Webinars

Webinars

Season Four – Spring 2021

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As helpful teaching aids to beekeepers of all knowledge and ability levels, BIBBA has put together a programme of webinars for the early months of 2021. These are in 5 ability/knowledge levels as follows; colour coded by level; click event title for more info: –

  • Prospective beekeepers
    for those who are considering if beekeeping is for them, but want to know what is involved.
  • “I’ve just started (or about to); I have a lot to Learn”
    is for those who have just got their first bees or are about to, perhaps had no more than one summer and are experiencing their first winter.
  • Sound Foundations in Beekeeping
    will be ideal for those who have recently started, but there will be material suitable for the more advanced.
  • Intermediate/advanced level
    is intended to satisfy all experienced beekeepers and will appeal especially to the more progressive ones, but should also be relevant to those of lesser experience who wish to understand their bees more.
  • Bee Improvement
    is appropriate to all beekeepers. The emphasis will be on using bees that will thrive and survive in the locality they are kept in.

PAST WEBINARS ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST
links to recordings will be added several days after the event

click title below for details and zoom link; scroll down for past webinar recordings
a full list of past webinars is on our youtube channel

signup for email reminders here

COLOUR CODED SECTIONS:
Just Starting   Sound Foundations   Intermediate/advanced   Bee Improvement

Sat 27th Feb 4pm: Roger Patterson – “My Second Colony”

Beekeepers are often advised to have a second colony quite quickly, to help the first if there is a problem. This is sound advice, but where do you get a second colony if you don’t have the knowledge to make one yourself? The usual answer is to buy one, but this may be headed by an imported queen that may have problems the National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP) is trying to address. This presentation shows some simple ways of acquiring a second colony and how to care for it, that will provide a good learning opportunity for the new beekeeper.

Sat 27th Feb 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “Where are bees kept?”

This presentation takes a look at different apiaries, mainly at home with a few abroad. It gives advice on siting hives and comments on the various issues raised. The content is changed regularly, so if you think you have seen it before, you may not have done.

Tue 2nd Mar 5.30pm: Lynne Ingram “Comb honey – a natural hive product”

Comb honey is the ultimate ‘natural product’ which has become an almost forgotten aspect of beekeeping.  However, as the consumer demands more natural and unprocessed products, the demand for comb honey is increasing. This talk will look at preparing your colonies, and the different ways of producing and presenting comb honey.

Lynne Ingram has kept bees for over 30 years, and runs 25 – 30 colonies in Somerset. She is a Master beekeeper, an examiner for the modules, the Basic, General Husbandry, Bee Health and Microscopy assessments. Lynne is heavily involved in educating beekeepers in Somerset, now running study groups via Zoom, and curating the popular Somerset Lockdown Lecture series.

Tue 2nd Mar 7.30pm: Roger Patterson “Bee Improvement. How I did it”

Following a spell out of active beekeeping for family and business reasons, on my return I soon discovered the bees in my area had degenerated from gentle bees that suited my district to yellowish stingy mongrels that were very unpleasant to handle. This was caused by a local beekeeper who imported queens from Australia and New Zealand and selling them cheaply.
Rather than requeening from outside stock, I raised queens from the better colonies to replace the queens in the poorer colonies. I have basically used the same simple techniques ever since. This presentation is the story of what I have achieved.

Sat 6th Mar 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “Beekeeping. Challenge What you are told” (date change)

In beekeeping, there are a lot of people who are keen to give advice, whether it is verbally or the written word in the form of books, leaflets, newsletters or the computer screen. There are a lot of myths and misinformation, often “cut and pasted” from other sources, which may simply be copying someone else’s mistake, who copied someone else’s mistake and so on. The same thing is then seen in different places and because it’s in print it’s believed to be correct, but is it? Inexperienced beekeepers may have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff, but the more experienced a beekeeper gets, the more they realise that some of what they have been told, sometimes quite forcibly, may have an alternative. This presentation highlights a few topics that may not always be as we are told. It doesn’t rubbish the “standard information”, but gives experiences that have been acquired during over half a century of practical beekeeping.

Tue 9th Mar 5.30pm: Roger Patterson “Dave Cushman. A man and his website”

Dave Cushman was in poor health in the last few years of his life and unable to work, so he spent much of his time building and maintaining what is considered to be the world’s most comprehensive beekeeping website. It is so good that it is accessed by beekeepers of all abilities throughout the world, apparently scientists too. Dave left it to me in his will and I continue to enhance and maintain it in the same way that he did.
This presentation was prepared in response to a request to deliver it as the Dave Cushman Memorial Lecture at FIBKAs summer school at Gormanston in 2014.

Tue 9th Mar 7.30pm: Keith Pierce: “Breeding and improving our native bee.
A pragmatic approach, even if you are surrounded by non-native bees

My queens are naturally open mated, but I have been flooding the vicinity of my apiary with drones from my own native dark bees.  Each year I over-winter more colonies of bees than I need, keeping only the best and requeening those that do not come up to my criteria. My selection programme is based on the ability of my bees to overwinter strongly, together with disease resistance, docility, productivity, colour and more. 
For this talk, I will explain how I am still able to selectively rear quality queens of our dark native bee, despite having some neighbours who are not all using native bees. 

Keith Pierce has been beekeeping for more than 30 years, selectively rearing dark native Irish honey bees Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm). 
Keith’s home and main mating apiary is just on the outskirts of Dublin city, with the bees foraging over the extensive area of the Phoenix Park and the Liffey Valley, including the gardens of suburban Castleknock. 

Sat 13th Mar 9.30-5.00: Roger Patterson “Introduction to Beekeeping” All Day

The presentation is based on a successful one day event that has been running for 15 years. This covers everything potential beekeepers need to know in order to decide if beekeeping is for them and to take the next step. It doesn’t teach enough for people to start, but it encourages attendees to contact their local BKA, where they can learn more.
The day will be split into sections with adequate breaks.
There is a modest cost of £15

more details and book on Eventbrite here

Sat 13th Mar 7.30pm: Pete Sutcliffe “Beekeeping kit you don’t need”

Some of you might share my fascination with gadgets that will supposedly help us keep bees. Sadly, most of these are a waste of time and money. Some of them were perhaps worth a try, some the product of genius and some the product of lunacy, and some the product of someone wanting to make money out of gullible beekeepers.
This talk should save you money and time by sparing you the effort of proving to yourself that you didn’t need to buy a particular article. While we are at it, we might stray onto one or two items that are worth getting!

Pete Sutcliffe has been keeping bees for over thirty years now, having started out with two home-made WBCs inherited from his father. He now works in a beekeeping team with his wife: together they keep an average of 20 colonies on various sites in the Dane Valley in Cheshire.
Following his retirement, Pete put himself through the various BBKA examinations and eventually achieved the accolade of “Master Beekeeper”. He is still rather diffident about this title, as the bees seem to be the masters a lot of the time!
Pete was a member of the BBKA Examinations Board, a BBKA Trustee and chair of the BBKA’s Education and Husbandry Committee. He is a BBKA Correspondence Course Tutor, a Basic and General Husbandry Assessor, and he has set and marked Module examinations.
Pete has also been active within Cheshire BKA,: having held various offices at County and Branch level, and is now Chairperson of Cheshire BKA.

Tue 16th Mar 5.30pm: Lynfa Davies “Drones – their role in the colony”

Drones get a bit of a hard time and we often think of them being a drain on resources. But their role is absolutely crucial for the future of our beekeeping operations and so we mustn’t overlook them. As well as their important genetic contribution drones provide a coherence to the colony and their presence tells us much about the state and strength of the colony. Hopefully you’ll think a bit differently about them after this and value their contribution.

Tue 16th Mar 7.30pm: Kevin Thorn “Working Together to Improve Local Stock”

Kevin Thorn is the coordinator of the Abberton Native Bee Project in Essex, where a group has been established with the aim of reintroducing the native honey bee to the area.
The group works with Colchester BKA, Essex and Suffolk Water and Essex Wildlife Trust and has been operating for nearly 4 years.
As an example of an established bee improvement group, Kevin will talk about his experiences of establishing the group, raising funds, working as a team and with minimal administration. He will also talk about some of the key lessons the group has learned along the way.

Kevin Thorn is a bee-farmer with 100 colonies in South West Suffolk, where he works with locally adapted bees and is passionate about improving these to be calm and productive. Kevin is the coordinator of the Abberton Native Bee Project in Essex. where a group has been established with the aim of reintroducing the native honey bee to the area.

Sat 20th Mar 4.00pm: Roger Patterson “Swarming
What Swarm Prevention and Control Methods are Trying to Achieve

Many beekeepers panic when they see queen cells, probably because they don’t understand what is happening in a colony when it is preparing to swarm, or when it has. Some blindly follow “the book” on what to do, without understanding what the selected method is trying to achieve. This presentation will discuss a little about the history of some swarm control theories and the process in a colony, but relevant to some of the more common methods of swarm control.

Sat 20th Mar 7.30pm: Roger Patterson “Modest colony increase”

Small scale beekeepers only wish to make a small number of extra colonies, perhaps to increase the size of their apiary by a colony or two, to replace losses or for a management reason. Colony increase isn’t often taught by BKAs for some reason, so smaller beekeepers often buy extra colonies. Even if you only have one colony, there is never any need to buy bees or queens again. There are a few trip-wires to avoid, but they should be learnt by all beekeepers anyway. Methods will be discussed that will suit the average beekeeper. This may suit local BKA teachers, so they can pass ideas on to their members.

Tue 23rd Mar 5.30pm: Tony Jefferson “Heather Honey production”

The North East Yorkshire Heather Moors are abundant in Ling heather during August. The heather honey is a prized and high value product, so why spend 50 weeks of the year working for 2 weeks of good weather in August?

Tony will explain with this window being so short and unpredictable, how the bees have to be set up correctly to maximize the crop.
From the spring onwards colonies are operated to concentrate on producing bees. How to operate hives without Queen Excluders or as Tony refers to them “Queen restrictors or Honey Excluders”.
The development of local black bees and manipulation of brood through the “June gap” to maximize foraging bees for August, then setting up strong colonies prior and just before moving will be discussed. Experience with moving colonies and what to do when things go wrong will be shared, leading onto what to do with them whilst they are on the moors, how to bring them back home safely and sort out the (hopefully) prized product. Then setting the colonies up for the winter.
His first recollections go back to the late 60’s are of venturing out to the heather stance transporting 5 nationals in a Mini Saloon,(yes it is possible but probably illegal now). Things have moved on since Tony applied his engineering skills to make moving bees a simple and stress free experience.

Tony Jefferson is the middle of 3 generations of Jefferson beekeepers, he describes his beekeeping as, “a hobby that got out of control a long time ago”. Up to 150 colonies have been managed between Father Allan, Tony and Nephew Richard in the weather challenged North East coast around the Whitby area. Tony now heads up the empire, whilst still working full time as a high voltage engineer. Through many years of practical observations, using WBC hives for winter, limited use of queen excluders, use of brood and half, glass quilts and own design of floors, all based on simple techniques. The beekeeping practice is all based around 2 weeks of good weather in August for the prized heather crop. Bee breeding and active selection of drones as opposed to queen rearing is his passion, especially concentrating on the progression of the black local bee

Tue 23rd Mar 7.30pm: Roger Patterson “BKAs – How they can help improve the nation’s bees”

Beekeeping Associations are important parts of the beekeeping community, although they probably don’t always realise how they can influence the standards of bees and beekeepers in their own catchment areas. Much of beekeeping teaching is performed by local BKAs, both theoretical and practical. The former can be done by courses, the latter by practical demonstrations in teaching apiaries. What is taught and how it is taught can make a great difference to the knowledge and skills of beekeepers locally. Teaching apiaries are great for showing members how good bees can be, with the opportunity of helping members to produce their own bees and queens.

Sat 27th Mar 4.00pm: Roger Patterson “Some Simple Things You May Not Have Been Told”

Some modern teaching is done by rather inexperienced people, who teach “mainstream thinking” from books or training material, rather than from their own experience. That may leave a lot of gaps that the new beekeeper has to fill themselves. This presentation discusses some of these that will help the beekeeper in their early years.

Sat 27th Mar 7.30pm: Roger Patterson “Observation. Interpret what you see”

Lateral thinking and observation are two of the most valuable assets a beekeeper can possess. There are many things an observant beekeeper will spot during a colony inspection that others will miss. This ability does come with experience, but the key is to know what is normal, so you can spot something different. A colony of bees is telling you something all the time. The best teachers of beekeeping have 6 legs and 4 wings, not two legs and no wings. Good beekeepers are able to interpret what the bees are telling them and what may happen in 2, 5 or 10 days time.

Tue 30th Mar 5.30pm: Pete Sutcliffe “The hive as a processing centre”

“A hive of activity” as the saying goes! To ensure the colony survives in a healthy state, honey bees collect everything they need from the surrounding area in the form of relatively simple, readily available, natural products. They then process these in sophisticated ways into such diverse items as building materials, miracle foods, antiseptic paints, and store them where necessary for future use. The abilities required for these processes have evolved over millennia to a level of amazing sophistication, but how do they do it? This lecture will describe those processes in a way that helps beekeepers understand the requirements of their colonies better.

Tue 30th Mar 7.30pm: Jonathan Getty “Raising queens and the use of mini nucs”

Many beekeepers have failures when using mini nucs, even though they have rigidly followed the advice that is freely given, often by those who have little experience of using them. There are successful users of mininucs, mainly because they have discovered the usual advice given is flawed. Jonathan Getty uses around 200 Apideas to raise 4-500 queens each year, so he is well qualified to tell us how we can use them successfully by following his methods.

Jonathan Getty is current chair of the Belfast & District branch of the Ulster Beekeepers Association, which has over 250 members. He is at least a fourth generation beekeeper in the Getty family. His main beekeeping interest is queen rearing based on our native bee Apis mellifera mellifera. He started up the Belfast Minnowburn queen rearing group in 2012 and is currently involved with a new queen rearing group in Co. Tyrone, which started up in 2020. He manages over 100 colonies of his own, spread over about a dozen apiary sites in NI. He also rears between 400-500 queens per season using 200 Apideas. Jonathan holds a BSc Hons in Psychology from Queens University Belfast and gained a postgraduate teaching qualification at Stranmillis Training College. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.

Sat 3rd Apr 4.00pm: Roger Patterson –  “Some Things I Need to Be Aware of”

This follows on from “Some Simple Things You May Not Have Been Told”, because in beekeeping there are a lot of things that are stumbled upon as beekeepers progress in the craft, that more experienced beekeepers are aware of and assume that everyone knows

Sat 3rd Apr 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “Queen cells. Their recognition and uses”  

Beekeepers often decide what type of queen cells they have in their colonies by where they are placed on the comb, because that is what they are taught or read in books. This can be very unreliable, resulting in the wrong action being taken, often leaving the colony hopelessly queenless. There will be some clear guidance on what to look for, so colonies can be managed accordingly. There will be tips on how to use queen cells.

Tue 6th Apr 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “Bee Improvement in a Group – Some Ideas”

Bee Improvement Groups are easy to set up and run, but there may be many different circumstances. Are they one or more individuals? Are they part of a BKA? Are they formally constituted? Are they simply an adhoc group of interested beekeepers? Do they have sufficient knowledge within, or do they need help? Do they have a site, or use an existing one? Is there local opposition? These and other questions will be addressed in this presentation that will be aimed at all beekeepers, whatever their level of expertise. In a group situation, even the least experienced beekeepers can play a part, as well as learn a lot from others.

Sat 10th Apr 4.00pm: Roger Patterson –  “Keeping a Colony Alive”

Colony losses occur during both summer and winter and at a higher rate than they should. A loss of a colony isn’t just something to be easily accepted, but a queen that could be good, a colony of bees, probably considerable stores and next years crop. It is annoying for an experienced beekeeper, probably more so for a beginner, who may not know the reason. Many losses are the fault of the beekeeper, although some will deny it. This presentation covers the major colony losses and gives advice on how they may be reduced.

Sat 10th Apr 7.30pm: Bee Inspector (TBA) The Bee Inspection Service & how it works” (date change)

details to be confirmed

cancelled: John Chambers:  “Four incompatible approaches to bee improvement”

Dr John Chambers has had to withdraw due to time pressures in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tue 13th Apr 7.30pm: Roger Patterson “Colony Assessment and Selection for all Beekeepers”

Sat 17th Apr 4.00pm: Roger Patterson –  “Are you confused? Your Questions Answered”

As a beginner, you may have gathered all the information you possibly can. This could be from other beekeepers, teachers, mentors, demonstrators, lectures, YouTube, forums, books and other printed matter, etc. You have done it because you are probably keen, enthusiastic and want to do well. As most beginners do, you have probably found the information conflicts. There could be many reasons for this including a different climate, different kinds of bees, different hives, etc.
In this session questions can be asked and answered in a relaxed manner, thoroughly and appropriate to your own circumstances.

Sat 17th Apr 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “Some management techniques we all need”

To manage bees with care and efficiency every beekeeper needs to develop their own system. Initially they will probably closely copy their tutor. When they have gained more knowledge and experience they will probably modify their system to suit their own circumstances. In beekeeping, there are often many ways of achieving the same thing. They may all work, but in different circumstances. The important thing is to bring ideas together to make your system work well for you and your bees.
Good beekeepers understand bees, have open minds and are capable of lateral thinking. This allows them to assess what they have been told and shown or have thought about themselves, so they can decide if the possible changes will be an improvement or not.
This presentation will discuss some simple management techniques that we all need to perform at various times. They have been learnt from watching bees and beekeepers for over half a century. They may not be found in books and may not fit your system, but with a little tweaking, they may be suitable. This is how we learn and develop our own management systems to help improve our standard of beekeeping.

Tue 20th Apr 7.30pm: Tony Jefferson – “Never Waste a Queen Cell”

Far too much emphasis is placed upon queen rearing and not on the wider aspects of bee breeding, such as the selection of quality breeding stock. Bees have far more years experience producing good quality queen cells then we have, so why not keep things simple and let them produce their own queen cells? The talk will discuss the importance of positive selection of breeding stock, primarily drones, consider that during the summer months every beekeeper destroys many good quality cells in their efforts to control swarming, not having equipment to utilize the spare cells.
Hopefully it will lead to questioning why it is perceived as difficult to produce queens.
The main issue is how to use surplus queen cells, get the queens mated/laying, evaluating them for performance, then deciding how/which ones to use to build up into productive colonies.
This talk will explain in simple and practical methods how to select good quality breeding stock, the use of simple non specialist equipment that does not rely on keeping to dates/timetables, the difficulty on the NE coast due to unpredictable weather in the key breeding time in May

Tony Jefferson is the middle of 3 generations of Jefferson beekeepers, he describes his beekeeping as, “a hobby that got out of control a long time ago”. Up to 150 colonies have been managed between Father Allan, Tony and Nephew Richard in the weather challenged North East coast around the Whitby area. Tony now heads up the empire, whilst still working full time as a high voltage engineer. Through many years of practical observations, using WBC hives for winter, limited use of queen excluders, use of brood and half, glass quilts and own design of floors, all based on simple techniques. The beekeeping practice is all based around 2 weeks of good weather in August for the prized heather crop. Bee breeding and active selection of drones as opposed to queen rearing is his passion, especially concentrating on the progression of the black local bee

Sat 24th Apr 4.00pm: Roger Patterson –  “Are you still confused? More Questions Answered – if you need them

We will try to answer as many questions as we can in the first session, but this second session will be an overflow if required.

Sat 24th Apr 7.30pm:   Roger Patterson – “Collecting, hiving and caring for swarms”

New beekeepers are often keen to get on a local swarm collecting list. It is often to get free bees when they start, but have they had adequate tuition from their BKA? Swarm collection is an important service provided by BKAs to the general public, so it is important those who collect swarms are competent. All experienced swarm collectors have stories to tell about some of the difficulties they have encountered, that may be difficult for the inexperienced to deal with.
Under discussion will be suggestions on what to ask during the initial call, what equipment to take and some of the situations you may be confronted with when you arrive. Having collected the swarm, there will be suggestions on hiving it and subsequent management.

Tue 27th Apr 7.30pm: Eoghan MacGiollacoda – “Bee Farming with native/near native bees”

Climatic conditions mean that beekeeping can be difficult on the northwestern margins of Europe.  Although the Gulf Stream ensures that winters are generally mild, summer conditions are often cool and damp. The European dark bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, has evolved to cope with these conditions.  Due to such adaptations as a conservative brood-rearing nature, the native honey bee is able to respond rapidly to unpredictable and intermittent honey flows and is very thrifty with regard to stored honey.  The native honey bee also forages and mates at quite low temperatures, and foragers appear to be long lived.  It is generally very docile when pure and can be handled with minimal protection under non-ideal weather conditions.   It is excellent at exploiting late honey flows, such as heather or ivy, and requires little or no winter feeding.  Many of its characteristics can be readily improved via selection.  To optimise honey production, it is important for the beekeeper to consider such management factors as swarm prevention and control, bee health, hive records, colony evaluation and breeding.

Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda is a commercial beekeeper based on Ireland’s east coast.  As a fourth-generation beekeeper, he learned his craft through helping his father with the famous Galtee black bees of Co. Tipperary.  After settling in Co. Louth, he embarked on his own beekeeping enterprise using local strains of native Irish honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera).  He manages around 200 colonies, distributed across the county in environments ranging from rolling grassland pastures to areas of flat tillage to the small upland fields and commonage of the Cooley Mountains.  The main sources of honey are white clover, blackberry, sycamore, rosebay willow-herb, bell heather, oil-seed rape and field beans.  The prevailing climate tends to be warm, wet winters and cool, often wet summers, although it is generally drier but cooler than other parts of Ireland.  DNA analysis of dozens of bee samples over the years has revealed purity levels of <99.4%, and Eoghan breeds native queens, mostly for his own use.   He is also involved with Co. Louth BKA’s native honey bee breeding programme and the maintenance of Co. Louth as a voluntary conservation area for the black bee.  Recently, he has begun incorporating data on varroa tolerance into the selection of queens for breeding.  Eoghan has twice won the 24-jar World Class competition at the London Honey Show with the famous Cooley bell heather honey.

Tue 4th May 7.30pm: Roger Patterson – “The teaching apiary. A brilliant resource”

A well organised teaching apiary is probably the greatest teaching resource a BKA can have. It can be used to invite non-beekeepers as a sort of open event, so they can see what is involved in the craft. For beekeepers, it can be used for teaching all levels, right from new beekeepers to the most experienced, with all the usual techniques demonstrated. If the apiary is stocked with good local bees it will show members how good bees can be, perhaps with a queen rearing element. This presentation is based on one successful teaching apiary and information gleaned from many others. It is a “must see” for all!

recording: Roger Patterson – “Beekeeping: What’s it all about?”

This is a 1 hour presentation that gives the absolute basic information to help potential beekeepers decide if they should go further. Topics covered will include:- Time needed, costs, suitable site, sound information sources, etc.

For those who wish to take the next step, there is an all day presentation “Introduction to Beekeeping” on March 13th, that will cover more topics in greater depth more details here

Roger Patterson bio

recording: Roger Patterson – “I’ve got my bees (or about to). Now what?”

Many new beekeepers are immediately confronted with problems, or what they may think are problems, soon after acquiring their bees. The level of support for new beekeepers varies a lot, depending on the resources available and the quality of them. Raw beginners often have masses of questions, but are the answers always reliable? Just because someone has kept bees longer than you, or has a flashy website, doesn’t mean they know more, but how do you know that? If you know enough to make good judgement, then you know enough not to have asked in the first place. This presentation addresses some of the issues that new beekeepers have, with some ideas on what to learn in your early stages.

Roger Patterson bio

: Roger Patterson – “Learn the Basics”

The learning of a few factual things will go a long way to helping you solve many of the common issues that you will experience. You may then be able to solve problems yourself, or at least have a little knowledge, so you can understand what the advice you are given is trying to achieve.

recording: Roger Patterson – “The Next step”


There are many beekeepers who, when they have finished their first year, are left to learn themselves. If there is no tuition locally, they often stay at the same level or seek help from sources that may be inappropriate, often taking advice from the screen. Without guidance, it is often in the second and subsequent years, when beekeepers get into trouble.
This presentation has been arranged to help that very important group with a few suggestions on how they can move to the next level

: Karl Colyer – “Things I wish I’d known earlier”

In those early years of beekeeping, I made lots of mistakes and took everything that another beekeeper told me as the gospel truth. It wasn’t until I figured that the advice from different people started conflicting with each other and that the ‘foolproof’ solutions didn’t always work that I had to go back to basics and make my own decisions.
This talk touches on some of the basics as well as ways to save money, get free bees and how to end up with a beekeeping plan that works for you.

Karl Colyer has been keeping bees since 2003. He enjoys building his own hives from recycled wood where he can and is a very practical and hands-on bee breeder, bringing his engineering, quality and production experience to the fore. 
Karl has set up a not-for-profit social enterprise (www.beesinourcommunity.org.uk) which places hand-made hives and home-bred bees onto company properties, farmland as well as into individual’s back gardens. This creates a growing curiosity for bees and catalyses people to want to support them and (hopefully) keep their own. He mentors a number of new beekeepers and has a growing number of hives in Cheshire and beyond.

recording: Roger Patterson – “The coming season. Are you prepared?

Many beekeepers switch off as soon as they bed their bees down for the winter, then put their feet up, only to panic in the spring.
There is a lot to think about. What went wrong last year? How can we overcome the problems and improve next year? What can you study so you understand your bees better, so make fewer mistakes? What other management techniques can you use? Can you make your bees more productive and healthy? Can you enjoy your beekeeping more?

recording: Clare Densley and Martin Hann
“Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey –Past and Present”
  • What is the Buckfast bee and why did Br Adam become so famous?
  • Was Adam the first to experiment with bee breeding?
  • Difference between bee breeding and queen rearing.
  • What inspired Br Adam to create a specific “strain “of bee put into the context of the Isle of Wight disease and the understanding of genetics at that time.
  • How did his objectives change over the years and how did he achieve these (use of isolation site etc.)?
  • Inbreeding problems which can occur with artificial selection alongside unsustainability and nasty out cross possibilities.
  • Why we don’t breed the Buckfast bee here anymore, why we prefer locally adapted bees (and how we have achieved this).

Clare Densley has been working at Buckfast Abbey since 2008. She has been keeping bees since 1992 and did do a stint as a seasonal bee inspector for a couple of years. Although she does “manage” her colonies, her philosophy centres around understanding the bees and working with their natural instincts as much as is possible.
Martin Hann has been keeping bees since 2008. He was previously a seasonal bee inspector for the South West region for 6 years and has been working alongside Clare Densley at Buckfast Abbey for the last 4 years. He has recently left the National Bee Unit to become a full time member of the Buckfast Abbey bee department.

: Lynfa Davies “Honeybee behaviour”
a look at the mechanisms bees use to manage their lives

In this talk we look at the colony cycle and why the population fluctuates throughout the year. This doesn’t happen by accident and understanding how and why it happens is important for beekeepers who want to successfully manage productive colonies. Consideration is given to why the queen’s laying rate fluctuates and the mechanisms that influence population size. Finally, what is nest homeostasis and how do the bees control it?

Lynfa Davies. Master Beekeeper, NDB lives in Aberystwyth and has kept bees with her husband, Rob, for 15 years. During this time she has worked her way through the BBKA assessments to become a Master Beekeeper and in 2019 gained the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) which is the highest beekeeping qualification in the UK. She now enjoys sharing the information she has learned with other beekeepers and takes an active role in teaching new beekeepers in her local association and more widely across Wales. Lynfa is a regular examiner for the BBKA and WBKA and sits on the WBKA Learning and Development Committee.
Lynfa currently has approximately 25 colonies which she mainly manages for honey production, something which often proves challenging in a wet West Wales! In addition, she raises her own queens and uses these to produce nucleus colonies and to replace her own stock.

Jo Widdicombe – “The Basics of Bee Improvement”

Bee Improvement isn’t often taught by local BKAs, therefore the concept may be unknown to most beekeepers. This presentation will explain to beekeepers of all levels the basic principles of what we are trying to achieve.

Jo Widdicombe bio

recording: Jo Widdicombe – “Bee Improvement – Playing your part”

The last webinar “The Basics of Bee Improvement” briefly gave the principles this webinar hopes to put into practice. We all have a part to play in improving our bees, because the quality of the bee population reflects the quality of the drones that are mating with queens. We can’t make improvement entirely on our own, we need to do it in conjunction with others, whether it be individuals, bee improvement groups or BKAs.

: Roger Patterson “Understanding queen rearing methods”

“Queen Rearing” lectures often confuse beekeepers, so they don’t rear their own queens because they think it is complicated. “Understanding Queen Rearing Methods” will explain what the beekeeper is trying to achieve when using one of the “artificial” methods of queen rearing. All we are doing is to help the bees produce queen cells in a controlled way, that makes it easier for the beekeeper to manage. The presentation will be given in a step-by-step manner that is easy to understand, in the hope that it encourages beekeepers to produce their own queens.

Recordings of Webinar Seasons One to Three are at bibba.com/webinar-recordings

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Adam Tofilski graduated in biology from the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. Since 1994 he worked as a teaching and research assistant at the Department of Apiculture of the University of Agriculture in Krakow; seven years later (2001), he defended a doctoral thesis at the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences of the Jagiellonian University. In 2002-2004, he held a fellowship at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, University of Sheffield, during which he collaborated with Francis Ratnieks. Since his return to Poland, he has been employed at the University of Agriculture in Krakow. In 2019 he was awarded the title of Professor.

How to protect native honey bees?

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Honey bees are native to the British Islands and Ireland. As with the whole of northern Europe, native subspecies is Apis mellifera mellifera, which is nowadays endangered by extinction because of imports of non-native bees by beekeepers. The native bees deserve to be protected because they are better adapted to local climate and survive better. The simplest method of protection is not buying any imported queens. It would be even more effective to identify local bees and requeen non-native colonies with native queens. One of the methods of protecting local bees is supporting feral populations. The feral population of honey bees is relatively small because there are too few suitable natural nesting sites. Empty beehives could be provided for feral colonies, but they need to be located separately at a distance from managed colonies.

Morphometric identification of honey bee subspecies

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Honey bee populations inhabiting different parts of the world differ from each other. There are about recognised 30 subspecies. Identification of the subspecies is relatively difficult because they can breed with each other producing hybrids and mongrels. The identification is usually based on molecular or morphometric methods. Morphometric methods do not require sophisticated equipment and can be done by most beekeepers. The identification can be based on many body parts including, legs and mouthparts, however, identification based on forewing alone is easier. Originally, the identification of honey bee subspecies was based on cubital index, which is a ratio of two wing vein lengths. Later, measurement of wing venation angles was introduced. Recently the angles and ratios were replaced by coordinates of landmarks which are placed in wing vein intersections.
Identification of single bees is imprecise, therefore, usually a colony is identified using more than 10 wings. Previously, wing measurements were made manually. Now a computer program is used to place landmarks on all wing images. The computer program calculates the average configuration of landmarks and provides similarity of the colony to a range of subspecies.
The colony is assigned to the subspecies with the highest similarity.

Webinars – Season Three

Tuesday 22nd September & Tuesday 29th September at 7.30pm – Jo Widdicombe – See below

Jo is a bee farmer managing about 150 colonies with one assistant. He is author of the book, ‘The Principles of Bee Improvement’ and is President of BIBBA. He is working on the plans for the National Bee Improvement Programme with other members of the BIBBA Committee.

Tuesday 22nd September at 7.30pm

Presentation:  “The National Bee Improvement Programme – Outline”

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  1. Aims
    • Do we need it?
    • What is wrong with current system?
    • Advantages of a sustainable improvement programme
  1. Can we devise a Programme that will work/produce good results?
    • Difficulties: hybridised stock; uncontrolled matings; multiple matings; inflow of imports
  1. How the system will work: breeder queens, drone production/flooding, repeat
  1. Selecting for qualities
  1. Selecting within a strain
  1. Seeking maximum participation. Funding the programme.
  1. Summary. Adapting and modifying

Tuesday 29th September at 7.30pm

Presentation:  “More details of the National Bee Improvement Programme and Participation”

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  1. Repeat aims. Reducing imports
  1. Active improvement. Record-keeping for selection of Breeders
  1. Details of record-keeping
  1. More details of how system would work re breeders and drones
  1. Working within (and establishing) a strain to make faster progress.
  1. Encouraging participation (and different levels of)
  1. Summary. Adapting and modifying

Tuesday 6th October at 7.30pm – Norman Carreck – Presentation:  “Global pandemics, bee imports and native bees” View Recording

Norman Carreck has been keeping bees for forty years, and has been a bee research scientist for twenty nine. He has lectured about bees on all continents where bees are kept, has written many scientific papers, book chapters, conference contributions and popular articles, has edited several books and regularly appeared in the media in many countries. He is a director of Carreck Consultancy Ltd and Bee Publishing Ltd and is based at the University of Sussex, UK.

Presentation:  “Global pandemics, bee imports and native bees”

The Covid-19 crisis has coincided with several new scientific papers which confirm that global movements of bees have led to the spread of bee viruses. In recent years the number of queens being imported into the UK has increased, despite evidence that “local” bees survive better. There is growing evidence that native dark European honey bees are alive and well in Britain and Ireland, but efforts to conserve them can be hampered by imports of exotic bees, and can such bees act as “invasive alien species” outside their native range? UK beekeepers say they would favour local bees, but queen rearing in the UK is hampered by the weather. Nonetheless, nationwide efforts could be made to improve the quality of UK’s existing stock of bees for varroa tolerance and docility.

Tuesday 13th October at 7.30pm – Peter Jenkins – “My 50 years experiences of imported bees affecting local stock”
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Peter Jenkins has kept bees since the age of 14, a period of over 50 years. He now keeps around 50 colonies of near native bees in and around the marginal areas of Cardiganshire. Having spent most of his working life as a Chartered Engineer working around the world on marine and naval projects has meant that, for many years, he had little time for regular 7 day hive inspections as advised in text books. Nevertheless he has harvested at least average crops of honey year on year using bees improved over lifetime by his father, a process he is now continuing following his father’s death in 2009.

Presentation:  “My 50 years experiences of imported bees affecting local stock”

The presentation is a history of how bees and beekeeping has changed in Cardiganshire since about 1960. Not only has beekeeping in Wales changed over the past 50 years, so has farming. Wales is predominantly a sheep and dairy area, wet and good for growing grass. In the 1960s a farm of 20 milking cows was typical. Today it is 200++. This extreme unsustainable intensification of agriculture has made much of the previously rich bee foraging pasture a floral desert. The presentation tells of how the local indigenous bees were adversely affected in terms of performance and temper by large scale imports by both commercial beekeepers and well intentioned amateurs; and how local beekeepers successfully overcame these difficulties. Many of these problems are shared by other dairy farming areas, there are third generation professional beekeepers in Normandy, northern France, who face exactly the same problems both in terms of bee imports and farming practices.

Tuesday 20th October at 7.30pm – Grace McCormack – “Resilient Honeybees”

Grace McCormack is a Professor in Zoology at NUI Galway. Her interests lie in evolutionary biology and particularly in using molecular data to understand how organisms are related to each other and the impacts this may have on conservation and on the evolution of organismal traits. The interaction between animals and their parasites/pathogens over evolutionary time is also of interest as is the use of molecular information in applied science such as biodiscovery (marine sponges) and apiculture (bees). Grace has published over 60 research papers and book chapters and currently has a team of three PhD students and a research assistant.   Grace has been beekeeping for about 7 years and currently manages 15 colonies. She became interested in free-living colonies in 2015 and has been investigating their survival, diversity and distribution since. She is interested both in conservation of Apis mellifera mellifera and resilience of untreated bees to varroa and other challenges introduced by humans.

Presentation:  “Resilient Honeybees”

Grace will present the results of the investigation of the wild honeybee study in Ireland including aspects of habitat choice, survival and genetic diversity of free-living bees. She will also introduce Honeybee Watch, an international project that aims to use citizen science (especially beekeepers) to assist in accumulating data on wild bees towards aiding their conservation. She will discuss current research on resilient honeybees both managed and wild and the use of data science to assist in honeybee conservation and bee improvement.

Tuesday 27th October, 3rd November & 10th November all at 7.30pm – Roger Patterson – See below

Roger was brought up on a farm in West Sussex and started beekeeping in 1963. He has travelled widely, speaking on and demonstrating practical beekeeping, where his down to earth approach gained by observation, lateral thinking and being taught by many colonies of honey bees for over 50 years is appreciated. He is privileged to have seen different bees being kept in different conditions, which, together with removing several hundred wild/feral colonies has formed his opinion of what bees are best suited to our fickle climate.

Roger encourages beekeepers to use simple management techniques and keep good tempered, healthy and productive bees that suit their locality. He has not bought an imported queen for well over 50 years, preferring to rear his own from the best of those that have survived locally.

He is a prolific writer and owns and manages Dave Cushman’s website www.dave-cushman.net, that is accepted as one of the world’s most comprehensive beekeeping websites.

In his three webinars, Roger will attempt to cover some points the other speakers may have omitted. He will address some of the issues that face beekeeping and some the previous speakers may have raised. Apart from a few short spells, honey bees have been imported on a fairly large scale for over 100 years. Importation doesn’t seem to have solved anything, other than to weaken the stock that is already here for short term gain.

Tuesday 27th October 7.30pm

Presentation:  “Where we are, how we got here and how we can move on…….”

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As with other things in life, beekeeping has changed. The modern beekeeper has access to “information” and bees that may not be appropriate to their region, where beekeepers in the past used bees that survived best in their district and managed them to suit.

Many beekeepers think that all bees are the same, but they aren’t, with some considerable differences, often with the same advice freely given, irrespective of the type of bee or the conditions. A colony of bees is telling you something all the time, the skill comes in interpreting what they are trying to say, which of course comes from observation and experience.

Many beekeepers judge their bees by the size of the honey crop, but is that always advisable? There are several reasons why a colony may produce more or less honey than another colony in the same apiary. We should also take into account the time taken on inspections and the amount of feeding required.

A colony of wild (feral) bees is subject to the forces of natural selection, which is often masked by beekeepers who, as a matter of course, over – feed, insulate and medicate their bees, just to keep them alive. Close observation of wild colonies has shown me they are often quite different from many managed colonies. The reasons for this will be discussed with a view to encouraging the keeping of bees with similar characteristics. What suits nature should suit us.

Tuesday 3rd November 7.30pm

Presentation:  “Some Fresh Ideas for Teaching and Learning”

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This webinar is not intended to tell teachers and BKAs what to do, it is to help them to include what was learnt in the last webinar in their teaching and to give beekeepers an idea of what to expect. Much of beekeeping teaching and advice, especially to beginners, is based on management methods that are more suited to imported bees than those that do well in our climate. This is for a variety of reasons that are well documented elsewhere, aggravated by the “cut and paste” mentality, where methods that are used in Florida or California can quickly be accessed online, even though they may not work well elsewhere.

Under discussion will be some of the myths and misinformation that have crept into beekeeping in recent years that have become part of mainstream teaching. BKAs are now the main source of teaching at a local level, with no effective appraisal of the skill and knowledge levels of those doing the teaching. I believe that BKAs should be better supported in their teaching role, so they can provide good sound teaching.

Tuesday 10th November 7.30pm

Presentation:  “Free Bees and Queens for Everyone and Plenty of Them”

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Many beekeepers and beekeeping associations buy bees and queens because they feel it is difficult to produce their own. Once you have a colony of bees, there is no need to ever buy bees again, as it is very easy to produce more, with opportunities often presented to cover the needs of small scale beekeepers during the summer. For larger scale beekeepers or BKAs, a little planning is needed, but rapid increase can be made. Queens can also be produced quite easily.

This webinar explores some possible options and benefits of producing bees and queens locally, which if done by BKAs will provide great opportunities to teach their members, as well as perhaps being an income stream. There is the added benefit of producing stock that is known to be survivors in the locality.

Tuesday 17th November  7.30pm – Presenters:  Panel drawn from previous speakers, Presentation:  “Answering Your Questions”

Presenters:  Panel drawn from previous speakers

Presentation:  “Answering Your Questions”

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The National Bee Improvement Programme is one of the most radical proposals ever put to beekeepers in our part of the world. We can only improve our bees if we understand them. Much of the teaching, especially of beginners, is based on imported bees, so there may need to be some modification in teaching and what has already been learnt. This will bring many questions, which this webinar has been set up to answer.

During the previous 8 webinars we will try to cover much of what beekeepers may ask. There will be time at the end of each session for questions, but inevitably there will be more. Now closed to questions.


Webinars – Season Two

Tuesday 18th August 7:30pm – Roger Patterson – “Dead Bees Don’t Buzz – Surviving the Winter “

Roger Patterson started beekeeping as a teenager in his native West Sussex in 1963, at one stage having 130 colonies. Although he had a short work related break without bees, he continued teaching and demonstrating. On returning, he discovered there were widespread problems with queens that he has publicised widely. He is a prolific writer, speaker and demonstrator of practical beekeeping, where his down to earth approach gained by observation, lateral thinking and being taught by many colonies of honey bees for over 50 years is appreciated.

His travels have allowed him to see different bees being kept in different conditions by different beekeepers, so increasing his knowledge, that he freely passes onto others. He is Apiary Manager of the Wisborough Green BKA.

Roger is passionate about the craft, encouraging beekeepers to learn the “basics” well, so they can understand how to solve their own problems, rather than consult sources that may be unreliable, as many are. He owns and manages Dave Cushman’s website www.dave-cushman.net, that is accepted as one of the world’s most comprehensive beekeeping websites.

Presentation:  “Dead Bees Don’t Buzz – Surviving the Winter “

This talk could have simply been called “Wintering”, but so many speakers have that title, often just giving the impression that wintering is something you don’t think about until the autumn. Bees are preparing well before winter and this presentation encourages beekeepers to do the same, but from a position of understanding how a wild colony does it. Before varroa, bees survived the winters very well. They had to, as the survival of the species depended on minimal winter losses.

In managed colonies, winter losses are much higher than they should be. Why is that? Are beekeepers doing something wrong? Are their bees unsuited to our conditions? Are they neglected? Are they misunderstood? Are they unhealthy? What can we do to lessen the chances of losses without “mollycoddling”? Should we try to reduce losses? Are losses a good thing? These are all questions that successful beekeepers should be asking themselves.

There are many things beekeepers can do to help the colony survive into spring, some are mentioned in this thought provoking presentation.


Tuesday 25th August 7:30pm – Lynfa Davies – “The Mystery of Mating”

Lynfa Davies lives in Aberystwyth and has kept bees with her husband, Rob, for 15 years. During this time she has worked her way through the BBKA assessments to become a Master Beekeeper and in 2019 gained the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) which is the highest beekeeping qualification in the UK. She now enjoys sharing the information she has learned with other beekeepers and takes an active role in teaching new beekeepers in her local association and more widely across Wales.

Lynfa is a regular examiner for the BBKA and WBKA and sits on the WBKA Learning and Development Committee.

Lynfa currently has approximately 25 colonies which she mainly manages for honey production, something which often proves challenging in a wet West Wales! In addition she raises her own queens and uses these to produce nucleus colonies and to replace her own stock.

Presentation:  “The Mystery of Mating”.

Mated queens are something we tend to take for granted without giving too much thought as to how this ‘magic’ happens. Understanding when queens are ready for mating and where the action takes place is essential if we want to progress to queen rearing and bee breeding.

In addition the role of the drone is often overlooked and little consideration is given to them. This talk will not cover the complexities of bee breeding but instead will set the scene and describe what happens, where it happens and how we can influence it for our needs.


Tuesday 1st September 7:30pm – Roger Patterson – “Challenge what you are told……….”

In beekeeping, there are a lot of people who are eager to give information and advice, whether it is verbally or the written word in the form of books, leaflets, newsletters or screen. There are lots of myths and misinformation, often “cut and pasted” from other sources, which may simply be copying someone else’s mistake, who copied someone else’s mistake and so on. The same thing is then seen in many places and because it’s in print it’s believed to be reliable, but is it?

Inexperienced beekeepers may have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff, but the more experienced a beekeeper gets, the more they realise that some of what they have been told, sometimes quite forcibly, may need reviewing. This presentation highlights a few topics that may not always be as we are told. It doesn’t rubbish the “standard information”, but gives reasons based on experiences that have been acquired during over half a century of practical beekeeping.


Tuesday 8th September 7:30pm – Peter Jenkins – “The KISS Approach”

Peter Jenkins has kept bees since the age of 14, a period of over 50 years. He now keeps around 50 colonies of near native bees in and around the marginal areas of Cardiganshire. Having spent most of his working life as a Chartered Engineer working around the world on marine and naval projects has meant that, for many years, he had little time for regular 7 day hive inspections as advised in text books. Nevertheless he has harvested at least average crops of honey year on year using bees improved over lifetime by his father, a process he is now continuing following his father’s death in 2009.

Many problems in beekeeping are caused by beekeepers reading books and listening to other people who read books, then rigidly following what they are told without understanding what the bees are trying to do. When things go wrong, as they often do in beekeeping, they blame the bees for not reading the book! With a little experience the more astute beekeeper will soon realise that much of what they have been taught in their early days of beekeeping as “fact” may not always be so.

“The KISS Approach” has been developed over many years of finding practical solutions on the hoof to some of the many beekeeping problems that all beekeepers face. Following the books often gets you into trouble but they aren’t very good at getting you out of it. Things that can work or get you out of trouble are rarely covered in standard books, so you have to work solutions out for yourself, but you need knowledge and experience to do it. In short, this presentation is about how to achieve maximum output for minimum input.


Webinars – Summer 2020

BIBBA ran its first set of six webinars between 18th June and 8th July. These were very ably presented by Roger Patterson and hosted by Nick Mawby.
Before the webinars started, there was a discussion whether to have the facility to permit 100 attendees or, by paying a bit extra on the Zoom licence, increase the capacity to 500. We soon had over 500 people registered to attend!
The statistics have been a delight to see.
There have been more than 2000 viewings so far.


Early Years:-

Thurs 18 June. 7pm   Keep Your Swarms to Yourself  

This will help the beekeeper understand what is happening in a colony when it is preparing to swarm, so they can understand what the various swarm control methods are trying to achieve. Triggers for swarming will be discussed, including some that are often overlooked. A simple method of swarm control will be described that doesn’t result in extra colonies, as many swarm control methods do.

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Fri 26 June. 7pm         Queen Cells. Their Recognition and Uses


Beekeepers often decide what type of queen cells they have in their colonies by where they are placed on the comb. This can be very unreliable, often resulting in the wrong action taken. Attendees will be given some clear guidance on what to look for, so they can manage colonies accordingly. There will be tips on how to use queen cells.

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Thurs 2 July. 7pm       Simple Colony Increase

Beginners are often told to have more than one colony, but aren’t always taught how to do it. If you have a queenright colony, there is no need to buy another colony, as there are many opportunities to make increase.
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Intermediate/advanced:

Tue 23 June. 7pm       The 2 frame nuc

Roger has used this simple and economical method of making increase for well over 40 years. It is not well known because many think that it is too small, although in recent years more beekeepers are using it successfully. Attend this webinar to find out how to do it.

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Mon 29 June. 7pm     The Patterson Unit

This simple method treats the whole apiary as one, rather than as a group of individual colonies. It was originally introduced to overcome the problems many beekeepers have with queens, by bringing together several techniques. It keeps honey production colonies fully productive and is very versatile.

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Wed 8 July. 7pm   Colony Increase for the Established Beekeeper

Established and larger scale beekeepers often need a constant supply of nucs, so they may use different techniques than the beekeeper with only a few colonies. Included in this webinar is a method, where in good conditions 10 or more colonies that are strong enough to go into winter can be made from one strong colony in the spring. It can be used by local BKAs to provide nucs for beginners and can also be modified to provide fewer nucs if required.
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