General Update

12th February 2020
Just a quick reminder that there is a social evening tomorrow 13th February at the Colliton Club in Dorchester.

10th February 2020
Busy on Asian Hornet and Skeps
The lack of write up for the last fortnight or so is easily explained.  Last weekend was the skep making day in Weymouth. For those of you who were there I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. For those who were not there we may be running another skep building day and we also do demonstrations at many of the local events. Keep your eye on this space.  To see what we did look here.

Then last weekend I was at Stoneleigh at another AHAT conference. Very useful conference where I learned a lot and much of this will be reflected on the Dorset Beekeepers web site and on the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers website.

26th January 2020
AHAT Conference
Yesterday was a most informative day. I was at the AHAT Conference at Bridgwater. It was very well attended and there were a lot of good ideas and suggestions  for further action. There was a lot of disquiet about the number of kill traps we are using because of the number of friendly insects being killed. This is something I will be writing an article on shortly.

We were advised as to what the role of the Asian Hornet Coordinator should do and in the light of this I have updated the flow chart which describes the role.

21st January 2020
Gosh Another Sunny Day
Busy day yesterday sitting on a train for much of it admiring the Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset scenery. With such a glorious day one could think that spring is just around the corner – but it isn’t yet.  Do do make certain your bees have enough fondant or stores and that the woodpeckers are not trying to get in there.

For those with the time and preferably a Senior Rail Card I highly recommend a day trip by train to Bath from Dorchester. Just £13 each for a day in Bath.

What is more while I was there I bought a copy of Buzz by Thor Hanson which is subtitled “The Nature and Necessity of Bees”. I started to read this on the way home and it was well worth buying. In The Works it is currently on sale for just £3.00 and you can see reviews about it on Amazon. I will let you know how I get on with it but I certainly recommend it from what I have read so far.

17th January 2020
Sunny Day at last
At last a day when I can get out and have a look at the hives. As I approached  I was pleased to say that all hives were standing and looked to be in good condition. As I got closer I could see that all hives showed signs of activity as bees were coming and going – I assume on cleansing flights.  The air temperature was far too low to do anything serious in the hives so all I did was lift of each roof and check the state of the fondant blocks on top of the crown board. Most of the hives had bees on the fondant blocks but  in one of them there was no sign of the bees. The reason was that there was an almost empty super between the bees and the crown board. Bit of rearrangement and the food was where the bees could reach it and the empty super is now above the crown board.

I noticed that there were bees in a group half way up the outside of the hive. This was because the crown board has warped. A bit of gaffer tape will solve the problem for now but it will require more attention later.

On Thursday night we had a committee meeting and as a result I have added some more dates to the Dates for Your Diary.

The Skep making day on 1st February is full but if you are still interested we will have a waiting list so it is still worth asking..


15th January 2020
And yet another Windy Day
Windy again! It is a good idea to put straps on your bee hives. That way if they are knocked over by the wind or whatever they are more likely to survive. Straps can be got from places like Screwfix
Being an indoors day I have added a page on hive structure for beginners.
I have also updated the Asian Hornet page so we can speed up response times.
Also I received this link about Asian Hornets in your shed. It does not apply just to Jersey but to us as well.
If you want to read more about the Asian Hornet in depth then the CABI site has a useful page.
You missed a good social last night. There were about 15 of us there including several new beekeepers. Conversation covered numerous topics from swarm prevention to varroa control and the damage goats can do to a hive. Each time I go I learn something else about bee keeping. The next social is Thursday 13th February.

14th January 2020
Another Windy Day
Another violent storm sweeping across the area. Apart from going out to check that the hives are still upright it is a day to stop in and watch videos about bees. I recommend these two Ted talks:
A close up of a developing bee and its Varroa visitor.
A talk on the importance of bees.

And also a reminder that on 15th January was our social evening at the Colliton Club at 19:00 in the back bar.

10th January 2020
Siting the Apairy
Glorious day today and so before I go for a walk I thought I would put a page together on where to site the apiary. Putting an apiary where it is best for you and the bees is a difficult decision and may take some finding. Well a day like today is a good one for investigating proper sites so for questions you should be asking yourself look here.

9th January 2020
For Beginners and others
One of my aims this year is to encourage more people to keep bees. I have just read Professor Dave Goulson’s report on declining insect numbers. It is well worth reading and one of the things I can do to halt the decline is to keep bees and if I can encourage others to do the same then so much better.
As part of my aim to encourage others to keep bees I will be writing a series of pages to help aspiring beekeepers. The first page is here and hopefully you will be inspired to read more as I add them.

I made a mistake on a recent post and gave wrong date for the next social. It is on Wednesday January 15th at the Colliton Club – back bar. We hope to see you there.

4th January 2020
Asian Hornet
As we gear up to defend ourselves against the Asian Hornet I have put together a page showing what happens when I get a call that someone thinks they have seen an Asian Hornet. Needless to say it is an ideal scenario – but it is a start. See what you think. It is here.
2nd January 2020
Too cold to go to the apiary. I did an inspection recently and there are food stores, the hives are all upright and the woodpeckers have not been there.
So I have been working on my knowledge of bees and websites.
One of the most interesting videos I have seen has been that by Martin Hocking regarding his experiences when he discovered the Asian Hornet in his apiary. It is available on You Tube and well worth watching.
I have also added a couple of pages of links to our web site. Amongst them are some real gems of information. For example there is an interactive pollen identification page.

1st January 2020
If you are reading this I can breathe a sigh of relief as I have successfully transferred the website from the host it was on previously to IONOS . Been a steady move that has kept me away from the making of mince pies but back to the kitchen now!!

Just a few points which should be of interest to members:

Relaxing video
I was sent this link by Andy R and I recommend a quiet 10 minutes with a cup of your favourite brew to see how the Australians used to keep bees. The simple, lay back commentary and the easy way the Australians move their hives is most entertaining.
Thanks Andy.

There are many more events from further afield on our “Dates For Your Diary” Page. Do have a look because there are some very interesting talks planned for next few months.

Social Evening
15th January Social Evening no Bee racing at this one.

Skep Making
1st February Saturday. This will be a one day course for those interested in the ancient skill of skep making. It is expected to be heavily oversubscribed so will be initially only available to members. For those interested ring Rich on 01305 786585

February Social
13th February Social Evening at the Colliton Club

February Talk
27th February Talk on Queen Rearing by Kevin Pope at the Colliton Club.

Membership renewal

Membership renewals are now due if you have not already done so. The membership form is here and then if you pay income tax we can claim back the gift aid portion and the form for that is here

Course for Beginners

The dates for this are now decided and we will be starting on 18th April 2020 and running for six weeks with no breaks for holidays so it will include the Early May Spring bank holiday weekend of Saturday May 9th.
The course is held in a classroom at Kingston Maurwood College and the classroom session runs from 10am to 12 noon and, weather permitting, there is then an apiary session.

Asian Hornet is here.

The Asian Hornet is here in Dorset – in Christchurch.

This time we are not talking of a single Asian Hornet hiding in a cauliflower.
Several Asian Hornets have been seen and a positive identification has been made that it is an Asian Hornet.
The local Asian Hornet coordinators have all been notified and are on standby to provide any assistance that may be required.

However your help is needed now more than ever:

  • If you have a trap make certain it is baited.
  • If you don’t have a trap you can make one
  • Check your trap daily.
  • If you find an Asian Hornet in the trap let the NBU or the Asian Hornet Coordinators know as soon as possible. Do not wait till you have caught several.
  • Make certain the trap is registered on Bee-base as that provides a lot of help to the NBU team.
  • Check your hives for “hawking” by the Asian Hornet. Our bees are the not the only source of food for the Asian Hornet but they do provide regular food and rich pickings from a single source.
  • The food of choice seems to be ivy as it has nectar and regular insect visitors so that is the one to watch.
  • Watch the web sites and keep in touch with developments.
  • If you are not registered on Beebase, do so.

If you are not certain what to look for then remember:

  • have a dark brown or black velvety body
  • have a yellow or orange band on fourth segment of abdomen
  • have yellow tipped legs
  • are smaller than the native European hornet
  • are not active at night

More information is available here.
We are hoping that this is an isolated incident but we must be prepared for something worse.Asian Hornet (BWARS)

Membership Renewals

Looking out of the rain drenched window it is difficult to believe that two weeks ago the apiary was bathed in warm sunshine – but there you are that is British weather for you.

So this is the time to prepare for next year and one of the first things to do is to renew your membership of the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers Association. Membership gives many advantages one of which is insurance.

The insurance covers two aspects of beekeeping – public liability and bee disease insurance. Personally I don’t know of anyone who has ever made a claim under either insurance but it is nice to know it is there if you should ever need it.

On a more positive note the membership allows you access to the resources of the BeeBase and in the event of a notifiable disease in your locality then you will be advised of its presence.

And most importantly it gives you greater access to local beekeepers who have a wealth of knowledge about keeping bees in Dorset.

So don’t delay – renew today.

Here is the link to the membership form and then if you pay income tax we can claim back the gift aid portion and the form for that is here.

The Show is Over

Fascinating weekend at the show. The weather was perfect – enough sun to persuade people to get out doors but not enough warmth to lie on the beach. We had a bigger marquee than in previous years and it allowed us to put on a more comprehensive display and speak to more people.

For pictures look here.

There were many questions asked and some required more explanation than we were able to give at the time. So here are a few of the questions asked and hopefully some suitable answers.

What do I have to do to keep bees?
Firstly you have to be keen. It is at times a frustrating hobby when you have done everything right and things still go wrong. But it is also a rewarding hobby when you have done everything right and your bees are healthy and there is honey in the cupboard. It is also a surprising hobby when you know you have missed out something or done something that was not in any of the books – and still you have healthy bees and a load of honey.

You need to go on a course before you do anything else. I have known a couple of cases – and only a couple- where being close to so many insects was just too much and they realised that bee keeping was not for them. But most people I have met on bee courses were interested to start with and once they had seen inside the hive they were fascinated and could not wait to get started.

How much time does it take?
Well the first thing to appreciate is that keeping bees is not just a matter of putting a hive at the bottom of your garden and popping down for a spoonful of honey at breakfast time. There is a lot more to it than that. Your hive will have to be visited approximately once a week from spring to autumn. It will have to be checked during the winter especially after gales or heavy snow. For the summer visits if you allow about 20 minutes per hive plus the time to change in to and out of a bee suit then that is about right. Some days it will take longer but other visits will take a less time. It depends how much of the hive you wish to check.

But having said that I probably spend more time with my dog than I do with my bees.

How much does it cost?
It is not a cheap hobby to start with.
You need a bee suit – £140
You need a smoker -£50
You need a hive – £300 as a flat pack but complete with all the hive needs.
You really should have another hive -£300
You need a hive tool – £10

One well known supplier does a complete beginner’s kit for £564 including one hive, gloves, a mouse guard and a manual.

Join a local association – about £40 but varies

Later you will need
A honey extractor – £300 to £500 though often can be borrowed from your local association.
A honey bucket – £40
Honey jars with labels – £50

Many of these items can be obtained second hand – though it is best to take advice from an experienced bee keeper.

There are many other things I use but they are items I have around the house. For example I use blowtorch to light my smoker, a small hammer to build my frames and so on but the above items are the specialist equipment.

Probably the most important part of the advice is to join a local association. Most local associations offer courses and in addition you will get advice, you will also get insurance which covers you for third party claims as well as certain issues with bee diseases.

Altogether it is not cheap but my total expenditure on equipment so far is probably less than the vets bills for my dog and you may sell some honey.

Do you get stung?
Yes – but not often. On the odd occasion when I have been stung it was either because I had done something with the bees and not put my suit on or when I have trapped a bee in the folds of my bee suit. Take simple precautions and you will not get stung – well not much and not often.

Can I keep them in my garden?
It depends where you are and how big is your garden.
As a first stage I would check with the neighbours as to whether they mind – and more importantly whether they are allergic to bees. The offer of some jars of honey may help.

Is there somewhere you can site your hives away from the the neighbours or public paths?

One solution is to place your hives in a shed with no roof. That way they come out of the hive and immediately fly up above the heads of people.

Perhaps you have a flat roof which could be used.

There is also the possibility of an out apiary where you keep them somewhere else such as the garden of someone with an orchard which needs pollinating.

Why do it?
It is a fascinating hobby and one I am so glad I took up. I have met many interesting people, helped the environment, learned  a lot about bees and I can have honey every day on my breakfast.

If you are still interested and want to contact the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers then contact Sally


Dorset County Show Planning

Is is not often I put socials at the top of the blog page but this time I am.

Why you may ask.

Well the reason is that this is not just any social – this is a Dorset County Show Planning Social. Yes this is a meeting to all get together and plan who does what to make a visit to the  Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers’ marquee a memorable one. So if you can spare any time over the show weekend then make certain you are at the social this Thursday in the rear bar of  the Colliton Club.

And even if you cannot spare any time to help at the Dorset Show come to the social on Thursday and share your ideas.

And even if you haven’t got any ideas then come to the social anyway and buy us all a drink!

But on a more serious note we do need volunteers and there is still time to read the schedule and get your entries in.





Dorset County Show

Yes it is that time of year again when we look forward to the Dorset County Show. Again this year there will be competitions to be entered in our bee tent. And when I say competitions I mean lots of competitions. If you thought it was all about honey then think again – or better till download and read the schedule for entries.

Once you have done that then download the entry form, fill it in and send it off.

This year I am told we have a bigger tent and more on display so whether you are an existing beekeeper or a  prospective beekeeper this is the time to see what is happening in the world of Dorset bees.

Asian Hornet in Hampshire

If your are not already aware a confirmed sighting of an Asian Hornet, possibly a Queen, has been found in New Milton.  This is just 5 miles away from Christchurch as you can see on the map link.

Monitoring is underway by the NBU to detect any other Asian hornets in the vicinity and local beekeepers are asked to be vigilant. Work is already underway to monitor for any hornet activity and identify any nests which may be in the vicinity. As it is a suspected queen it is likely to be in the primary nest stage.

This is the closest confirmed sighting we have had and we all  need to ensure that monitoring traps are baited regularly and, if possible,  checked daily.

Trap locations are registered on BeeBase, this will assist inspectors. There is also a map of Dorset traps on our site.

Also as you approach your hives spend a moment to monitor hive entrances for signs of hawking  by Asian Hornets before inspecting.

All sightings are reported in the first instance via or the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

If you catch an Asian Hornet, keep it contained placing it in a freezer to humanly kill and preserve it.

Your local AHAT Officers  are:

Mark White for Dorset  on 07747 620 920
Clare Porter for Hampshire  on 07508 716 044

Members, particularly in the East of Dorset and  on the Dorset & Hants border must undertake pro active steps. We will be in contact with the NBU to offer assistance and also to take further instructions.

Beefest Poundbury

Well the weather could hardly be better for the first ever BeeFest on Poundbury’s Big Field – the correct address for which is “The Great Field, Poundbury (Peverell Avenue East DT1 3RH)” .

The aim of the Beefest is to show how important bees are to us, to the environment, the economy and so much more. This is the first time this event has been staged in Poundbury and the plan is to make it an annual event.

The local beekeepers have been putting in a lot of work and amongst things they will be showing are candle rolling, frame making, honey tasting  and of course there will be honey for sale. There will also be enthusiastic bee keepers – to be honest I have never met a beekeeper who is not enthusiastic – who will be able to offer advice if you are thinking of keeping bees.

There are more details on the facebook page  and a bit on the Visit Dorset website as well as their main site at