Contents: Editorial; Beekeeping news; Bee press; Articles: Natural Ways of Improving Varroa Containment (part 2) Ian Rumsey; Poem of the month: An Ode to the Honeybee Warren Ogren; Fact File: Swarming why do they do it? What triggers it? Letters: Bill Turnbull, John Yates; Diary of events. Please wait while downloading 258KB.

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Apis-UK Issue No.15 July 2003
PhD student Lizzie Cant and Prof. Ingrid Williams of Rothamsted with the Silver Gilt Medal at Chelsea Flower Show

PhD 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 answer.
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.


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.

Sharon Blake of BBKA explains beekeeping to a visitor using a replica Stewarton hive.
Sharon Blake of BBKA explains beekeeping to a visitor using a replica Stewarton hive.
The exhibit featured both native plants and cultivated garden varieties together with fruit and vegetables which require insect pollination, and hive products.
The 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.

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 bury it.
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).


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 increased.
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.

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).

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 hedges.

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 niche market.
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

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 institutions.
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 for the full report.


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.

Opening Ceremony 2.00 pm Mr Kim Flottum Editor of Bee Culture

The NHS opening ceremony 2002
The National 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 Morton
4.30 Beekeeping Literature in the United States and A.I. Root’s Contribution Kim Flottum
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 Francis Capener

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

Honey show lecture
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 Show site some time during August URL:

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 entered one 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 and 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 please 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:

Dear Ms Fischer Boel, I am adding my name to the many who will undoubtedly respond to the Danish governments crass decision to dramatically curtail the 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 decision 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

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


Beecraft July 2003 Volume 85 Number 7

Beecraft July  2003

The latest issue of Bee Craft offers a wealth of information, advice and items of interest for all beekeepers in its monthly columns. 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.

Editor John Phipps Neochori, 24024 Agios Nikolaos, Mesknias, Greece tel: 00 30 27210 78089 email:

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 keep the British Bee? Why indeed! Steve Taber; Protective Clothing for Beekeepers, Ian Bell; Will Beekeeping Die a Natural Death this Century? Nigel 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, John 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, Job 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 Alexander Komissar - home-made queen excluders, heavy losses of bees in winter, new way of introducing queens; and USA, Ann Harman - beekeeping 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, Study 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:



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 area.
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 this area.
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 construction.

Ian Rumsey -to be continued next month-


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


Swarm prevention or limitation is probably one of the most demanding and time consuming tasks of the beekeeper. It has been explained 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 into it?

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 swarming.

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 bees’.
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 correct.
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) suggest.


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 the process.

“ 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.


Dear David,
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.
Photo by Bill Turnbull

Anyway, many thanks once again for your splendid publication.

Bill Turnbull. (Bucks)

Dear David,
Teaching apiaries
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, to boot, 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 extolled.

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 BBKA.

John Yates. (Newton Ferrers, Devon.)

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 :

Saturday 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:

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 01403 790637, John Stevens at 01243 533559, or Entries Secretary Mrs Sue Cooper, Malthouse, Lower Street, Pulborough, Sussex, RH20 2BH. 01798 874061

13-15 November 2003 The National Honey Show Download PDF 15KB NHS 2003

Visit the National

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.

Provisional program
Saturday 22nd November 2003
09.00 Official Congress opening
09.20 Which bee for tomorrow?
12.00 Lunch
14.00 The honey bee in our environment
16.00 To an integrated way of beekeeping
Sunday 23rd November 2003
09.15 Reception of participants
09.30 The honey market
12.00 Lunch
14.00 Tracks for tomorrow
16.00 The honey bee in our society
16.40 Final debate and recommendations
Monday 24th November 2003 (optional)
Discovering Belgium
Optional tour: Bruges or Brussels.

Registration Fees
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:

22-25 February 2004 - Apimondia Symposium on Tropical Beekeeping: Research and Development for Pollination and Conservation. Heredia Costa Rica More detail is available from:

23-27 February 2004 - 7th Asian Apicultural Association Conference Los Banos College, Lagunas, Philippines. More information from:

24th April 2004 BBKA Spring Convention and Exhibition

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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