How to manage an EFB inspection

I have received notification from the NBU that EFB has been discovered within 3 km of my apiary (in central London). I have two hives a metre apart with vegetative barriers between them to hinder drifting. I took honey off the smaller Warre (3 boxes) which was in the (long) process of converting from a National brood box in June. The other Warre is now on 6 boxes and has not been opened since the spring. As EFB is stress induced, I am hoping my hives are not infected.

I am anxious about what interventions the Inspector is going to demand. I fear there is little sympathy for the Warre system in London in general and by inspectors. Does anyone have any tips?


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Dead colony, mouldy comb

My bees died this winter. I suspected the colony was dead/dying because there was a build up of dead bees outside the hive and in the floor of the hive. When they didn’t start flying in the spring I peered in the top of the hive and there was no activity. I’ve been quite busy and away with work a bit so I only picked the hive up and brought it home today. I haven’t taken the combs out of the boxes yet  but looking at the comb from underneath the boxes they are very mouldy. Today I’ve read that a hive left without bees will go mouldy so it seems leaving it so long was a school boy error.

I want to try to work out what has killed the bees and will look more closely when I take the top bars out with the attached comb in the next couple of days. So far I have dead bees outside and inside the hive on the floor and mouldy comb to go by. I suppose mould could have started whilst there were still bees and perhaps there was  too much moisture in the hive. The bees don’t have deformed wings and look normal.

My question is ….

Is it safe to harvest honey from mouldy comb using the cut and drain method? It seems like the crush and strain method will lead to a lot of mould getting in the honey. Even with the cut and drain method the honey is going to be in contact with the mould.


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Disposal of my Hives (ptII)

Further to last years posting (September), I have recently suffered another anaphylaxis incident, following a bee sting on my neck. This was more serious than last year (I was unconscious) and the doctor has told me that another incident could be fatal.

Sadly the bees will have to go. Andrew Forbes (see previous comments) has offered to take one colony. I need to get rid of my my other colony (or both if someone wants both – Andrew is just taking one hive as a favour).

I haven’t touched either hive since the previous incident (except for an occasional peek through the observation windows). I haven’t treated them, taken honey,or fed them, but both seem pretty active.

I’m scared to go near them now, so I’m hoping that some kind soul will come and take them away for me.

You can contact me on 023 8026 8567 if you prefer and want to know any more. I am happy to wait until the weather turns colder (surely it must soon!!!)


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Fera Report on Neonics

A Government study by their agency Fera into neonic use has been published today. Buglife have taken a look behind the spin of the official press release and conclude that the study shows three key results:

  • A clear relationship across regions between imidacloprid use (the commonest neonicotinoid used during the period of the study) and overwintering honeybee colony losses.
  • Neonicotinoid seed treatments (mainly imidacloprid) on Oilseed rape did not produce a consistent yield benefit – positive in three years, negative in one and no overall effect.
  • Neonicotinoid use reduced insecticide spray use in the autumn only if the initial use of the neonicotinoid was ignored, but appeared to increase insecticide sprays the following spring – net effect circa 0.75 more insecticide uses per hectare.

More here.

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Top Bar Hive Seeks Home

I have been contacted by someone in the Cheltenham area who has a top bar hive (with bees) looking for a good home.  If you are interested please email:  hazel bolton (at) g mail (dot) com (reconstruct the email leaving out the gaps etc.).

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Oilseed rape flourishes without bee-killing chemicals

The first harvest results of winter oilseed rape planted without neonicotinoid seed treatments have come in, and farmers are experiencing a better than usual crop – yields are higher than the 10 year average.

ADAS, the UK’s largest independent agricultural consultancy today confirmed that with 15% of the oilseed rape harvested, yields are between 3.5 and 3.7 tonnes/ha, higher than the normal farm average of 3.4.

This makes a total nonsense of the Government’s recent controversial decision to allow these banned bee-killing agrotoxins to be used in four eastern counties as an ‘emergency’ measure.  Particularly concerning is the fact that most of the harvest data comes from eastern England where 40% of the crop has already been brought in.

– See more on Buglife’s website

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Wasps help!!!!

For about a week now my horizontal top bar hive has been under siege by wasps and, more recently, by hornets.  I reduced the 3 entrances to 1 and then reduced the size of that single entrance.  I’ve cautiously put out wasp traps (knowing that this may increase the number of wasps and have found and destroyed 2 wasp nests.  Last night in desperation I closed the last entrance knowing that it would be cool today and on the basis that the bees might recuperate and nothing could get in.  The wasps are still there in numbers.  I think they can smell honey/the colony through the mesh floor.  For a few days the wasps were held at bay but yesterday wasps and a few hornets seemed to be entering with impunity.  Is there anything else I can do?  would moving the hive help?  I plan to let the bees out later on today so they can get water but I am feeling increasingly helpless and hopeless.  Any advice would be really welcomed.

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Bayer German Lawsuit Fails

Chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that its pesticide Thiacloprid harms bees. Now pressure is growing on the EU to add the neonicotinoid to the three already banned.  Read more.

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Flow Hive Frenzy

Many of you will have seen my previous post on the Flow Hive and those of you who agree with the views expressed need read no further.

However, any beekeeper who spends time on the internet or reads newspapers  will be well aware of the hive’s rapturous reception, regretfully even among some who might place themselves amongst the community of natural beekeepers. The promise of ‘less disturbance’ to the bees is proving very attractive. Sadly it is a deception. What is not spoken of, and to which I have already alluded, is the disconnect that lies in the thinking behind the idea.

Two quotes illustrate the disconnect to which I refer: ‘Our dream was that this would increase the bee population around the world and help people become engaged with bees’ and ‘Hopefully now people won’t need to spend as much time harvesting’.  I read that as saying it’s OK for the bees to fly millions of miles to garner nectar and spend hours ripening that nectar into honey, but the beekeeper should be able to remove that honey with a twist of a tap. Is that ‘engagement’? 

The huge commercial operations where one sees honey being harvested in a manner that is, frankly, brutal will not be using the technology described here: its far too expensive and liable to fail.  In this context, the idea that there is less disturbance to the bees when the tap is turned has the appearance of being a somewhat disingenuous justification.

In the case of hobby beekeeping, it is entirely possible to harvest honey responsibly and gently without the Flow Hive.  I don’t even wear protective gear. The bees seem quite happy to share genuine surplus.

Within Bee-centred beekeeping, anyone truly interested in holistic husbandry has a rich choice of avenues for truly engaging with bees without inserting inappropriate and damaging technology into the heart of the complex organism that is the bee colony.  The wax combs of a bee hive are an integral part of the bee organism, just as are the internal organs of a mammal.  We should not mess with them.  The importance of the comb is beautifully described on the blog of a true bee-centred beekeeper, here.

If you want bees that are completely undisturbed, put a hive up a tree and leave the bees to it. In other words, become a bee conservator; goodness knows, the bees need it. And, if you want honey, go to a beekeeper and buy some.

If, on the other hand, you want to be a beekeeper yourself, then realize that being a beekeeper, just as with caring for any other animal, requires a degree of commitment and engagement. Don’t fall into the marketing speak that you can be a beekeeper and get lots of honey just by twisting a tap. That is not beekeeping or engagement, that is casual exploitation, based on by the view that everything that one desires can be obtained with no effort or engagement other than a casual flick of the wrist.

On the bright side, thoughtful beekeepers all over the world, are making their voices heard in the current noisy euphoria.  They range from beekeepers of the conventional sort (as in this video) to those of a biodynamic persuasion.  That is encouraging and a sign, perhaps that the Bee has a view, too.  Here is the NBKT’s position, updated since my previous post on the subject.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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From the Oxfordshire Natural Beekeeping Group

This series of articles is about the overlooked world of tiny insects around us, what they do for us, and the challenges they face, particularly bees.  …. More here.

Gareth, Cotswolds

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