February 2024 BIBBA Monthly

Introducing a new Trustee

Martina Hendry

Martina Trustee

Martina grew up in the Czech Republic, surrounded by her grandpa’s bees. While her first interest in the craft was eating honey, she now manages 30 colonies as her hobby over the weekends while working full time. Martina is passionate about rearing and using locally adapted bees with characteristics as close to dark A.m.m. as possible.

Martina loves travelling and visiting other beekeepers around the world, developing her knowledge and practical beekeeping skills outside the confines of textbooks. Having worked in the photography business in the past, the Live@theHive filming and chasing Roger Patterson around the apiary with a camera is a welcome challenge.

She has also done most of the filming for the “Let’s go Beekeeping” series. She is currently the Secretary of the Wisborough Green BKA and is involved in teaching at the association apiary, where she is a demonstrator.

Why the bees are also dying: the costs of artificial selection

Webinar: Monday 19th February 2024 at 7:30pm GMT - members need to login to pre-register NOW

Jacques van Alphen is emeritus professor of animal ecology. From 1975 to 2011, he worked at Leiden University as a researcher and lecturer. From 2007 tm 2009, he held an EU Chair of Excellence, teaching behavioural ecology at the University of Rennes in France. He has published widely on the behavioural ecology of parasitoids, their application in biological pest control, and on speciation in tropical fish. Now he is affiliated with the Naturalis biodiversity Centre as correspondent.

After retirement he published a review on the role of (natural) selection in honey bee resistance against Varroa mites. He also published a book (in Dutch) on the evolutionary ecology of honey bees.

Modern techniques of selective bee breeding have high potential to improve economically important traits of honey bees. However, this breeding neglects fundamental rules of natural selection. This review explains how resistance alleles have become rare or have disappeared from artificially selected honey bee populations in Europe (and probably also in North America).
Honeybees have the highest recombination frequency of all animals, indicating that pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and microsporidia are an important source of selection. To respond to new virulent strains of pathogens, honeybees need to have access to rare alleles that could foster immunity against a new pathogen.


By mating in a large panmictic population, new rare alleles can be recruited, and combined into new genotypes through recombination with useful alleles of other genes.
Selection for desirable traits typically involves taking a small sample from a larger population. As a result, rare alleles are under sampled and disappear from the selected population with continued artificial selection. In addition, selection for polygenic behavioural traits may result in runs of homozygosity and hampers the role of recombination in the creation of new genotypes. Restoring large panmictic populations of native subspecies of honeybees can provide a reservoir from which lost alleles can be recovered.

Increasing your Chances of Getting Through the First Five Years of Beekeeping

Webinar: Monday 4th March 2024 at 7:30pm GMT - members login to pre-register

Karl Colyer has kept bees since 2003. As well as building his own hives, he raises his own queens using locally adapted bees that are known to be hardy, gentle and productive.

A simple summary of the top-level objectives over the first years as the colony increases in size and age and the beekeeper deals with the challenges and opportunities that being a beekeeper presents over that time-frame.

Beowulf - My Mentor & Friend - Part 2

By David Buckley

Screenshot 2024-01-28 111218


Now I had bees of my own and each day during the summer I went to watch what was happening at the hive entrance. Waiting, for lunch time breaks, seemed an endless marathon as the minutes ticked by so that I could get out of the classroom. On one of these, at the hive entrance visits during morning break time, I was privileged to witness my first swarm emerging. It was mesmerising! As the bees tumbled out of the hive the queen, marked blue, appeared on the flight board. She took off and disappeared into the cloud of excited happy bees. I watched. I didn’t have my veil with me as it had to be kept hidden in case it was found and I would then have to explain to the house master why I had a veil in the first place! Bees are fortunately quite placid when swarming and these bees were Beo’s docile dark bees that I was already handling without gloves when inspecting them. Clearly my novice year exposed my lack of experience as the bees swarmed even though I had checked them only five days previously. Of course, we all make mistakes and even now, after fifty-five years of bee keeping, I still make errors. However, the bees are very forgiving, as long as they have eggs, at the right time of the year, they will even replace a lost queen.

The swarm settled in a dog-rose bush but unfortunately, I had to return to class as break was only twenty minutes. Never has a physics lesson dragged so much! As soon as the lesson finished the swarm was my priority. Grabbing a cardboard box from the bins area, I went to the bees. Brilliant! They were still there, tightly clustered in the thorny bush. The swarm was knocked into the box and placed under the bush until evening when I would hive it. Thank goodness for the stashed hives rescued from the fire! The next job was to inspect the brood chamber for queen cells. On checking five cells were found so a nucleus of three frames with a cell on one frame was created. The other cells were reduced to one to avoid the risk of a caste leaving when the first cell emerged in about a week’s time. The selected cell had a large well fed larva swimming in royal jelly due to be capped so I could calculate eight days to emergence. However, this cell never hatched as I’ll explain shortly. That evening I hived the swarm by the traditional method and watched as the bees marched up the slope to investigate their potential new home. The new site was approximately six feet away from the original hive and facing at ninety degrees away from the original hive’s position. The thinking was that the swarm would quickly re-orientate to the new position. The nucleus was blocked in with grass so that flying bees would not immediately return to their original home.

Screenshot beowulf

The following day I went to check my growing apiary. I was beginning to run out of frames and foundation and the problem was that all parcels arriving at boarding school were checked for possible contraband before being given to their recipients. We had no half term, so I needed to be inventive! The local farmer who had asked me one day to help him to pull his lorry out of a muddy field became my ally and my illegal route for bee equipment. The lorry incident was a first for me too as I was required to drive his tractor towing the lorry while he drove the heavy goods vehicle. I was new to driving anything! The farmer set me up on the tractor in first gear while I held down the clutch ready to snatch the truck out. It worked! Bob became a lifelong friend and at school he would allow me to use his address as a post-delivery station and he would drop off the parcels from Taylors of Welwyn at the hives when they arrived. The things beekeepers do to pursue their amazing hobby.


Now there were three colonies, or so I thought! Bees were flying from the newly hived swarm, and from their original hive. The nucleus hadn’t removed their temporary hive block, so I felt quite confident that I had followed Wedmore’s instructions accurately. Then the rain came. It rained for two days but then summer returned. Bees were not my only fascination with the natural world. In the apiary, I mentioned how the area had been reclaimed by nature when the site had been deserted many years previously. As the roses and naturally occurring flora and fauna re-established itself, I pursued another enthusiasm. I learned how to bud roses and the previous year I had grafted cultivars from the school grounds onto some of the dogrose (rosa canina) stems. These buds were now flowering on the root stocks. It was very exciting to see a large, lettuce sized purple, Wendy Cussons blooming on a dogrose stem growing in the wild. The cuckoos were back and seemed to call from dawn to dusk with the most beautiful dawn chorus amalgamating numerous individual songbirds’ contributions. This was in the early 1960s.

The next day was a disappointment as there were no bees flying from the swarmed hive. I retrieved my veil and went to check what was happening. There were no bees in the hive! Some foundation had been drawn but very little. The swarm had de-camped! I was devastated needless to say. Reluctantly I went back to class but couldn’t concentrate! It was a Latin lesson to make matters worse. Three days later it was time to inspect the original hive to see if the queen cell had hatched. Having lost my blue queen with the swarm I was filled with trepidation in case the cell was still capped. If it was then there would be a dead larva inside. Hopefully the nucleus would also have a new queen! Beo had taught me not to systematically smoke hives routinely as much of the behaviour of the bees might be altered due to the smoke. However, he always recommended having the smoker lit just in case. As I started my inspection, the hive seemed very calm with many newly hatched fluffy worker bees. There seemed to be a lot of bees with lots of foraging activity. Each frame of capped brood is equal to three frames of hatched bees. Eventually the frame with a drawing pin on the top bar was lifted out and disaster!

 The cell had a hole chewed halfway up and a dead larva inside. Thinking I must have missed another queen-cell I continued to look through the remaining frames. On the very last frame, to my utter surprise was my blue marked queen! When she de-camped with the swarm she must have returned to her original site and killed the daughter queen in its cell. Why had this happened? Needless to say, a letter to Beowulf was dispatched immediately. A quick response by return post in a dotty recycled envelop arrived with a few ideas but profoundly philosophical as always.  In the nineteen sixties a quick response was anything inside a week. Snail mail, as it became known with the advent of text messaging! You never know what the bees are thinking and for the first, time in my infancy of beekeeping, I realized what was meant by, ‘the bees don’t read the books’. One thought that came to mind was by taking out the nucleus pressure in the hive was reduced and when the swarm decamped it found the change of conditions in the original hive attracted the swarm to return. There have been occasions throughout my life with bees when swarms have returned to the parent hive, so it is not a unique happening although rare.

The next time I went to the apiary was to check the nucleus for eggs. I was hoping to find my very first new queen. Smoker and hive tool in hand, coupled with excitement and some anticipation the nucleus was opened. Frame one had eggs and two had capped brood. How exciting! Where was the queen? I was so excited but I could not find the queen. Three times I checked the frames but still failed to see her. A novice’s mistake though explained why she was elusive. I did not check the final frame as it was foundation and naively did not expect her to be there. Of course, she was. A beautiful dark bee which became a mother to next year’s queens thanks to Beo’s guidance.

To be continued…

Beekeeping on the edge of Snowdonia

By Clive & Shân Hudson

Clive & Shan Hudson

Our first bees were a five frame nucleus obtained on 14th July 1985. We had bees before we had children and we’ve loved having them ever since – and the children! We are Clive and Shân Hudson and we live on the edge of Snowdonia, North Wales. We write in the plural because we do our beekeeping together and this writing will be checked and double checked by Shân. Reading and listening to the experiences of other beekeepers is something we enjoy, is always interesting, and over the last few years we have shared our own experience with articles in the Welsh Beekeeper and BBKA News. Our writing has mainly centred on the two themes of treatment-free beekeeping and the importance of locally adapted bees. We have been asked to write some notes for BIBBA Monthly and our experience of these are likely to be the main themes of discussion.

By way of background we describe ourselves as fairly traditional beekeepers. Over many years we have been very keen on the Modified Commercial hive with its larger capacity and brood box with 16”x 10” frames. We made all our own boxes originally and that included the 6” deep Commercial supers. Our first nucleus was on National frames, however, and we have always kept some colonies in National boxes. As much as we, and the bees, liked the bigger boxes our muscles are not as strong as they once were and we have gradually moved to using all National equipment – which we have found is absolutely fine. Your content here

All our boxes have a top bee space. We decided quite early in our beekeeping that a top bee space had distinct advantages over a bottom bee space. National boxes come with a bottom bee space and we amend this to top space by adding an 8mm strip around the top edge of the box or by simply dispensing with the metal runners (no plastic runners, thank you!). We don’t find a lack of runners a problem; the frame lugs may stick a little, but this not a problem, and cleaning a square rebate, free of a runner, is easy. A number of our Association members are experimenting with no queen excluder, but we do use one. We only use framed wire excluders which are essential with a top bee space.

Our approach to management is to leave the bees alone as much as possible. We do, however, do swarm control by splitting colonies when we see serious queen cells. By ‘serious’ we mean well formed queen cells loaded with queen substance and larvae; small ‘play cells’, even containing an egg, will be noted (for further inspection) but not acted upon. Our main way of splitting a colony is with the traditional Pagden method. Having said that, however, we vary how we deal with colonies that have made queen cells in lots of different ways, and these can be described and discussed in more detail in future Monthly notes.

More information about our beekeeping can be found here https://beemonitor.org/

David Allen – an appreciation

1938-2023

David Allen was born 14th March, 1938 in Darnall, Sheffield,   He attended Firth Park Grammar School, Sheffield.   After ‘O’ levels in 1954, aged 16, he went to work for Longdens of Sheffield, building contractors, where his father was contracts manager, ending up as a quantity surveyor.   Over the years, he continued as a surveyor for several companies, became a director of one & eventually started his own business.   In 1991, he sold the business and found that Home Visit Will Writing was less stressful!

He married Shelagh Isabel Walker in 1963 and had two children, John Duncan & Lesley Diane.


He started beekeeping in 1965 and met Beowulf Cooper & Terry Theaker (both attended the inaugural meeting of VBBA, later named BIBBA) and became involved with the Theaker Memorial Apiary.   At one time, he managed 30-40 colonies.   He was a member of BIBBA and served on the committee as secretary for several years,

He was a member of Doncaster BKA. Apart from his beekeeping activities, he had a tenor voice & sang in the church choir, South Yorkshire Police Male Voice Choir and local operatic associations.   He was an active gardener and photographer.   In his own words, he was a frustrated computer user and definitely not a sportsman!

Brian P. Dennis.
December, 2023.

Native Irish Honey Bee Society Conference

The 2024 Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) conference will be held at Athlone Springs Hotel, Monksland, Athlone Co. Westmeath, Ireland. Friday 1st March until Saturday 2nd March 2024.

The programme is below and includes some good topics from good knowledgeable speakers.

Dublin airport has the most flights. There is a bus to Athlone, although some who are attending have decided to hire a car. The hotel is rather expensive if booked through agents, but is considerably cheaper if you book direct and mention you are attending the NIHBS conference.

There are some very good practical beekeepers in Ireland and this event gives BIBBA members a chance to speak to them.

NIHBS 2024 Conference Flyer 250124 (003)