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National Bee Unit Wales : Beekeeper Advice Surgeries in 2017

The NBU team will be getting out and about to local association venues this year and offering new, more tailored support sessions to local beekeepers. The Beekeeper Advice Surgeries in Wales will follow a slightly different format from the familiar workshops in order to offer greater variety and flexibility for busy beekeepers. As the title suggests they will be ‘drop in’ surgeries, allowing attendees to come and go at a time of their choosing, and to focus on the issues of greatest concern to them.

The surgeries will provide an opportunity for beekeepers to meet some of the NBU team in Wales, to get an understanding of the purpose and value of the Inspectorate’s work and, most importantly, to develop their knowledge and diagnosis of the key pest and disease threats to their bees.

We will be bringing our ever popular diseased combs, displayed under special licence, to give attendees first hand and, we hope only, experience of brood disease. We will also be providing stalls of information covering a wider range of pests and diseases and relevant good beekeeping practice, from varroa control to biosecurity and exotic pests.

Welsh Government and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, of which the NBU is a part, are keen that the events are made available to all beekeepers. As in previous years, associations are hosting our surgeries but attendance is not restricted to association members – all beekeepers are welcome to come along. Full protective sanitary wear will be provided and we will require surgery attendees to comply with the biosecurity measures we will have in place.

The surgeries will run from 2pm until 5pm on Saturdays as follows:

DATE                    Host BKA                                             VENUE

Sat. 27 May       Brecon & Radnor BKA   Jubilee Hall, Llanelwedd  LD2 3TY

Sat. 3  June      Aberystwyth  BKA            IBERS, Aberystwyth  SY23 3EB

Sat.10 June      Anglesey BKA                 Rhosmeirch Community Hall  LL77 7TW

Sat.17 June     Flint & District BKA           Edith Bank Mem Hall, Northop CH7 6BQ

Sat.1 July         Swansea & District BKA  Pontardulais Comp. School SA4 8PD

Sat. 8 July        Cardiff & Vale BKA           Thornhill Centre, Cardiff CF14 9GA

Sat 15 July       Pembrokeshire BKA         Picton Centre, Haverfordwest,  SA61 1TP                                                                                                                                                     

Contact details are available from  or

Europe poised for total ban on

Bee-harming pesticides

Exclusive: Draft regulations seen by the Guardian reveal the European commission wants to prohibit the insecticides that cause ‘acute risks to bees


To read more on Damian Carrington article from theGardian online Thursday 23 March 2017

last page update 23/03/2017

Beekeeping with local bees – Welsh Conference

Cywain Bee – CAT Machynlleth 23rd Feb. 2017

These notes were originally written for members of Lleyn & Eifionydd BKA and other beekeeping friends who were unable to attend the Welsh Conference – ‘Beekeeping with local bees’, 23rd Feb. 2017. It has been suggested to us that they may be of interest to other beekeepers unable to attend. The notes are intended to be read in conjunction with the ‘Speaker Biographies’ that were provided at the Conference.


We know a number of members of LLEBKA wanted to attend this conference but were unable to do so because it quickly became booked up. These are a few notes and thoughts from the day which we hope will have particular relevance to our bees and our beekeeping at LLEBKA.

 A flavour of the speakers and their beekeeping interests can be gleaned from the ‘Speaker Biographies’ which we attach. We were informed that their combined years of beekeeping experience goes into the hundreds!

*The history of beekeeping in Wales is an interesting story as outlined by Kevin Thomas Williams: from the exploitation of colonies in trees, through log hives, clay coated wicker containers (referenced in the Laws of Hywel Dda), straw skeps, through to the wooden hives with removable frames that most of us use. The medieval law texts of Wales contain many detailed references to the ownership of bees indicating the great importance of beekeeping at that time. The Welsh language has a large vocabulary relating to bees and beekeeping, including a unique word for a wild colony of bees – ‘bydaf’.

*Willie Robson was the only speaker not to use a slide presentation – he had one lovely picture on screen behind showing Willie with an open hive amid a sea of heather moorland. He talked very engagingly about his and his father’s beekeeping since 1948 with native black bees: “Persevere with black bees and they will keep you forever and a day”. Another quote: “Susceptibility is a key word in beekeeping” – he explained his view that over time bees that are not adapted to their local environment were ‘susceptible’ and would succumb to poor weather or disease, and make a problem for his beekeeping business. Dark northern European bees are ‘accumulators’ – i.e. they need to preserve their honey because they have a long winter to get through. This genetic trait is not required by bees living in a Mediterranean climate, where they can access nectar for most months of the year. (More information on this point, made very briefly here, can be found on the Dave Cushman website – see details below). Perhaps Willie came out with the ‘quote of the day’ when – in a Q & A session  the chair asked the panel of speakers to name their favourite piece of beekeeping equipment to have at the apiary – Willie answered, “my lunch box”!

All the following speakers are involved with BIBBA (Bee Improvement & Bee Breeders Association), and, along with the two speakers mentioned above, believe passionately that we ought to be encouraging and keeping our locally adapted/native/local strain/indigenous British / western European /north European dark  / British black bee/ Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm); these descriptions are not necessarily synonymous, but are sometimes used as if they are.

*Roger Patterson is continuing to maintain the website bequeathed to him by the late Dave Cushman; if you are not familiar with it is reputed to be the most extensive and informative beekeeping site in the world, and really worth visiting the next time you have a beekeeping query. Roger, along with other speakers, explained, ‘F1 hybrid vigour’ and ‘F2 aggression’:  An F1 cross (mating between bees of two distinct races) can give vigour, i.e breeding a large colony and – given suitable weather – produce a large honey crop (during poor weather, i.e. our last two summers, they can also consume a lot because they are not ‘accumulators’ – see above). An example of an F1 cross might be a ‘Buckfast bee’ (this is essentially a marketing name – see Dave Cushman’s website for further information).  So, ‘where is the problem’? The second, F2, cross with local drones often produces aggressive and thoroughly nasty bees to handle – you’ve been warned! Some bee farmers are choosing to use F1 bees which they import each season and this practice was clearly not supported by the conference speakers, or any beekeeper in the room we would guess.

*Peter Jenkins, a strong advocate of the indigenous British Bee, expressed great concern at the ease with which beginners could buy imported queens to the detriment, he believed of the bee population in the area to which they were brought. He was also concerned that some commercial bee farmers (and Peter is a member of the Bee Farmers’ Association) import F1 stock to use for one season only – and he named one! Peter outlined the queen rearing started by his father and continued by him.

*Steve Rose, a member of South Clwyd BKA, outlined in detail the bee breeding programme he is involved with; essentially attempting to breed bees with characteristics judged to be desirable. This is something we can all do with varying degrees of complexity, i.e. make increase as best you can from your ‘best bees’. Steve explained that honey bees survive in northern Europe up to the tree line. During the Ice Age the tree line was ‘pushed’ southwards as the ice sheets spread from the north.  As the ice retreated some 10,000 years ago honey bees (and Homo sapiens!) gradually spread northwards, from Africa and the Mediterranean. Different groups of bees became separated by natural barriers, e.g. mountains, deserts, water, and evolved into the different sub-species or races that we now have, all 23 of these (or is it more, mused RP). Note: sub-species and races may not be synonymous, but are near enough for these notes – see Dave Cushman’s website for more detail. This gradual northward migration had two main flows; one along a more Atlantic coastal route through Spain and Portugal – and evolved into the northern European, dark coloured honey bee – (Amm). This is the largest sub-species group ranging from the Atlantic coast in Britain across a broad band of northern Europe. The other main flow was through central Europe, and is typified by the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica).  Amm and Aml are therefore two of the most genetically ‘separated’ of the many races, and it is this genetic difference that seems to account for their F1 hybrid vigour and the F2 aggression.  There are numerous locally adapted strains within these races. The races of southern Europe have evolved a lighter colouring, in contrast to the dark colouring of northern sub-species – an adaptation to absorb more heat in cooler climates.  Some advice from Steve was: to replace a queen heading a nasty colony, don’t be fooled by hybrid vigour, and drones are important – allow drone comb to be built from starter strips (with, say, two strips of frame wire for support), on 2 or 3 frames in your brood box. This should also lessen the desperate desire of your bees to build drone comb along the base of brood frames.

*Paul Cross, Bangor University, summarised the problems for honey bees and wildlife in general that can result from the intensification and industrialisation of agriculture; the ‘worst case scenario’ of this trend was, he suggested with a grimace, summarised in a graffiti mural he’d spotted painted on a wall – it showed a colourful picture of a large bee accompanied with the words, “When we go we’re taking you with us”! Paul’s bee research is focusing on two areas: “Digital mapping of racial resilience of honey bees and their site specific environmental constraints”, and secondly, the development of micro-electronic bee trackers. Where this research will lead remains to be seen but it is interesting to know that it is being done locally in Bangor. If you search using his name and university you can find a short video of Paul explaining his research and the advantages of beekeeping with locally adapted bees.

What did we take from this conference? That we are lucky to keep our bees in an area of low agricultural intensification that still has a wide distribution and variety of natural flora. In the opinion of the experts and experienced beekeepers at this conference we are taking the correct approach by keeping bees that are locally adapted. We should all aim to breed, by one method or another, from our ‘best’ colonies. The subject of treating or not treating for Varroa was only raised with a question in the closing Q & A session. The discussion praised our approach, but  confirmed, at the moment, the beekeepers at LLEBKA are rather unique as an Association with most of us not treating; a speaker on the panel explained how he was reducing treatment, by using a lower dose of oxalic acid, but was not yet brave enough to stop completely.  

Altogether a most stimulating and interesting day; excellent presentations, and the valuable bonus of meeting and chatting with other beekeepers.

Clive & Shân Hudson – 26th February 2017


WBKA Web team would like to thank Cywain Bee, for permission to use the Biographies. To find out more about Cywain Bee please visit  or

Last Page update 17/03/2017


Bee Morphometrics

"Imported honey bees from mainland Europe are thought to have diluted the genetic make-up of the British bee, rendering it less well adapted to the climate and environment. Scientists at Bangor have developed a method for beekeepers to increase their chances of breeding more robust bees in the UK."

Find out more at

All rights reserved: Bangor University, School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography.

Link shared with WBKA from the Gwynedd Beekeeping Yahoo Group

Bees' favourite plants revealed by Botanic Garden study

"National Botanic Garden of Wales research has revealed which plants bees choose for their pollen."

"Scientists investigated the species honey bees liked most during spring as part of efforts to protect the bees' environment and better understand their habits."

Source – BBC News

Training Courses 2017

Please note that the WBKA does not endorse or recommend any particular Course, but please take a look at what's available …………. Read More

Last Page update 25/02/2017