Gardening for Bees

There is a link from DIY Gardening which gives a guide for gardeners with actionable steps they can take to prevent the decline bee of the bee population that may be of interest.

November Notes

Hi everybody it is the time of year when all things should have ceased. However we have had an extremely warm back-end to the season. This has increased the activity so be on your guard for any hives which may have become light. If you have fed them properly even though we have had a warm back-end to the season there should be no need to put extra feed on your bees. The point I’m trying to make here is feeding the correct amount is important, for indigenous bees round about 2 gallons should be sufficient to take the bees through until the spring. If your bees get short of food usually round about February then a block of candy or fondant will keep them together. There is no substitute for feeding your bees properly in the autumn, I have stressed this many times before.

Planning for next year is an important task which beekeepers should think about, I will outline a few things which you may consider. Keeping your brood nests in good order is no doubt one of the best things that you can do to facilitate good handling, it will pay dividends to replace three or four combs in your brood nests annually. You do not need to destroy the frames, you can fit a new sheet of foundation in your existing frames thereby saving the cost of new ones. There is little more that you can do at this time of year except keep an eye on woodpecker damage. When the weather turns cold with perhaps a little snow on the ground you may well receive a visit from a woodpecker. Keeping your roofs strapped down is also important, we do occasionally get high winds.

As I’ve said many times before there is much more to beekeeping than the actual physical keeping of them. You can study microscopy, pollen identification, or indeed the brood diseases in the active season. Of course you will need the necessary equipment to carry this out, you will need a compound microscope and a dissecting microscope. At the very least even with the cheaper microscopes coming on the market you are indeed making a sizeable acquisition moneywise. Or indeed you can take a book from the library and swot up a few of your favourite subjects. There is no doubt that beekeeping does make you more aware of the various nectar secreting plants. That’s about it folks for now, it is indeed a quiet time of year for this kind of occupation.


October Notes

Hi everybody it is a very warm back-end to the summer which will undoubtedly influence some beekeepers to feed their bees in a slightly different way. Personally I cannot over emphasise the importance of feeding your bees. To some extent follow the season, in other words as the season closes, normally speaking bees will close down their activities in sync with the relevant weather pattern. Flowers will begin to go over and all activity with regard to income will gradually come to an end. Climate change no doubt will have an effect on the bees, exactly how is another question. I have seen over the years how bees do adapt to their surroundings and available flora. Most of you will know I have kept bees for pretty well all of my lifetime and I have seen the various changes take place over the years. There have been ups and downs in their fortunes but in general the fortunes of bees in the last 50 to 60 years has been declining mainly due to the type of farming which is taking place throughout the countryside. Farming has a big influence on how our bees survive, keeping livestock of any sort bees, animals kept on a low plane of nutrition ultimately leads to a poor standard of health. There is nothing clever in that it is a fact which most people will understand, bees kept on a low plain of nutrition will suffer. We have seen it many times when the weather is good and the flora and fauna is in abundance the bees do better and generally are healthier. However in the last 20 to 30 years we have seen many changes which has brought the bees’ general health down, not only having the climate to consider but diseases also.

Feeding bees how and when

There is no doubt that this is one of the main jobs of the season getting your bees fed. I have always said get your bees fed early, co-incide with the declining season. In other words when you stripped your honey off in this first or second week of August generally speaking there is not much for the bees to get in the way of income. So my view is to feed the bees as soon as possible as you can after the middle of August to enable the bees to consolidate and drive off any excess moisture. Entrance blocks must have been put in at the beginning of August to enable the bees to protect themselves from other colonies in the area and wasps too. 2 to 1 has always been the recognised measurement for autumn feed which produces a thick syrup. You should aim to get 2 gallons of syrup on your bees if they are indigenous bees, if they are faster breeding bees you may have to give them 3 gallons of syrup. That is the customary way of feeding bees and one which has stood the test over many many years. If the climate changes then you may have to change your feeding regime to meet that demand. It is generally accepted that if the weather turns cold and the bees cluster on the comb they do not consume as much of their stores as they would if they were active. In other words not in cluster they will consume considerably more stores because of the energy which they are using. This is why we are in a state of flux and one should be very careful about how the climate may affect your bees. I would encourage you all to be thinking beekeepers about what is taking place naturally and what the bees may do to compensate. In these notes I have given you a few ideas that you may explore. You see beekeeping is not only a practical thing but there are some deeper questions that need to be addressed, think outside the box if possible and adapt to any change in circumstances.


BBKA News Archive now available.

The BBKA News Archive website which was unavailable earlier this is now fully operational again, there have been a few changes:

1.    To log into the website ( ) members will be asked to complete 3 fields:

  • The generic Username / password which is printed in the Editorial block on the first inside page of the BBKA magazine. 
  • BBKA membership number eg 68.0.xxxx  (This is the printed on the receipt when you pay your membership fees). 
  • Your postcode.   

2.    Copies of the archived magazines can be downloaded in .pdf format.  To do this, select a  magazine and the click on the 'Download as PDF' button in the top RH corner.

 3.  As part of a reciprocal agreement, you can also access archived copies of An Beachaire, the newsletter from the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations?  Editions over six months old are only available for to read online (cannot be downloaded).  From the 'Select Publication' drop down menu in the top LH corner, choose An Beachaire.

New requirement to report varroa.

On 21st April, 2021 an amendment to the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006 and the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2021 comes into force requiring beekeepers and/or officials to report the presence of Varroa in any of the hives that they manage. Reporting will be for each apiary site. This amendment will allow England and Wales to comply with the Animal Health Law which is necessary for future working relationships with the European Union. Similar arrangements are being made in Scotland.

To make this simple, a tick box will be introduced to BeeBase, the voluntary register for beekeepers managed by the National Bee Unit. This will allow beekeepers and inspectors to report the presence or absence of Varroa. This will be the easiest way to report Varroa. The NBU is currently working on an alternative mechanism for those who do not wish to register on the BeeBase system and aim to share this before 21st April.

No action will be required until after 21st April.

Importation of bees form Norther Ireland: update

Dear Members

There have been a lot of questions about the importation of bees from Northern Ireland being proposed by Patrick Murfet and the detrimental comments he has made concerning the BBKA on the British and Irish group Facebook.

I think it may be helpful to outline the main points of the actions I have taken on behalf of the BBKA:

Martin Smith (Director of BDI) and I composed a letter, concerning the circumvention of the law to import Italian bees into the UK. This was presented to the Bee Health Advisory Forum. Unfortunately, the Bee Farmers and National Farmers Union did not agree to the proposed action and Defra decided not to express an opinion, but everyone else supported the move.

The letter objecting to the circumvention of the law on importing bees was sent to Government Ministers in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, outlining the potential danger of introducing the Small Hive beetle into the UK. The bees are being sourced from Southern Italy, an area where there is Small Hive beetle.

I applied for a Parliamentary Petition which took several weeks to be processed, but It is now live and has already 7,070 signatures. The focus of the petition is to stop the circumvention of the Law to bring bees into the UK via Northern Ireland

I informed all Associations of our action and put a copy of the letter sent to Governments in the April Edition of the BBKA news

Patrick Murfet has made numerous derogatory statements concerning the BBKA. His information is incorrect, his facts have no basis with the truth and it is upsetting to see someone who has a Bee Equipment business being willing to risk introducing disease and a potentially devastating pest into the UK in order to make profit.

I immediately spoke to the BBKA News Editor and asked for any adverts from Mr Murfet to be declined. It was unfortunate that the advert from Bee Equip had been accepted for the April Edition and the magazine was printed before it could be withdrawn. As you probably know there is a long lead time in the process of producing and printing magazines. 

It is worth noting that Irish bee keepers are extremely concerned and upset about the potential effects on their native bee populations, in addition to the biosecurity issues.

I have now written to Mr Murfet informing him that no advertising from him, his companies (Bee Equipment and Patrick’s Bees} or the magazine BQ will be accepted for publication in BBKA News.

 I hope you will agree we are acting positively.  

Finally, I want to thank you for all the messages of support I have received and for everyone who has signed the petition. Some Government departments are aware of the issues and questions are already being asked about the import situation. 

Anne Rowberry

BBKA Chair

BBKA Petition to ban import of bees through Northern Ireland.

As you are probably aware, there is a move to bring bees into the UK via Northern Ireland.  This is to circumvent the law that prohibits Package Bees, Nuclei and Colonies entering the UK and is a result of a loophole allowing direct entry into Northern Ireland from the European Union.  These bees would have a health certificate issued in the area of the EU from which they originated but would have no other serious inspections in Northern Ireland or when they enter the rest of the UK.

 They are coming from southern Italy near the site where the outbreak of Small Hive Beetle (SHB) originated. Although officially there is not a threat of SHB in the area, there is little compensation if beekeepers report an outbreak that would result in colonies being destroyed and restrictions put officially on the movement of bees in the area.

The SHB is in Italy and in the area where these bees are being bred.  If they get into the UK they will spread rapidly.

The BBKA with Bee Disease Insurance, organised cooperation between Northern Ireland beekeepers, Welsh and Scottish beekeepers.  Joint letters were sent to Ministers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 The BBKA (or rather me, as it must be set up by an individual) has organised a Parliamentary Petition.  The petition is now live so please publicise as widely as possible. Please share the link

 Stop the importation of honey bees into GB from the EU via Northern Ireland

The UK Government should ensure that people cannot circumvent restrictions on the movement of bees from the EU to GB by moving them via NI.  Unrestricted movement of bees could allow Small Hive Beetle to arrive and devastate British beekeeping.

The potential effect of allowing this avoidance of the import laws and the threat it carries to our bees is clearly not part of a legitimate trade and as such breaches the law.  Historically, the imports of bees into Northern Ireland were small and therefore there is not a strong inspection service available.  They would be challenged to inspect high numbers of Package bees before the bees are repackaged and shipped on to other parts of Great Britain as Package bees or Nuclei. More details can be found in the accompanying document and on the BBKA website and in the April edition of the BBKA News. 

 The BBKA is asking you to take a stand:

 ·         Please sign the Petition and ask for support from friends, family and neighbours in signing the petition;

·         Publicise the petition with your local press, radio and TV, MP, Councillors, magazines and any other contacts you may have such as gardening, sports, golf, and tennis clubs or anywhere we can get our concern heard.

We can make a difference but we need your support. Please sign the petition and confirm your email address in the link you will be sent.

 Thank you for reading this letter and for your support.

 Anne Rowberry, BBKA Chair

BBKA looking for volunteers to assist with the Swarm Calls help line

During the swarm season the BBKA office receives hundreds of  phone calls from the public, often elderly people who don't have access to the internet, asking for help with swarms.  Very often the bees in question are not honey bees so the caller just needs more information or reassurance.  If it is a genuine swarm call, we give them the contact details for a local BBKA swarm collector.

The office team are seeking beekeepers to help us answer some of the calls by volunteering to have  calls redirected to their own mobiles or land lines for an hour or so a week.  

The caller would not be able to identify your mobile or land line number as they will have rung the BBKA swarm help line initially and then the call is diverted.  The swarm line is open between 8.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Fridays but busy times are late mornings onward.

It will be easy for volunteers to opt in and out of the system so this is not a forever commitment.

We will arrange a zoom meeting for potential volunteers to discuss how this will work in practice.  If you want to consider joining the team and would like more information (without committing yourself) please email me:

Kind regards

Leigh Sidaway, General Manager

Autumn/Winter Apiary Meetings

Details as to the apiary meetings this autumn and winter will be provided as soon as possible. Obviously much will depend on the status of Covid-19 and what degree of social interaction can take place.