Your Questions Answered

The UK honey bee, Apis Mellifera, is one of 270 types of bees in UK.  If you have the time and commitment to keep bees in your garden or on your land then you would be supporting our honey bee pollinators. However if you want to look after your bees responsibly you should attend a beekeeping theory course, then learn how to handle your bees safely before you make the decision to purchase bees or equipment.

You won’t be helping bees if you don’t care for them responsibly. We have provided answers below to get you started.

If you are interested in keeping bees we encourage you to become a member of a local beekeeping Association.  To find your local association visit the BBKA website.

If you live in the Meon Valley area we run a theory course, starting in February each year which introduces you to the skills and knowledge required to keep healthy bees. The theory course is followed by a practical course in April/May to gain the confidence and skills to safely handle bees.

Following the course we will advise you on acquiring your own bees and equipment and provide you with a mentor.  

If you do not have space for a hive then we can put you in touch with people who have available land or you can get involved with the Association Apiary.

The Introduction to Beekeeping Course commences in February and is every Tuesday for 7 weeks. This year it will be an online event from 7.30am to 9.00pm. In Session 1 we will bring socially distanced groups to Warnham Village Hall to receive your training books and to meet the team and your fellow trainee beekeepers. After that the sessions will be online on Tuesday evenings with the opportunity for Q&A after each live presentation. We will then provide you with the presentation notes.

Please fill in the online booking form or ‘contact us’  if you would like to attend.

Experienced and trained members from the association will provide the training supported by a range of internal and external experts. The course covers bee biology, bee health, constructing hive parts, disease, obtaining bees, swarming and honey extraction. By attending you will gain enough information to set up your own hive and look after your first colony of bees. A mentor is provided to every new beekeeper

Cost – the cost of £95 will include 7 sessions, a book, handouts and your first years membership of the MVBKA

Venue – Warnford Hall (Directions)

In April following on from the theory course we run  a  ‘hands on’ practical course at our Association Apiary. The dates are spread over the beekeeping year so that you choose the topics which interest you.

The course is run by experienced members of the MVBKA on a ratio of 4 to 1. The course covers all practical aspects of making frames and boxes, inspecting your bees, handling bees, identifying and catching a queen, methods of swarm control, disease identification, drone laying queens and keeping your bees healthy and safe. 

Cost – The cost of the practical course is TBC. It will include a handbook showing month by month procedures and tasks and refreshments

Venue – Association Apiary off the M272 between Petersfield and Meon Hut.

Time – 2.30pm for 3 hours on Saturday afternoon’s spread over the summer season.

We are a group of enthusiastic beekeepers covering a wide area which includes Waterlooville, Horndean, Boarhunt, Wickham, Swanmore, Bishop’s Waltham, Botley, Hedge End, Durley, Upham, Warnford, Meonstoke, West Meon, Medstead, Ropley, Cheriton, Alresford, Farringdon, Four Marks, Alton and Basingstoke.

We hold our meetings in the Warnford Village Hall and we have a Training Apiary on the A272 between Petersfield and West Meon Hut.

The association formed in 1938 to help and encourage people to learn the craft of beekeeping and keep their bees healthy and strong to provide pollination and bring in a good honey crop.

We are a friendly supportive progressive group of Hampshire beekeepers who welcome everybody who wants to learn and enjoy keeping bees. We run a training apiary, courses, talks and attend a variety of shows and events. If you would like to find out more please contact us.

Yes, we hold a one day introduction for anyone interested in learning more about bees?  The next Taster Day will be in June 2021 (unfortunately the 2020 date has been cancelled due to COVID-19). 

On the day, we will introduce you to beekeeping, provide lunch and then there is the opportunity to inspect a colony of bees at our Association Training Apiary.

It would make a brilliant Birthday or Christmas present to a friend or loved one who is interested in beekeeping.

For further information and to book your place contact Jean Frost

Email: jeanterry@uwclub.net

Phone: 01420 561136 or 07879 454046

It is possible to keep bees in a small garden. There are beekeepers in London who site their hives on flat roofs. You will need to be aware of any close neighbours, however, and hives should be sited with entrances facing away from their land or any public area. It would be prudent to discuss your plans with your neighbours and get them on your side. If this is not possible you may well be able to find someone who would love to have your bees in their large garden, orchard etc. Our association often has requests from landowners.

As well as this you will need somewhere to store all of your kit. When you begin there isn’t a lot of stuff that you desperately need but as the years go by you will start to accumulate quite a lot of equipment.  Most beekeepers use a shed or garage to store this in.

Somewhere between £300 and £600. If you are on a low budget and are good at woodwork you might be able to construct your own hives at a lower cost. Sometimes it is possible to pick up ‘second’ quality flat pack hives from the manufacturers.  Of course, second hand is always an option meaning you can get it for cheaper but you have to be careful of the quality of the stuff you are buying

Every May the association has an auction where you can buy secondhand equipment. It is also possible to buy bees at auction but not always at a bargain price.  

You could start with a swarm of bees which would be free. However we don’t generally recommend swarms to new beekeepers because the temperament of the queen is unknown and there may be disease in the colony.

If you are new to beekeeping we recommend that you attend our 6 week theory course where the purchase of your first bees will be covered. A nucleus of bees comprising a fertile queen and a supply of young bees is a good way to start beekeeping as your colony will increase over the season together with your confidence in handling them.

A nucleus of bees costs about £200 and a member of your association will be to recommend a reputable supplier who will ensure you receive healthy bees.  At our yearly auction, which happens every May, you can pick up a nucleus of bees cheaper than online. But you better be a quick bidder as they are snatched up almost instantly.

Many people have started beekeeping by collecting or being given a swarm of bees. These are free and belong to whoever collects them. Nothing will be known about the age of the queen unless she is colour marked and nothing of the temperament of the bees. It is also possible that the bees could carry disease.  This can work but it is a risk for first-time beekeepers. At the start of the season you can put your name down on the swarm list and when one arrives you are given a phone call and asked if you would like to pick it up.

After you have been on a course and obtained your bees, the rush of excitement at the fact you are now a beekeeper can quickly overwhelm you.

It is very tempting to open the hive and disturb the brood nest when the first sunny days of spring arrive. It is perfectly OK to have a quick peep to make sure that all is well but unless the weather is really warm for this time of the year the first thorough inspection should be left until April. A warm day in March (15 degrees +) is a good time to replace the hive floors with clean ones. This can be done with little disturbance to the bees. A good rule is that hives should only be opened when it is warm enough for the beekeeper to be wearing shirt sleeves.

Have you seen signs of swarm preparation in your hive (charged queen cells)?  Here’s a suggestion about what you can do.

If you judge that a colony is making preparations to swarm try to pip them at the post and split them before they can get away. A favourite method is to make a queen-right nucleus (nuc) because it is versatile and quite close to the kind of split bees might have performed themselves. You end up with a small colony of mostly young bees and the old queen, similar in profile to a swarm.

You will need a five frame nuc box or a brood box and dummy board on a floor with a crown board and roof.

  • Find the frame with the queen and place it in the middle of the nuc box.
  • Put in another frame with as much open brood (exposed larvae) on it as possible plus adhering bees. Make sure there are no queen cells on either of these two frames of brood.
  • Add two frames of food (including pollen) and one of foundation. The frames of food can be taken from the parent colony or another.
  • If frames taken from the parent colony, replace with frames of foundation.
  • Shake in young bees using the double shake method. From the parent colony select a brood frame with plenty of bees on it; lift it from the brood box and give is a bit of a shake. The older bees will fall or fly off, leaving younger, nurse bees still on the frame.  Now move the frame to the nuc box and partially insert it. Give the frame a very firm shake and most of the young bees will drop into the nuc. Do this a second time to ensure plenty of nurse bees are in the nuc. Return the frames to the parent hive.
  • Go through the parent colony and choose a good open queen cell to leave; mark this frame. Do not use the frames you have just shaken bees from – you could have damaged   and queen cells on those frames.
  • Cut out all other queen cells. All of them!
  • In a weeks’ time go through the parent colony again and remove all new queen cells that have been made.
  • Leave alone for without opening for at least three weeks.

If you don’t have a nuc box, you can use a brood box (and floor etc) and put a dummy board against the last of the five frames.

The nuc (or brood box, floor etc), can be placed next to the swarm colony but with the entrance facing in the opposite direction.

Open brood is chosen because this will be covered in younger bees  – nurse bees which will be reluctant to abandon any larvae and so won’t return to the parent colony as foragers will.

Adapted from  ‘Beginners in the apiary’ by Clare Densley in BeeCraft May 2020.

A to Z

Simple A-Z of beekeeping (certainly not comprehensive)
A

Abdomen – main body of the bee, behind the thorax.

Acarine – small parasitic mite that infests the airways of the honeybee.

Alarm pheromones – released with the sting; it recruits more bees from within the hive to defend.

American foul brood – caused by spore-forming paenibacillus larvae – deadly disease, it is a notifiable disease to National bee unit and there is no known cure.

Antennae – thin sensory appendages on the heads of insects that detect smell.

Apiary – a collection of beehives.

Apicentric beekeeping – natural beekeeping, cause minimum disruption to lifecycle of bees.

Apis mellifera – honeybee.

Arnhart glands – gland that produces pheromones, found on the feet of bees.

Asian Hornet – large wasp invasive non-native species – enemy of the bee.

B

BeeBase – beekeeping resource provided by the National Bee Unit, a place to register your bees National bee unit.

Bee brush – a soft brush used to brush bees away from frames.

Beekeeper – Someone who keeps bees.

Bee space – the space between frames in which bees can work.

Beeswax – major component of honeycomb it is secreted from the underside of the worker bees and moulded into honeycomb – it can be used to make many things, candles and is an ingredient in furniture polish, cosmetics and ointments to name a few.

Black bee – species of honeybee that was devastated in Britain in early 20th century. It is claimed there are still small pockets of Britain in which it can be found.

Brood – the immature stage of bees (eggs, larvae and pupae).

Brood chamber – where young bees are raised, nectar and pollen can also be stored here by the bees.

Buckfast bee – a hybrid bee developed at Buckfast Abbey in Devon.

C

Capped cells – a dome of wax bees build over cells that have either honey or pupating grubs within.

Carniolan bees – a subspecies of honeybee originating in central Europe.

Cells wax – is hexagonal in shape and constructed by the bees for storing honey or rearing larvae.

Chalk brood – fungal disease that infests the gut of the larva then goes on to consume the larva causing it to appear white and chalky.

Colony – honeybees live in large families called colonies with a queen, workers and drones.

Colony collapse disorder – cause not fully known, possibilities are environmental change related stresses, mites, pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

Comb – see honeycomb.

Compound eye – used for general distance sight.

Crown board – movable flat board placed on top of the hive under the roof.

D

Dadant – a French American beekeeper considered to be one of the founding fathers of ‘modern’ beekeeping.

Deformed wing virus – usually caused by heavy infestation of varroa mite.

Drone – male bee, drones have no sting.

E

Eyes – the honeybee has two large compound eyes and 3 small simple eyes called ocelli.

European foul brood – Melissococcus plutonius bacterium that infects the mid-gut of bee larvae before the cell is capped – it is a notifiable disease to National bee unit.

European hornet – largest eusocial wasp in Europe. They are carnivorous and eat large insects, primarily wasps, large moths, and large bees.

Extraction – extracting honey from honeycomb.

F

Fanning – flapping of wings to regulate temperature in the hive or distribute pheromones.

Feeder – a container filled with sugar syrup for the purpose of feeding bees.

Fondant – a substance similar to fondant icing fed to bees when natural food is scarce.

Foundation – a wax sheet that has been embossed with a hexagonal pattern. Bees build their comb upon it.

Frame – a structural element in a hive that holds the foundation/comb.

G

Guard bee – a bee that guards the hive from predators such as wasps and hornets.

H

Haemolymph – bee blood.

Hefting – lifting the hive to determine the weight.

Hive – a container for housing honeybees.

Hive tool – implement to aid beekeeper for levering and separating frames etc within the hive.

Honey – ripened nectar.

Honey flow – time in the year when nectar in flowers is at its
peak.

Honeycomb – hexagonal cells which are used within the beehive for storage, it is constructed of beeswax.

I

Imidacloprid – one of the neonicotinoid insecticides restricted by the EU.

Isle of Wight disease – acarine mite infestation first observed on the Isle of Wight in 1904 thought to have wiped out the black bee – the Buckfast bee was developed to combat the disease.

Italian bee – a bee from Italy generally thought to have a good temperament and rarely swarms.

J

Jelly – see royal jelly.

L

Langstroth hive – a type of hive common in America.

M

Marker pheromone – for marking food and water sources, hive locations, gathering swarms. Pheromone produced by the Arnhart glands.

Mead – alcohol made with honey.

Mellifera – honey bearer.

Moult – a bee larvae moults its skin 6 times before it emerges as a bee.

Mouse guard – a grid which allows bees in and out of the hive whilst keeping mice out

Microsporidia – spore-forming unicellular parasite

N

National Bee Unit – telephone +44 0300 3030094

National hive – a hive widely used in Britain.

Nasonov gland – gland that produces pheromones.

Neonicitonoid neuro-active insecticides – use is linked adverse ecological effects, including honeybee colony collapse disorder (CCD). Because of this use has been restricted / banned in some countries.

Nectar – sweet substance produced by flowers.

Nosema-  microsporidian that invades the intestinal tracts of adult bees.

Nosema disease – a type of dysentery.

Nuc/nucleus – a box with 4 or more frames of brood, some honey, a queen and some workers, bees are usually bought in a nuc.

Nurse bees – a worker bee that rears brood in the colony.

O

Ocelli – eyes which are used in poor light conditions within
the hive.

Open mesh floor – a fine mesh floor used to help control varroa mites, they can fall through but are unable to return to the hive.

P

Pheromones – a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species.

Pollen – microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone and fed to bee larvae; essential bee food.

Pollen baskets – located on hind leg of the bee in which pollen is transported back to the hive.

Proboscis – long tube the bee uses like a straw to feed and
drink.

Propolis resin – from trees, used by bees to seal cracks in the hive, has been found to show antiseptic properties.

Q

Queen – the only bee in the hive that lays eggs, she can lay fertile (worker) or infertile eggs (drone).

Queen cell an elongated cell made by worker bees that contain larvae that become queens. The larvae are fed royal jelly.

Queen Mandibular pheromone – The queen bee exerts her influence over the hive by means of this. It acts as a mating attractant for the drones, and suppresses the reproductive systems of the workers, ensuring that the queen is the only reproductive female in the hive. It is also passed between bees during Trophillaxis.

Queen marking – to aid visibility the queen is marked by the beekeeper with a brightly coloured dot of non-harming ink.

R

Records – as bees are considered to be food-producing species, beekeepers must keep records for each hive.

Robbing when other insects steel honey from the hive.

Royal jelly fed to larvae that would normally develop into workers, which instead become queens.

S

Sac brood – viral disease that causes larvae to die before their
final moult.

Skep – a wicker dome shaped basket used to collect bees.

Small hive beetle – a small, dark-coloured beetle that lives in beehives not yet found in the UK.

Smoker – a receptacle used to puff smoke into a hive to move the bees.

Spiracles – tiny holes along the sides of the bee’s thorax and abdomen through which the bee breathes.

Sugar syrup – mix of water and granulated sugar fed to bees by the beekeeper in times of shortage of nectar.

Super – top box on a hive the bees use to store nectar.

Supersedure – when a new queen replaces the old queen without swarming.

Sting -used as a form of defence, it is barbed and cannot be used repeatedly. Only the worker bees and queen bee have a sting.

Swarming – the queen leaves the hive taking with her worker bees (approximately half the colony) to set up home elsewhere. The natural way for colony reproduction.

T

Thorax – middle part of the bees body, attached to the head and abdomen.

Top bar beehives – a type of beehive which allows bees to form their own comb without frames and foundation.

Tracheal mite – see acarine.

Trophillaxis – transfer of food through mouth-to-mouth also transferring pheromones.

V

Varroa – parasitic mites that feed on the bodily fluids of adult, pupal and larval bees.

Venom – administered via the sting it causes local inflammation and acts as an anticoagulant.

Vitellogenin – egg yolk protein precursor, as female bees rarely lay eggs they have no need for this so they have developed it into food storage reservoirs within their bodies and heads and also use it to to synthesise royal jelly.

W

Waggle dance – a figure of eight dance performed by honeybees to communicate location of nectar sources to other members of the colony.

Wasp – carnivorous insect, similar in shape of the bee.

Wax – substance secreted from the wax gland of the bee from which she constructs comb and caps cells.

Wax moth – do not attack the bees but feed on the wax.

WBC hive – a hive designed by William Broughton Carr.

Worker – female bee, works tirelessly for the colony. Typically lives for only 6 weeks during the summer months when hives are collecting nectar and pollen.