I started this little project because we came into possession of an expanded polystyrene box and lid of a suitable size, about 60cm x 35cm x 25cm.

You will require such a box, with a close fitting lid and walls thick enough to allow fittings to be added, in this case about 3cm thick. A wooden box of a similar size would be fine and may be easier to work if you have some basic woodworking skills and tools.

Access to a domestic vacuum cleaner with a hose, I used our ash vacuum, but something like a Henry would be fine.

A length of tube of a similar diameter to the vacuum cleaner tube. I have bought a 2m length of 5cm OD clear plastic tube from a local supplier. This has 2 benefits, the interior diameter is smooth, which I hope, will minimise bee damage and clear, so you can see the bees on their progress down the tube.

The main disadvantage is that the tube I bought is very stiff so is difficult to manhandle. It would be possible to use another vacuum cleaner hose which would be more flexible but will, I'm sure, cause more trauma to the bees.

 Click to EnlargeClick to EnlargeClick to Enlarge 

To connect the tubes to the box I visited a local hardware store with the tube dimensions and sorted through the plastic plumbing fittings until I found something that would suit the size of the tubes and allow me to clamp then through the wall of the box. See Photo 1, 4 and 5

At one end of the box I cut a hole in the middle of the short edge that would take the plumbing fitting and glued it in place. This will be where the bees enter the box.

At the other end of the box I cut a hole on the long edge as close to the box end and base as possible, this is the hole for the vacuum tube fitting to be fixed into. This is where the vacuum cleaner tube is attached to the box to supply the suction. See Photo 2.

From a piece of 4 or 5mm MDF I cut a piece the width of the box interior that would go from the top of the opening to the bottom at an angle of about 45 deg. This should be close fitting and clear the internal part of the plumbing fitting used to attach the suction hose. See Photo 3.

 Click to Enlarge Click to EnlargeIn the middle of the MDF sheet I cut a rectangular hole about half the total area of the sheet. From a local motor factor i.e. Halfords, I bought a sheet of expanded aluminium mesh as used for car body repair and cut a piece about 3 - 4cm larger than the cut out on the MDF sheet and stuck this in place over the cut out. This is to provide a barrier to keep the bees in the box and not get sucked into the vacuum cleaner. See Photo 3.

I attached the MDF sheet into the box using Duct tape to provide a bee proof join. See Photo 3.


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  • Julian Parker – Head of APHA’s National Bee Unit.
    23 November 2020
    Following a recent recruitment process Julian Parker has been appointed as Head of the National Bee Unit (NBU) within Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. Within the NBU Julian has previously been Acting Head as well as National Bee Inspector and before that Regional Bee Inspector for Southern and South East Regions. Julian has over 12 years operational experience with the NBU including leading outbreak situations. Julian is also well known in the wider beekeeping community and his expertise is highly respected across Defra and Welsh Government as well as with Bee Health stakeholders. He has also played a key role in the review of the 2020 Healthy Bees Plan and will now play a significant role in delivering the Healthy Bee Plan 2030. Many congratulations Julian.
  • Email issues
    16 November 2020
    If you have sent an email to nbu@apha.gov.uk between the 10th November and the 16th November, due to a system failure your message has not been received. Please resend your messages, we apologise for the inconvenience.
  • Healthy Bees Plan 2030 Published
    03 November 2020
    Defra, Welsh Government and the National Bee Unit have worked with stakeholders to produce a review of progress made under the Healthy Bees Plan, a ten-year plan introduced in 2009 to improve honey bee health across England and Wales. Following this review, a new plan entitled the Healthy Bees Plan 2030 has been published today to carry on this important work.

    Welcoming the new plan, Nicola Spence, Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health at Defra, said:

    I am delighted that today we are publishing the Healthy Bees Plan 2030 which is Defra’s and Welsh Government’s joint framework for continued action to improve honey bee health in England and Wales over the next ten years. Protecting our honey bees is vital because of the benefits they bring through pollination of flowers and crops, honey production and our well-being. Bee health stakeholders have had a key role in developing this new Healthy Bees Plan and we look forward to continuing to work together as we implement the plan.

    Ceri Witchard, Deputy Director for Land, Nature and Forestry at Welsh Government, said:

    The Healthy Bees Plan 2009 was published with the aim of achieving a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production in Wales and England. Our overall aim has not changed. However, the experiences we have gained and the relationships we have built within the Bee Health Advisory Forum now put us in a firmer position to face new risks and challenges to honey bees. I am grateful to the Forum and other stakeholders for their commitment and contributions in developing the Healthy Bees Plan 2030.