February’s News

The Beekeepers meeting in January was a Beekeepers Question Time with a panel of experts answering questions from the members.

Mary Pattison, Chair, welcomed Julian Stanley, from Ayr Beekeepers, who joined Fiona Keith, from Western Galloway Beekeepers, on the panel. The questions from the members were many and varied and covered topics such as new beekeepers, varroa, overwintering, queens and swarming. Julian and Fiona demonstrated their knowledge of beekeeping by answering all questions put to them.

The panel members also gave a short talk on a subject of their choice. Julian’s topic was “Fortress Hive” and he made a great analogy with Edinburgh Castle to demonstrate how the colony keeps the queen safe. Fiona’s topic was “Propolis”, which is collected from trees and buds and is used by the bees as an antibacterial as well as to stop draughts in the hive. Propolis is also used in health foods.

Another great beekeepers question time! Mary thanked Julian and Fiona for sharing their knowledge.

The study groups are up and running with a total of 18 beekeepers covering “Introduction to Beekeeping” over 8 weekly sessions. In addition some of the more experienced beekeepers are studying for exams in March. Lots more knowledge to help us look after our bees this summer – all that is now required is some warm and dry weather!

A programme of apiary visits is planned for the summer and each meeting will have a topic, from pests and diseases to skep making. The summer meetings are open to members only, so if you are not a member and would like to be involved, please contact the Association via the website – Contact Us

The next meeting will be on Monday 26th February at Glenluce Bowling Club starting at 7pm. Dru Hatcher and George Pattison will remind the members how they should be preparing for the first inspection of their bees in the spring.

January’s News

Beekeepers gathered before Christmas for their Christmas social.


Before tucking in to some lovely treats (mostly made with honey) and some bee chat, Mary and George Pattison did a demonstration of how to make Waxed Fabric Food Wraps – a brilliant alternative to cling film for wrapping sandwiches etc.


The equipment was set up – squares of cotton/linen fabric, beeswax, a baking sheet, paintbrush, a heavy iron, baking parchment. George demonstrated how to use the warm iron to melt the wax in to the fabric, then the members each made their own waxed fabric food wrap – yet another byproduct of beekeeping!


Mary and George were thanked and the socialising continued.


2018 got off to a busy start with the Introduction to Beekeeping Study Group, a course of 8 weekly sessions designed with newcomers/novices in mind. The new beekeepers have started out very enthusiastically and will be well prepared for their first apiary visit in the spring.


The next meeting will be Beekeepers Question Time on Monday 29th January at Glenluce Bowling Club starting at 7pm. The panel of experienced beekeepers will answer questions from the audience, and the panel members will also give a 5 minute talk on a subject of their choice. This will be an interesting evening suitable for beekeepers of all experience – please come along if you are a beekeeper or if you are interested in beekeeping.

November’s News – Honey Show Results

Results of the annual Honey Show which took place on 27th November. The judge was Alan Riach, President of Scottish Beekeepers Association

Light Honey – 1 Jim McColm, 2  Linda Robertson

Medium Honey – 1  Fiona Keith, 2  Linda Robertson,  3  Jim McColm

Creamed/Soft Set Honey – 1  John Rennie, 2  Linda Robertson

Naturally Set Honey – 1  Dru Hatcher, 2  Jim McColm, 3  Kathy Scrivens

Chunk Honey – 1  John Rennie

Heather/Heather Blend Honey – 1 Linda Robertson, 2  John Rennie

Honey judged on aroma and taste – 1  John  Rennie, 2  George Pattison, 3  Michael McCabe

Frame of Honey – 1  John Rennie, 2  Jim McColm

Honey Gingerbread – 1 Mary Pattison, 2  Fiona Keith, 3  Kathy Scrivens

Photographic Print – 1  Susan Dempster, 2  John Rennie, 3  Fiona Keith

Home Made Item of Beekeeping Equipment: 1  Dru Hatcher, 2 Mark Mitchell, 3  Linda Robertson

4 Candles – 1  Dru Hatcher, 2  Mark Mitchell. 3  John Rennie

Gift Item – 1  Younus Nur, 2   George Smith, 3  Dru Hatcher

Trophies were presented by Alan

Points Cup for exhibitor with most points scored across all classes: John Rennie

Jim McColm Cup for best honey exhibit in show: Fiona Keith

Newton Stewart Cup for Novice with most points across all classes: George Pattison

Tankard for winner of photographic class: Susan Dempster

Glenrazie Shield for Best exhibit in show: Susan Dempster

Congratulations to all prize winners

Alan commented on the high standard of the exhibits and encouraged the members to enter the Royal Highland Show and Scottish Honey Show in 2018. Mary Pattison, Chair, thanked Alan for travelling to Western Galloway and for sharing his hints and tips on how to prepare the perfect exhibit

The next meeting will be the Christmas social, which will include a demonstration of how to make wax fabric food wraps, using beeswax, and will be on Monday 18th December at Glenluce Bowling Club starting at 7pm

October’s News

The winter programme of meetings started on Sunday 8th October when the Scottish Beekeepers Association touring lecture was given by Tony Harris, NBD, a bee farmer based on the Moray coast where he manages 150 hives for honey production and the sale of queens and nuclei.

Dru Hatcher, Chair, welcomed Tony, members and their friends along with members from Ayr Beekeepers and South of Scotland Beekeepers. It was great to see such a good turnout.

Tony’s topic was Queen Rearing and Selection. He has been selecting and rearing local queens on the Moray coast for several years and shared, in some detail, his experience in selecting queens to breed from, his queen rearing set up and the use of mini mating hives. Tony also emphasised the importance of healthy drones in the equation. There were lots of questions which demonstrated an interest in this topic which is important to all beekeepers.

Mary Pattison, Vice Chair, thanked Tony for sharing his experience and the beekeepers who had travelled a distance to support the lecture.

There was an opportunity for lots of “bee chat” over a cuppa and a beautiful spread laid on by the members.

The next meeting will be on Monday 30th October at Glenluce Bowling Club starting at 7pm. This will be the AGM, which will include a summary of the year past and plans for the year ahead, and all members and anyone interested in beekeeping will be welcomed. This will be followed by a talk by Martin Donaldson on how technology can be used to monitor beehives.


Autumn/ Winter Schedule 17/18

Autumn/Winter 2017/2018 – dates for your diary

Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September – Scottish Beekeepers Convention – Ayr Racecourse

Not to be missed!!  For more information see              info@sbaconvention.co.uk

Sunday 17th September – deadline for applications for SBA module exams

Sunday 8th October at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club – SBA Lecture Tour Speaker

Speaker – Tony Harris, NDB, a bee farmer based on the Moray coast in Scotland, UK, where he manages 150 hives for honey production and the sale of queens and nuclei.  Tony is a Scottish Expert Beemaster and he holds the National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB) qualification. He teaches beekeeping at all levels and gives presentations and lectures to community and beekeeping groups on all matters relating to bees, beekeeping and the environment. He is a previous secretary of the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA), a qualified Scottish Honey Judge, a British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Correspondence Course tutor and a regular contributor to beekeeping publications in the UK and abroad.

Tony’s topic – Queen Rearing and Selection

Tony has been selecting and rearing local queens on the Moray coast for several years and he will share his experience in selecting queens to breed from, his queen rearing set up and the use of mini mating hives.   

Monday 30th October at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club


followed by WGBA member Martin Donaldson who will tell us about hive monitoring using technology

Monday 6th November – closing date for Honey Show entries – there’s something for everyone!

Saturday 11th November  SBA module exams

Monday 27th November at 7pm (entries to be in place between 6.00pm and 6.30 pm), Glenluce Bowling Club

WGBA Honey Show. Schedule available from any committee member.

Honey judge – Alan Riach, SBA President

Monday 18th December at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

Speaker – Margaret Adams – All Things Pollen                              

and Christmas Social

Mid January – mid March (one evening session per week)

Study groups – SBA Basic Beekeeper and SBA modules

Dates to be arranged depending on demand            

Monday 29th January at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

Hopefully Beekeepers Question time                     

Monday 26th February at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

Speaker to be arranged                                                                       

Monday 26th March at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club


Speaker to be arranged                               

Autumn News

The summer is well and truly over and it is time to put the bees to bed for the winter. The summer was not kind to the bees, mainly due to the inclement weather much reducing their foraging opportunities. The Rosebay Willowherb was early and passed quickly, then the heather blossomed in the rain! The saving grace might just have been the Himalayan Balsam which is still coming in, and hopefully there will be some good weather for the ivy, the final crop of the season. The bees have managed to bring in some stores but beekeepers will need to ensure that their bees have sufficient stores to see them through the winter – a standard colony requires around 35lb of honey to ensure the survive through to the spring blossoms. Early autumn is a good time to treat Varroa mites to ensure that the mite population is low over the winter.

The beekeepers were delighted to be involved in the RHET Food and Farming days at Lochinch 21st and 22nd September. Around 250 youngsters from Stranraer Academy and Douglas Ewart High School, along with teachers and RHET volunteers, heard all about bees, the beehive, pollination and the waggle dance (and a few joined in the waggle dance!), honey and honey tasting. A brilliant couple of days and a great opportunity to spread the word about how important bees are for the environment and our food supply.

The winter programme of meetings starts Sunday 8th October when the Scottish Beekeepers Association touring lecture will be given by Tony Harris, NBD, a bee farmer based on the Moray coast where he manages 150 hives for honey production and the sale of queens and nuclei.  Tony’s topic will be Queen Rearing and Selection. He has been selecting and rearing local queens on the Moray coast for several years and he will share his experience in selecting queens to breed from, his queen rearing set up and the use of mini mating hives.

This meeting is open to all beekeepers and anyone interested in bees and beekeeping. Glenluce Bowling Club, Glenluce, Sunday 8th October starting at 7pm. All welcome.

June’s News

The Beekeepers were delighted to win a 1st prize in the Honey Tent at the Royal Highland Show for their Local Association entry, as well as first time success in the individual classes for two of their members


  1. Local Association class – 1st Prize – Western Galloway Beekeepers Association

The theme was “The Edwardian Beekeeper” and contributions were made by

  • George and Mary Pattison – organisers, stand, photo, veil and gauntlets
  • Dru Hatcher – rolled candle and clear honey
  • John Rennie – OSR honey
  • George Smith – wax etching
  • Mark Mitchell – shoe polish
  • Linda Robertson – bramble and honey whisky
  • Fiona Keith – mead

A great team effort!

  1. Novice class – 1 jar liquid honey – 2nd Prize – John Rennie


  1. Wax model or sculpture class – 3rd Prize – George Smith

Congratulations to all prize-winners

Members of the Association, Martin Donaldson and Linda Robertson, also contributed to the very busy Honey Tent by stewarding for a day

Look out for the Beekeepers stand at Wigtown Show on 2nd August, where the Association entry will be displayed, and come along to our special event, “The Wonders of Honeybees” at Castle Kennedy Gardens on 20th August. Both will be an opportunity for you to find out about bees, beekeeping and how important bees are for our environment 

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 

Latest WGBA News from February’s Meeting

“The Queen Bee” was the subject of a fascinating talk by Graeme Sharpe, the honey bee advisor for the whole of Scotland. Graeme, with very many beekeeping years under his belt and 120 hives to take care of is based at Auchincruive Agricultural College in Ayrshire. In summer he runs courses for beekeepers that are very well attended.

The Queen lives for 3 to 5 years, but with age she becomes less prolific with her egg laying. At her peak she could lay 1500 to 2000 per day. She emits a pheromone called ODA which holds the colony together and inhibits worker ovaries from developing and also the construction of Queen cells in the hive.

There are several types of Queen cells that may be constructed throughout the year. Supercedure cells are made when the colony wants a new queen, swarm cells are made when the colony wants to divide and increase and emergency Queen cells are made when the colony has become hopelessly queenless.. If the latter happens the ovaries of workers develop and they start to lay eggs. Sometimes there are several eggs in one cell and these would grow into drones as workers are infertile. Each type of Queen cell should be recognised by the beekeeper and he should also recognise a good quality one by its wrinkled, waxy surface and size. A smooth surface may indicate a poorly fed Queen.

The Queen measures the size of the cell with her front legs before deciding whether to lay a worker or a drone egg but it is the feeding regime that dictates whether that female egg develops into a worker or a Queen. Both types of egg are fed Royal Jelly for 3 days. After that, the diet changes for the worker to a less rich brood food and only about 150 feeds daily as opposed to a continuous diet of Royal Jelly throughout life and 1500 feeds daily for the Queen. This new queen needs 16 days to emerge and 2 or 3 days to get ready for her first maiden flight.

Trailing her pheromones she sets off for a drone congregation area where several thousand boys will be waiting to court her. Only 10 or 12 of the strongest will make it and pay the ultimate price for the effort as their genital organs detach inside the Queen. Drone congregation areas can be 2 or3 miles distant and consist of many thousands drones from all around the area making a good diversification of the gene pool. The weather plays an important part of the mating ritual. Good flying conditions – not too windy, a nice sheltered valley and a temperature around 20*C. If by any chance the weather is consistently poor a queen may not get mated for 2 or 3 weeks or not at all. In the last scenario, she will become “stale” and turn into a drone laying queen.

An interesting event inside the hive is the sound that virgin queens make before and after emerging. A high pitched intermittent tooting or piping. The old queen makes a quacking noise, a deeper tone. These noises signal to queens the presence of others and a battle ensues the first emerging Queen killing off the others until only one remains.

Lastly, the desirability of traits of a queen’s offspring are: Good temper, non- following, calm on the comb, good honey gatherers, non-swarming and locally adapted bees.

The next meeting in Glenluce Bowling Club is on the 27th March at 7pm, when Ian Craig past president of the Scottish Beekeeper’s Association will talk on Swarm control and queen Rearing. Newcomers and members all welcome.