Online information and advice
There are useful articles and downloads on the BBKA web site
Somerset Beekeepers have a good set of How to … guides on their web site.
Beekeeping Forum is an an active UK forum.
BBKA Forum is the forum on the British Beekeeping Association site (member login required).
Beemaster forum is a worldwide forum with mainly North American members.
Beesource Forum is useful too. It also has mainly North American members.
Scientific Beekeeping is an excellent site run by Randy Oliver which also has articles from the American Bee Journal presenting the latest worldwide scientific research on bees and beekeeping.
Hives and equipment
If you want to build your own National, WBC, Langstroth or Smith hive, go to the Scottish Beekeepers Association Technical Data Sheets page where you will find full measurements and instructions.
There are also descriptions of the hives commonly used in the UK and Ireland with dimensioned drawings on Dave Cushman’s web site .
If you are interested in beekeeping with skeps, then take a look at Martin Buckle’s site
Val Vivian-Griffiths has written a very clear explanation of how she and Jim operate swarm control at their Apiary: Swarming by Val V-G
Queen rearing and introduction
Nick Withers of Kent Beekeepers has written a very good guide to Simple Queen Rearing
The Somerset Beekeepers How to .. guide gives a complete explanation of the process.
There is also a good explanation with photos on the University of Georgia web site.
Before starting make sure that you have plenty of space, have all the equipment that you need and that you cover the floor with plastic sheeting or newspaper so that you can easily clean up any honey spills!
DFBKA members can hire an extractor and cappings tray: see the Info for Members page.
Pay close attention to food hygiene at all stages of processing.
The reasons for feeding a honey bee colony are:
It is important to take these precautions:
It important to note that when feeding sugar syrup for immediate consumption it must have a sugar content of at least 50%. (1 kg of sugar dissolved in 1 litre of water gives a syrup with 50% sugar content.)
There is a simple guide to feeding with sugar solution here: Feeding your bees
Pests and diseases
The first requirement for healthy bees is the maintenance of good hygiene in the apiary. The BBKA Apiary Hygiene leaflet is well worth reading, even if you have read it before!
In addition, every beekeeper should be inspecting their hives regularly, monitoring the incidence and extent of any pests or diseases, and taking appropriate action. New beekeepers can learn to recognise problems at an early stage by taking part in our apiary sessions, held every Thursday from April to October.
The most significant pests and diseases currently found in UK hives are Varroa, Chalkbrood, Nosema, Wax moth, European Foul Brood and American Foul Bood. Information on these and others is available on the Beebase web site.
APHA’s booklet on managing Varroa can be downloaded here: Managing Varroa
WBKA beekeeper and author Wally Shaw wrote (in Autumn 2013) an excellent summary of the current varroa treatments with a special focus on MAQS strips. You can read it here: Varroa Control by Wally Shaw
This image is a good explanation of how to use MAQS strips:
Oxalic acid treatment, which is very effective against varroa, is well described here: Oxalic acid treatment by Megan Seymour.
Bees and crop spraying
The HSE Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products informs farmers and spray operators that they should give all beekeepers likely to be affected by the application of pesticides (not just insecticides) at least 48 hours notice of the time and date of their operations.
Most agricultural chemicals have been selected to be neutralised within hours by plant or air breakdown. However, if sprayed onto flying bees they can poison them.
There are chemicals on the market which are being labelled ‘Bee Friendly’, and some operators think that this removes the warning and open flower restrictions: it does not.
The most common symptom of bee poisoning is the appearance of excessive numbers of dead bees in front of the hives. Poisoning may also show as a sudden drop in the numbers of bees in a colony, caused by them dying on the wing in the fields. This is not easy to spot, but should raise suspicions at certain times of the year.
The warning system can only work if farmers and their contractors are aware of how to contact local beekeepers. For that reason Beekeeping Associations have appointed Spray Liaison Officers.
Farmers and contractors who are planning crop spraying, and beekeepers who suspect that their bees have been adversely affected by crop spraying, should contact their local beekeeping association or county Spray Liaison Officer.
The Spray Liaison Officer for the Forest of Dean is given on the Contact Us page.
The Spray Liaison Officer for Gloucestershire Beekeeping Association is given on the GBKA web site gbka.org.uk
In areas where there are no Spray Liaison Officers, and where local beekeepers are not known through local knowledge, farmers and contractors should contact the National Bee Unit at the Animal and Plant Health Agency. APHA holds a Register of beekeepers as part of their role in disease control and may be able to help farmers contact beekeepers. The best contact for the NBU is the main office, phone 0300 303 0094, email: firstname.lastname@example.org