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.

August News

It’s been another busy summer for the bees and the beekeepers

The good spring weather gave the bees a good start to the season and nectar and pollen were plentiful, but that did result in more phone calls from the public about swarms – these swarms were dealt with by the members where possible. The summer crop was mixed, again due to the weather, as the bees had good days to forage for nectar, but as many wet days when they are confined to the hive and eat the stores!

As well as looking after their bees, the beekeepers have had a busy programme of events

Monthly apiary visits were well attended. New and experienced beekeepers always learn something from these meetings which are an opportunity to chat about what’s been happening with the bees and what to plan for over the coming month

Some new beekeepers worked with their mentors over the summer – this is the best way to learn as the bees don’t read the books!

Royal Highland Show Honey tent saw 1st prize success in the Local Association class and a 2nd and 3rd for two of the members

An information display at Wigtown Show was a new venture this year and, despite the weather, the beekeepers were kept busy with lots of good enquiries, especially from the youngsters, many of whom have recently done projects about bees at school

The Wonder of Honeybees at Castle Kennedy Gardens saw a great display of information about bees and beekeeping, honey and other products of the hive, pollination, bee friendly plants and beekeeping equipment. The stars of the show however were the bees in the observation hive – it’s great to get a wee peek in to a hive to see the bees at work. The beekeeper guest scarecrow this year was “The Donald”

Plans for the autumn/ winter are under way with guest speakers, the Honey Show and study groups for both beginners and experienced beekeepers to be organised. We hope to see a few new faces at these meetings, from the enquiries made at Wigtown Show and Castle Kennedy. There will be a great opportunity to work with RHET who are organising “Food and Farming” days for local school pupils during September

If you would like to become a beekeepers, please come along to the autumn/ winter meetings and study group so that you can then be ready to work with a mentor next season. Find out more and contact us via our website

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.

Updated Spring and Summer Events

Monday 27th February at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

  • Graeme Sharpe – Mating – how does it all work?

Saturday 18th March

  • SBA Module Exams

Monday 27th March at 7pm, Glenluce Bowling Club

  • Ian Craig – Swarm Control and Queen Rearing

Sunday 30th April – hosts Mary and George Pattison at Whithorn – starting at 10.30am – members can pop in and out during the day

A practical day – build something, repair something, for the newbies – knock up a few frames. Hopefully a demonstration

Bring a project and some lunch

Last Monday of May, June, July, and August at 7pm

  • Apiary visits – to be arranged. All members will be invited to an apiary in Western Galloway. Weather permitting, hives will be opened. In any case general discussion about what is happening in the apiary and what to expect/plan for in the coming month

 22nd – 25th June

  • Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.

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

Wednesday 2nd August – to be confirmed

  • Wigtown Show. Information stand – volunteer will be required

A Sunday in August – still to be arranged

  • The Wonder of Honeybees at Castle Kennedy Gardens – volunteers will be required

8th – 10th September

  • Beekeeping Convention, Ayr Racecourse

Latest News

At the January meeting Dru Hatcher, chair, welcomed some new members to the Association before introducing the speaker for the evening – Julian Stanley from Ayr Beekeepers. Julian’s talk about “Food, Trophallaxis & Communication” was a fascinating subject to start 2017.

Julian explained how honeybees collect nectar from flowers and convert it to honey, by introducing enzymes and reducing the water content to around 20%. Nectar and honey are the carbohydrate in the honeybee diet. Bees also collect pollen from plants and transport it back to the hives in the pollen baskets on their rear legs, which can be seen quite clearly when bees are flying – they can carry up to twice their body weight in pollen. Pollen provides the protein in their diet. Honeybees are particularly good at pollination as they are loyal to one type of plant – something farmers and growers use to their advantage by working with beekeepers when growing oil seed rape or field beans for example. News of where to collect the best nectar and pollen is communicated to the other bees in the colony by complex dances within the hive – but that’s another story!

Moving on to trophallaxis which is the transfer of food by mouth from one individual to another. The nectar is transferred between bees many times in the process of feeding larvae and the queen and before it is ready to store as honey, but it has another purpose and that is to spread word around the colony that the queen is well and that the worker bees can continue to concentrate on bringing in more nectar and pollen. Trophallixis however has a downside as any disease or poison (e.g. pesticides) introduced to the colony spreads very quickly and can be fatal to the colony.

Julian answered questions from the members and Dru thanked him for his well-presented and interesting talk. Julian reminded the members that Ayr Beekeepers will be hosting the Beekeeping Convention this year, 8th – 10th September – an opportunity not to be missed.

The WGBA programme of events for 2017 is busy with the two study groups well under way and exam dates looming, two more talks during the winter session, a day in the shed which is an opportunity to make and repair equipment, apiary visits and several events. To find out more, have a look at the website

The next meeting will be on Monday 27th February, when Graeme Sharpe from the Beekeeping Unit at Auchincruive will make his annual trip to Western Galloway to give an insight in to the Honeybee mating process – equally as fascinating a subject and important for beekeepers to understand for the management of their bees. Usual place, Glenluce Bowling Club, usual time 7pm. All welcome – beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike.

January WGBA News

Western Galloway Beekeepers’ Association

The December meeting was held before Christmas and started with a light hearted quiz about the day to day life of a bee. The members imagined they were a bee and what they would be kept busy with in different situation, at different times of the year, and if they were a worker, queen or drone. As beekeepers it’s always good to think like a bee when deciding what course of action should be taken in the apiary.

There followed a discussion, over some lovely food, about how the members would like to increase their beekeeping knowledge. The conclusion was that there was enough interest among the members and newcomers to run both a Basic BeeKeeping study group and a Honeybee Management (Module 1 of the SBA Intermediate syllabus) study group. The more experienced members volunteered to run the sessions.

The study groups started mid-January and will run until mid-March with 9 members in each group, including some new members to the Association. A different topic is covered at each session, so by the time the bees start to become active in the spring the members will be much better informed about how to look after them.

The speaker at the next meeting will be Julian Stanley from Ayr Beekeepers. Julian will talk about “Food, Trophollaxis & Communication” which is a fascinating subject. The meeting will be held on Monday 30th January at the usual place, Glenluce Bowling Club, starting at 7pm. All welcome.