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Beekeepers News - February - Issue 89

Beekeepers News - February - Issue 89

The February 2024 edition of our newsletter



February will see the start of the shows for the year. We will be kicking off with Ulster BKA Conference in Northern Ireland on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th February. Then it will be over to The Beekeeping Show at the Telford International Centre on Saturday 24th February. You can now order online and over the phone for collection from these shows.


Asian Hornet Labels

Unfortunately there has already been a sighting this year of an Asian Hornet. This sighting was near Hastings, East Sussex.

A label on the back of your honey jar is an easy way to spread awareness, and educate. These labels feature images of Asian and European hornet.

If you do spot an Asian Hornet, please make sure you report it.



Asian Hornet Labels

You still have until midnight tomorrow (Monday 5th February) to take advantage of our Label Sale. We are offering 15% off selected labels. The offer includes: Centenary, L1 Large, L1 Small, L11, L22, L26, L27, L28, L29, L50 Portrait, L50 Landscape, Large STH & Yellow Polish. 

It is also your last chance to purchase your unique & bespoke labels with the reduced origination fee of £10 (usually £25.40). This offer will also be ending tomorrow at midnight.






Equipment Focus

Top Bar Hive

This type of hive is used extensively in Africa and the Caribbean and is mostly believed to have come from Africa in the 1960s. However, its principles have been used for hundreds of years. Its simple design means it is popular in developing countries where manufacturing complex hives might not always be an option. Top Bar hives are horizontal boxes with bars placed across the hive for the bees to build comb from, rather than using frames and foundation.



Top Bar Hive

Adapta Eke


Complete with 24 simple bar frames with groove for wax starter. Centrally placed in the floor is a mesh panel for removing debris which also includes a simple varroa drawer. The assembled hive is made from 20mm English cedar. There is an choice of flat or gabeled roofs with galvanised or copper metal options.


A £10 donation is given to Bees for Development with every hive sold.



Ask the Expert

What do bees do on their first flight of the year?

By now all of our bees will have had an opportunity to venture out, especially with the unseasonably high temperatures at the end of January. Although we are still in winter, if temperatures go above 10 degrees Celsius bees can be seen flying. Typically, the bees will not fly far during these cooler temps and will stay close to the hive. There will always be some local variations where ambient temperature may be warmer. Even on these occasional warmer days, rain and high wind speed will reduce flying opportunities. It’s a delicate balance to fly and utilise valuable resources in an attempt to find forage and bring back stores, especially during this period of late winter.

So what do our bees do on their first flight out? Well one of the first things they will do is answer nature’s call! Bees can retain their waste for several weeks at a time but like all creatures when you have to go, you have to go!

Initial cleansing flights may well be accompanied by foraging flights whereby the bees will be scanning for local opportunities of early pollen eg Hellebores and hazel. This is important for the developing colony because as well as protein, pollen also provides fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

During any brief warmer spells the bees may well choose to carry out some evictions and bring out any dead or dying bees. They may also gather nearby water in order to liquefy any stores that have granulated over the winter.


Bee's first flight of the year

More bees as quickly as possible seems to be the bees focus.  As the day length increases and temperatures rise our colonies concentrate on building the population rapidly as possible as well as gathering in any available stores of pollen and nectar. Their focus will be on one of two objectives – preparing and building the colony ready to swarm, or getting ready for next winter! Yes, even at this stage they may well have decided not to swarm and instead will build up  a strong foraging force in order to reap the hopefully available stores during spring and summer peaks.

Our bees require minerals in small amounts to sustain their metabolic activity. They can often be seen in spring, close to ponds and water courses where there may be patches of minerals. Even earlier - we have noticed bees recently on old fertiliser and compost bags perhaps seeking out these minerals. We have also noticed bees bumping into windows on these brief forays – perhaps they are new bees or have yet to get their bearings!

For all of us beekeepers it is wonderful to see even a few bees out flying so early on in the year. It shows the colony is alive and provides yet another glimpse of the wonder of nature.



Thorne Blog



Welcome to the Thorne Bee Blog 2024! By now, we are well into the year though and starting to see some much-anticipated signs of spring.

By our museum apiary, we have spotted these lovely snowdrops, which seem to spread a little more every year. This is such a welcome sight at this time of year, not only because they are so pretty but also because it is the first sign of the spring to come.

That said, this January we have seen storm after storm and combined with the recent floods, it has been a slightly tumultuous winter, even though it has not really been that cold here. We had couple of hives fall over in the wind. You can see from the photo below the value of strapping hives together as the boxes all just toppled over together.


January 2024 Blog

January 2024 Blog


We should mention that this was actually just empty boxes too, so the weight wasn’t there to hold them down – no bees were harmed in this photo!

At this time of year we don’t like to disturb the bees unnecessarily, however, we did take a quick peek into some of the hives where we couldn’t detect any activity from the outside. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see them thriving and just still hunkered down in their clusters.

Next month we will be checking for stores to make sure that any colonies that are starting to build up, don’t suddenly starve due to inevitable cold snaps. We have seen this before where a colony starts to build up nicely in numbers during warmer spells and then suddenly a drop in temperature means that they can’t forage, can’t feed the colony and then die out. We will also be really gearing up in February with our plans for the year and getting prepared with equipment that we will need.


January 2024 Blog



Bees for Development

Bees for Development Empower Lives through Beekeeping in Ghana 

In the tranquil village of Alombokorfe in Kwahu Afram Plains, a remarkable story unfolds as Adamu Hamed, a man aged 62 years takes a transformative leap into beekeeping. His journey began unexpectedly when Baba – a beekeeper at Apesika, trained by Bees for Development Ghana in 2019 – noticed Adamu selling wood in Donkorkrom. Recognising the potential for growth, Baba suggested using some of the wood to build beehives. With a helping hand, Adamu found himself entering the world of beekeeping, a venture he had little prior knowledge of.


BfD Adamu Hamed

Adamu exclaimed with surprise and joy when he heard the worth of the honey combs, he bought to the Bees for Development Ghana - Honey and Beeswax Trade Centre in Donkorkrom. He said “Alhamdulillah!” This is an Arabic phrase meaning ‘praise be to god’,  sometimes translated as ‘thank God’. Undeterred by his initial lack of expertise, Adamu pledges to invest three quarters of this amount back into beekeeping, a testament to his commitment to the craft. Read more about Adamu’s inspiring story by clicking the biutton below. His journey highlights the positive impact beekeeping can have on individuals and communities and how Bees for Development Ghana are Making Life Better With Bees. You can help support this work by clicking the button below, thank you.




Bees for Development will be attending The Beekeeping Show – we hope to see you there!

The Beekeeping Show 2024


Bees for Development are excited to be attending The Beekeeping Show for the first time on Saturday 24 February. Join us there to immerse yourself in all things beekeeping, and we’ll be there sharing stories of our work with bees and people from around the world. Hope to see you there!



National Honey Show

In line with bringing you more of our 2023 lecture programme to view across the winter, the mid-January lecture release was the impromptu discussion between four of the 2023 lecturers (left to right) Roger Patterson, Andrew Abrahams, Randy Oliver, and Michael Palmer, having well over 200 years of beekeeping experience between them. 

They talk about their experiences, including how they managed situations thrown at them unexpectedly from knowledge and skills built up through many years of working with and observing colonies of bees.  All four come from different areas, with different climates, different bees, different legislation, etc. They discuss topics that are relevant to all beekeepers, each from their own perspective.


Line-up of lecturers

Our first February lecture release is Andrew Abrahams’ talk on “Nuclei, large and small, their uses and importance for sustainable beekeeping”. Andrew recommends that every beekeeper should have one or several nuclei; however, many do not. Beekeeping in the UK could become self-sustaining again if all beekeepers became skilled in the use of nuclei. This presentation illustrates the way his management system on Colonsay uses nuclei to help maintain a closed population and also enables him to sell stocks off island, particularly to the remaining varroa free areas in Scotland. The use of nuclei and mini nuclei for queen rearing and how he manages them throughout the year are illustrated. The mild winters on Colonsay allow the overwintering of mini nucs.



Look out for the next lecture release in mid-February. They can all be viewed, together with many interesting lectures from previous years: 


Our lecture convener has been working on the programme of lectures for the 2024 show.  Lecturers confirmed so far for this year include Jacques van Alphen, Martin Giurfa, Nigel Semmence, Steve Riley, Alan Baxter, Roger Patterson, James Donaldson plus Emma and David Buckley.

Finally, as you will remember, last October, we celebrated the National Honey Show’s centenary: 100 years since the first show at Crystal Palace. Now there is an opportunity to check out part of our heritage. On Sunday, 28th January The Antiques Road Show episode filmed last summer at Crystal Palace, was shown on BBC One.

If you missed it, you can catch up:


The show has moved several times since then, ending up at our fabulous Sandown Park Racecourse venue for the last seven years, but shown here is the iconic venue where the show first started.


Crystal Palace

Look forward to seeing you again, at Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher, Surrey, UK, Thursday 24th to Saturday 26th October 2024.



Book Review

'Healthy Bees, Heavy Hives

How To Maximise Your Honey Crop'

by Steve Donohoe & Paul Horton


"Essential reading for all who are serious about their beekeeping.” (Jeremy Burbidge, Northern Bee Books)


Northern Bee Books (1st Edition 2024)


224 pages




Healthy Bees, Heavy Hives

The authors of Healthy Bees, Heavy Hives are well-known in UK beekeeping circles. Steve Donohoe, author of the acclaimed work, Interviews with Beekeepers, is an experienced beekeeper, popular blogger, and Editor of Bee Farmer Magazine. Paul Horton is a successful second-generation bee farmer, and former Government Bee Inspector.  

The foreword, written by Scottish bee farmer Murray McGregor, endorses the importance of this book for all beekeepers at every level, but especially those getting into bee farming. There are 11 chapters and 224 pages containing many beautiful illustrations. Clear, coloured photographs and detailed drawings and graphs enhance this publication and compliment the text. One particularly useful diagram charts the population of brood and bees over the early season and advises us when to add supers. The font is eye-pleasing and comfortingly large for some of us. 

One of the features that marks this book out from others is the well- organised structure and writing style. The summary at the end of each chapter is spot on and useful. It stands out in yellow and black bumble bee colours and lists the important points covered in the chapter. The writing style is authoritative but friendly and easy going. The material is presented in a clear concise way that speaks to the reader as if with a mentor in the apiary talking over a hive. The language is clear and explanations are simple and effective.

The title is a clue to the content and we are guided through the beekeeping year of a beekeeper whose goal is to produce and profit from honey made by healthy bees. The authors are clear from the start that, “this is not about exploiting your bees”, and that making money from selling honey involves a larger number of colonies than hobbyists manage, and that migratory beekeeping is key to Horton’s success. His average yearly harvest per colony between 2019- 2022 was 68.55kg. We are reminded that all beekeeping is regional and success is influenced by climate and weather, so what works well for one person in a certain part of the country might not produce the good results for someone in another region. 

The authors share similar goals and evidence-based best-practice strategies, but they have different management styles which complement each other and make this book so interesting. They communicate and engage with other beekeepers across the world and this helps to keep the information fresh and current. For beekeepers expanding and improving their businesses, the main advice is to adopt and work their own systems. This book serves as a practical handbook to guide people on this journey, and it is jam-packed with good advice and tips. You must buy the book to discover them for yourself, but I shall be sharpening my curved-ended hive tool in time for the next honey harvest!

Maintaining honey bee health and welfare is key to the authors’ success and the chapters covering pests and diseases, and plants for bees are highly relevant for every beekeeper. The latter forms a forage diary for Horton’s migratory year and is most useful as it includes recommended hive densities per hectare for each different crop. The last chapter discusses harvesting, processing, and marketing honey under the pristine conditions of Horton’s state-of-the-art premises. They even manage to squeeze in some advice on managing beekeeping finances and record keeping. This book is a must-have for every bee farmer, people curious to know what bee farming involves, and those keen to increase their honey production.

If any changes are made in future reprints, then I hope a reference/bibliography list will be added.


Reviewed by Ann Chilcott - Scottish Expert Beemaster and author of The Beelistener

Thorne Upcoming Events

Ulster BKA Conference - Friday 16th to Saturday 17th February

Greenmount College, Antrim, BT41 4PS

The Beekeeping Show - Saturday 24th February

Telford International Centre, Telford, TF3 4JH

WBKA Spring Convention - Saturday 23rd March

Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground, Builth Wells, LD2 3SY

BBKA Spring Convention 2024 - Saturday 13th April

Harper Adams University, Newport, TF10 8NB

Thornes of Scotland Sale Days - Friday 16th & Saturday 17th August

Newburgh Industrial Estate, Cupar Road, Newburgh, Fife, KY14 6HA

Thornes of Windsor Sale Day - Saturday 7th September

Oakley Green Farm, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 4PZ

Thornes of Stockbridge Sale Day - Saturday 21st September

Chilbolton Down Farm, Chilbolton Farm, Stockbridge, Hampshire, SO20 6BU

Thornes of Devon Sale Day - Saturday 28th September

Quince Honey Farm, South Molton, Devon, EX36 3RD

Head Office & Factory Open & Sale Day - Saturday 12th October

Beehive Business Park, Rand, Lincolnshire, LN8 5NJ

National Honey Show - Thursday 24th to Saturday 26th October

Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey, KT10 9AJ

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