student Lizzie Cant and Prof. Ingrid Williams of Rothamsted
with the Silver Gilt Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show
A Great Beekeeper
A sad note to start this July issue of Apis UK as we announce
the recent death of Cecil Tonsley. (See obituary below). I never
knew Cecil personally but of course, he remained in my mind as
one of the great men of beekeeping during all of my beekeeping
career. I regarded him as a fount of accurate and considered
knowledge of both the craft and science of beekeeping and I know
that we have lost a master beekeeper. He won’t be forgotten.
Alcobees and other insects
Have you ever drunk 10 litres of wine at one session? Hopefully
not, but a bee can, and this trait could help treat alcoholism.
(See ‘In the News’ below). With this, we begin the
July edition of Apis UK and perhaps with a touch of Summer madness,
we go further and bring news of navigating dung beetles and water
driven wasps. Both of these items have relevance to our knowledge
of honey bees and in my view an accurate knowledge of bees is
essential if we as beekeepers are to successfully promote beekeeping
as a vital activity in the mind of the general public. I was
asked recently by an ex patriate Brit how I made honey. I explained
that I didn’t, the bees did, to which he replied, “yes,
but you can’t eat it raw, can you. You’ve got to
change it somehow, surely?” People these days are getting
further and further away (physically and mentally) from the real
source of food to the extent that the real source of food has
become the supermarket. Then you as a beekeeper bring a load
of buzzy, stinging creepy crawlies into their safe, plastic wrapped
lives and problems are going to arise. A thorough knowledge of
your craft and the ability to pass on this knowledge are essential
tools in nipping any mis-understandings in the bud, and promoting
the cause of bees, beekeeping, pollination and a healthy lifestyle.
New Items for Apis UK
Poetry and prose enter our lives in many different literary forms
and in this edition we have a poem. Whilst being hopeless at
this creative literary form myself, I do enjoy reading the products
of better minds than mine and I would encourage anyone to send
in poems which in some way connect with bees and beekeeping.
Who knows, you may even find fame and success in these electronic
pages and even if you don’t, you will certainly provide
enjoyment for many readers.
The Search for Answers
Most beekeepers are observant people; it goes with the occupation,
but many may observe something to do with bees that they don’t
understand. In the letters section below, Bill Turnbull provides
photos of bees hanging out of the hive and asks, ‘what
are they doing?’ I have given my assessment to Bill and
believe it to be one of the many ways bees devise to keep the
hive cool, but I could be wrong, so if any body has the answer,
do write in. If anyone else has a query on bees and beekeeping
and wants to find an answer, let us know. Ask here. This will
not only get you an answer, but will also give hundreds of other
beekeepers the chance to see or hear about some aspect of beekeeping
and learn something from the answers of those who may know the
So with Brussels clearing the way for the planting of GM crops
and prohibiting regional or national governments from declaring
GM free zones (see in the news, below), and another important
and valuable bee research institute closing (see letters), it
appears that the main way of preventing GM crops from being planted
would be not to buy the result. It seems astonishing to me that
in all the debate on GMOs and pollination and the value of bees
to our very survival, mere facts don’t appear to convince
anyone of anything. But there again, reading the newspapers these
days I begin to ask myself, ‘what is a fact?’
With this thought, I present the fact filled July issue of Apis
UK and despite our sad news, I really hope that you enjoy it.
Keep in touch.
David Cramp. Editor.
BBKA AND ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH WIN
SILVER AT CHELSEA
The joint Rothamsted Research / BBKA stand at this year's Chelsea Flower Show
won a coveted Silver Gilt Award, continuing the tradition of their last joint
exhibit in 1998. The theme of the display was "The Bees' Needs", looking
at how gardens and farmland could be used to provide improved forage and nest
sites for both honey bees and other species of bee in order to encourage the
vital role of bees in pollination as well as hive products.
Blake of BBKA explains beekeeping to a visitor using
a replica Stewarton hive.
exhibit featured both native plants and cultivated garden
varieties together with fruit and vegetables which require insect pollination,
and hive products.
This piece of research by scientists at the Ohio State University
in the USA finds that honey bees can be heavy drinkers when tempted
and they believe that this trait could be used in research into
treating alcoholism. Charles Abramson, one of the scientists
involved stated that whilst most animals have to be tricked into
drinking alcohol, honey bees will happily drink the human equivalent
of 10 litres of wine at one sitting. He added that he can even
get them to drink pure ethanol, and no organism does that - even
college students! He suggests that the affect of alcohol on bees
is similar to that on humans and his experiments indicate that
the bees are susceptible to the effects of Antabuse, a drug that
induces vomiting and which is designed to deter people from drinking
alcohol. He believes that bees could be used to screen new compounds
to see whether they show promise as potential medicinal drugs.
Certainly it appeared that Antabuse appeared to slow down and
in some cases stop bees from drinking an ethanol solution.
During free flight experiments, it appeared that even low levels
of alcohol affect the bees’ learning ability, and previous
research brought out the interesting fact that bees preferrd to
forage on artificial flowers containing a 5% ethanol solution rather
than flowers with a pure sucrose solution.
DUNG BEETLES USE POLARISED MOONLIGHT TO NAVIGATE
We all know that when necessary, honey bees will use the polarised
pattern of sunlight as a navigational device, but can this use
of polarised patterns be extended to those from moonlight. It
has only recently been demonstrated by scientists at the University
of Zurich, and because the moon is so much dimmer than the sun,
scientists were not sure whether animals could detect and use
these patterns. Dung beetles may have shown us the answer.
In a recent report in the journal Nature (Nature Vol 424, p33),
researchers have found that dung beetles use the polarised pattern
of moonlight to make a rapid straight line departure from the dung
pile out of which they made their ball of dung. They need to escape
rapidly because other beetles will attempt to steal the already
dung ball rather than go through the effort of making their own.
Once the beetle is at a safe distance with its dung ball, it will
When researchers shaded the beetles with a polarising light filter
that changed the direction of polarisation by 90%, the dung beetles
turned right, and on moonless or competely overcast nights, they
roll their ball around in circles. Using the polarised light of
the moon rather than the moon itself is an advantage because of
course even just a small piece of cloudless sky will provide the
necessarry light pattern, if not a glimpse of the moon itself.
The scientists believe that this sheds light on other species of
nocturnal bees and wasps which may use polarised light from the
moon to navigate by. (I certainly remember a lecture at Cardiff concerning honey bees
in warm climates and the tropics which would forage late into the
night. Perhaps they too were using polarisation of moonlight as
a navigational device rather than an integral memory of the position
of the sun as was suggested at the time. Ed).
DIM WASPS. HOW DO THEIR COLONIES WORK?
As we all know, social wasps build and maintain complex nests.
Wasps are not clever as individuals, and until recently their ability
to achieve this has been somewhat of a mystery, but in a recent
report in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, (Vol 218, p549),
researchers suggest that the one key factor that drives their behaviour
is the amount of water in the nest. Social wasps cannot learn from
each other unlike bees (eg recruitment dances), nor do they leave
pheromone trails like ants to lead other ants to food.
It was thought that the wasps set up a supply and demand chain
of information. Builder wasps monitor the nest and when necessary,
demand pulp from pulp foragers who in turn demand water from water
foragers to make the pulp. In this way the nest could be built
and maintained. But scientists at East Tennessee State University
and the Northwestern University of Chicago found that by removing
pulp foragers or builders for instance the wasps could very quickly
change roles and that breaking the chain in this way didn’t
significantly alter the amount of water being brought into the
nest. This ability to change roles (like honey bees), was not expected.
Another way in which this trait was observed was by spraying water
onto the colony. Water foragers became builders and nest building
Based on these observations which seem to show that although still
not smart insects like honey bees, waspa are able to achieve their
complex behaviour simply by monitoring the amount of water being
brought into the nest. The scientists believe that the wasps infer
what the level is by exchanging fluids on meeting each other (trophallaxis)
which is common in other social insects such as honey bees. A mathematical
model was produced and in every case, the model responds like the
colony under investigation.
VARROA FOUND TO AFFECT DRONE BEES ABILITY TO MATE
A recent report in the online Journal of Genetics and Molecular
Research shows that pupal infestation of drone bees can dramatically
affect their ability to reach a drone congregation area. (DCA).
As most beekeepers know, honey bee mating takes place in DCAs which
may or may not be near to apiaries. Some are distant, but in any
case, the strategy ensures that a virgin queen will meet with and
be able to mate with the required number of drones. Drones which
are able to reach a DCA and which are able to chase and mate with
a queen can be regarded as suitable mates. In addition, the amount
of ejaculated spermatozoa is of crucial importance to success.
In a series of studies, it was found that parasitism of varroa
of even 1 female mite on a drone during the pupal stage of development
had a significant effect on the drone’s ability to mate.
Only drones with less than 2 adult female mites in their brood
cells survived long enough to reach sexual maturity. Some drones
did not fly at all if parasitised by 1 or 2 mites and this level
of non flying drones was significantly higher than with drones
which had not been parasitised. The researchers concluded that
most drones infested by mites during the pupal stage would be unable
to reach a DCA. Of the parasitised Drones that did manage to reach
the DCA, the data show that few would have been able to chase and
mate with the queen. (An interesting new angle on the negative affects
of varroa. Ed).
BRUSSELS CLEARS THE WAY FOR PLANTING GM CROPS
Guidelines on the future planting of GM crops have been published
by Brussels this month and these guidelines were accompanied
by a statement by Franz Fischler the EU agriculture commissioner
who said that governments would be able to set national regulations
on how to separate GM and non GM crops but it would not be possible
for regional or national governments to introduce GM free zones.
He added that “If people go over the top to bring in a
GMO free area by the back door, this would be a question for
the European Court of Justice.
The publication, on 23 Jul, follows agreement on new legislation
on traceability and labelling of GM products. It is part of a push
to end a 4 year moratorium on new GM licenses. The guidelines include
advice such as keeping safe distances between fields; distinguishing
between crops that cross pollinate and those that don’t;
careful handling of seeds; introducing pollen barriers such as
EURO LEGISLATION ON VARROA DRUGS
Bee World from the IBRA stable of publications reports on several
interesting studies and the latest edition of Bee World, (2/2003)
gives an insight into the current situation on the use of drugs
to control varroosis in honey bee colonies and European legislation
on this. The study by Franco Mutinelli of the Italian Instituto
Zooprfilattico delle Venezie and Eva Rademacher of the Free University
of Berlin makes the point that a clear European legislative basis
enabling the integrated control of varroa is still missing but
despite this, organic acids and essential oils have been developed
to the point of full usefulness. It mentions that several of
the existing regulations conflict and that it is difficult and
expensive to legalise veterinary drugs and therefore of little
interest to parmaceutical companies in what they regard as a
The report is essential reading for all beekeepers who want to
know what is available in Europe; what is legal; and what are the
alternatives. For full details contact IBRA on www.ibra.org.uk.
BEE BREEDING AND GENETICS IN EUROPE
In a second report from Bee World, Marco lodesani and Cecilia Costa
give an overview of Bee Breeding and Genetics in Europe which was
undertaken for the 6th European Bee Conference ‘Bees without
Frontiers’ organised by IBRA and held in Cardiff in July
2002. The European research project ‘BABE’, (Biodiversity
in Apis and Beekeeping in Europe) has been focussing on such issues
for several years and it was thought that a review of the current
state of bee breedingin various European countries would be useful
in planning and evaluating future research programmes. The information
for each country was obtained from questionaires concerning bee
breeding issues sent to national representatives of major bee breeding
The report is illuminating in many respects and discusses the issues,
policies, different races and hybrids, genetic variability; laws
and regulations in the EU, selection and breeding programmes; mating
control, and operators in each country. It is a first class and
very comprehensive study and of interest to all beekeepers. Contact
IBRA via their web site:www.ibra.org.uk for the full report.
A PORTABLE INCUBATOR FOR WORKER BEE BROOD
A third report in Bee World, gives details of the construction
and function of an incubator for honey bee worker brood for use
by both static and migratory beekeepers. The report discusses the
uses of the incubator and provides comparisons with other techniques
related to swarm prevention; the production of new colonies and
the treatment of varroa.
A new and innovative idea.
NATIONAL HONEYSHOW 2003 PROGRAMME AND LECTURE
Opening Ceremony 2.00 pm Mr Kim Flottum Editor of Bee Culture
Honeyshow opening ceremony 2002
Photo by Peter Springall
Show Opening Times:
Thursday 13th November 2.00 pm - 7.00 pm
Friday 14th November 9.30 am - 7.00 pm
Saturday 15th November 9.30 am - 5.00 pm
Saturday 15th November
4.00 pm Presentation of Cups and Trophies
Mr Malcolm Clarke President of Surrey BKA
Thursday 13th November
1.45 Doors open
2.00 Opening Ceremony
3.00 Use of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) by the National Bee Unit
to help us monitor, understand and control the Spread of serious Bee Diseases James
4.30 Beekeeping Literature in the United States and A.I. Root’s Contribution Kim
7.00 Show closes
Friday 14th November
9.30 Show opens
10.30 Beeswax Modelling Martin Buckle
11.45 Novel research into pesticides at the NBU: what does it
mean for honeybees? Selwyn Wilkins
1.15 Judging a Class in Public – questions and answers
3.00 Swarms and Queen finding Peter Smith
4.15 Honey farming in the Scottish Borders Willie Robson
5.30 Towards Chemical free Beekeeping Kim Flottum
7.00 Show closes
Saturday 15th November
9.30 Show opens
10.30 The Marketing of Honey and Associated Products. Willie Robson
11.45 The largest beekeeping Operation in the Universe; the Richard
Adee Business Kim Flottum
1.15 Beekeeping amongst the Rooftops of London Steve Benbow
2.30 National Honey Show, Annual General Meeting followed
by the Annual Meeting of the National Council
4.00 Presentation of Trophies and Awards followed by the Draw
5.00 Show closes
5.30 Collect Exhibits
In the lecture hall at the 2002 show
Photo by Peter Springall
The National Honey Show is held at Kensington
Town Hall, Hornton Street, London, UK. You will be able to download
the show schedule from the National Honey
KENT COUNTY HONEY SHOW REPORT 2003
The bee tent was once again very busy for most of the Show
even when it was cooler outside the marquee than in it.
The Show entries
were slightly up on last year but although there are 15 Branches
and Associations in the County only 7 were represented on the
Show bench. Most groups have local shows and if you have
of these (or even if you haven’t) try entering the Kent
Show. At least two of the novices had never entered a show before
all three got awards which means that they had achieved a high
standard. I send out a check list to all novice exhibitors to
help you get your jars ready. To all you others who have shown
support your County Show, the committee works very hard to get
it ready and the public love coming to see the exhibits. It is
our main showcase of the year for attracting new beekeepers. Mary
Hill. Results from the URL: http://www.kentbee.com/kent_honeyshow_results03.htm
FLAKKENBERG BEE RESEARCH INSTITUTE TO CLOSE. AN OPEN LETTER
Dear Ms Fischer Boel, I am
adding my name to the many who will undoubtedly respond to the
governments crass decision to
activities if the above world renowned institute. We are living
in 'interesting times' and there are many pitfalls awaiting human
societies - not the least food supply problems. The honey bee
has a critical role to play in the world
food chain - the honeybee is now an endangered species due to Varroosis
- untreated infected colonies die within 4 years of becoming infected
by the disease. The role of the honey bee in a changing world
needs to be understood. Institutes like Flakkenberg fulfil that
role for Denmark - lose this facility and
Denmark loses a vital facility for the promotion and sustaining
of beekeeping in your country. Politicians world wide seem to be
losing sight of a major factor critical to the continued existence
of mankind (and all living species!) - without adequate food
everything grids to a halt. The politicians (Statesmen!) of the
war years in Britain understood the importance of the honey bee
to human survival and fostered the keeping of bee by sugar subsidies
- not for honey
production - but for pollination. No pollination no food. Modern,
city orientated politicians in the afflent countries have either
forgotten or have never understood
the vital role pollination plays in food production. Question people
who have suffered siege or famine on whether they would rather
have enough to eat or a 65" TV - you can't eat a TV set
or a luxury car - bear that in mind when making your ultimate
on closure of a fine, well respected
and world renowned facility such as Flakkenberg. Eric McArthur Editor,
Scottish Beekeeper magazine.
Cecil Tonsley BEM FRES 1915-2003
Cecil Tonsley BEM FRES 1915-2003 died after a long illness on
Saturday 26th July 2003. Well know internationally he was Vice-President
of Apimondia (1985 - 1987) and President of the British Beekeepers
Association ( 1983 - 84) after serving the Association as its general
Secretary 1954 - 1960 and on its National Executive thereafter.
He joined William
and Joseph Herrod Hempsall on the staff of the British Bee Journal
in 1951 taking over from them as Editor in 1953 until the Journal
ceased publication in 1998. Cecil was most loyally supported by
his wife Nora to whom we extend our condolences - she has a special
place in the hearts of beekeepers. Karl Showler
THE BEE PRESS
Beecraft July 2003 Volume 85 Number 7
The latest issue of Bee Craft offers a wealth of
information, advice and items of interest for all beekeepers
its monthly columns. http://www.bee-craft.com/
The following is its contents list: Editorial, A beekeeping treat
Nicola Bradbear, PhD; Getting started: mid-season problems Margaret
Thomas, NDB; Heather going (part 2) Michael Badger, MBE; Fans,
cooling drinks and vibrations Celia Davis, NDB; Herbs for bees
and beekeepers: thyme Alison Mouser; In the Apiary: children's
bee books (1945-1968) Karl Showler; Profile: Len Davie Michael
Badger, MBE; Crowds at Stoneleigh Don Hannon; Book review Beekeeping
Equipment by John Yates; Beekeeping in Ireland Eddie O'sullivan;
Ask Dr Drone; Letters to the Editor; The 'B' Kids; Around the colony;
Classified advertisements, Calendar.
THE BEEKEEPERS QUARTERLY
Editor John Phipps Neochori, 24024 Agios Nikolaos, Mesknias, Greece tel: 00 30
27210 78089 email: email@example.com http://www.beedata.com/bbq.htm
Contents August 2003 Cover photo: Johnnie and
May have a first glimpse of bees at the hive in the editor's apiary
in Greece. (photo
Mike Barrett) EDITORIAL Clearing bees from supers, extracting
honey, honey shows, GMOs, and books. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Why
British Bee? Why indeed! Steve Taber; Protective Clothing for
Beekeepers, Ian Bell; Will Beekeeping Die a Natural Death this
Hurst. CLEARING BEES FROM SUPERS 1. Some notes on bee clearing
techniques: Gordon Scott, Allen Dick, Winston Sweatman and P
O Gustafsson. 2. The great escapes David Cushman reviews the numerous
escapes and boards which have been designed to assist the beekeeper
in removing honey from the hive. 3. What our correspondents have
to say: with contributions from John Howat, Geoff Hopkinson,
Dews, John Yates, David Cramp, Dr Alexander Komissar, Ko Zoet,
Maciej Winiarski, Nigel Hurst, Geoff Manning, Philip McCabe,
Roger White, Vitaliy Petrovsky, Ged Marshall and John Home. NEWSROUND
MBE for John Douglas Wilson, Creating a buzz about the biz, more
pyrethroid-resistant mites confirmed, website for Long Deep Hive
devotees. APIMONDIA CONGRESS, SLOVENIA, 2003 Dr Nicola Bradbear
gives us a preview of the forthcoming congress in Slovenia reminding
us that it is still not too late to plan a trip to this important
event. ASSOCIATION NEWS Bees for Development - log-on to their
new website! FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS Australia, Geoff Manning
the drought, small hive beetle; Bangladesh, David Spark - switching
to modern methods increases honey production; Netherlands, Ko
Zoet - educating youngsters about bees and beekeeping; Brittany,
Pichon - unusually-high levels of swarming Canada, David Dawson
- dealing with cappings; Cyprus, Roger White - Cyprus and the
EU; Czech Republic, Dr Vitezslav Vydra - Stanislav Dlouhy's uncapping
machine; England, Dr Nigel Payne - dealing with oil seed rape,
GM crops, using the
Taranov Board; Ireland, Philip McCabe - the season, BBKA tour,
making a mesh floor; Russia, Vitaliy Petrovsky - 5600 km -round
journey to buy bees; Scotland,
Nigel Hurst - new recruits to beekeeping, the Highland Show;
Spain, David Cramp - the expat beekeeper in Spain; Ukraine, Dr
Komissar - home-made queen excluders, heavy losses of bees in
winter, new way of introducing queens; and USA, Ann Harman -
organisations in the US. BREEDING MATTERS John Atkinson Liquid
nitrogen storage of semen and eggs, breeding for grooming, and
breeding for resistance ENVIRONMENT Geoff Hopkinson NDB - Do
you take sugar? GM activists "Guilty as Charged", Everyone
loves the Bumble Bee, What the papers say . . COLLECTORS CORNER
Beekeeping Treasures Herrod-Hempsall lecture projector and glass
slides, Geoff Hopkinson NDB SCIENCE REVIEW More from the Euro-conference
on Molecular Mechanisms of Disease-tolerance in Honeybees: Inhibitors
of reproduction of varroa, Study of the relation of honeybee
hygienic behaviour to varroa mite-fall at low levels of infestation,
of phenotypical tolerance of Carniolan bees to varroosis in conditions
of mite intensity; Janet Dowling FRES.
BEE WORLD. (The International Link between beekeeping
science and practice). IBRA. Volume 84. No.2. 2003. Contents: Guest
Editorial. Richard Jones. The Use of drugs to control varroosis
in honey bee colonies and European legislation: the current situation.
A portable incubator for worker bee brood. Bee breeding and genetics
in Europe. Plants
for Bees. Goldenrod. World News. Retrospect.
The use of bees and their products in warfare. Bookshop. Reviewing:
Traditional British Honey Drinks by Francis Beswick, Traditional
Welsh honey recipes by Jane Jones, The little book of bees by Karl
Weiss and Carlos Vergara. Conference Calendar. Letters to the Editor.
Library News. IBRA: www.ibra.org.uk
NATURAL WAYS OF IMPROVING VARROA CONTAINMENT
THE SHAPE OF THE BROOD NEST
Let us first consider a fish in a square pond 2ft by 2ft providing a surface
area of 4 square ft.
Our fish likes eating flies and to satisfy this natural demand we will allow
one fly to land randomly somewhere on the surface. The furthest distance the
fish and fly can be apart is when they are in diagonally opposite corners.
The fish understands this and positions itself in the centre of the pond, so
the most it must now travel is 1.414 ft.
We will now place our fish into a pond 4 ft by 1 ft thus retaining the same surface
The distances now travelled by the fish to catch his fly have increased. Even
when he stations himself in the middle of the pond he may be as much as 2.06
ft away from the unsuspecting fly, an increase of 46 percent.
A pond 8 ft long and only 6 inches wide increases this distance by 183 percent
which is quite an advantage to the fly.
Clearly the longer and narrower the pond becomes the greater the distances the
fish may have to swim to obtain his fly.
Returning to beekeeping, we will now consider a circular brood-nest with one
worker cell waiting to be capped. One varroa is introduced, placed randomly within
The distance between the cell and the varroa may be as great as the diameter
of the circle, or much less.
Let us now compare this with an oval brood nest of the same area but 4 times
longer than it is wide. Like the fish in a retangular pond, the varroa will find
that the maximum travelling distance has increased together with the possibility
of being groomed.
It is therefore illustrated that varroa may more readily infest a worker brood
cell situated in a brood nest that is circular, rather than one which is of oval
Ian Rumsey -to be continued next month-
POEM OF THE MONTH
| AN ODE TO THE HONEYBEE
A god on Olympus did honor to thee.
He took his beloved, changed her to a bee.
A Goddess so sweet, Melissa her name.
Though selfish his action I cannot find blame.
As a bee you do honor to Zeus above,
Your industry shames not the goddess you love.
You gather the nectar from flowers afar,
Does Melissa now guide you, or is it a star?
Your tireless forays fair shortens life’s span,
But you count not the cost when you strengthen your clan.
Your work starts at daybreak when blossoms full blown,
And countless the journeys for family you’ve flown.
You’re a gentle wee creature when left on your own.
You only grow hostile should I threaten your home.
You’re very protective of home and your queen,
Though to use of your weapon your death it will mean.
Your sting is your weapon used as last resort,
And then you die bravely to robbery abort.
You’re not like the wasp with a venom of fire,
A wasp’s much more vicious, and easy to ire.
Tho mankind protects and does husband your home
He’s also a villain that robs of your comb.
The gods loved Melissa but do they have care,
That we crave of the honey her wards now must share?
Melissa your wards here have very few foes,
Even humankinds sweet tooth rare adds to their woes.
The bat called Herr fletermaus eats insects in flight.
But then, not to worry, he travels by night.
Tho I’ve rhymed to the Monarch they’re not
of your class,
They fly south like snowbirds, the winter to pass.
I like not the phylum you’re classified in,
When men think of insects is of bugs in their gin.
My rhymes do small justice to mans helpful friend,
You are praised not enough for the service you rend.
The Bard Of the Boondocks
Warren Ogren - Hayward, Wisconsin 54843 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
SWARMING. WHY DO THEY DO IT? WHAT TRIGGERS IT?
Swarm prevention or limitation is probably one of the most
demanding and time consuming tasks of the beekeeper. It has been
to most of us in many texts and during many bee keeping courses
that that swarming occurs due to congestion in the hive leading
to the inability of the queen to spread her queen substance around
the hive effectively and the limited space for her to lay due to
overcrowding. But is it as simple as this or do other factors come
There are two questions in the title to the article with the first, ‘why’ being
perhaps easier to answer. Swarming can be described as colony reproduction
and in a simple example, where there was one colony, after swarming,
there are two. Reproduction plain and simple and a strategy for
species survival. The second question, ‘what triggers off
a swarm’ is more difficult and even though many hypotheses
have been put forward, I’m not convinced that we really know
the answer. Let’s have a look at the hypotheses, which usually
look at the factors which induce queen rearing.
1. The nurse bee or Brood food hypothesis. (Gerstung 1891 and Morland
1930). This states that a surplus of young nurse bees develops
in a colony causing an excess in the amount of brood food resulting
in queen rearing.
2. The colony congestion hypothesis which suggests that a limited
space for brood rearing and crowding of adult workers results in
the initiation of queen rearing.
3. The lack of QMP.
Butler in 1952 discovered that the queen produces ‘queen
substance’ i.e. Queen mandibular Pheromone’ or QMP
and showed that when worker bees have sufficient access to this
pheromone, they were inhibited from building queen cells. He suggests
a threshold level of QMP above which the building of queen cells
isrepressed and below which queen cells are built. The level may
fall due to overcrowding, or an old or otherwise failing queen.
This threshold level has never been proven
Testing of these hypotheses over succeeding years failed to prove
either of them. For example, it was found that in many cases, the
ratio of young bees to unsealed brood increases most dramatically
AFTER queen rearing is instituted rather than before as would be
predicted in the food brood hypothesis. Similarly, experiments
to restrict hive space have resulted in queen rearing and swarming
in many, but not all colonies suggesting that although this may
play a part in stimulating swarming, none of the factors; limited
nest space; restricted number of cells or congestion, alone induces
Winston states that it is likely that swarming is a complex function
involving well timed and co ordinated activities by thousands of
individuals and that it is more likely that there are multifactorial
cues for the initiation of queen rearing which coincide with a
short window in time during which colony conditions are most favourable
for swarm production and success. He adds that most of these colony
characteristics must be at their threshold level for queen rearing
to begin. He suggests that the primary stimuli, none of which would
initiate queen rearing independently include: colony size; brood
nest congestion; worker age distribution, and reduced transmission
of queen substance (QMP). The first three conditions are heavily
influenced by the abundance of resources outside the hive and so
must also be considered a primary stimulus for queen rearing. This
multifactorial threshold concept may explain why experiments to
induce swarming using single factor manipulations. Research using
multifactorial manipulations may well be the answer to consistently
initiating queen rearing and thus giving us a greater understanding
of the swarming process.
4. Nurse bee WMP.
In 1998, both in the Beekeepers Quarterly and the American Bee
Journal, Dereck Gue proposed that as reproductive behaviour in
the higher animals is to a great extent governed by hormones and
pheromones, the swarming impulse is due to endocrine secretions
in nurse bees. As nurse bees populations reach a peak in mid summer
in healthy, mature and populouse colonies, this pheromone level
becomes an impelling force leading to an instinctive urge to swarm.
He believes that speculation that a fall in QMP below a ‘threshold’ level
as proposed by Butler is too haphazard and unreliable a system
for it to be a cause of successful colony reproduction and is a
negative factor in the process. Whereas a ‘swarm hormone’ that
stimulates a ‘swarm pheromone’ that in turn initiates
colony division and triggers swarming relies on positive factors
that are inherent in ‘active, physiologically charged nurse
He suggests that the source of the pheromone is the worker bees’ mandibular
gland (WMP) It is known that the fatty acid HYDROXYDEC-TRANS-2-ENOIC
ACID is secreted by the mandibular gland and this could be a component
of the pheromone. Dereck Gue ends his input suggesting that this
hypothesis is ripe for further research, in which he is undoubtedly
The production of after swarms is a most complex issue and may
reflect the indication that workers respond to high colony strength
indicated by congestion by confining queens in their cells. This
queen confinement is followed by sequencial release of the queens
thus triggering afterswarming. Thus afterswarming frequency depends
upon colony strength. Another complex hypothesis suggests that
workers may well show a tendency to divide into patrilineal groups
and this supports a ‘kinship’ factor’ for the
number of after swarms. This may be particularly evident when very
small after swarms emerge which seem unlikely to enhance a colony’s
total production of queens surviving to maturity. Complex stuff.
So what do we really know about swarming. Really very little except
that it is definitely not as clear cut as some texts (and speakers)
As now, the subject of swarming was barely if at all understood
in past centuries. Here we have Robert Sydserff of Leigh on Mendip
talking on swarming in his famous Treatise on Bees. In those
days of course, bees were boys and the old queen stayed put during
OF THE SWARMING OF BEES
“ Soon after the young princess comes forth from her royal cell,
the greatest part of the Bees in the Hive, both old and young join
her; only a few remain behind to guard her Majesty, until those
which are young in the comb come to perfection and issue forth
to supply the places of those which are gone.
By what natural instinct these Bees are aquainted that they are
to stay behind, is known only by the God of Nature; but if one
of these is out at the time of the swarm’s coming forth and
cannot return in for the throng, he will wait with patience until
they are gone forth, but never attempt to go with them: and those
that are to go are so intent on their journey, that they will not
be hindered by any means whatever.” SYDSERFF’S TREATISE
ON BEES By R. Sydserff, Leigh on Mendip. 1792.
Many thanks for another thoroughly useful issue of your
newsletter. It must take a lot of time and trouble to compile,
but it's well worth it for the standard of result you achieve.
Thank you very much.
May I make one suggestion? Would it be possible to have a Q&A
section, for beekeeping queries, which experts or other readers
could then answer?
For instance, I have a WBC hive in my garden with a young colony
of very polite bees. At the moment though they are hanging out
by the hundred on - and indeed off - the porch, even though I've
made extra room for them inside. I'm puzzled.
Anyway, many thanks once again for your splendid
Bill Turnbull. (Bucks)
I was particularly
interested in John Hayward’s
letter (Apis-UK May 2003) concerning his local teaching apiary.
Beekeepers do get
very uppity and very irrational when an opposite point of view
is suggested and I hope that he continues to keep up the pressure
to get things right rather than leaving the apiary and letting
the status quo continue.
When Dawn and I joined our local Branch in Plymouth
many years ago the situation was much as John has described and,
it had aggressive bees. We complained and the upshot was that we
took over the education side of the Branch. In short we cleaned
up the apiary to a very high standard, bred some docile bees and
started Basic beekeeping courses (20 – 2 hour classes) at
one of the adult education centres during the winter evenings.
We did this for 10 years which resulted in a large increase in
branch membership derived from the classes, 70% of the Branch members
passing their Basic examination and a few progressing to Intermediate
and Senior level. The standard of beekeeping in Plymouth during
this period definitely improved. Naturally, in the early stages
there was resistance, then acceptance and finally its virtues were
It is paramount, in our opinion, that in a teaching apiary everything
should be to the highest standards with the most docile bees it
is possible to obtain. Mixing different types of equipment in one
hive is bad beekeeping husbandry. There is trouble enough with
badly designed equipment straight from the equipment suppliers
without concocting a further mix. My monograph on Beekeeping Equipment
makes this abundantly clear and has yet to be addressed by the
John Yates. (Newton Ferrers, Devon.)
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Event organisers are welcome to forward
dates and details of their events to the editor (by e-mail) for
incorporation on this page.
24-29 August 2003 - 8th International Congress
of Apimondia. Ljubljiana, Slovenia. Slovenia is to host the
38th Apimondia beekeeping Congress. The congress will be held in
the City of Ljubljiana and the congress invites the submission of
papers. Details of subjects and more information can be found on
13th September 2003 - The Bromley and Orpington
Honey Show and Beekeeping exhibition. Opens to the
public at 2.30pm FREE ENTRY. Emmanuel Church, The Grove, West
Wickham, Kent. See quality products of the hive; buy pure English
honey; things for kids to do; watch the bees at work safely
behind glass in the demonstration hive; beekeeping exhibits
and more. Refreshments available. Honey Show Schedule and entry
forms from the URL: http://www.kentbee.com/bromley/news/honeyshow2003.htm
20-21 September 2003 - WEST SUSSEX HONEY FESTIVAL.
If any reader would like more information or a schedule of classes,
please contact me, Roger Patterson at email@example.com
01403 790637, John Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org. 01243 533559,
or Entries Secretary Mrs Sue Cooper, Malthouse, Lower Street, Pulborough,
Sussex, RH20 2BH. Woodbugs@pgen.net 01798 874061
13-15 November 2003 The National Honey
Show Download PDF 15KB NHS 2003
22-24 November 2003 - 1st International Beekeeping
Congress of CARI Louvain-la-Neuve
What Future For European Beekeeping?
The aims of this congress are to: analyze the situation of beekeeping
in the European Union; estimate the importance of the present changes
and the impact that they have on our way of beekeeping. The challenges
to cope with are numerous (declines, quick evolution of genetics,
new techniques of environmentally friendly beekeeping more friendly
that involve less curing products, accession of new European partners
(PECO), development of quality products, new products, the place
of the honey bee in the environment). We must cope with these challenges
if we want to defend and develop our way of beekeeping. During these
two days we shall participate in debates based on several real examples
presented by lecturers coming from several countries of the Union
and from the PECO. A simultaneous translation to the French language
is provided. An exhibition of posters showing the state of development
of research in various subjects as well as an exhibition of new
equipment will also be shown. It is possible to reserve a meal on
the spot for those who want.
Saturday 22nd November 2003
THE HONEY BEE
09.00 Official Congress opening
09.20 Which bee for tomorrow?
14.00 The honey bee in our environment
16.00 To an integrated way of beekeeping
Sunday 23rd November 2003
THE PLACE OF THE HONEY BEE AND BEEHIVE PRODUCTS BEEHIVE IN OUR SOCIETY
09.15 Reception of participants
09.30 The honey market
14.00 Tracks for tomorrow
16.00 The honey bee in our society
16.40 Final debate and recommendations
Monday 24th November 2003 (optional)
Optional tour: Bruges or Brussels.
Before 31" August: 30 Euros (20 Euros for one day)
After 1St September: 40 Euros (25 Euros for one day)
After the 30th October: we cannot guarantee the provision of earphones
for the translation.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CALL CART asbl - Place Croix du
Sud 4 B - 1348 LOUVAIN-La-NEUVE (Belgium) Tel: +32 10 47 34 16 FAX:
+32 10 47 34 94 E-mail: email@example.com http://www.cari.be
22-25 February 2004 - Apimondia Symposium
on Tropical Beekeeping: Research and Development for Pollination
and Conservation. Heredia Costa Rica More detail is available
23-27 February 2004 - 7th Asian Apicultural
Association Conference Los Banos College, Lagunas, Philippines.
More information from: firstname.lastname@example.org
24th April 2004 BBKA Spring Convention and
6-10 September 2004 - 8th IBRA Conference on tropical
Bees: management and diversity. Ribeiro Preto, Brazil.
16th April 2005 BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition
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