WGBA May Meeting

Dru welcomed 7 members with apologies from Linda Robertson, Tom Wolstenholme, Younnis Nur, Grant and Susan Dempster, George Smith, Kathy Scrivens, Jean and Alan Jackson. 

Cane Sugar

 Dru had written to Tate and Lyle to confirm if the granulated sugar that has been recently re-packaged is in fact cane sugar as it says ‘produced in the UK’. They confirmed that it is still cane sugar but it comes in raw and is processed in their Thames refinery.

Helpful Beekeeping Ideas

A three legged camping stool has been suggested as useful when sitting alongside the brood box(as long as ground fairly firm) as well as a green gardening stool that you can either kneel or sit on.

One of the Snelgrove boards that were made at The Day in The Shed was discussed and priced-last years Thornes Catalogue has them at £35.80 + p&p!!!! Plans are available on the SBA Website

To stop mice climbing up the legs of the hive, place plastic drainpipe around them. Mark uses fish boxes as stands which hopefully has the same effect.

To sterilise equipment, boil rhubarb leaves, strain and wash equipment in resultant liquid and leave in sun to dry and bleach.

The smoke pellets (£3.56 for 10) were discussed as a way to dislodge a newly arrived swarm of bees from an unused chimney where it is not possible to light a fire.

Sulphur candles have been suggested to remove the smell of wax and honey again from disused chimneys to deter swarms from landing there in following seasons.

Swarm lure-place  approx 10 drops of lemon grass oil on a cloth in a bait hive-seems to work.

A Bee Bob had been made by Dru and this consisted of a sheet of ply(approx the size to fit over a brood box) suspended on the 4 corners by wire with some melted wax on the underside. This is hung from a tree and hopefully attracts a swarm to land on the underside and then it can be lifted onto a brood box and shaken off. A hole can be cut in the middle to encourage a swarm to go up into a brood box rather than shake them off. John R’s wife had thought of something similar and Fiona suggested using an upturned hanging basket container. The Bob is now hanging in a tree.

A sprig of fresh bay leaves can be placed on top of the frames to deter varroa and Mary P says she uses them to maintain the quality of all her dried goods e.g. flour as well as a dribble of oil seed rape oil along the tops of the frames (not between) so that the bees walk in it and it will block the breathing holes of the varroa.

A fellow beekeeper in Somerset had removed a piece of drone brood from below the bottom of a frame to check for varroa-once decapped a varroa ran out of the cell and a bee that was in the container as well actually ATE the varroa. Thomas saw it with his own eyes and hopes to re-create at their next Apiary meeting and film if possible-watch this space.

The brood nest sits at 36º C which is 2º C above the ideal temperature for varroa breeding so everytime a hive is opened it takes 2 days for the temperature to return to optimum, giving a window of opportunity for the varroa to have a splurge on breeding so it was emphasised-only open your hives when necessary.  

The Bee Gym (Solway Bees) was discussed and John R has used one but difficult to evaluate how well they work but Solway Bees are selling them like hot cakes-but anything is worth a try.


Swarming was discussed as it is that time of year and the bees have been busy. The artificial swarm method seems to work sometimes but the bees can still draw queen cells even when the colony has been split so the ‘leave for 7 days’ idea can cause issues. Linda felt that 4/5 days is long enough before checking that no further queen cells are drawn.

We looked at the life cycle of egg, larvae etc-and Dru asked everyone to think more about what we were actually being told. So if you split a colony on Day 1 via the artificial swarm method and the colony is in swarming mode (which is difficult to switch off), the bees can still draw queen cells from a 3 day old LARVAE i.e. already 6 days into the capping at 9 day process. If you then leave it 7 days before inspection, the cell could have been capped for 4 days and likely that the bees will still have swarmed so I think a quick check of all manipulated boxes after 3 days is time worth investing.


Swarm cells and supercedure cells are different in various aspects-

Swarm cells

  • have thick bottoms
  • at various stages of development
  • drones are present
  • reduced egg laying

Supercedure cells

  • usually extensions of worker cells
  • have no thick bottom
  • all the same age 

So again, think about all that record keeping we maintain-what is it telling us. If you notice at this time of year, the queen has not laid many eggs and there is space for her to lay-it could be swarm preparation.

Peak number of queen cells-if you are looking to breed queens from a colony-maybe choose one that only produces 10-12 swarm cells and breed from that colony. One that produces a large number of cells could be considered a ‘swarmy’ variety and harder to manage.

Other beekeeping Tips

We looked at The Beekeepers Rule as a reminder to use it (I am guilty of having it sat in its clean plastic cover)!

Capping’s on honey frames from dark bees have an air gap below, yellow races do not leave an air gap causing the appearance of wet looking cappings.

If you use just a starter strip rather than a full sheet of foundation, try putting vertical strips (maybe 4) down the frame and this gives the bees something to climb on when they start to draw the wax.

An abandoned cattle lick bucket(rectangular shape) is the perfect size to drop old brood combs into (prior to washing with rain water).

Finally, 1 brood frame and 1 super frame were passed around for everyone to looks at the cells and comment. When a frame is drawn for honey the cells tip slightly upwards-we have learnt that so the nectar does not run out-brood frames on the other hand have cells that are level and if they become honey filled, the edge of the cell is extended to receive honey.

Royal Highland Show

Tea and biscuits and then we then discussed the entry to the Highland Show and the title of ‘An Edwardian Beekeeper’ was decided upon with Mary P taking the lead and suggesting all types of items we could use. We have a plan and Mary  has already been in touch as time is in short supply.

Next Meeting

The meeting finished about 10.15pm and I think everyone left with their heads literally buzzing.  Look forward to seeing everyone at George and Kathy’s 26th June at 7pm for further discussions.


 (Apologies if I have missed anything out)

WGBA Summer Meeting Schedule

Monday 29th May at 7pm – monthly meeting – host Dru Hatcher

22nd – 25th June  Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.

Steward in the Honey tent or exhibit your honey/wax/baking/mead

Monday 26th June at 7pm –  monthly meeting – hosts Kathy Scrivens and George Smith

Monday 31st July at 7pm – monthly meeting – host Linda Robertson

Wednesday 2nd August – Wigtown Show. Information stand

Sunday 20th August – The Wonder of Honeybees at Castle Kennedy Gardens – volunteers will be required

Monday 28th August at 7pm – monthly meeting – host Fiona Keith

8th – 10th September – Beekeeping Convention, Ayr Racecourse

If you are interested in attending any of these events, please contact Linda Robertson