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10/23/2017 11:59 PM
[News] "Depressingly small" honey crop from British Beekeepers

The two most productive regions in England continue to be the South East, producing 30.1 lbs of honey and the East with 29.3 lbs of honey per hive, while those areas which suffered a particularly wet summer, Wales and the South West, both saw their honey crop drop to 18 lbs per hive.

Britain differs from the rest of Europe in that most of its beekeeping is carried out by amateur beekeepers, whereas in much of the rest of Europe it is carried out by bee farmers. In common with the EU as whole,  Britain does not produce enough honey to meet demand. 

“A honey crop of fifty to a hundred pounds was typical when I started beekeeping in the 1950’s,” said Job Hobrough who was recently awarded his BBKA certificate for sixty years of beekeeping and is the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive representative for the North East region. 

He continues:

“In those days farmers under-planted crops with clover to nourish the land, nowadays there just isn’t time or space for this style of farming. I think it is having a huge impact on the honey crop, by reducing the forage available not just to honey bees, but all our insects.  

“I warn new beekeepers not to expect a big crop of honey, and to be fair many people aren’t in it nowadays for the honey.”

While weather conditions will always cause variations in the honey crop, for example the cold winter of 2014 saw the honey crop drop to just 8lb a colony, it is the steady overall decline in quantity which is worrying.  

The top five factors worrying beekeepers about the future of the honey bees are:

Margaret Murdin, BBKA Chairman, concludes:

“Everyone can play a part in helping honey bees and all the other insects they love such as butterflies and bumble bees by planting the right sort of flowers and shrubs. Check the label to see that anything you plant will be rich in nectar and pollen, as not all plants are equal in this respect. A crocus is so much better for bees than a daffodil, for example. 

“Our survey shows that suburban gardens and urban roof tops produce some of the best honey crops, so how we garden really can make a difference.”                         -ends-       

09/06/2017 08:49 AM
[Event] Hampshire Beekeepers Convention 2017

Hampshire Beekeepers welcome you to our annual convention

All delegates will be able to attend lectures from Tony Harris on Botany for Beekeepers and Dinah Sweet 'Help!, I have got queen cells'

There are two choices for the second and third lectures. In the morning it is a choice between Andrew Beer 'Beekeeping and the Law' or Ian and Ruth Homer ' Varroa without chemicals'.

In the afternoon it is a choice between Celia Rudland 'Winter into Spring' or David Rudland 'Uses of the nuc hive'

Cost: £15.00

08/29/2017 06:48 PM
Autumn Management

As we approach the autumn season, you may be planning what to do in order to successfully over winter your colonies. Remember the start of the 2018 beekeeping year begins now and anything you do or do not do to your colonies will have repercussions on their ability to overwinter successfully, and on their subsequent performance in the following year. To help you out, we’ve put together a checklist of tasks to carry out before you ‘put your bees to bed’ for winter.

Good quality stocks of bees

Colonies which have poorly performed during the season e.g. the queen has had a bad laying pattern, or any colonies which are headed by queens older than say two years should ideally be replaced by a good quality and newly mated queen. This will set the colony in good stead for next year as young queens are more prolific and produce a strong population of honey bees necessary for the colony to successfully overwinter. Younger queens are also unlikely to be superseded in the spring at a time when the colony is more vulnerable and if the older queen is killed, it is unlikely that a replacement queen will be available to keep the colony going.

If, in the following year you wish to use any of the older queens for breeding purposes and want to graft from her young larvae, then removing her from the main colony and over-wintering her in a nuc will increase the likelihood of her surviving into the following spring.

At the beginning of the “Healthy Bees Plan” a series of Best Practice Factsheets were produced, and we think it’s an opportune time to dig the one out about “Obtaining Honey Bees” as a reminder of the sound advice it contains The fact sheet, along with all of the others can be found here.

When buying bees:

06/28/2017 06:48 PM
High Mite Levels in Colonies
In some regions of the UK, colonies are starting to show symptoms of high levels of Varroa mites, for example wing deformities and perforated cappings. Therefore, it might be prudent to start monitoring colony mite populations and information on how to do this can be found on page 15 of the Managing Varroa booklet. Also, the Varroa calculator can be used to help calculate your estimated mite population in your colonies:

If your colonies have a high amount of Varroa, i.e 1000 mites after calculating it from the average drop, you may want to treat them with a registered varroacide. Suitable treatments where brood is present would include:

Apilife Var;
Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) and;

If you wish to use an oxalic acid based product then a broodless condition should be created first. Additionally, if you have honey for human consumption on the hives, remember that MAQs is currently the only registered product which can be used. When using any medicines it is important to remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

*Mite resistance to these products have been recorded and so a resistance test (the Beltsville test) should be carried out before using the product.

03/28/2017 11:40 AM
[Event] Bee Health Day - Northamptonshire Beekeepers Association

A day designed to help beekeepers at all levels to keep their bees safe and healthy.

In the morning there will be a comprehensive guide to how to tackle varroa and its attendant dangers

In the afternoon there will be four half-hour workshops, enabling all attendees to attend each of them.


No charge for members of NBKA

Cost: £5.00

For more information contact: or 07721  094953

11/17/2016 02:00 PM
[Event] Holsworthy DBKA Spring Convention

Another packed day of talks and workshop choice: Graham Royle on the'Evolution of the Bee'. Varroa Controls by Ian Homer, and Ruth Homer, Queen Rearing by Simon Jones. More talks tba. Includes Ploughmans, hot puds, tea, homemade cakes and coffee. £18.00 

Booking email -

Website -

11/10/2016 10:21 AM
[Event] Kent Improver Key Skills

5 evening sessions on consecutive Tuesdays during January and February aimed at Improvers. We will look in some detail at some of the key issues in successfully managing bees - colony management, swarm control, varroa control, Winter preparations and bee health. More details at the KSRC website -

**Please use the website to make bookings for the course series.**

10/29/2016 12:59 AM
[News] 'Right sort of weather' Helps Honey Harvest



BBKA’s annual Honey Survey results reveal that honey bees overcame summer starvation threats to provide 26lbs of honey per hive

The East remains England’s most productive region with beekeepers citing the ‘right sort of weather’

The results of the British Beekeepers Association’s annual Honey Survey are released today (28 October 2016) and reveal that the average colony of bees in England produced 26lbs (11.8 kilos) of honey this year - an increase of 5lbs (2.7 kilos) per hive over last year’s crop.

Despite a dismal start, a quarter (25 per cent) of beekeepers reported ‘the right weather’ as having the biggest potential effect on honey quantity in this year’s crop, compared to just nine per cent who thought weather conditions had been favourable in 2015.

Tim Lovett, Director of Public Affairs at BBKA commented:

“An unusually cold and windy spring prompted the National Bee Unit to issue a bee starvation warning to beekeepers urging them to feed their colonies.  The situation was then compounded by the late flowering of many summer plants.  A better summer followed by a long, warm autumn, however, gave the bees a chance to build up their strength and their honey supplies and we’re delighted to see the season end with a much improved honey yield.”

Weather conditions and other factors which influence the honey crop, such as the supply of forage and the impact of invader species including the varroa mite, vary enormously across the country.   The East has again had the best honey crop of any region in England with an average of 31lbs of honey per hive, which the majority of beekeepers attributing this to both good weather and an abundant variety of forage. The lowest yield was in North West with just 19.9lbs (9 kilos).

“A varied diet is as important to the health of the honey bee as it is to humans,” explained Louise Jetsum, a beekeeper in the BBKA’s East ‘Adopt a Beehive’ region.

“While an abundance of yellow fields in flower with oil seed rape for example is good to a point; if that was only food for bees it would be akin to humans eating nothing but egg yolks all the time. So a rich variety of bee friendly flowers in our gardens and native hedgerows remain vital food sources for honey bees.

“Planting the right flowers and shrubs, leaving ivy to grow wild, or helping raise funds to assist good beekeeping practice by supporting the ‘Adopt a Beehive’ scheme, are all good ways to help the honey bee."

One of the projects the BBKA’s Adopt a Beehive scheme has helped fund is an exploration of how to create ‘pollen patties’ as a food supplement for honey bees.  A nutritionally balanced diet is vital for honey bees to thrive.  Anyone interested to help honey bees by supporting the ‘Adopt a Beehive’ scheme should visit


09/13/2016 12:59 AM
[News] Fifty Beehives Adopted from BBKA by Leicestershire catering company

Andrew Wilson of Wilson Vale said: " As big users of quality honey throughout our 85 catering operations nationwide, we feel that this was a great opportunity to support the wonderful work carried out by the British Beekeepers Association."

Adopt a Beehive is a charitable scheme organised by the BBKA to help safeguard the future of honey bees. Sponsored by Burts Bees to cover administration costs, all profits go towards applied research and education projects which focus specifically on the needs of honey bees and other pollinators.

Since it was set up in 2010 Adopt a Beehive has helped to fund Ron Hoskins 'Breading bees which are naturally more resistant to the varroa mite' project with the Swindon Beekeepers ; Gianluigi Bigio's PHD thesis 'Hygienic Behaviour in Honey Bees' working with Professor Ratnieks at the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI) and the work of Dr Falko Drijfhout at Keele University in two different areas, pesticide in beehives and supplementary food stuffs for bees. 

Members of the public can 'adopt' a beehive from one of ten different regions across the UK. All the beekeepers involved in the scheme give their time voluntarily, and supporters receive three updates a year with news from their beehives. 

Supporters also receive a welcome box which includes a jar of pure British honey, a Pocket Guide to the Honey Bee, a packet of wildflower seeds and a copy of Hive Talk, the BBKA's award winning newsletter. 

Thanking Andrew Wilson and the staff at Wilson Vale for their support, Margaret Murdin, Chairman of the BBKA, said: 

"Pollination accounts for one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat, and honey bees are the most important pollinators, so having the support from Wilson Vale contract caterers is especially relevant. We thank them sincerely for their support. 

"For many beekeepers this has been a challenging year, with a cold, wet Spring at just the wrong time for the bees. Our honey survey, published at the end of October, will give us a better picture of how it has been across the country and this will be reported back to all our Adopt a Beehive supporters."


09/12/2016 06:48 PM
RESOLVED - Varroa Calculator
This issue has now been resolved. Please contact us if you experience any problems when using the calculator.

06/09/2016 - Please be aware we are currently experiencing an issue with our online Varroa calculator. We apologise for any inconvenience, please bear with us whilst we investigate this issue.

09/09/2015 06:48 PM
Wasp alert.

Many beekeepers will be aware that apiaries across the UK are being plagued by wasps. Inspectors are finding some apiaries where small and weak colonies have already been killed and robbed out and continuing harrassment by the pest is leading to attrition in some of the stronger colonies. This problem is likely to continue through to October and without action, could lead to further colony losses. With the prospective high levels of wasp populations and the possibility of earlier wasp colony collapse, be on your guard and take preventative measures. Generally strong healthy colonies can defend themselves but smaller colonies, nuclei, etc., are at a higher risk of robbing. The presence of varroa mites, especially if mite populations are over the economic treatment threshold, also increases the risk. There are three elements of control that beekeepers can use:

08/20/2015 06:48 PM
National Bee Unit eLearning
The NBU would like to announce that its eLearning programme for beekeepers is now live and ready for use. The first module ‘Honey Bee Pests, Diseases and Viruses’ covers six main topics; Exotic Threats, Foulbrood, Varroa, Adult Bee Diseases and Viruses, Other Brood Disorders and Other Pests. To access this free and exciting platform, you will need to log into BeeBase where you will find an eLearning link to the left hand side of the navigation panel. When clicking on this, you will be re-directed to the eLearning platform where you can access the content. Like all of our material, the aim of the module is to provide you with a good understanding of the issues that might affect colony health. It will be available on most mobile devices and tablets, although you will need to make sure that your web browser is up to date, otherwise you may experience compatibility issues with some of the content.

We would encourage all beekeepers to use this tool to aid their own personal development and as always, would welcome any feedback on the platform.

07/22/2015 06:48 PM
SmartBees Newsletter
For those of you who may be unaware, The National Bee Unit has been collaborating with 15 other working groups across Europe to find new approaches which will help advance the understanding of the complex interactions between the Honey bee (host), its parasitic mite; Varroa, and the pathogen (DWV), with the ultimate aim of breeding Varroa resistant honey bees. The EU is consequently supporting a research project, with the support of Defra Bee Health Policy, over the next four years, within the context of the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) entitled “Sustainable Management of Resilient Bee Populations” or SMARTBEES. This project began on 1st November 2014, and is comprised of 9 work packages (WP), which divide up the research activities, and will cover almost the entire European continent.

This month, the SmartBees project published the first of a series of biannual newsletters which further detail it's progress on the project:

newsletter 1: Gives a short summary of the project and the aims of the different working groups. In addition the writers also describe in more detail, two of the on-going tasks; 1. The new dissemination strategies and extension tools for Bee-keepers needs 2. Training activities for initiating European wide honey bee breeding

06/14/2012 06:48 PM
New publication in Science on Varroa and its influence on honey bee viruses

Researchers in Hawaii and the UK have reported that Varroa destructor, the parasitic mite of honey bees causes a honey bee virus called Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) to become more virulent within colonies, and may be contributing to the world-wide loss of millions of honey bee colonies.

The recent arrival and spread of the mite in Hawaii offered a unique opportunity during 2009 and 2010 to study the evolutionary change in the honey bee viruses. Researchers from Sheffield University, the Marine Biological Association, the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa showed how the Varroa mite caused a massive reduction in the numbers of different strains of DWV, until there was only one extremely virulent strain. The prevalence of this virulent strain increases from around 10% in Varroa free areas up to 100% in areas where Varroa is established.

The Varroa mite facilitates the spread of viruses by acting as a viral reservoir and incubator. It feeds on honey bees and their larvae, feeding on the ‘blood’ [haemolymph] of adult bees and reproducing within the developing brood.  The impact of DWV and honey bee viruses on honey bee colonies is well known.  The mite can spread several different viruses between honey bees and colonies and it is one of the biggest problems faced by today’s beekeepers. The information in the paper clearly shows the importance of monitoring and controlling varroa mite populations in colonies to below damage thresholds.  This has always been the key to successful management of this parasite. For further details please see the FERA National Bee Unit publication Managing Varroa.

Honey bees are very economically important insects, providing over £400million per year in crop pollination services (together with other insect pollinators) and valuable hive products

The publication, "Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite" is published in Science.

06/09/2012 12:59 AM
[News] Statement on new varroa research

See brief statement and comment by Dr David Aston 

and BBC Nature item



04/23/2012 06:48 PM
Vita (Europe) Ltd Assigns Funds to Develop Varroa Research

Vita (Europe) Ltd has assigned funds to progress the Varroa research already carried out by the University of Aberdeen and the National Bee Unit, part of the Food and Environment Research Agency, into ‘knock down’ genes in the parasitic mite.

Vita (Europe) Ltd Press Release

06/08/2011 11:59 PM
[News] Honey Bees on BBC Springwatch 8th June 2011

Supported by the British Beekeepers Association Ron Hoskins has been working to improve resistance to varroa in honey bees by selective queen breeding. The Springwatch programme on 8th June 2011 featured Ron and his work.

For more information please contact our Press Officer.

02/09/2011 06:48 PM
Updated Managing Varroa and Small Hive Beetle Leaflets
Please find below the recently updated Managing Varroa leaflet as well as the new Small Hive Beetle leaflet which has a few small amendments.

Managing Varroa

Small Hive Beetle

01/21/2011 06:48 PM
Varroa Mite Project : Collaboration between The National Bee Unit and Aberdeen University Scientists
The National Bee Unit and Aberdeen University have been collaborating on a potential new way to combat the varroa parasite in bees.

For further information please click on the links below.

Press release

BBC news item

Varroa (RNAi) Q&A

03/28/2010 06:48 PM
Healthy Bee Day
As part of the Healthy Bee Plan initiative, we are holding a free 'Healthy Bee Day'.

Location: Peterborough Regional College, Cambridgeshire, PE1 4DZ
Date: Sunday 28th March 2010.
Time: 09.30 - 16.30

Contents to include:
    * Bee husbandry
    * Apiary hygiene
    * Routine apiary management
    * Pest & Disease recognition and control

A Workshop on Minimising Colony Losses, will include lectures and breakout sessions and will cover Bee Husbandry, Disease Identification, Varroa Management and Hygiene Issues. Practical actions to minimise losses will be discussed.

For more details or to book a place please contact Eastern Regional Bee Inspector Keith Morgan on 01485 520838 and email or Extension and Learning Officer Ian Homer on 01308 482161 and email

08/18/2009 06:48 PM
Online varroa calculator
To use the varroa calculator, click here.

03/17/2009 06:48 PM
Eastern Associations Research Studentship

A new route to PhD funding has been tapped by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) National Bee Unit and beekeepers in Eastern region.

The PhD will be looking at the chemical recognition pathways between the Varroa mite and the honey bee. It will also include work looking at how viruses may affect these pathways and how Varroa may have changed the honey bee virus landscape in the UK.

Dr Giles Budge, research coordinator of the National Bee Unit is a supervisor in the project, adding value to the studentship and helping Dr Stephen Martin at Sheffield with the science. FERA  will be hosting the student to assist with their studies, and in particular with sample collection and molecular characterisation of viruses.

06/23/2008 06:48 PM
Countryfile: Additional information on colony losses and Varroa control
For more information on the causes of colony losses in England and Wales in 2007, click here Colony loss R&D 2007

For more information on how to control Varroa, click here Varroa info

06/14/2008 06:48 PM
Yorkshire Post Article
Follow this link to see a Yorkshire Post article and film about current threats to honey bee colonies including Varroa and Nosema ceranae.

01/31/2008 06:48 PM
Horizon Scanning Project
Horizon Scanning Project Investigation into abnormal colony losses in England and Wales

Honeybees are a vital component of the pollination process of both agricultural and horticultural crops as well as wild flowers and their contribution (Ecosystem services) to maintaining the environment and biodiversity is almost incalculable. Beekeepers across North America and Europe have reported increased, and often sudden losses of honeybee colonies in recent years. The term colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been assigned by US scientists to describe this phenomenon, (Mid Atlantic Apiculture research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC). There are a number of clear signs that are reported to distinguish this disorder from those associated with heavy Varroa infestation. They include the almost complete absence of adult bees with apparently healthy capped brood and stores present in the colony, which are robbed out or consumed by secondary invaders as per the norm. Across Europe Varroa has had the major impact on colony loss but other pathogens, pesticides, bee nutrition, colony management by the beekeeper have also been suggested. In the UK the levels of colony loss have increased since 2001 with the first confirmed cases of Varroa resistance to the highly efficient pyrethroid based medicines used against the mites. As a consequence despite using alternative substances and methods beekeepers are encountering difficulties controlling Varroa and it is still the number one management problem affecting most UK beekeepers.

Under the Department for Environment Rural Affairs (Defra) Horizon Scanning programme (funding designed as the name suggests to investigate phenomena or threats with the potential to arrive in the UK) the CSL National Bee Unit is investigating the causes of the increased colony mortality in England and Wales. So far the NBU has collected over 400 samples from apiaries in England and Wales where significant colony losses have occurred. Samples if available of: adult bees, brood, debris comb wax and debris samples have been collected. These are being screened for a comprehensive range of known pests and pathogens using both molecular methods in the CSL Molecular Technology Unit (MTU) and traditional laboratory diagnostic methods. Samples have also been collected from apparently healthy colonies, which will provide important comparisons. Inspectors have noted colony condition at the time of sampling and have attempted to record details about pest and disease management approaches including Varroa treatments used by the beekeeper. The hive samples will also be screened for a wide range of pesticides and veterinary medicines (N >250) using mass spectrometry. Please get in touch with NBU at York or your NBU Regional Bee Inspector if you are experiencing serious loss of bees in your apiaries. We will provide sampling tubes and instructions. Samples should be sent to the NBU laboratory at York.

This work is not a diagnostic service but a research project and dealing the high level of samples will inevitably take some time. However, as the results from this project come on stream we will endeavour to post summaries on BeeBase so please check the website for details.

CSL National Bee Unit
September 2007

The attached document should be read in conjunction with the above information.
Horizon Scanning Project: Letter to Beekeepers

09/05/2007 06:48 PM
Colony Collapse Disorder
Defra, the Welsh Assembly and the CSL are well aware of the serious colony loss affecting many beekeepers in the USA. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD, previously known as Fall Dwindle Disease and by other names) is of increasing concern in the USA, where reports of the disorder have been made from at least 24 states.

It appears to be affecting commercial migratory beekeepers in particular. Signs of CCD appear to be the total collapse of bee colonies, with a complete absence of bees or only a few remaining in the hive. These are not unlike the signs of colony demise associated with heavy varroa infestation sometimes seen in the UK. Bee scientists in the USA are working to find the cause, but while factors such as poor nutrition, disease levels, stress from long distance transport of colonies for pollination of crops, and antibiotic use all seem common features, no specific cause has yet been isolated. Other factors such as pesticide use and toxins found in some plant pollens are being considered, as well as the feeding of High Fructose Corn Syrup and beekeepers’ ability to detect and identify pest and disease problems.

Because of their vital pollination function, the loss of bees in the USA is raising serious concerns about the impact on agricultural and horticultural production, potentially leading once again to the requirement to import package bees from outside the USA, e.g. from Australia, for the pollination of California almonds.

For more details of the disorder and the results of the investigations as and when they are produced please see the direct link from BeeBase to the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) website and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.

MAAREC Website Link

United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service Link

04/16/2007 06:48 PM
Varroa in Hawaii
Please see the link below for the most recent press release from the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture regarding varroa in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Department of Agriculture Press Release