Fluvalinate, Mite resistance in UK

Apitraz 500 mg Bee-hive Strips                                          Amitraz

Apivar 500 mg Bee-hive Strips                                           Amitraz

Bayvarol 3.6 mg Bee-hive Strips                                        Fluethrin, Mite resistance in UK

Dany’s BienenWohl Powder and Solution                        Oxalic acid dihydrate

MAQS Formic Acid 68.2g Beehive Strips                         Formic acid

Oxuvar 5.7%, 41.0 mg/ml Concentrate for Solution         Oxalic acid

Oxybee Powder and Solution                                             Oxalic acid, didydrate

PolyVar Yellow 275 mg Bee-hive Strip                              Flumethrin

Thymovar 15 g Bee-hive Strips                                           Thymol

VarroMed 5 mg/ml + 44 mg/ml dispersion Formic acid, Oxalic acid dihydrate VarroMed 75 mg + 660 mg dispersion Formic acid, Oxalic acid dihydrate

  Beekeepers are required by law to keep proof of purchase and a record of purchase, administration and disposal of all veterinary medicines for a minimum of 5 years under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2011SI 2159 Forms can be downloaded from the National Bee Base website.  
  The overriding caveat is to only treat when necessary, use authorised products, alternate treatments to limit resistance, follow the instructions carefully and keep appropriate records of applications.  

There are a number of simple methods to assess the level of a Varroa population within a colony and treat accordingly.

Bee Base offers an excellent advisory leaflet which can be downloaded free-of-charge from its website. The leaflet describes in details everything that has been summarised here. In addition, Beebase has a whole range of advisory leaflets and booklets that you can download covering all aspects of beekeeping which are available free of charge here: Beebase advisory leaflets

Siting your apiary

Apiaries should be sited so that only the beekeeper ever gets stung!

By having high walls or hedges around an apiary, bees can be forced to fly well above close neighbours. If neighbours or pets do get stung, relations can be impaired and the risk of danger to life, although small, cannot be overlooked. Anaphylasis

Colonies can be kept almost anywhere in the British Isles, even in urban and suburban areas where honey yields can be surprisingly high. The number of colonies kept depends on available forage and limitations of the site.

If the beekeeper wishes to build up beyond the capacity of their home apiary, they will need to establish out-apiaries away from the home site. Bees do not require daily attention, so it’s feasible to keep them away from home but the colonies must be given attention when they need it so access to the out-apiary must be unhindered and accessible by road.

An apiary should meet the following requirements;

  • It should be sheltered, dry and sunny
  • Fresh water should be available from a source bees can safely drink. Bees drown easily when out of their depth. A shallow tray sprinkled with gravel is ideal but remember to keep it topped up (rain water is best) and place it some distance away from the hive.
  • ideally south facing; bees will immediately find the Sun to orientate before heading off in their chosen direction. If the hive faces south, their flight path will be more predictable.
  • away from frost pockets and damp areas
  • some areas cannot support large numbers of colonies throughout the season. If unsure, speak to another beekeeper
  • the flight path of bees must be considered so they don’t fly over neighbours’ gardens and washing lines – bees only poo outside the hive and they love a bit of target practice on the laundry! Make sure seating areas of your garden or footpaths are not directly south of the hive or you’ll be in their flight path!
  • Ideally, your hive should be screened by trees or fencing from human passers- by to keep both bees and passers-by happy! A head-height fence is ideal.
  • Ensure your hive is sited where wild or farm animals will not disturb it or the bees will not disturb them.
  • it’s a good idea to find out the map reference for your apiary and write it somewhere accessible, maybe on a hive stand. The What3words app is useful and is used by the emergency services. You may need to direct an ambulance one day.

Hive stands

Hives must not be set unprotected on the ground or damp will rot the floor and vegetation will quickly grow up and block the hive entrances.

Wooden stands are often used but they must be stoutly built as hives weigh 50 to 100 kg (100 to 200 lb) when full. Another good and simple solution is to set each one on a concrete slab.

Bees’ natural inclination is to choose a site high off the ground so lifting them up about a couple of feet is good for them and good for preventing ‘beekeepers back’ when you are working with your hives.

The ground in front of hives must be kept clear of vegetation. Cut or trim regularly but don’t use weed killer.

As the beekeeper will work the hive from behind, a space should be left behind the hives which gives the beekeeper convenient access. If the space there is level and wide enough to accommodate roofs and stacks of supers etc., lifted off during inspections, working the hives is much easier.

It is generally believed the hives work best if the entrances face south or south-east. However this is not a matter of prime importance.

These hives face East and do very well

Check that each stand you construct is
– solid and firm and not rocking;
– level from side to side;
– sloping slightly from back to front with the front lower than the back.

Time spent on these details before the bees are on your hands will save much labour and heartache later.

Beebase

BeeBase is offered free to beekeepers by the National Bee Unit. It is funded by DEFRA, the Welsh Government and Scotland’s Bee Health Programme.

The website provides a wide range of apicultural information to help beekeepers maintain healthy and productive colonies. It provides a wide range of beekeeping information including honey bee related legislation, information about pests and diseases and how to recognise, control and treat them. There are also downloadable publications and advisory leaflets. National Bee Unit

Meridian highly recommends that new and experienced beekeepers make use of this extremely useful resource and sign up. Doing so puts you on the radar of the regional bee inspector who is there to help and guide you. Should you suspect your bees have been affected by a notifiable disease or pest, a visit from an inspector can be arranged. This is not something to be feared, the inspectors are extremely knowledgeable and are there to help. Registering with Beebase also means you’ll receive email notifications of threats and problems when they occur in your locality. Register Beebase

Registering also helps Beebase understand the distribution of beekeepers and their apiaries across the country. This helps them to effectively monitor and control the spread of serious honey bee pests and diseases, as well as providing up-to-date information on keeping bees healthy and productive.

By registering with Beebase you will play a very important part in helping to maintain and sustain honey bees for the future.

Bee Inspectors contact details

Kevin Pope
kevin.pope@apha.go.uk
Mobile : 07775 119466

Mark Lynch
mark.lynch@apha.gov.uk Mobile : 07824 530180

John Geden (Regional bee inspector)
John.Geden@apha.gov.uk Mobile: 07501 275259

obtaining a nucleus

A nucleus colony, or nuc for short, is a small honey bee colony created from a larger one. It’s so named because it’s smaller than a full-sized colony and is centred on a queen bee and a nucleus of worker bees.

A good quality nucleus is like gold dust and can be raised for a beginner by a local beekeeper or beekeeping association.

A good quality nucleus will 

  • have a young, good quality, laying queen. She may be marked and/or clipped
  • have all stages of brood present
  • be free of signs of disease
  • have at least three frames with brood
  • have four frames or more fully covered with honey bees
  • have at least one full comb of honey (or equivalent) and half a frame of pollen
  • contain comb which is in a good, clean condition, preferably being less than one season old

Meridian will be happy to raise a nucleus colony for new members provided they have attended the Introduction to beekeeping course.


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Our temperate climate

In Britain, we have a maritime temperate climate which is one of the most varied weather systems in the world. British bees are best adapted to cope with our climate and the resultant vegetation. Local bees are better still.

Maritime temperate regions are found in areas near coasts where the sea and onshore winds provide more rain. This helps to keep the temperatures level throughout the year.

Typical characteristics of temperate regions include:

  • having four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
  • unpredictability – whilst having recognised characteristics, most of the seasons will also have very varied weather within them. Rain, fog and lower temperatures may not be uncommon even in summer. Don’t we know it!
  • believe it or not, temperate regions are the most popular climate to live in because we don’t experience the wide variations of some of the more extreme climates.
  • the ability to grow a large variety of crops and fruit meaning agriculture is a major income earner in these regions. Grain crops such as wheat, barley and oats are extensively grown. Pears, apples, strawberries and other soft fruit are grown to sell either as fresh produce or for manufacturing into products such as jam.
  • deciduous trees in most areas giving way to coniferous trees where the temperatures are lower for example in hilly or mountainous regions.

Britain’s summer temperatures are generally cooler than further into Europe. This is because the sea has a moderating effect keeping the land cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Our changeable weather makes accurate weather forecasting difficult to achieve. Rain often comes in the form of storms which develop in the North Atlantic and blow across Britain from west to east at all times of the year.

Even on our small island, the weather, and to some extent the climate, differs from north to south and east to west. Mountainous areas get a lot more rain than the lowlands and this has a large effect on what can be grown. Lowland areas tend to be warmer and more suitable for large-scale agriculture. British bees are adapted to make the best of the weather in their particular area and the crops and plants that grow there.

Getting your bees

You’re excited to get started, you’ve searched the internet. You’ve found some bees you can immediately send off for or go and collect. We understand, we’ve all been there, but before you rush off, there’s a few things you may wish to consider.

Not all honey bees are the same. There are different strains; they don’t even look the same. Many in Britain are small and dark, almost black or dark brown, others are larger and more noticeably orange. Some bees are easy to control and some are virtually uncontrollable especially in the hands of a beginner. If you end up with defensive bees, you may become discouraged and give-up beekeeping before you’ve really started. Also, you can’t keep highly defensive bees in a garden close to neighbours but you can keep a gentle colony which has been properly sited. siting your apiary

Some beginners are attracted to Mediterranean strains because they’re said to be gentle and productive but they don’t necessarily have the frugality of local bees and may not make their stores last the winter.our temperate climate

When buying bees:

  • Avoid buying bees from outside your area. It risks accelerating the spread of pests and diseases. Since Brexit, it’s illegal to buy packages or colonies of bees from abroad because it risks importing the devastating pests that we have so far managed to avoid in the UK. Most beekeepers agree, local strains are better adapted to the flora and weather conditions of that locality.
  • Use a reputable supplier. References will help you choose. Ask the supplier where the queen has come from. It is not always clear what strain of honey bee you are obtaining and whether the queen has been bred by the supplier, bought in or imported. If you join a beekeeping association, they will usually raise a nucleus of local bees for you and they will follow established quality guidelines obtaining a nucleus
  • It’s important to examine the bees before you purchase them to ensure they meet the required standard and are disease free. If you are not competent to do this then ask a beekeeper who is to check for you. If the vendor is not prepared to show you or allow examination consider why.

** New** Under new rules that came into force since Brexit, it is now illegal to bring bees into Great Britain. There are separate rules in Northern Ireland. Since the end of the transition period, only queen bees can be imported into Great Britain, rather than colonies and packages of bees. This page will be updated when further information becomes available.

History

Meridian Beekeepers’ Association

Meridian was set up over twenty years ago by a group of enthusiasts with the aim of encouraging new and existing beekeepers to look after their bees by means of good husbandry and increased knowledge.

A great deal of effort has been put in by many members to increase public awareness and to help educate school children about bees, beekeeping, pollination and the environment. 

Our mentoring scheme, apiary meetings and training have proved very popular and the cooperation between members means that difficulties and challenges can usually be resolved quickly and effectively. If the association’s members don’t know the answer, we usually know someone who does!

Meridian Beekeepers’ Association is a member of Hampshire Beekeepers’ Association and the British Beekeepers’ Association. Our members are protected by insurance provided by Bee Disease Insurance Limited.

We have two Association apiaries at Swanmore and West End, Southampton.

We support beekeepers and beekeeping in the South Hampshire area of Southern England. Our area ranges from Romsey in the West, Winchester in the North, Meon Valley and Fareham to the East and South.