Dear Members,

Active beekeeping is coming to an end this month as we ensure that our bees are ready for winter; most importantly, do they have sufficient stores to get them through our prolonged and sometimes very wet winters, and have we completed varroa treatments to reduce the impact of varroa on those bees having to survive the next six months.

September this year proved to be another remarkably dry and warm month with the result that in my garden at least, some of the plants seem to have been misled into thinking it was spring, and started blooming again. The choysia and eleagnus have both produced a good flush of flowers that have attracted the bees, and the valerian, which seeds itself into every little crack and cranny, has also reflowered. Hopefully, along with the single dahlias, Japanese anenomes and the good crop of ivy that has flowered early this year, our bees have had the opportunity to stock up ready for the winter.

Perhaps some of you managed to join the zoom lecture given by Steve Martin at the BDI AGM. Steve has been doing some fascinating work on varroa around the world. He has been examining how some bees have developed a natural resistance to varroa.

Perhaps resistance is the wrong word as what it seems is that some bees, by identifying that there is something not quite right in a capped cell, set about uncapping the cell, investigating and removing dead or damaged pupae, and if the pupa is healthy, recapping the cell. The effect of this on varroa is that by opening the cell the varroa breeding cycle is disrupted so that instead of 2-3 varroa emerging from the cell with a mature bee, only the original varroa who entered the cell to lay her eggs, emerges.

As we are learning with Covid, this means that the R, or reproduction rate, is slowed down, and so that although the varroa is not erradicated, it is not able to reproduce to dangerous levels. This is obviously good news, and accounts for why we are seeing more wild colonies of bees surviving. Across Britain there are beekeepers who have not been treating for varroa for many years and after initial losses have found their bees are able to live with varroa.

Steve’s good news was that he predicted that in about ten years there would be sufficient spread of bees with this uncapping trait present in the bee population.This would mean that we would no longer need to treat our bees to reduce the varroa load.

What we need to learn now, is to identify when our bees are showing this ‘uncapping trait’ and then encourage the reproduction of these bees in our apiaries.

There is always something new to learn in beekeeping which is what makes it such a fascinating hobby!

I was not able to hear Jane Medwell’s talk via Zoom this month, but I hope she encouraged some of you to take up the BBKA education opportunities as this definitely enhances the pleasure and understanding of beekeeping in an organized and systematic way.

Regards, and stay safe and well,

Margaret Holdsworth


Beebase News Web feed
  • COVID-19 and Beekeeping update
    11 January 2021
    This is a re-issue of the guidance provided in October 2020:

    Please find the latest Covid-19 beekeeping guidance. The update includes separate links to the current Public Health Guidance for England, Wales and Scotland.


    COVID-19_and_Beekeeping_-_Welsh_Language_Version v3

    If you have any queries please contact:

    For England:
    For Wales: /
    For Scotland:
  • Starvation and Varroa Alert
    04 December 2020
    Observations from beekeepers and Bee Inspectors across the UK suggest that some colonies of bees are becoming short of food.

    Please monitor your colonies throughout the coming months and feed as required to ensure your bees do not starve. A standard full size British National colony needs between 20-25 kg of stores to successfully overwinter. If they need feeding at this time then fondant should be used. This should be placed above the brood nest so that the bees are able to access it easily.

    For further information, please see the ‘Best Practice Guidance No. 7 - Feeding Bees Sugar’ on the following BeeBase Page:

    It has also been observed that Varroa levels in some hives are starting to increase again. This may be due to a number of factors, but the exceptionally mild weather this autumn has encouraged some colonies to produce more brood than usual which has allowed an increase in mite reproduction.

    Please monitor mite levels and treat accordingly.

    For further information, please see the’ Managing Varroa’ Advisory leaflet on the following BeeBase Page:
  • 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.