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Beekeepers News - March - Issue 90

Beekeepers News - March - Issue 90

The March 2024 edition of our newsletter



In February we attended the show at Greenmount and The Beekeeping Show which were both superb. It was wonderful to see many familiar faces once again. 

Next up we have the Welsh BKA Spring Convention on Saturday 23rd March, and then the BBKA Spring Convention on Saturday 13th April. You can order online now for collection from the shows. Don't forget to bring along your wax for conversion!


We would like to take this opportunity to apologise if you are experiencing an influx of marketing emails. We simply want to ensure that you don't miss out on anything during this busy show period!

The Beekeeping Show 2024


The Beekeeping Show 2024


The Beekeeping Show 2024

Photos from The Beekeeping Show 2024

2024 Catalogue




Make sure to get in touch for catalogues and memory sticks if you are organising a training course or event.



Special Offer


Hurry and take advantage of the reduced price of £31 for your Spring treatment! This limited-time offer provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for the season ahead. 


Apivar comes in a pack of 10 strips. Each treatment requires the use of 2 strips meaning that each pack will treat five hives. Strips are 210x40mm wide and therefore fit neatly between the frames without having to be cut or bent (as with Apitraz strips). The active ingredient is Amitraz which paralyzes the varroa mite causing it to fall off the bees.






What's New

Thornet Trap

Thornet Trap


As part of our on-going fight against Asian hornets, we have developed a trap made in British cedar. Use this type of trap from March onwards if you are aware that Asian hornets are present in the area or have been in the recent past.

Monitoring traps, such as the Vespa Catch and Gard'Apis should now be deployed  more widely in the UK as Asian hornet queens emerge.

The Thornet Trap has a sturdy cedar body and is not only aesthetically pleasing but also durable, ensuring long-lasting use - unlike inferior plywood traps which will quickly de-laminate.


The steel cover provides protection from the elements, while the clear perspex window, securely fastened with strong magnets, allows for easy monitoring of trapped hornets.

The bait area attaches to the main body with toggle fasteners. A fine aluminium mesh is securely fastened to the base of the body to keep virtually all insects out of the bait area.

Stainless steel cones with a 7-8mm slot, and excluders (to minimise by-catch), further enhance the trap's effectiveness, directing hornets inside whilst allowing other insects to escape.


Thornet Trap




Equipment Focus

Protek Paint

Protek Royal Exterior Finish is a premium wood finish designed to protect and enhance the appearance of exterior wood surfaces. It is known for its durability, weather resistance, and vibrant colour options, providing long-lasting protection against the elements.

Protek Royal Exterior Finish is formulated with high-quality ingredients, including natural oils and resins, to penetrate deeply into the wood, nourishing and protecting it from within. This helps to prevent cracking, splitting, and warping caused by exposure to sunlight, rain, and other outdoor elements.


Protek Paint

The paint is easy to apply, either by brush, roller, or sprayer, and dries quickly to a durable, semi-translucent finish that allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine through. As well as wooden hives, it can be used on polystyrene hives.

Most importantly, Protek Royal Exterior Finish is environmentally friendly, being water-based and low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making it safe for both users and the environment.

Overall, Protek Royal Exterior Finish is a great option for those looking to protect their hives with a high-quality, long-lasting finish.

We have recently revamped our Museum apairy at Head Office using Protek Royal Exterior Finish. Keep an eye out for pictures coming soon to our social media!




Ask the Expert

Second Hand Equipment

Beekeepers should be careful about buying or obtaining second hand equipment; it is always less risky to buy new equipment from a reputable beekeeping supplier. This way you can be sure you are not introducing disease into your apiary and if you have any questions about the equipment you have bought, the supplier will be able to help you. 

Problems you might encounter when obtaining second hand equipment:

  • Uncertainty as to what the hive parts are made from. Different wood has different properties. For example, all Thorne hives are cedar because this is a lightweight, weather and pest resistant wood. It has natural oils that repel pests and wears well in bad weather. Other types of wood do not make such lightweight hives and might not last as long out in the elements.
  • Is the equipment assembled correctly? Occasionally you will come across second hand equipment that hasn’t been assembled correctly e.g., the beekeeper has put the lock bars on upside down or maybe they haven’t glued AND nailed the parts together. Even if the hive parts were originally bought assembled, you don’t know how well the equipment has been looked after and bodged over time.
  • Equipment might not be the same dimensions as your existing kit. When people put together their own boxes, the dimensions are not always going to be the same as what you already have. Likewise, different manufacturers vary ever so slightly in box dimensions and width of Hoffman spacings for example, which may cause you more problems later on as your kit isn’t standardised.
  • Other equipment such as plastic feeders can go brittle over time, especially if left out in the cold, so be careful taking these on second hand.

Sometimes, second hand equipment becomes available and for the right price you think it is worth buying. If this is the case, you need to make sure that before putting the equipment anywhere near your bees, that it is thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. Hive components are subject to all kinds of pests and diseases, which if not cleaned properly, can be transferred from one colony to another. The key to preventing the spread of anything harmful is good hygiene.

Cleaning your beekeeping equipment can be hard work and requires quite a lot of kit, so make sure you have what you need before you get started.

Cleaning and disinfecting wooden hives

Take the hive/s apart and if you can, place all its parts into a large chest freezer for at least 48 hours. This will kill pests such as wax moth. Then place the hive parts onto sheets of cardboard or newspaper. Begin by scraping the boxes as thoroughly as possible with a hive tool to remove any lumps of wax or propolis. The cardboard or newspaper will help to catch this debris.

Corners will need special attention as this is where small pests and pathogens like to lurk! Plastic frame runners will need to be removed if you plan to use scorching as your method of sterilisation, but even with metal ones, you may decide to swap these for new ones as they can be tricky to get clean.

Once the parts are free from obvious dirt, you will need to pick up and burn the newspaper/cardboard with the debris on and also clean your hive tool. There are several ways you can clean up and sterilise your hive, but the most popular ways are to scorch boxes using a gas torch and to clean frames and other equipment using a simple soda crystal solution. Frames can also be cleaned using a steam wax extractor if you have one.

Scorching boxes

Using a blow gas torch simply ‘scorch’ the boxes, paying particular attention to the inside corners. There is no need to burn the timber, just heat it enough to achieve a coffee-brown colour – this indicates that the wood has reached a high enough temperature for any pathogens to have been killed. Propolis should bubble and boil off.

Soda solution for frames and other equipment

After scraping away wax and propolis in the same way as for the boxes, frames can be sterilised using a soda crystal solution. Mix together soda crystals and warm water at a 1 kg: 5 litre ratio in a large pot. Bring to the boil and submerge frames. Leave for a minute or until the frames are completely clean of any remaining wax and propolis. Remove the frames, rinse down with water and leave to dry.

Smokers and hive tools can be cleaned in the same way although they don’t need to be boiled. Simply make up the 1:5 mixture, place your items in and scrub with a scouring brush.

Frames can also be cleaned by using a steam wax extractor, which is an effective way to rid them of any pathogens whilst keeping the frames for future use. There are several on the market and have the added benefit of reclaiming any wax left on the frames.

Equipment can also be cleaned using our new product Oxylaif.  Dissolve 20g of Oxylaif in 1 litre of water and allow to act for approx. 10 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly.

Other methods of cleaning second hand wooden hive parts include disinfectants, acetic acid, caustic soda, molten paraffin wax and irradiation. More details of those methods can be found on the NBU website.

Cleaning and disinfecting polystyrene and plastic hives

Start by freezing (if possible) and scraping the hive parts as you would with a wooden hive. From here, the options differ as clearly you can’t use a blow torch as it would melt your equipment. Manufacturers of popular plastic hive brands recommend that the best available options are chemical disinfectants that contain hypochlorite or caustic soda. Both of these treatments require the beekeeper to take extreme care as the chemicals are harmful and disposal of the solution can be an issue too. Further details on these methods can also be found on the NBU website.

Queen excluders

Queen excluders come in lots of different designs and as such are made out of different types of material. Therefore, the way in which you clean and sterilise your queen excluder will differ depending on which type you have.

Again, scraping beforehand will help to get rid of any obvious dirt. This is best to do in cold weather when propolis and wax are brittle as they are much easier to scrape off, although a wire brush is useful in removing wax and propolis that are a bit more stuck on. Wire excluders with or without the wooden frame can then be scorched using a blowtorch. Take care not to melt solder joints if there are any. If foulbrood has been present, zinc slotted excluders must be destroyed by burning. Otherwise, scrub these clean with a concentrated solution of washing soda (1kg soda: 4.5l water). You will need to wear protective clothing, protect your eyes and use rubber gloves. Plastic excluders can be disinfected in the same way as plastic hives and components, as described above.

Second hand beekeeping clothing

It is best not to take on someone else’s gloves as they are difficult to clean and over time, washing causes leather ones to go hard. If you really still want to use second hand gloves, it would be a good idea to use a pair of thin disposable gloves over the top. Bee suits should be washed before you first wear them and regularly from then onwards in the washing machine with soda crystals at 60 degrees. The hoods should be tucked into the suit with zips done up to protect the veil.


As you can see, there is lots to consider and quite a bit of cleaning up to do with second hand beekeeping equipment!



Thorne Blog


February has been a month of getting jobs done. We normally find it is the calm before the storm, when the ‘real beekeeping’ kicks off next month. The ground is still very wet down at the Lakes apiary so we are trying to be careful and not get stuck in the van down there! 


February 2024 Blog


As mentioned, we’ve done some jobs this month including changing over some hive stands that were looking a bit past their best. It’s a good time of year to do this as there is not so much weight in the hives that they can’t be maneuvered. We have put in our order for frames so that we’ve got some nice new ones come the start of the season. These will be useful when we need to change out old frames or ones that have just been messed up by the bees the previous year (think not drawn out properly, lots of drone brood in the middle etc.). We have also had time to go through a lot of the equipment that we will be needing for the year ahead and trying to stack it back in some kind of orderly fashion with the intention of not stacking the things we will need first at the very bottom! 

We have done a quick welfare check and popped some food onto the colonies. With the warm days we had earlier in the month, we didn’t want the bees to build up, then not be able to get out to forage and subsequently die, as so often happens at this time of year. Smaller colonies got a slab of a pollen patty, and the larger colonies who were starting to come up into the feeders got some syrup with the new SuperBee added in there. We thought it would be a good idea to start adding in some extra pollen, especially as it is clear the colonies are starting to get busy. We have used Vitafeed patties many times in the past but this is the first time we have tried SuperBee so it will be interesting to see how the bees fare.  


February 2024 Blog

Next month we will see more activity, we’re sure of it! March is always the month where the bees really start getting busy and that means we do too. For now though, with the temperatures being so low still, we’re going to make sure that they continue to get the food and supplements they need going into spring and just keep getting organised for the beginning of the active season.  



Bees for Development

SAVE THE DATE – Green Match – Help Beekeepers Nurture Trees

The Green Match takes place soon and is open to charities working on environmental issues – Bees for Development are fundraising to help solve the problem of forest loss in Zimbabwe through tree planting, natural regeneration, and fire protection. We will help 100 rural landless women to earn money through beekeeping and our team will establish a nursery for bee-friendly trees and raise 15,000 seedlings. From 18 April until 25 April all donations to Bees for Development will be doubled by Big Give’s Champions - meaning your money will be DOUBLED. Please help - you can be confident that your money will reach the people who need it most.


Green Match Fund - BigGive


Bees for Development Empower Women Beekeepers in Zimbabwe


Bees for Development Empower Women Beekeepers in Zimbabwe

Margaret Muchingami is 52 years old and lives in the province of Manicaland, Zimbabwe. She started beekeeping in 2021 with a 20L plastic bucket. In 2022 she did beekeeping training levels 1–3 with Bees for Development expanding her apiary to include a bark hive, a clay hive and a grass hive (featured) - 3 of her 5 hives are now colonised! She has a piece of land which she has planted trees and is an outspoken advocate for beekeeping and biodiversity in her village, encouraging other women in the village to start beekeeping to make money.

Margaret sells candles, vaseline and shoe polish all made with products from her hives. “I say hey women out there come, let us reason together with bees we go far.” – Margaret Muchingami. To learn more about our work visit our website below.



Bees for Development Empower Women Beekeepers in Zimbabwe



National Honey Show

Michael Palmer



Randy Oliver


Our mid February lecture release was Michael Palmer’s “Sustainability Through Vertical Beekeeping”. He describes developing the system and how he utilises his best overwintered nucleus colonies to grow combs of brood. Hence, the term "Brood Factory".


This was followed on Friday 1st March by Randy Oliver’s "Concepts in Varroa Management". Randy Oliver sees beekeeping through the eyes of a biologist. He now helps his sons to run a commercial beekeeping operation of around 1500 hives in the foothills of Northern California, managing them for migratory pollination, nuc sales, and queen and honey production -- freeing Randy to engage full-time in beekeeper-funded research projects. Varroa continues to be the number one problem for beekeepers. In his own operation, they’ve successfully managed varroa, without the use of synthetic miticides, since 2001. They’ve tried most every control option, and share what they’ve found to work (including selective breeding). An effective mite management plan must be based upon the understanding of the biology of the mite. Randy presents important biological concepts to help beekeepers to plan effective mite management strategies tailored to their own operations.

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



For the forthcoming show, by popular demand we will be keeping last year’s Shop Window (83), Honeycomb Design (82), Dried Flowers (87) and Honey with Nuts and/or Fruits (86) Centenary classes, which can be found in last year’s schedule:


There will also be some new classes for 2024. a calligram poem for adults; and for juniors a decorated rolled candle class and two “instructive" digital classes. Full details in our Schedule of classes for the 2024 show will be available from our stand at The BBKA Spring Convention 12th - 14th April 2024. 


Class 86 - Honey with Nuts and/or Fruits

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



Book Review

'A World of Bees - A record of the diversity of honey-gathering methods around the world'

by Éric Tourneret


"A quite outstanding and exquisite worldwide photographic record of bees and beekeepers.” 


Northern Bee Books (1st Edition 2023)

Paperback: Large format (300 x 300mm)

88 pages



Reviewed in Natural Bee Husbandry



A World of Bees

There are very few books on beekeeping that I would class as ‘coffee table books’. From the past I would probably name “Hunting for Honey: Adventures with the Rajis of Nepal” by Eric Valli, Thames and Hudson, 1998; “Ostatni Bartnicy Europy (The Last Remaining European Tree Beekeepers)” by Krzysztof Hejke, Sadecki Bartnik, Poland; and perhaps “No Bees, No Life” by Peter Kozmus, Bosttjan Not and Karo- lina Vrtacnik, Beebooks, zaloznistvo in promocija, Slovenia, 2017. Whilst the first two are in depth studies of a particular type of beekeeping in just one region, mostly illustrated throughout with full page photographs, “No Bees, No Life” carries an equal mixture of photos and up-to-date, well-re- searched text by over sixty-six important names from the world of beekeeping on a fascinating assortment of topics which will hold a beekeeper’s attention for many hours.


Éric Tourneret’s book is in a class its own. Eighty-eight pages of vivid photographs taken by the author during his decade of travels through ‘twenty countries’ in ‘five continents’ where he sought out a diversity of beekeepers - from hi-tech commercial operators, to those who still work in their centuries old traditional ways and also those who practice beekeeping with non-mellifera colonies of stingless bees. Each photograph is accompanied by a paragraph long caption, a small chunk of text to give context to each image. But the photos speak for themselves - if a picture is really worth a thousand words, then Éric’s contribution to adding knowledge to beekeeping through this impressive portfolio is manifold.


The diversity of beekeeping this book relates to is not only confined to the beekeepers, bees and their practices, but also to the areas in which the bees are kept. Thus we see colonies on city roof tops, on agricultural land, in jungles, forests, rocky mountainsides, flood plains - and of course, beekeepers’ back gardens; indeed, anywhere where a colony of bees is needed to take advantage of a honey flow, where they are needed for pollination, or to provide for the everyday needs of small communities of people.


A really outstanding book which will be of great interest to visitors who pick it up from the coffee table, and of course for beekeepers to have a quick dip into from time to time. Certainly a well-deserved addition to any beekeeper’s home.

Thorne Upcoming Events

WBKA Spring Convention - Saturday 23rd March

Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground, Builth Wells, LD2 3SY

BBKA Spring Convention - 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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