Dear Members,

As our Calendar year draws to a close this is a good time to do a little study to improve your beekeeping knowledge and practice.  At our November meeting Jane Medway mentioned that a course is being organized to assist beekeepers who want to undertake the Basic Assessment in beekeeping.

If you are interested, please contact Sam Peckett who will give you more information. Doing the Assessment is a learning opportunity as your assessor will be prepared to talk to you about your beekeeping.  If you read the November issue of BBKA news there is an amusing account of a Beekeeper taking the Basic Assessment.

Jane’s talk in November about uniting bees strayed into an interesting side issue when she spoke about why it was necessary to find means of gradually merging two colonies because each colony has its own unique colony odour.  This odour is apparently produced through the gut bacteria of the bees in each individual hive. The gut bacteria is unique to that hive because the bees from different hives are foraging on different combinations of nectar and pollen, then these foraging bees transfer their forage to the house bees through trophallaxis, sharing some of their gut bacteria in the process.  The bees cleaning the hive also imbibe and share some of the bacteria within the hive.  In the process of grooming some of this odour is then spread over the exoskeleton of the bees, helping to produce this unique hive odour.

Gut bacteria is now seen as an important factor in human health with huge profits being made from the production and distribution of pro-biotics to encourage ‘good’ bacteria. Research into the role of individual’s differing gut bacteria in dealing with our obesity crisis is also underway.  

So, it is not surprising that there is a current interest in the role of gut bacteria in the health of bees. The US Department of Agriculture has discovered that malnutrition in bees is related to habitat loss, climate change and the decrease in flowering plant diversity as well as monocrop agriculture. In addition, apparently microalgae are also important in honeybee diets and can be used instead of pollen substitutes, promoting more healthy gut bacteria!  

I think we all know that, as with our good nutrition, it is variety and diversity that are key factors in promoting good gut bacteria and ultimately health.  So make sure your bees have access to a variety of forage and think about planting sources of pollen and nectar for the Spring - there is still time.  Crocuses, snowdrops and hellebores are all good, as are other Spring flowers like bluebells and trees like hazel and willow. 

If you use poly or glass crown boards to overwinter - and they are useful when taking a quick peek to see where the cluster is during winter when you don’t want to break the propolis seal - be aware that condensation forms under glass/poly covers. The bees can use this moisture to dissolve crystalized stores, but too much can result in frames getting mouldy. The way to avoid this is to place insulation on top of the cover board.  Make sure you cover the feed hole with something solid or the bees will chew away at the insulation - probably not very good for them.

Regards, and stay safe and well during this festive period and have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year, 

Margaret Holdsworth  


Beebase News Web feed
  • New Appointments within the National Bee Unit
    14 January 2022
    We are pleased to announce the temporary appointment of Dhonn Atkinson as the National Bee Inspector (NBI) whilst the current NBI Cristina Ruiz is on maternity leave. Dhonn has held a variety of roles across the National Bee Unit and Animal and Plant Health Agency where he held the role of Regional Bee Inspector for the North East of England.

    Following the retirement of Keith Morgan, Colin Pavey, and shortly Frank Gellatly and the temporary promotion of Sandra Gray, we are pleased to confirm the following movements and appointments:-

    Regional Bee Inspector for Western England – Jonathan Axe has been promoted from the role of Seasonal Bee Inspector.

    Regional Bee Inspector for Eastern England - Pete Davies, an experienced manager has moved from the Central England Region.

    Regional Bee Inspector for Central England - John Geden. John joins the National Bee Unit as an experienced bee farmer.

    Regional Bee Inspector for South East – Daniel Etheridge a seasonal bee inspector has been offered a temporary promotion to manage this area.

    Regional Bee Inspector for Wales – Maggie Gill has been promoted from the role of Seasonal Bee Inspector.

    Regional Bee Inspector for North East England – David Bough a seasonal bee inspector has been offered a temporary promotion to manage this area.

    For full up to date details please visit the contacts page
  • Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) vacancies
    21 December 2021
    The National Bee Unit currently has a Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) vacancy advertised in:

    East England: Norfolk.

    North East England: East Yorkshire

    Mid-South Wales: Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, South Pembrokeshire, West Carmarthenshire

    West England: South East Shropshire, South Staffordshire, North West Worcestershire

    If you are interested in applying for these jobs, full details can be found on Civil Service Jobs

    If you have any questions regarding the position, please contact the Regional Bee Inspector for the area.

    Closing date for application: 16th January 2022
  • Bee Health Advisory Forum - Science Advisor
    08 November 2021
    The Bee Health Advisory Forum brings Defra & Welsh Government policy and stakeholders together to discuss honey bee health issues and is inviting expressions of interest from applicants interested in being Bee Health Advisory Forum Science Advisors. The closing date for applications is Friday 17th December at 17:00.

    Full details about the role can be downloaded here and can be found on the Bee Health Advisory page. Please circulate to prospective advisors or feel free to apply.