Learn what happened at the HBA Bee Health Day 2022

HBA members examining infected comb

Learning how to identify a notifiable disease is much easier in a real life situation

Hampshire Beekeepers’ Association hosted its Bee Health Day in partnership with our Regional Bee Inspectors on Saturday 18 June 2022. The free event was held at Sparsholt College, Winchester and combined talks from a variety of experts with practical hand-on learning.

After teas and coffee and a catch-up with friends, the day started in the lecture theatre with an overview of exotic pests by Seasonal Bee Inspector Nigel Semmence. There was particularly emphasis on the Asian hornet and Small Hive Beetle.

The Asian hornet information was particularly pertinent to members as most of the incursions so far have been close to our area due to its proximity to the channel ports. It was also interesting to hear (and see, with the benefit of visuals) how the team tracked down and removed the last reported nest in Ascot, Berkshire.

After a break for coffee, our regional bee inspector John Geden talked through how to identify European and American foulbrood in preparation for our afternoon session in the laboratory. This is an important subject not least because as beekeepers, we are legally obliged to report these diseases and therefore must know how to identify them.

At 12.30 members stopped for lunch at the college cafe, there was an excellent choice of reasonably-priced, good quality fare before starting the afternoon workshops.

We were split into three groups which rotated through the workshops. The first workshop was a much more detailed look at Varroa (varroaris), its effect on our honey bees and the various treatment and control techniques open to us. Whilst the threats discussed earlier in the day such as the Asian Hornet and Small Hive Beetle are thankfully at the moment, not of immediate concern, Varroa is a clear and present danger and it was good to be reminded of what we should be doing and when, the options available to us as well as new developments and ideas. 

Seasonal Bee Inspector Mark Lynch

The next workshop, hosted by seasonal bee inspector Mark Lynch was a practical demonstration of the various methods of comb changing and apiary and equipment hygiene.

Mark talked the group through various methods of comb change before demonstrating how to correctly flame a box.

Members discussed comb rotation (the movement of dirtier comb from the centre of the brood nest to the edges of the box prior to removal), the bailey comb change and the Shook swarm method.

Members also looked at the basics of good apiary hygiene, like how to clean a smoker, hive tool and bee suit. The National Bee Unit has produced a series of short videos which are available to you by subscribing to their YouTube channel. You can access the channel by clicking on one of the links in this paragraph.

The third workshop took place in a laboratory and provided the chance to examine frames recently removed by Bee Inspectors infected with European and American Foulbrood. This was an opportunity most beekeepers would not get in an ordinary apiary meeting and was a chance to really expand knowledge of these notifiable diseases.

Reading about EFB and AFB in text books and looking at photographs and videos is one thing but being able to actually see the frames, pull out and dissect infected grubs and carry out the matchstick test really did increase our confidence in being able to identify these diseases.

The workshop, hosted by JohnAvril Earl and Rob Poole, was carried out in strict laboratory conditions with every care being taken to ensure no infection could be transmitted to attendees for onward transmission to their bees. 

John Geden taking a group through a frame

The whole day was extremely informative and interesting and our gratitude goes out to our regional bee inspectors for the time and effort they put in to making the day so useful and enjoyable.

Our bee inspectors are a rare and precious resource, available to all of us free of charge. If any of our members ever worries that their bees are infected with any of the notifiable diseases or pests, the bee inspectors are their to help and are not to be feared. Beebase is also a free resource packed full of definitive information designed to help you to keep your bees healthy and if you haven’t done so already, its a good idea to register there.

The day ended with a questions and answer session and various handouts including a guide to the Miller method of queen rearing and an Asian Hornet fact sheet were handed out.

If you missed the Bee Health Day, we hope this page provides some of the information you missed. If you get a chance to attend next time, it is thoroughly recommended, not just for new beekeepers but for those with more experience too. The most up-to-date information is presented clearly and in an engaging way and encourages and motivates us all to better look after the welfare of our bees.

Hampshire Beekeepers Association Autumn Convention 2022

HBA has now agreed on a date and location for the Autumn Convention. The event will be held on the 19th of November 2022 from 09:00 – 16:00 at Sparsholt College near Winchester. A subgroup of the trustees has been set up to make this another fun-filled and informative day for all.

So please save the date and we will update you all on the speakers, vendors, and activities as they are confirmed.

Hives to the Heather 2022 Update

In the past registered members of HBA have had the privilege of taking a combined maximum of 350 colonies onto the New Forest, spread across several designated areas and enclosures.

Forestry England has allow beekeepers who have been granted permits to place their agreed number of hives on sites allocated to them, between 01 July and 31 October 2022.

The honey bees and beekeepers often benefit from the heather if it produces a good flow. In 2021, bees in a total of 350 hives enjoyed a working holiday. The 28 beekeepers who owned those hives enjoyed the challenge of dealing with a different type of honey; heather honey is thixotropic.

However this year HBA became aware of a certain clause in the contract that put the association, it’s trustees and members at risk in the event of significant damage to the New Forest.

John Lauwerys – HBA Chair

I regret to report that a major problem has emerged in respect of the agreement HBA has with Forestry England (FE) which enables Hampshire beekeepers to apply to bring hives to the New Forest.

The agreement with Forestry England requires each beekeeper to be covered by an insurance policy with a claim limit of up to £10 million per claim. This is automatically provided to any beekeeper who is a member of a local beekeeping association in Hampshire, and who is a registered member of HBA and thus able to benefit from the group policy provided through BBKA.

Over the winter HBA has been reviewing the terms of the agreement with Forestry England and in particular there has been discussion about removing one onerous condition. This states that if there were ever a claim arising from some catastrophic event connected with ‘taking bees to the heather’ which led to a claim above the £10 million provided by the insurance policy, ‘the amount of such claim shall not limit the Permit Holder’s (i.e., HBA’s ) liability to Forestry England’. What this means that in the event of a claim running to, say £15 million, HBA would be liable to meet £5 million of that claim!

Unfortunately, Forestry England are not willing to remove this condition largely because it is the standard clause in all their many thousands of agreements covering access to the land they own.

HBA has reserves of just a few thousand pounds, so as a charity whose trustees do not have limited liability status, the claim would fall personally on each trustee. You will recognise that this is not a situation that the trustees can risk, albeit the chance of a claim connected with taking bees to the heather is very remote.

So reluctantly I have informed Forestry England that HBA will have to withdraw, at least for 2022, from the agreement we have had with FE, and its predecessor the Forestry Commission, for nearly 50 years. There is a possible option for HBA to adopt a different charity constitution (CIO) which would protect its trustees from any personally liability affecting the charity. However, that needs careful consideration and would take many months to effect.

Relations with the Forestry England staff are good, and they are very willing to work with HBA to find a solution to the problem which has arisen.

For this summer the approach we are working on is to enable each beekeeper who wishes to bring bees to the heather to enter a direct agreement with FE.

HBA will help set up this arrangement which will include the insurance cover of up to £10 million held by registered HBA members but this will still leave the individual beekeeper liable were there to be a claim above the insurance limit.

However, each beekeeper can decide if that is a risk they are prepared to take in return for the perceived benefit of bringing their bees to the heather.

The charge per hive will be levied directly from each beekeeper by FE which would also charge an application fee. This is usually £90 inc vat but Forestry England has agreed in the circumstances to reduce this by 50% to £45.

The charge per hive would also be levied from each beekeeper but a reduced charge will apply to hobby beekeepers bringing nine or fewer hives to the heather.

Any registered member of HBA who wishes to apply for a permit to bring bees to the heather in the summer of 2022 should submit a request by email to southern.permissions@forestryengland.uk

An application form will be returned by Forestry England to each applicant in mid-June for completion and return.

Further Information please email

Peter Grimes: aabees321@gmail.com