Dear Members,

Beekeeping is often more art than science. It is important with beekeeping not to do things by rote, but to pay attention to the weather, the forage available, and the condition of your bees.


So, although according to old beekeeper lore, you can do your first inspection when the flowering currant is out, unless temperatures are also above 15degrees C, don’t disturb them. If you do, the bees metabolic rate increases and they will consume more of what may still be scarce resources in the hive. Remember, many of the bees in the colony are the old winter bees who have less strength and energy so although the Blackthorn and other early plum and cherry blossom is out, if these bees have to fly any distance in cool temperatures they will not be able to take full advantage of this forage and may die in the attempt.

April is a good time to be thinking about disease, and of course the dreaded Asian Hornet. The Asian Hornet queens are emerging and establishing their initial colonies and it is now that if they can be detected, we can try to keep this destructive pest out of Britain. Please keep alert and communicate with non-beekeepers the importance of identifying and reporting this hornet.

The Zoom talk in March by Kirsty Stanton brought to our attention again the importance of monitoring our bees for disease. Checking for varroa in the Spring is an important part of this monitoring, so remember to put your inserts (smeared with vaseline to create a sticky film) under the hive and then use the calculation found on BeeBase to determine the level of varroa in your hive to guide you in what action to take to reduce the varroa load on your bees.

There is a lot of interest in scientific and beekeeping circles about how best to promote our bees natural defence against varroa. Leading lights like Tom Seeley and his ‘Darwinian Beekeeping’ blog and Professor Steve Martin’s work on Natural Varroa-Resistant Honey bees. give ideas on this If you are interested in this approach, do obtain a copy of Steven Martin’s booklet from BBKA which is being sold at a knockdown price of £4.00.

It makes for interesting reading and gives some ideas about how you can determine whether your bees are beginning to develop these characteristics.

Kirsty talked about the various viral infections bees are affected by, but particularly Chronic Bee Paralysis (CBPV) which is on the increase in the UK. As we are all very aware now from our exposure to Covid, this virus increases in crowded conditions - when the bees build up in the hive and when we have a large number of hives in an Apiary. For many of us it is not practical to spread our hives out, but Tom Seeley is convinced because bees in the wild spread themselves out by at least 30metres and often much more, that our practice of keeping bees in close proximity has a negative effect on their health.

Perhaps this is something we need to think about, but also as we have had impressed on us because of our experience with Covid, we need to be particularly aware of good hygiene in the Apiary and now is a good time to get your hives onto clean flamed floors and to think about replacing frames to give the bees as healthy an environment as we can.

Do consider joining us for our next Zoom meeting where we will find out something about how bees and bee products can keep us all healthy!

Regards, and stay safe and well,

Margaret Holdsworth


Beebase News Web feed
  • Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) Vacancies
    19 April 2021
    The National Bee Unit currently has a number of Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) vacancies advertised in the following areas South Kent & East Sussex, South West Devon and South East Wales

    If you are interested in applying for the job, full details can be found on Civil Service Jobs.

  • Reporting Varroa
    12 April 2021
    Amendments to the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006, the Bees Diseases and Pest Control (Scotland) Order 2007 and the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Wales) Order 2006 come into force on the 21st of April 2021 requiring all beekeepers and/or officials in GB to report the presence of Varroa in any of the hives that they manage. This amendment will allow Great Britain to comply with the Animal Health Law which is necessary for future working relationships with the European Union.

    To make this simple, a tick box will be introduced to BeeBase, the voluntary register for beekeepers managed by the National Bee Unit. This will be the easiest way to report Varroa but an alternative mechanism will be provided for those who do not wish to register on the BeeBase system. Details of this alternative system will be provided after 21st April. If Scottish Beekeepers wish to, they can report varroa by contacting the Scottish Bee Health Inspectors (

    Although Varroa is known to be widespread, it continues to be one of the most serious pests faced by beekeepers. Reporting Varroa will contribute to the overall pest and disease surveillance work of the National Bee Unit and the Scottish Bee Health Inspectorate. We are grateful for your assistance with this new simple measure.

    No action will be required until after 21st April.
  • 2020 Hive Count
    29 March 2021
    More than 10,000 beekeepers, a record number, updated their details on BeeBase during this year's hive count. There are currently more than 44,000 beekeepers registered on BeeBase, meaning that around 23% participated.

    This year’s hive count produced a figure of 260,268 colonies in the UK. This is slightly lower than the 2019 figure of 263,896. It is necessary to make a number of assumptions in the calculation, and so the figure is classed as an experimental statistic.

    The Hive Count provides a very useful indication of the number of managed colonies in the UK, and helps to ensure that BeeBase records are kept up to date. Information about numbers and location of hives is very important for National Bee Unit inspectors in terms of preparing and planning for outbreaks of disease and exotic pests.

    Thank you very much to everyone who has taken time to ensure that their BeeBase information is up to date.