Creating Asian Hornet Action Teams (AHATs)

Asian hornet sighting in Cornwall

The National Bee Unit confirmed on 4th September that a suspect specimen caught in a beekeeper’s monitoring trap in the Fowey area of South Cornwall is the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina. More information can be found in the Defra press release, Asian hornet identified in Cornwall.

Asian Hornet Action Teams guidance for local groups

Cornwall Beekeepers Association has put together Guidance on creating Asian Hornet Action Teams for the Association’s local beekeeping groups. This includes an ‘Action Flow Chart’ of actions after a suspected sighting by a beekeeper and advice on how to collect a specimen.

Message from Mary Trace, CBKA President:

Dear CBKA members,

This is a message to all beekeepers so if you know any who are not registered please alert them too.  You will know that the Asian Hornet is confirmed in Cornwall.  Be sure that you know what to look for and spread the word.

Observe, not just in your own apiaries but also where any pollinating insects are gathering eg ivy flowering.  If you can, download the posters from the National Bee Unit and distribute – garden centres, farmers etc.  The insect is a real threat to all our pollinators.  Nests need to be found before the young queens disperse.

Mary Trace

Asian hornet/European hornet/Giant woodwasp comparison - BBKA diagram


‘The Cornish Bee’ – notes from a talk by Rodger Dewhurst, Gwenen Apiaries

By Emily Scott, CBKA member:

On August 12th I went to a ‘Bee Fayre’, which is an annual weekend event held at Enys Gardens in Penryn, Cornwall. It was a haven for bee fans, filled with stalls selling every bee themed product you can think of, from honey ice-cream, breads and cakes to soaps to cosmetics to beekeeping equipment.

There were also short talks… I’m a bit sad I couldn’t go on the Saturday too, as I missed an eclectic set of talks about making Truro bee friendly, the Help for Heroes bee project, Cornish cider, encouraging young people to become bee farmers and beekeeping in the Scottish borders (presumably from a beekeeper on holiday!).

Enys Gardens

Anyway, here’s my notes from Rodger Dewhurst’s talk. Rodger and his wife Carol run Gwenen Apiaries (Gwenen is the Cornish word for honey bee). Rodger started beekeeping all the way back when he was a twelve year old school boy, in the Lizard peninsula. He told us beekeeping was different back then, as there was more unimproved grassland around. Now more honey bees are imported and many more pests and diseases have been introduced.

Rodger’s beekeeping has changed over the years too. Nowadays he aims to breed Cornish dark bees, Apis Mellifera Mellifera. He has also mainly stopped using smoke and gloves.

He looks for a variety of characteristics in the colonies he breeds from – hygienic cleaning and grooming behaviours, including biting him! – which he takes as a sign that they will bite varroa too. Also good temper, good honey production and flying characteristics – ‘maritime bees’ that will fly in wet weather.

Another anti-varroa trait he looks for is what he calls the ‘geriatric shuffle/shiver dance’ – a motion in which the bees agitate their abdomen to dislodge varroa mites. On the monitoring boards under the hives he looks for dented varroa mite shells, a sign that the mites have dropped through after being bitten at by the bees.

Rodger’s breeding plan is to:

  • Identify best stocks
  • Build these up to strength, with plenty of healthy nurse bees
  • Get them to produce healthy drones (he sometimes treats for varroa so that the drones aren’t carrying viruses)
  • Grafts into pre-prepared cups smeared with royal jelly – about a 90% success rate
  • He squishes any that show signs of varroa poo in the cups
  • He puts the cells in ‘apidea’, special little hives for queen-rearing, containing a mugful of nurse bees which happily rear the queens. These go to mating apiaries in a few different Cornish locations.
  • Once the queens are mated, he will sometimes put multiple caged queens on top of a colony to see which virgin most of the bees prefer to cluster round. He makes a note of those as ‘Alpha’ queens to breed from.

Endearingly, apparently the best drones have “big hairy bums”, because the native Apis Mellifera Mellifera drones are larger. They also fly later in the year than other imported sub-species of Apis Mellifera.

Celebrity beekeeper John Chapple

The day finished with a Bumblebee Safari led by staff from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. It had been sunny up till the end of the day when the Safari started, at which point the Cornish mizzle began coming down.

That didn’t put the hardy bumblebees off though, and we found plenty of them enjoying a large lavender patch. It was good to see small children getting to stroke a male bumblebee and overcome their previous fears.

Have you been to a talk or event recently which you’d like to write about for the website? If so get in touch, we’d love to feature more posts by members. 


Black bee reserve visit – 26th September

Visit: Wednesday 26th September, 1-5pm

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are becoming a Native Bee Haven! We will hear from Sir Tim Smit, Dr Mike Maunder (Eden’s Director of Life Sciences), George Elworthy (Heligan’s Managing Director), Victoria Buswell from the University of Plymouth, members of the B4 black bees project group and Donna Cox, from the Moor Meadows community initiative.

Email to arrange your invitation.

History of the Black Honey Bee, Lost Gardens of Heligan

History of the Black Honey Bee, Lost Gardens of Heligan poster

Bee boles at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Bee boles at the Lost Gardens of Heligan



Opportunity to get your bees DNA tested

Ever wondered whether your bees are Italian, Buckfast, Carniolan or near native? Researchers are offering Cornish beekeepers a unique opportunity to have their bees DNA tested, with the option of also taking part in a citizen science project.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth are aiming to take DNA samples and analyse colony characteristics of nearly 300 Cornish Bee hives. This is an opportunity to take part in one of the most detailed DNA testing and phenotypic surveys of bees ever conducted in England.

For more information please email Victoria Buswell:


Callington Honey Fair 2018 – 3 October 2018

Callington Honey Fair is one of the largest street fairs in Cornwall, with hundreds of people visiting the town to enjoy the one day event. The Fair is held annually on the first Wednesday in October.

The honey competitions take place in the Town Hall, New Street, PL17 7BD, with the streets of Callington given over to craft stalls, a town crier competition, live music, and a fun fair. The honey show judging starts from 9.30am.

See the Callington Honey Fair Schedule 2018 and Honey Fair rules for information on how to enter. An entry form will be put up here in due course.

Our Callington Honey Show 2015 post gives some tips from Bruce Henderson Smith on what the judges are looking for.



Asian Hornet Week – 10-16 September 2018

The British Beekeepers Association will be holding Asian Hornet Week during 10-16 September, since this is the time of year when Asian hornets start hawking honeybees at hive entrances. The early autumn is the last chance we will have to prevent the emergence of new Asian hornet queens.

See the BBKA’s Asian Hornet Week webpage for further details, including how to identify an Asian hornet and what to do if you spot one.

Asian hornet/European hornet/Giant woodwasp comparison - BBKA diagram


Beecraft webinar – 13 September

In support of Asian Hornet week, a BeeCraft Live webinar will take place on Thursday 13th September at 8.00pm UK time for approximately 1 hour.

The event will be hosted by BeeCraft’s Rhodri Powell, an experienced Welsh beekeeper. Guests on the panel will include Kevin Baughen, a beekeeper in France, who will offer the benefit of his experiences of dealing with the Asian hornet.

It can be watched through the Beecraft website at

Asian hornet hive entrance, photo by Jean Haxaire 2018. Courtesy The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Crown Copyright

Asian hornet hive entrance, photo by Jean Haxaire 2018. Courtesy The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Crown Copyright



Bit of a Do 2018 – 22 September

An exciting opportunity to hear the best speakers on beekeeping right here in Cornwall!

Saturday 22 September 2018, 10:00-17:00 (Registration from 9.00)
Fal Building Truro College TR1 3XX
Tickets £12 in advance or £15 on the day. Complimentary refreshments all day – lunchtime pasties must be booked in advance.

Speakers: Dan Basterfield on honey bee dance language and reading bees, Chris Parks on skep beekeeping, Dr Peter Kennedy on Asian hornets, Anne Rowberry on using a demaree and Will Steynor on practical gadgets – see our Bit of a Do flyer to find out more about the speakers.

As well as the speakers, there will be trade stands, a gadget competition and local Bee Inspectors to answer all your questions. Our fantastic Traders and Stands include: Northern Bee Books, BB Wear, Bee Hive Supplies, Modern Beekeeping, BeeBay, Bee Craft, Bees Abroad.

How to book

Tickets and Pasties can be booked after 1st July from:
Heather Williams, Quillet Cottage, Leedstown, Cornwall TR27 6BP. Email – please download the booking form and make payment to Heather.


GDPR and BBKA membership procedures update

General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) and BBKA membership procedures – effective from 25 May 2018

All members are to be aware that the procedures for renewals and new membership will change on the 25 May 2018. BBKA have issued a warning letter outlining the proposed changes due to the new GDPR, this document is available here for members to peruse: GDPR BBKA Membership database update

Once firm details are known then group secretaries and members will be informed accordingly as to the new procedures. Change will undoubtedly cause confusion, be patient!

I am happy for members to liaise directly with myself.
Les Buckley

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