Bee Improvement
and Conservation
Summer 2014 • Issue Number 44 • £5.00

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BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 1
From the Chair – Kevin Lincoln 2
BIFA Days – Roger Patterson 3
Moonlight Mating – Philip Denwood 4
Pure Mating by Time Isolation – John E Dews 4
Ownership of a Swarm – Brian Dennis 7
Annual General Meeting Agenda – Secretary 8
Harper Adams map 9
Annual Accounts – Treasurer 10
Trustees Report – Chairman 13
Draft Minutes – Secretary 14
BIFA meeting in Sussex – James Norfolk 16
Book Review – Philip Denwood 18
Patron Saints – Brian Dennis 19
Conference Speakers List – Roger Pattison 19
Edi torial
BIBBA began as the VBBA – “Village Bee Breeders’ Association”
– in 1964, the term “Village” intending to convey
the small-colony characteristic of “Village Bees’, a term
coined by Beowulf Cooper, but which never caught on.
We now talk of “Native Bees”, “Dark European Honeybees”
or Apis mellifera mellifera. Through two name
changes – “British Isles Bee Breeders’ Association” and
“Bee Imrovement and Bee Breeders’ Association” (with
the same acronym), the Group has now survived for 50
years, and has kept the cause of the native bees of the
British Isles alive.
Half a century ago it was accepted wisdom that the native
bees of Britain and Ireland had been wiped out by
acarine disease – a claim still often made. Beowulf
Cooper, however, had talked to many beekeepers whose
bees had come unchanged through this alleged epidemic.
More recently the acarine theory was scientifically
debunked by Leslie Bailey, while morphometric
studies and later DNA analyses, in which BIBBA members
have played an important part, have demonstrated the
survival of these native strains. The task is now to continue
conserving and propagating these bees. The “Bee
Improvement for All” days, reported on in this issue, are
already having a significant influence on general awareness
of these matters.
This issue also contains important business information
on our 50th AGM as well as further news of the forthcoming
50th anniversary Conference.
Philip Denwood
Bee Improvement and Conservation
The Journal of the Bee Improvement and Bee
Breeders’ Association (BIBBA), founded in 1964
for the conservation, restoration, study, selection
and improvement of native and near-native
honey bees of Britain and Ireland.
President: Brian Dennis,
*protected email*
Chairman: Kevin Lincoln
*protected email*
Treasurer: Iain Harley
*protected email*
Secretary: Roger Cullum-Kenyon
*protected email*
Membership Secretary: Iain Harley
details as above
Editor: Philip Denwood
*protected email*
Copyright: ©BIBBA August 2014
The copyright of all material in this edition of
BIM remains with the Authors, or BIBBA, and
may not be reproduced, by any means what
so ever, without the copyright holders written
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illustrations are always welcome, but BIBBA
assumes no responsibility for the safety of contributions,
although all reasonable care will be
taken, they are accepted at the risk of authors.
If the images are irreplaceable then the author
should submit duplicates.
The Editorial Committee reserves the right to
refuse to publish any article or advertisement
and takes no responsibility for any goods
advertised in this issue.
Readers should note that statements made by
contributors are not be necessarily representative
of those of the Editor or BIBBA Trustees.
All enquiries about articles in this issue should
be addressed to the Editor.
Copy dates:
Advertising and Submissions:
Please contact the Editor for submissions and
advertising copy dates.
BIM is produced irregularly by the Editorial
Committee of the Bee Improvement and Bee
Breeders’ Association.
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Website: www.bibba.com
Printed by: Cambrian Printers Ltd.
Produced using FSC paper and printed with
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Design and Artwork: Roger Cullum-Kenyon
Front Cover: Jo Widdicombe
Back Cover:
All other images are by the authors of their respective articles unless
otherwise indicated. Please respect all IP and copyright material.
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2 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
Many of the groups and members
will by now have raised their first
batch of Queens and should be
thinking of backing these up with another
run. If the first batch of queens
do not reach expectations then you
may find the second run from a different
queen may be better mated
and have more suitable characteristics.
Remember improvement, do not
put up with inferior characteristics.
The weather has been very kind this
year both rearing and mattings are
working out well.
Bee Improvement should always be
at the forefront when deciding which
stock to breed from. We have to
move forward each time we raise
queens and increase the genes we
want to save. When the conditions
are right like this year make the
most of it. The satisfaction of handling
calm well-tempered bees in an
apiary cannot be excelled.
Looking at the numbers of new bee
keepers wanting to raise queens
then Bibba Bee Improvement days
run by Roger Patterson have really
enthused a lot of new people to raise
queens. The Improvement days will
be continued throughout the winter
if you require a day in your area then
please get in touch with Roger or
your local group.
Coloss through IBRA have now reported
that locally adapted native
honeybees will perform consistently
better than imported exotic strains.
We should be hearing a lot more
about this subject in the near future.
Further information from
We have also heard from Her Majesty
The Queen in a newspaper report
that The Duchy Of Lancaster would
be running a scheme to provide
money to tenants and tenant farmers
who start keeping bees on Duchy
land. As reported “Beekeepers will be
encouraged to keep the British native
dark bee, or black bee, which is
more resistant to British weather.”
This was reported in the Mail Online.
By Valerie Elliott. 1st June 2014
Cash will be provided to buy equipment,
bees, protective gear and education.
This provides a great
opportunity to Bibba groups to help
in this area. The Duchy of Lancaster
consists of 46,000 acres in Lancashire,
Cheshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire
and Lincolnshire.
Kevin Lincoln
Bee Improvement should always be
at the forefront when deciding which
stock to breed from.
From the Chairman
Anniversary Conference
If you haven’t booked for this
unmissable event then may we
suggest you get your skates on
as spaces are filling fast.
Booking and registration is easy
using the special weblink from
Google – http://goo.gl/uCBLf8
The full programme is now available
on-line at – www.bibba.com/
TEL: 01978 790279
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The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders
Association (BIBBA) will be repeating
their highly successful “Bee
Improvement for All” days during the
winter of 2014/15. Last winter there
were 11 events held in venues over a
wide geographical area, with excellent
feedback from attendees.
The purpose of the events is to help
and encourage beekeepers of all
abilities to improve their bees, using
simple techniques that don’t necessarily
use anything other than standard
equipment that all beekeepers
are likely to have.
Colony aggression is a problem that
can be easily reduced, with beekeepers
often not knowing how docile
some bees can be. Beekeepers with
a small number of hives don’t usually
have the opportunity to see many
other colonies, so it is difficult for
them to compare their own bees with
those of other beekeepers. Some
suggestions on how to achieve this
are given.
A COLOSS study has recently been
conducted where local strains of
bees were compared to “foreign”
strains at 21 locations in 11 countries
in Europe. In each case the
local strain consistently performed
better than “foreign” strains.
Rather than use imported queens,
attendees are encouraged to raise
queens from colonies that are suited
to their locality, utilising some of the
opportunities presented to them by
their bees during the summer, using
methods that are little more than
what they are probably already
BIBBA work with local BKAs to stage
these events, with no cost to the
local BKA. We are seeking BKAs who
are keen to help their members improve
their bees, so if you would like
a “Bee Improvement for All” day in
your area you can find details on
Please feel free to contact BIBBA Conference
and Workshop Secretary
*protected email*
01403 790 637 to discuss further.
Locations and Dates that are already
booked for 2014/15 are:
Sunday 12th October 2014 at
Newtown, Powys. In conjunction
with Montgomeryshire BKA
Further details when available.
Sunday 9th November 2014 at
Wendover, Bucks. In conjunction
with Bucks County BKA.
Cost: £10 adult, £8 under 18s who
must be accompanied by a fee paying
adult. Refreshments included.
Bring your own lunch.
Venue: Wendover Memorial Hall,
Wharf Road, Wendover, Bucks.
HP22 6HF.
Bookings: Helen Cave, 16 Highmoor,
Amersham, Bucks. HP7 9BU. Email
*protected email*
Enquiries: Helen Cave as above.
Sunday 16th November 2014 at
Solihull, Warwickshire. In conjunction
with Warwickshire BKA
Cost: £15 adult, £7.50 under 16s
who must be accompanied by a fee
paying adult. Refreshments included.
Bring your own lunch.
Venue: Solihull School, Warwick
Road, Solihull. B91 3DJ.
Bookings: Noel Parker.
Email *protected email*
Enquiries: Noel Parker as above.
Email *protected email* or
Celia Davis. Email celia.davis1@
Saturday 22nd November 2014 at
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. In
conjunction with Pembrokeshire BKA
Cost: TBA
Venue: Picton Community Centre,
Freeman’s Way, Haverfordwest.
SA61 1UG.
Saturday 31st January 2015 at
Cobham, Surrey. In conjunction with
Surrey BKA
Cost: £18 adult, £14 under 18s who
must be accompanied by a fee paying
adult. Refreshments and lunch
Venue: Cobham Village Hall,
Lushington Drive, Cobham, Surrey,
KT11 2LU.
Bookings: Mrs Sandra Rickwood, 19
Kenwood Drive, Walton-on-Thames,
Surrey. KT12 5AU.
Email *protected email*
Enquiries: Mrs S Rickwood as above.
Saturday7th February 2015 at
Stroud, Gloucestershire. In conjunction
with Stroud BKA
Cost: £15 adult, £10 under 18s who
must be accompanied by a fee paying
adult. Refreshments and lunch
Venue: St Dominic’s Catholic Primary
School, St Mary’s Hill, Inchbrook,
Stroud, GL5 5HP.
Bookings: John Willoughby. Email
*protected email*
Enquiries: John Willoughby as above.
Saturday 21st March 2015 at
Yeovil, Somerset. In conjunction
with Yeovil BKA
Venue: Odcombe Village Hall, Higher
Odcombe, Yeovil, Somerset,
BA22 8XP.
Further details when available.
If you would like to register an interest
at any event before details are
displayed please email BIBBA Conference
and Workshop Secretary Roger
Patterson – conference
*protected email*
Roger Patterson
BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 3
Bee Improvement for All
The purpose of these events is to help and encourage
beekeepers of all abilities to improve their bees.
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4 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
To the Editor,
I am writing to you in the hope you
may consider my letter to be published
in order that it may provoke
some debate and ultimately action in
a positive manner towards achieving
the aims of BIBBA.
I attended the recent BIBBA AGM and
listened to questions and answers
raised during the meeting. During
this period there was debate regarding
wether to increase the member
fees to £25. The discussion continued
and included; what do members
get for their money?; how can we attract
new members?; how do we
keep existing members? And other
things, eventually the membership
voted to keep the yearly fees the
However, on reflection I believe we
completely missed what was important
and that is “How do we intend to
achieve the mission statement of
BIBBA?” And by demonstrating that
we are achieving our aims then attracting
new members and keeping
existing members would be a formality
irrespective of whether the fees
were £20 or £25.
In answer to the question “How are
we achieving the aim of BIBBA?” I
speak to other members and listen
to discussion and conclude that the
strategy is to encourage local groups
to work together. Well, I have seen
little evidence that this strategy is
working and often meet beekeepers
who shake their heads and say “it is
never achievable”. If there is no evidence
that this strategy is working
then continuing the logic you inevitably
arrive at the conclusion that
BIBBA does not have a future.
I am certain that we, the members of
BIBBA, have to debate, swap ideas
and eventually agree on a progressive
and demonstrable central strategy
to achieve our aim.
I recall a paper put forward by Albert
Knight which made some suggestions
on how a strategy maybe
implemented and it is this kind of
thinking that I am suggesting we
require. A plan put together so that
we can have specific, measurable
targets that show we our winning the
My own blueprint framework would
require some fundamentals as
 Understand your base data – that
each member of BIBBA to put in a
central record the quality/purity
of their bees.
 This data along with Project Discovery
Data cold be analyzed and
high quality stock be sourced
 A suitably isolated mating site be
agreed upon and from the members
stock 40 to 50 hives placed
 All members then sign up to the
3 or 4 year plan to use the
queens from the BIBBA central
mating site
 The queens are sent out to the
groups for distribution to achieve
drone proliferation in ever increasing
 Further selective breeding in the
local groups once quality is
I encourage other members to continue
this debate and “trash” my
blueprint if necessary as long as we
develop a workable, achievable strategy
that demonstrates year on year
that we are winning the battle.
Mark McVey
It was a surprise victory, to say the
least. All the smart money had been
on the eventual losers. Only a reckless
few backed the team that ultimately
So there was consternation at the
finishing line, that day in 1888. An
eager crowd had craned their necks
to see the first of the competitors
head for home, but instead of the
pigeon everyone expected to be out
in front, the field was led by a bee.
The race with a strong claim to the
title of the most outlandish match in
the history of sport reportedly happened
in the village of Hamme, in
Westphalia, Germany.
A pigeon-fancier and a beekeeper
had somehow talked themselves into
staging a cross-species showdown to
answer the question precisely no-one
else was troubled by – which creature
was the fastest.
The question they actually seem to
have settled was which creature was
the least likely to be distracted along
the way. The first bee came in 25
seconds before the first bird and
three other bees before the second.
At that point, the race officials appear
to have grown weary of their
record-keeping, and the rest of the
results went unlogged.
A resounding triumph for insectkind,
then. And perhaps the bees would
have done better still, if they hadn’t
been rolled in flour before the start
of the three-and-a-half mile race.
“It was very difficult to identify
them,” explained the London Daily
News, “and though rolling them in
flour before they started on their
course made them easily recognisable
on their arrival, it must have
somewhat retarded their flight.”
Jeremy Clay
Letters to the Editor
I attended the recent BIBBA AGM
and listened to questions and
answers raised during the meeting
Bee v pigeon
From the BBC News,
Monday 4th August
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In January 2014 BIPCo (The Bee Improvement
Programme for Cornwall)
held its 3rd Annual Bee Improvement
Day. All three annual events have
been stimulating days, inspiring and
encouraging beekeepers to set about
selecting and improving their bees.
At the most recent event Robert
Jones, bee farmer and champion of
the native bee, came to talk to us
about his methods of improving and
breeding the honey bee. The farming
background to the methods used
was obvious, and the use of ‘stockmanship’
with bees as with any other
livestock was a revelation.
Stockmanship in farm animals involves
the management of breeding
stock to produce the qualities that
we are looking for. In sheep, for example,
one would look for a ram
with a certain quality that may be
missing or weak in the flock. By
crossing with this ram, this particular
quality can be introduced and then
selected for in the sheep produced in
the next generation.
Most of us thought that bees were
different as we have resigned ourselves
to having less than perfect
control over the male line, unlike in
farm animals where the breeding
male is of such importance. In January
we were told that the emphasis
on improving our bees should be on
the drone. It is easy to focus almost
entirely on the selection and rearing
of queens but until we appreciate the
important role of the drone, and how
to manage it, our progress will be
An explanation of how we can manage
our drones and achieve the matings
we require was given but, as in
any lecture, there is a difference between
explanation and actually seeing
and understanding it for
ourselves. The obvious answer was
for use to take a trip up (or down) to
Pembrokeshire and see for ourselves
how things work, and also to see the
results that were being achieved. We
were kindly invited to visit for a
A date in July was settled on and
seven of us made the journey in two
vehicles. The whole weekend was
made extremely pleasant by the hospitality
shown to us and by a series
of visits to some of the best eating
houses in the County. However we
were here to see the bees and perhaps
more importantly to see how
the system worked and what was
being achieved. As in the lecture in
Cornwall, the whole emphasis was
on the drones and how to get the
queens mated with the right drones.
We were taken to various viewpoints
to study the topography and to be
given an explanation of how,
through the use of microclimates,
matings will take place with the selected
drones in the area.
The general principle is that a site is
selected within woodland in a steep
valley and where high winds are
common above the shelter of the valley.
A clearing in the valley together
with the height of the trees provides
a flying area for the queens and
drones like a 50 foot high funnel.
The queen’s mating flights take
place within this area and excellent
control of the drone line is achieved.
The principle seems to be quite different
to that of the drone congregation
areas which we are told form in
spells of warm settled weather, presumably
this makes use of ‘apiary
vicinity mating’, something not
recognised on the Continent.
The qualities of the bees are maintained
and improved by the use of
different apiaries specialising in different
characteristics. For example
one apiary may be dedicated to ‘nonswarming’
bees, another to ‘docility’
and so on.
BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 5
A BIPCo Visit to Pembrokeshire
A date in July was settled on and seven of us
made the journey in two vehicles.
Studying the topography
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There was even one apiary with
slightly more defensive bees as this
may be a useful quality (as bees do
need to defend themselves at times).
By having one main quality to maintain
and refine, results become much
more achievable. Each line is maintained
separately but is also used to
cross with other lines to strengthen a
particular characteristic within the
bees. So the resources are there to
develop a balanced bee which will
perform to a high standard.
So, what were the bees like? It has to
be said that we were all very impressed
with their qualities, docile,
low-swarming and very productive –
and the queens maintained productive
colonies for 4 or 5 years. It was
a tremendous advert for the native
bee and what could be achieved.
One was left wondering why anyone
would advocate the importation of
Overall, it was a real eye-opener. I
feel as though I have got to grips
with the basics of bee improvement
but this showed me that we can take
things to another level and actually
carry out ‘bee breeding’ with our
bees, as with farm animals, and without
any high-tech methods.
Jo Widdicombe
CCD is a mysterious loss of most or
all worker bees from the hive of the
European honey bee (Apis mellifera),
where only a small number of young
workers and the queen remain, and,
even more baffling, the ample food
supplies left behind are not raided
by pests for several weeks after the
The first evidence for such disappearances
goes back centuries.
In Ireland, there was a ‘great mortality
of bees’ in 950, entomologist Joe
Ballenger notes, ‘and again in 992
and 1443’[2].
In 1853, Lorenzo Langstroth, the
father of American beekeeping, described
colonies that were found ‘to
be utterly deserted. The comb was
empty, and the only symptom of life
was the poor queen herself.’[3]
In 1868, an anonymous reporter told
of abandoned hives with lots of
honey still in them.
In 1891 and 1896, many bees vanished
or dwindled to tiny clusters
with queens in the month of May,
hence the name: ‘May Disease.’[4]
In 1903 an outbreak occurred in the
Cache Valley in Utah.[5]
The Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom
saw three epidemics between
1905 and 1919, 90% of the honey
bee colonies there died.[6]
In 1918 and 1919 there were occurrences
in the United States.[7]
There were more mysterious bee
disappearances in the 1960s in California,
Louisiana, and Texas.
Another in 1975 in Australia,
Mexico, and 27 U.S. states.[8]
6 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
White combs of native bees
Native bees
Pesticide Debate
What do the years
of 992, 1443, 1853,
and 1903 have in
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BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 7 

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BIM 44 Proof 1_Layout 1 30/07/2015 13:42 Page 9
In 1995, Pennsylvania beekeepers
lost 53% of their colonies.[9]
The term ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’
was coined and defined around
2007. And what brought it into the
news again?
It seems Chensheng (Alex) Lu, an
associate professor of environmental
exposure biology at the Harvard
School of Public Health, says he
knows what causes CCD. In a May
9th [10] news release he announced
‘that neonicotinoids are highly likely
to be responsible for triggering CCD
in honey bee hives that were healthy
prior to the arrival of winter.’ Neonicotinoids,
such as Imidacloprid and
Clothianidin, are insecticides that are
commonly used to coat seeds and
then taken up by the plant where it
helps the plant guard against insect
attack. The first commercially available
neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, was
first widely used in the United States
in 1994. [11]
A very long time after the ‘great mortality
of bees’ in the 10th century.
Harvard’s media release goes on to
say, ‘Experts have considered a number
of possible causes, including
pathogen infestation, beekeeping
practices, and pesticide exposure.
Recent findings, including a 2012
study by Lu and colleagues, suggest
that CCD is related specifically to
neonicotinoids, which may impair
bees’ neurological functions.'[12]
That is Lu thinks these types of pesticides
might be hurting the honey
bee’s nervous system, which includes
its brain, which in turn may
impair the ability to return to the
hive or cause the bee to self-exile.
Moving along; what do the experts
say? As you might imagine, they
have many nuanced arguments.
First, what Lu and his team produced
wasn’t CCD. Well that seems a little
picky. It’s a big deal if you say you
reproduced CCD and didn’t. Scientists
point out that the condition of
the hives that Lu and his team produced
doesn’t match the definition
laid out by the USDA in 2007. You
can’t say you reproduced it, if it
doesn’t look like it. If it doesn’t
quack like a duck, it’s not a duck.
Second, the sample sizes were too
small. They used only eighteen
hives: six controls and two groups of
six given two different neonicotinoid
formulations. So if they had reproduced
CCD symptoms in this case,
the experiment would need a larger
sampling to be statistically relevant.
Most experts suspect CCD results
from a number of factors that stress
the colony. According to the literature,
CCD is ‘strongly associated
with hives that have been under
stress from any of a number of
known stressors….These include
mites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa,
and [yes] insecticides.’ [13]
So it is probably safe to say CCD was
here before neonicotinoids, and it
will be here after. So what is to be
As they say, ‘more research is
Until then people might consider
what Randy Oliver of ScientificBeekeeping.
com wrote, ‘As a beekeeper
who makes his living from having
healthy colonies of bees, I am
acutely interested in the causes of
colony morbidity and mortality.’
‘Without a doubt, pesticides can
cause colony morbidity or mortality…
The neonicotinoid class of insecticides
are no exception, and I’ve
detailed problems associated with
them…Although I initially suspected
that neonicotinoids may have been a
likely cause of Colony Collapse, my
extensive research does not support
that hypothesis.’
I asked Oliver about organic beekeepers,
since neonicotinoids aren’t
allowed in organic crops. In an email,
he told me, ‘During the original CCD
investigations around 2007, organic
beekeepers got hit just as hard as
others. In fact, the queen of organic
beekeepers called me as the hives in
her operation were crashing.’ He describes
his operation as largely organic,
‘other than that I move my
hives to almonds for a month each
year. I tend to have relatively low
losses…However, I know of many
beekeepers who use conventional
treatments and run their bees in conventional
agriculture who also have a
low loss rate….In general, those who
keep varroa [mites] in check and
maintain good nutrition have healthy
I guess that while neonicotinoid pesticides
may be a problem, banning
them won’t stop Colony Collapse
As H. L. Mencken said, ‘For every
complex problem there is an answer
that is clear, simple, and wrong.’
This article is kindly reproduced
from Science 2.0 of June 2014 and
written by Norman Benson
[1] Source: Underwood, Robyn M.
and Dennis vanEngelsdorp. Colony
Collapse Disorder: Have We Seen
This Before?
[2] Ballenger, Joe. Colony Collapse
Disorder: An Introduction
accessed 18 May 2014
Oldroyd BP (2007) What’s Killing
American Honey Bees? PLoS Biol 5(6):
[3] Nordhaus, Hannah An Environmental
Journalist’s Lament
2011. Accessed March 30,
[4] Underwood, Robyn M. and Dennis
vanEngelsdorp. Colony Collapse Disorder:
Have We Seen This Before?
[5] Ballenger, Joe. Colony Collapse
Disorder: An Introduction
accessed 18 May 2014
Oldroyd BP (2007) What’s Killing
American Honey Bees? PLoS Biol 5(6):
[6] Underwood, Robyn M. and Dennis
vanEngelsdorp. Colony Collapse Disorder:
Have We Seen This Before?
8 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
BIM 44 Proof 1_Layout 1 30/07/2015 13:42 Page 10
[7] Oldroyd BP (2007) What’s Killing
American Honey Bees? PLoS Biol 5(6):
[8] Nordhaus, Hannah An Environmental
Journalist’s Lament
2011. Accessed March 30,
[9] Ballenger, Joe. Colony Collapse
Disorder: An Introduction
accessed 18 May 2014
[10] Dwyer, Marge. Study strengthens
link between neonicotinoids and
collapse of honey bee colonies

News Home

b… 2014. accessed May 18,
[11] Staveley, Jane P., Sheryl A. Law,
Anne Fairbrother, and Charles A.
Menzie. A Causal Analysis of Observed
Declines in Managed Honey
Bees (Apis mellifera). Human and
Ecological Risk Assessment, 20:
566–591, 2014 p583
[12] Dwyer, Marge. Study strengthens
link between neonicotinoids and
collapse of honey bee colonies

News Home

b… 2014. Accessed May 18,
[13] Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder:
A Literature Review
Accessed 16 May 2104
[14] Email correspondence with
Randy Oliver. 16 May 2014.
Every beekeeper can raise queens
and they probably do so every year
without giving much thought to the
When bees swarm they always make
provisions for a new queen by producing
several queen cells.
When we make an artificial swarm we
are creating the same situation and
the bees respond by producing
queen cells.
If we make a nucleus from a strong
colony, provided we include eggs or
young larvae the bees produce a new
So raising queens is not beyond the
scope of any beekeeper. Given the
right conditions the bees will do the
The method I use will produce any
number of queens and give you control
over the timing of their emergence
and the breeding stock you
Equipment required
1 Queen right production colony, 1
spare brood chamber, 2 multi-frame
dummies to fill the space in the second
brood chamber, leaving room
for five frames, 1 spare queen excluder
and 4 frames of drawn comb
or foundation.
The larvae can either be collected via
a Jenter frame or by grafting.
The benefit with the Jenter system
you know +or- a few hours when the
eggs are laid. With grafting it is
guesswork and if the grafted larvae
are too old it may not be accepted or
if it is will be superseded within a
few weeks.
How the system works
Day 0 put breeder queen into Jenter
frame in centre of brood box A.
After 24hrs release queen from
Day 4 put 2 frames of pollen and
food, 2 frames of sealed and un-
BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 9
Queen Raising for the
Amateur Beekeeper
! 3#&2%&8!4)9%2!
7,C!H! 7,C!H!
7,C!7! 7,C!7!
Raising queens is not
beyond the scope of
any beekeeper
BIM 44 Proof 1_Layout 1 30/07/2015 13:42 Page 11
sealed brood, 1 frame of drawn
comb and the queen into box B.
Make up the spaces at the sides of
box A. with frames of drawn comb
leaving a space in the centre, cover
with a cloth.
Remove required no of larvae from
Jenter onto cell-bars. By this time the
space in A. will be full of young wax
building bees. Gently lower the cellbar
frame into this space put queen
excluder and supers on top, then the
second queen excluder and box B.
Day 9 Take sealed cells off cell-bar
into nursery cages, return queen to
box A. then put nursery cage frame
into box B.
Day 16-17 Remove emerged virgin
queens from cages into prepared
mating nuc’s, take out to suitable
mating site then check in 10 days for
eggs and brood.
The frames from box B. could be
used to make up a standard nucleus
using one of the young queens.
Alan Brown
In memory of
Janet Hinchley
June 3rd 1935 to
11th April 2014
On Wednesday 30th April Albert
Knight and David Allen represented
BIBBA at the funeral service for our
archivist Janet Mary Hinchley.
Janet was an all- round nature lover
actively supporting many wildlife organisations
both national and especially
in her home county of
She became involved with bees and
BIBBA, upon her marriage to farmer
Alan Hinchley in 1995 who had taken
on the role of BIBBA Publications
Sales Officer after the death of Oliver
Janet accompanied Alan to meetings
and when she offered her expertise,
as a retired librarian, to try to organise
the archives she was co-opted
onto the committee.
Janet and her first husband Tim were
very keen on dogs, breeding Bull
Terriers which led to them winning
the breed championship at Crufts for
several years.
She was always an active member of
her community be it her Church,
WRVS, meals on wheels or WI to
mention a few. She was a great patriot
and Royalist, an avid reader and
skilled craftswoman.
In the last couple of years she suffered
a variety of health problems
and found herself in many hospitals,
to such an extent that she joked with
friends there weren’t many she had
not visited.
Even up to the end she was reading a
book a day and as her friend Janet
Hush said in her eulogy, “Thank the
Lord for Amazon”. We thank the
Lord for Janet.
David Allen
I came across an interesting website
that gave information about Sampling
and Making Predictions.
The following is my version of the investigation
of estimating the number
of bees in a hive.
Have you ever wondered how biologists
estimate the number of fish in
a lake or birds in a flock? It would
be impossible to count every one.
In the case of honey bees, counting
the legs and dividing by 6 doesn’t
help! The method used is proportional
If you want to know the number of
bees in a hive, take a small sample
of about 30 bees. Mark each bee in
the same way you would mark a
queen. Return these marked bees
to the hive.
After some time, when you think the
marked bees have mixed with the
other bees in the colony, take another
sample. Let’s assume this
sample contains 80 bees. In this
sample there will likely be some of
the marked bees from the first sample.
Suppose there are 10 marked
In effect you have the following
Sample 2
No. marked bees ÷
No. of bees in sample
Total Population
No. marked bees ÷
No. of bees in hive
Using the above example, we get:
10 ÷ 80 = 30 ÷ x, where x is the
total number of bees in the hive.
1/8th of the bees in the second sample
were marked. If that sample was
10 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
Sampling and
The method used is
proportional reasoning
BIM 44 Proof 1_Layout 1 30/07/2015 13:42 Page 12
a representative of the whole, it may
be assumed that 1/8th of the total
population would be marked.
Solving the above equation, we get x
= 240. Therefore, from our sample
we can predict that there are 240 in
the hive.
Since a strong colony would contain,
we are told, approximately 50,000
bees, I’m not sure how this method
would work in practice – the number
of marked bees in the second sample
would be low (or zero).
I suppose you would need to introduce
more than 30 marked bees into
the hive. If you wanted to evaluate
the method, a nucleus would be
The original article does state that
predicting is only that – the accuracy
of predictions depends on many
factors e.g. sample size.
Brian P. Dennis
The fourth part of the article
on Honey Bee imports up to the
formation of BIBBA
Despite war-time restrictions, the
larger suppliers such as E. H. Taylor,
Robert Lee, and Burtt & Son continued
to offer very limited quantities
of bees and queens right through
the war years. Those of a certain
age who remember the post-war
years will understand that rationing
continued through to the early
1950s, and there were restrictions
on supplies of raw materials, especially
imported timber and metal
stock. However, the warnings of
shortages during 1947 to 1950
arose for a completely different reason.
Largely due to sugar rationing,
there was a tremendous surge in the
number of beekeepers; for example,
membership of Gloucestershire BKA
rose from 249 in 1939 to peak at
1,000 in 1946 and 863 in 1949 (it is
interesting to note that the growth is
broadly similar to the period from
2005 to the present; will the collapse
follow the same time-line?) Thus in
1948 Robert Lee declared: “We regret
that we shall be unable to execute
any more orders for Colonies, Nuclei
Swarms or Queens at date of going
to press.” And: “We regret that the
number of Colonies and Queens we
shall have will be quite inadequate to
meet the demand this season.” C.T.
Overton said: “We regret that we are
unable to accept any further orders
for Bees for delivery in 1948 owing
to the number of orders in hand. A
limited number of queens will be
available”, while E. H. Taylor in their
March price list simply said bees
were “not available”.
There is ample evidence that the
1939 to 1945 War had a significant
impact on beekeeping. Not only had
there been the upsurge of interest
and increase in number of beekeepers
at a time of material shortages
and rising costs, but people de-mobbing
turned to beekeeping as a business
and sometimes brought with
them a technical approach to problems.
War surplus, cancellation of
War supply contracts, and surplus
capacity in factories all came together
to allow innovation in beekeeping.
One notable development
was that (literally!) engineered by
Mountain Grey Apiaries (Fig. 23).
Now remembered largely by their initials
applied to the “M.G.” heather
honey press (1948) and their still
highly-rated “M.G.” wax extractor
and clarifier (1946), they so named
themselves for their strain of Caucasian
bee (Fig. 24).
BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 11
Genuine Imported Queens
both beautiful and prolific:
Fig. 23 A. F. Abbott’s 1938 flyer for imported
Dutch Bees – is the emphasis on ‘Improved
Strain’ and ‘Healthy in Every respect’ due to an
earlier reputation as a source of disease?
Fig. 24 The cover of Steele & Brodie’s catalogue
for 1939 – at 96 pages this was one of the
largest offered to beekeepers – all was soon to
change due to war-time constraints.
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From their sales literature issued
from about 1947, we read: “The Celebrated
‘Mountain Grey’ Caucasian
strain of line-bred Bees and Queens –
our unpredictable climate demands a
bee of ‘all-round’ efficiency, possessing
above all the ability to (a) winter
well on a minimum of food; (b) buildup
speedily in the Spring; (c) work
early and late during the nectar flow,
and (d) possess a high resistance to
disease. Such indeed is stamina, all
these desirable features being found
to perfection in our improved Caucasian
strain, which today is acknowledged
as the ideal bee for
British beekeepers. … several wellisolated
breeding stations for the
purpose of testing and developing
new and novel methods of scientific
“British Reared ‘Mountain Grey’
Improved CAUCASIAN Strain BEES &
QUEENS – docile & hardy, less
swarming, longer tongues, work red
clover, the gentlest bees under the
J. E. Eade, proprietor of Mountain
Grey, following on from his assertion
(above) that Mr Abbott had introduced
the first Caucasian breeder
queens in 1926, stated in his 1965
price list: “We were the source of
supply of breeder queens to the
Caucasian Queen breeders in the
United States. The bees we offer for
sale are the result of Selective Line
Breeding …”
In making the case for their strain of
Caucasian bee, M.G. managed a curious
two-way compliment to the
native bee:
“There are many races of Bees available
but in general these may be
placed in two main groups – the
Dark Bee and the Yellow Bee – and
generally speaking it may be stated
that the dark races have their origin
in cold countries and the Yellow
races in the warmer. Both groups
have their adherents but if we are to
look for a lead as to which is most
suitable for our purpose, we can
have no better example than that of
our old British Native Bee. This Bee
is now extinct, at any rate in its pure
state, and we have to face the fact
that it is no longer available.
“In our opinion this native Dark Bee
can never be replaced by a Bee of the
Yellow races. Except under ideal
weather conditions, which is a rarity
in this country, such a Bee is at a
definite disadvantage, and cannot be
expected to compete with the Dark
races. The Yellow races are, in general,
of frail constitution, and are
prolific breeders of short-lived Bees,
and, while it is agreed that such
characteristics may under certain
conditions provide satisfactory
yields, it is very exceptional for them
to do so in this country.
“On the other hand the Dark races
show distinctly superior qualities
under our climatic conditions. They
are hardier, and although less prolific
in the majority of cases, the individual
Bees are certainly longer-lived.
“The British climate necessitates a
Bee such as this to replace its own
native Bee, and in our search for a
worthy successor we have proved
conclusively to our own satisfaction,
and be it noted, to the satisfaction of
many thousands of beekeepers, that
pre-eminent among the Dark races is
the Grey Bee of the Caucasus Mountain
regions. Its virtues are many, its
vices few.
“Out of date and uninformed text
books are in many cases guilty of accusing
the Caucasian of excessive
swarming and propolising. …. Regarding
the use of propolis, it must
be admitted that, in their natural
state, they are probably inclined to
use more than other races, but it
should be understood that this is
mostly in the form of a screen or
barrier at the entrance. By selective
breeding, however, we claim to have
reduced this tendency to within reasonable
limits, and it is no longer
It would be interesting to find out
the basis of such claims as “our old
British Native Bee … is now extinct,
at any rate in its pure state.” What
exactly is meant by “pure”? A somewhat
futile, but nonetheless intriguing,
question that can be applied to
any historical narrative is – “what if?”
What if M.G., who clearly admired
the native bee, had applied their expertise
to its conservation rather
than propagating a substitute?
Mountain Grey seem to have been
oriented towards supplying the commercial
beekeeper rather than the
ordinary, hobbyist, for they announced:
“Fertile Queens … orders
must be placed 12 months ahead …
in any case, we cannot supply Tested
and Breeder Queens to the general
public … Fertile Queens – 25/-.”
Perhaps their literature did not reach
the general beekeeping community,
but they clearly understood techniques
that could have assisted the
survival of Apis mellifera mellifera.
It is difficult to determine the state
of knowledge of bee genetics at this
time. J. B. S. Haldane had quantified
fitness as it related to Darwinism and
Mendelian genetics in 1924, but W.
D. Hamilton’s paper on The Evolution
of Social Behaviour was not published
until 1964; and while
Dzierzon had discovered parthenogenesis
in honeybees as early as
1845, it was only much later that
what we know today was elucidated.
Thus it is extremely unlikely that any
beekeeper in 1947 knew very much
about such concepts as haplodiploidy.
Nonetheless, M.G. had
been bee farmers since about 1925,
maintained a unique “Experimental
and Research department” controlling
several isolated breeding stations,
to produce their line-bred
“Mountain Grey” strain.
M.G.’s offer of “Virgin Queens … acceptable
alternative …entails two
separate purchases … ONE 9/- each,
TWO 8/6 each, THREE 7/6 each” at
first glance seems unremarkable
(Fig. 25). However, their leaflet explained
how “The Alternative Method
of Re-queening” could produce a
pure strain. The first stage was the
purchase of two pure “M.G.” virgins,
the first in July or August, allowing
time for it to be mated and estab-
12 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
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lished before winter, and the second
the purchase of a second virgin the
following May or June. Neatly, the
impure drones produced in the first
year die out over winter, and in the
following year the drone progeny
from the first virgin are pure, and
suitable for mating with the second
virgin to produce pure stock.
Sounds easy! The leaflet included a
diagram; “A” to “F” related to the
text, but should be clear to most
(Fig. 26). Further evidence of the
level of understanding at M.G. is
shown by a delightful “Banda” print
produced by them to explain inbreeding
and outbreeding. Presumably,
there were Figures 1 and 2, but
this document has become separated
from its context. The best
guess is that it was a handout during
an apiary open day or lecture (Fig.
It seems that Mountain Grey were
not the only commercial bee farmers
who produced catalogues and expanded
their retail operations to exploit
the hordes of new beekeepers
at this time. Yorkshire Apiaries had
issued a duplicated foolscap price
list in 1946 and then properly
printed catalogues for at least a few
years. They said: “Our beekeeping
activities cover a wide area in the
East and North Ridings of Yorkshire,
where we have many hundreds of
stocks for honey production, in over
twenty out-apiaries. We have also
our own queen-rearing stations,
where queens are bred for re-queening
our own stocks …over 250 employees
are connected with our
organization.” Yorkshire Apiaries included
a logo for the Honey Producers
Association of Great Britain, the
forerunner of the Bee Farmers’ Association.
It therefore seems likely that
this claim of “over 250 employees”
relates to the Association, rather
than the company alone. They offered
their “Selected, tested, fertile
Italian “Golden Sovereign” Queens at
25/-, and Selected virgin Italian
Queens at 7/6d, and said:
“Our “Golden Sovereign” queens are
well known, as many hundreds are
sold each season to beekeepers in
England and Scotland. Having several
hundred stocks, the queens are
pedigree bred in our own apiaries
from the best colonies, the performance
of which is carefully recorded.
All queens sold are first selected for
their physical qualifications, and
then kept in large nucleus hives for
at least 28 days from the date they
commence laying. During that time
every nucleus hive is inspected several
times, so that the work of the
queen can be judged. The combs
should be occupied with concentric
circles of brood of similar age, every
egg must be placed in the exact centre
of the cell bottom, and usually
slanted in the same direction, etc.
The emerging bees are carefully
noted, to see that they are all evenly
marked and of similar appearance.
As the virgin queens are not available
before the last few days of May,
we cannot post any selected and
tested fertile queens before the end
of June.”
All beekeeping suppliers were responding
to the demand and Robert
Lee, who had clearly struggled to
supply bees and queens for many
years, with statements to their customers
such as: “We regret that we
shall be unable to execute any more
orders for Colonies, Nuclei or
Swarms during the 1945 season”
produced at first a duplicated, and
then a properly printed, notice. This
BIM 44 – Summe r 2014 13
Fig. 25 The page from Steele & Brodie’s 1939 catalogue showing the range of stocks and queens
available at that time – note the premium on Carniolans and Caucasians.
Fig. 26 The page from Steele & Brodie’s 1939
catalogue advertising ‘Swarms of French Bees’
brought in as packages.
Fig. 27 The cover of Mountain Grey Apiaries’
catalogue for 1947 – they had been in business
for many years as bee farmers, but this was
their first illustrated catalogue offering their
equipment and bees to the wider public.
BIM 44 Proof 1_Layout 1 30/07/2015 13:42 Page 15
declared “Orders now being booked”
for home-bred bees, 3lb. packages,
and Dutch bees on combs or in
skeps (Fig. 28). Once again, demand
was being met with imports. Was it
Napoleon who said that the English
were a nation of shopkeepers?
J. T. Burgess & Son of Exeter had
clearly not been able to do much
since they said: “BEES: A limited supply
available. Now booking for
1949” … and: “QUEENS A limited
supply available June, July and August.
All sold for 1949”, but they
produced a fine catalogue with a
splendid image of an Italian queen!
(Fig. 29)
There were clearly concerns about
disease since many suppliers were
saying things like: “all colonies free
from disease and to BBKA standard”,
while Robert Lee went one better and
declared that: “all bees imported
from Holland are accompanied by
health certificate issued by Netherlands
Government.” But not everybody
was relying on imports. In
1950 E. H. Taylor were offering ‘Old
English’ stocks, but they had been
using this term since the early
1920s, so this may not be a reliable
indicator that they were dealing with
a pure native bee. More reliable was
John Powell, of Llanishen, Nr Chepstow,
Monmouth, who said “our bees
are a hardy strain of dark hybrids
and have no foreign blood introduced
for a number of years. They
are bred by selection from the best
colonies by the artificial swarming
method. Of our colonies run for
honey production in 1949 less than
5% swarmed”. At least he was honest
enough to admit that his bees
were a hybrid! Woodland Apiaries
started listing bees and queens for
1950 saying: “We do not import bees
… all queens sold are specially bred
by grafting the whole cell, thereby
preventing any disturbance of the
egg, and are reared in strong stocks.
Our mating apiary is isolated and we
think we raise Queens as good as
any in the country.”
One last character emerges from this
survey. Some older BIBBA members
might know all about him, since he
seems to be associated with an early
version of the punched cell method.
I think the man is Evan Evans who
may have seen himself as very modern
with his association with Perspex
beekeeping equipment, but might
have got into hot water among modern
beekeepers when he said: “As
promised, we now come to a description
of a modern system that is not
only independent of the weather, but
is almost foolproof. Some women
use it successfully …!” His advertisement
is included here to illustrate
how bizarre some of the claims surrounding
bees and queens could be
(Fig. 30).
And in case you read to the end, it
continues: “… marauders, would still
be reasonably easy to handle, even
when the weather deteriorated during
the day. Above all, a bee that
will gladly go out to work on the
cooler days. In short, our queens
and bees had to be ‘Bad weather
friends’ as well as good weather
comrades. So, at last we have
evolved our Heather Brand Queen.
Though of mixed blood, Italian predominates.”
Oh Dear!
Sugar rationing during WW2 was introduced
on 8th January 1940 and
ended in September 1953 (Fig. 31).
Thus beekeeping at last settled into
the modern age. Steele & Brodie resumed
imports of package bees in
1953 and from then on none of the
major suppliers mentioned Old English
bees at all. In 1956 C. T. Overton
offered “Native, Hybrid or
Home-bred Italian”; in 1963 Robert
Lee advertised “Pure Italian Hybrid,
Pure Italian or Caucasian varieties
are available according to choice”
and in 1965 the queens listed by
Burtt & Son were:
Imported Italian Queens available
from May to Sept. – 20/- post free
English-Italian hybrid queens from
July to September – 20/- post free
Buckfast Abbey Strain available April
to September – 23/- post free.
The inaugural meeting of VBBA took
place on Saturday 27th July 1963
14 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
Fig. 28 The cover of the Mountain Grey
brochure advertising their improved Caucasian
Fig. 30 The diagram from the Mountain Grey
‘Virgins’ brochure explaining the method of
obtaining pure stock.
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This account has deliberately not
drawn on material published in
books and periodicals. The narrative
is therefore constrained by the material
available. Most of the catalogues
are held by I.B.R.A. and collected by
them during a relatively short period
about 1950 to 1980. Some are held
by E.H.Thorne, others are in my personal
collection. Thus, the sources
are largely English, with very little
mention of Ireland. This account
must be viewed as a “work in
I will welcome information that adds
to the account, sight or loan of any
catalogues, especially the earlier
ones, and especially any unpublished
material specific to individual importers
or breeders.
It is impossible to make any realistic
estimate of the numbers of queens
and queenright stocks that have
been imported since 1859. But several
things seem to be clear.
1. The “Britisher’s make-up” seems
to have ensured that imports are
usually seen as intrinsically “good”,
whereas British Black is “bad”!
2. Imports are not necessarily “better”;
the evidence indicates that
some imports have been responsible
for introducing disease, and some
have introduced strains with bad
characteristics from the beekeepers
point of view.
3. A major driver for imports has
been commercial opportunity; this is
unlikely to change.
4. The only factors that have limited
imports to date are World War,
Joseph Stalin and economic turmoil.
None of these should become BIBBA
5. Upsurges in interest in beekeeping
may be good for beekeeping associations,
and good for business,
but they are not necessarily good for
6. The characteristics of the honeybee
are invariably presented in terms
of usefulness to humans in terms of
honey crop and ease of handling. I
found no mention of bees as pollinators
(although the importance of this
was recognized at least as long ago
as the 1930s) or as “wild animals”.
But we have to be careful. Beowulf
Cooper defined Village Bees as “our
British and Irish native bees and
other bees of subspecies mellifica,
the dark bee of Western Europe, as
well as such other bees as show a
majority of characters of the native”
[Village Bees – The native and nearnative
bees of Britain and Ireland,
VBBA, Leaflet 7, April 1968.] By this
definition, Dutch and French bees
might be imports, but they were regarded
by Cooper as part of the
Given the claims of some importers
and breeders that they were delivering
large quantities of bees to as far
as Scotland and Ireland; and especially
Steele & Brodie’s import activities,
how “pure” is any of the local
material that has only been assessed
phenotypically likely to be?
And finally, if imports have been so
vital to the health of honeybees in
Britain, and if it was ever the case
that the “Old British Black” died out
completely, and therefore couldn’t
possibly influence the health of extant
bees, how come we still have to
cope with so much disease? It seems
that it is human nature to seek a single
cause for a problem, when most
living systems are affected by many
factors working together.
This 4th part concludes the article.
Will Messenger
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Fig. 30 The diagram produced by Mountain Grey to explain inbreeding and outbreeding.
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16 BIM 44 – Summe r 2014
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Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association
Registered Office: The National Beekeeping Centre,
Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth,
Warwickshire CV8 2LG
BIBBA is a UK Registered Charity No: 273827
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