Bit of a Do – 27 November 2021, 9.30-17.00

Cornwall’s Convention goes on line for the day, featuring four world class speakers, plus charities and organisations related to the craft.

About this event

A full day of talks, market stalls and exhibit areas, plus a chance to catch up with what’s buzzing – All from the comfort of your own arm chair!

This year we are online via Zoom, and have produced a full calendar featuring four outstanding speakers, plus Breakout rooms to meet charities, special interest groups, tradestands, or simply have a chat.

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On The Day:

  • A single registration for a nominal fee gives you access to a full day of events
  • Drop in and out as you please
  • Main speakers will use Zoom to present their talks
  • Four slots of an hour each, plus 15 minutes for questions. Please note that questions will be taken ONLY via the chat facility. Only the speakers’ microphones will be enabled in the Main Zoom window.
  • During the talks, the “breakout” rooms will be closed
  • Breaks: 15 minutes in the morning, 30 in the afternoon, one hour at lunchtime
  • Breakout rooms open during the breaks in three categories:

    Market Place

    Each trader will have a breakout room under their own control, to present their wares, engage with customers by video chat, present a slideshow of their offers – whatever they chose to do within the confines of screen share and Zoom. Attendees can move freely from stall to stall.Exhibition Hall
    Charities and special interest groups have the same facilities as the traders, where they can show slideshows, videos and/ or engage with their audience by video chat. Attendees can move freely from stall to stall.Coffee Bar
    Bring your own coffee! This is an area with “open mic” video chatting, to allow the usual business of bemoaning the season, agonising over honey sales and generally engaging in the wagging of chins. When talks are due to start, the Breakout rooms will be closed. All participants will be returned to the “lecture theatre” and will be muted.The staffroom / the Green Room
    Breakout rooms reserved for the organisers to manage any back stage issues and prepare any IT for the speakers.
BOAD Online

BOAD Online

Biographies and synopses:

“Biodiversity, Crop Diversity and Pollination” – John Warren
Professor John Warren has a PhD based on a study of the sex-life of Groundsel (a weed, whose Latin name translates as, the common old man). From there he went on to, quite literally sow wild oats, at the University of Liverpool (while never fully understanding the origin of the phrase). He is a life-long back-yard beekeeper, with a long-term interest in pollination ecology. He has been employed as a geneticist working on the international gene-bank for cacao at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. John Warren was Director of Learning and Teaching at the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University, before moving to become the Vice Chancellor of the University of Natural Resources and Environment in Papua New Guinea. He retired back to the UK in 2018 and now runs a small holding (with bees of course) and is writing a new flora of the more challenging plants of Britain.

“A Taste of Honey” – Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis is the YAS appointed Chief Hives and Honey Steward at the annual Great Yorkshire Show. A keen (though not fanatical) exhibitor, with some modest show success – if / when it’s good – stewarding at competitions inevitably resulted in an interest in judging honey. Through invitation based on referral, recommendation, reputation, repeat return he now regularly judges using both ‘traditional’ show and taste approach methods at national and international honey competitions.

His “A Taste of Honey” talk on the sensory analysis of honey (called ‘organoleptics’) will focus on what was learnt attending an international honey tasting course, broadening his taste palate experience in a careful precise structured way. Gustatory appreciation involves systematically evaluating what’s actually ‘in the jar’ as the principal point of interest; which honey’s might be preferred when and why, across a range of different varieties, as well as conformity to distinct model unifloral “types”.

What’s involved, how it’s done, will be explained, together with some possible implications and wider practical applications directly relevant to ourselves as UK based beekeepers, honey purveyors and connoisseurs’.

“Bait Hives” – David Evans – “The Apiarist”
David Evans is Professor of Virology in the School of Biology, University of St. Andrews. His research interests include the replication and evolution of important human and animal viral pathogens including poliovirus, Zika virus and both deformed wing virus (DWV) and chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) of honeybees.

David is an enthusiastic beekeeper and a member of Fife Beekeepers, the East of Scotland BKA and Lochaber BKA. He runs about twenty colonies for research and pleasure and is particularly interested in queen rearing and ‘pottering in the shed with bits of wood and a nail gun’.

His involvement in DIY for beekeeping resulted in a regular column in the Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers newsletter Bee Talk which, over time, evolved into his personal beekeeping website On this he covers topics as diverse as Varroa management, responsible mentoring, the price of honey and waspkeeping. New posts appear every Friday afternoon and he regularly discusses recent scientific advances in the biology of honey bees.

His presentation covers theoretical and practical aspects of swarms and bait hives. It covers the role of scout bees in identifying a new nest site, the process of swarming, bivouacking and then relocation to the chosen location.

The talk discusses setting up bait hives, the choice of box, its location and contents. This covers both scientific studies and how these findings can best be applied to practical beekeeping. Discussion of the contents of bait hive necessitates another digression into building and using foundationless frames, which offer particular benefits for bait hives. The talk closes with a discussion of what you can expect to observe when scout bees find and favour your bait hive, and the things you need to do having attracted a swarm – these include moving it somewhere else and managing the Varroa that also arrive with the swarm.

“The Truth About Honey” – Lynne Ingram
Lynne is a Master beekeeper, holds the National Diploma in Beekeeping, is a member of the BBKA Exam Board, and an assessor for the Basic, Bee Health, General Husbandry assessments and module exams. Lynne has been keeping bees for over 30 years, and currently manages 25 colonies in 3 apiaries. She is always keen to encourage others into the fascinating world of beekeeping.

Honey adulteration and fraud is a growing problem worldwide and also in the UK. Britain imports a huge amount of extremely cheap honey from China and tests on many ‘own brand’ honeys in the UK have shown them to be adulterated.

Whilst many countries are working hard to combat this worldwide problem, the UK is lagging behind the rest of the world in dealing with it. Honey fraud deceives the consumer and ultimately affects beekeepers by undermining the true cost of producing honey.

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Bee Health Day – virtual event

As in previous years, CBKA and the West Cornwall Beekeepers Association are promoting Bee Health with a short series of talks and presentations. Due to Covid, our usual one day event has been replaced with a virtual session, to be held in three parts over the last weekend in June. Sadly, we aren’t able to provide the usual hands-on sessions, but instead have invited a range of speakers.

The event will take place in three bite-sized chunks. A ticket costs just £3, with the proceeds being donated to Bees For Development. One ticket covers all three sessions. Tickets are available from Eventbrite using this link:

We hope you will support this event and look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.


Friday 25th June: 19:00–20:30

The Work of the NBU and 10 things we wish beekeepers knew – Presented by APHA Bee Inspectors David Packham, Eric James and Leila Goss)

Saturday 26th June: 16:00-18:00

Varroa – Presented by Ulrike Marsky (Veto-Pharma)

The role of Propolis – Presented by John Hill (British Bee Vetinary Association)

Sunday 27th June: 16:00 – 18:00

Asian Hornet – Presented by John de Carteret (Jersey Asian Hornet Group)

Integrated Pest Management – Presented by D. Packham


Webinars for potential beekeepers

Helpful webinars if you’re interested in beginning beekeeping:

Beekeeping. What’s it all About?
A one hour presentation that gives the absolute basic information to help potential beekeepers decide if they should go further. Topics covered will include:- Time needed, costs, suitable site, sound information sources, etc.

The webinar recording is now available at (under the Recordings section). You can also see upcoming webinars listed there.

Learn the basics
The learning of a few factual things will go a long way to helping you solve many of the common issues that you will experience. You may then be able to solve problems yourself, or at least have a little knowledge, so you can understand what the advice you are given is trying to achieve.

The webinar recording is now available at (under the Recordings section). You can also see upcoming webinars listed there.

See for a wide range of upcoming webinars, some aimed at beginners and some aimed at intermediate and experienced beekeepers.


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) – message from Anne Rowberry, BBKA Chair

Dear Member

The impact of the Coronavirus could not have been foreseen but the BBKA is working hard to support members. We regret that all the BBKA training courses at Stoneleigh have been cancelled, this includes the Healthy Hive training, General Husbandry and Advanced husbandry training. The Exam Board have cancelled the Module Exams, the Assessor Training and will be publishing information on the Healthy Hive and Basic Exams.

We are suggesting that Beginners courses and other Branch or Association organised training courses are postponed. It is important to keep the health of members at the front of our minds. It may be possible to deliver some aspects of these courses online. I would welcome suggestions as to the best way this could be achieved ; possibly some Associations have information that they would be prepared to share. We can post some ideas on our website so please share any that you think may help.

I am sure younger members of groups will support older members or those confined through association with family etc who have the virus by offering to check hives in out apiaries, making sure they are upright, have food and the bees are flying could be very helpful. Please follow the Government guidelines, we are asked to avoid social contact and unnecessary travel. This will mean considering carefully the swarm collection service and applying appropriate safeguards.

I have contacted Defra for advice on the position of beekeepers visiting their bees if the country moves into a more intensive ‘lock down’. At the moment bees will be considered as livestock and can be tended accordingly but we are following Government advice and need to address possible future directions. I have also been in contact with Alpha and the All Party Parliamentary Group and I am writing to the Minister of Environment asking about the position of beekeepers visiting bees I have also suggested that should there be a sugar shortage beekeepers have an allowance ( as I believe they had in the war). This may seem extreme but we need to be thinking now, just in case.

There are actions that the beekeeper can take to give their bees the best chance of survival and the most important is to feed them. Ensure they have plenty of food for any inclement weather, we can have snow in May and cold wet weather at any time may mean they starve. If you are concerned about visiting your bees put fondant above your supers, the bees will use it if they need it. If you do not have fondant then use syrup even if you have one or two supers on. They may move it to the supers which would mean you can’t sell it as honey but you will still have your bees and also food for the Autumn/Winter. We do not know how long this severe situation will last.

We will endeavour to give more information through our website and BBKA social media. Beebase will also be posting information.

I hope this situation passes quickly and is not as severe as is now being portrayed.

Anne Rowberry
BBKA Chair


2020 CBKA AGM cancelled

In the light of the latest advice from the Government, the decision has been made to cancel the CBKA AGM on the 28th March until further notice.

The CBKA Officers listed below are willing to stand in their current positions for another year or until the current situation is resolved, so the day to day running of the CBKA and any Council business can continue as necessary.

President        – Mary Trace

Chairman         – Henry Kendall

Vice Chair       – Rosemarie Lane

Secretary        – Mary Hardman

Treasurer        – Vanessa Tyler

Editor           – Geoff Hardman

Publicity        – Anne Ramsden

ADM representative – Mark Hoult

Eric James has asked me to pass this on to you:

“I will be starting my inspection work from April. If anyone is at all concerned/have any questions they can phone or email me (with pictures) and I will discuss their concerns and/or visit them. I would rather speak to them and put their mind at rest than have them worrying. My Contact details are below – Eric James”

phone 07979 119369

The Bee Disease Day which was to be held on the 27th June has also been cancelled.

We will keep you informed regarding events planned for later in the year through our magazine, Gwenyn Kernow.

Mary Hardman
Honorary Secretary CBKA
17 March 2020


BBKA 2020 Spring Convention cancelled

It is with great regret that we have to advise that the BBKA 2020 Spring Convention – scheduled to take place at Harper Adams University 3-5 April – has been cancelled. The Spring Convention Committee and the BBKA Executive Committee reviewed the situation over the weekend and took the decision to cancel. Given the age of many attendees is over 60, the aim is to minimise the risk of COVID19 among participants, traders, staff of BBKA and staff and students of Harper Adams.

A full refund will be made for all bookings made via the BBKA.

Leigh Sidaway

General Manager


Honey Streets documentary

The CBKA has been contacted by a film maker running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for making a documentary on beekeeping in Malta:

“My name is Mitoshka Alkova and I am a currently making a documentary ‘Honey Streets’ with the Arts University Bournemouth focusing on Malta and its endemic bee sub-species. The documentary is exploring the threat of species loss on the island of Malta due to the rise of urbanisation and its effect on their small beekeeping community.  

You may be wondering why we are making this film in Malta and contacting you, but this is because we want to focus on a beekeeping community in a place where it is less preserved, such as Malta. Also, islands are small ecosystems where the effects of change are seen far more quickly, what is happening there right now is going to happen everywhere in the future. Malta is amongst the largest air polluters in Europe, and the rise of urbanisation and tourism in recent years has left the island stripped of agricultural land, a vital habitat for the local sub-species of Maltese bee. We intend to go to Malta and document the rapid species loss on the island, what the contributing factors leading to this are, and why there seems to be a lack of preservation action amongst the Maltese community. With the loss of land also comes the loss of Maltese identity and their connection to nature, which is why we are focusing on the local people who are trying to make a change.

We have launched a crowdfunder campaign to raise the funds necessary to fly out to Malta and make this documentary. We see that your work in Bee conservation is also related to our topic and we hope that you can support us with a small donation in helping create this film and make future projects possible. Even a donation of £5 will go a long way, and with your help we should be able to reach our target goal and do our bit in helping the bees.

We have a list of rewards that you can receive in thanks for your donations, these include locally sourced products from Malta, zero waste and bee related products, and promotional material from the film. 

I have linked our social media below if you are interested to see what we are getting up to.”

Instagram: honeystreetsfilm/


Swarming from the bees’ perspective

My notes from a second brilliant talk by Scottish bee farmer Tony Harris at our Cornwall Beekeepers Association/West Cornwall Beekeepers Association ‘Bit of a Do’ conference this September.

“What’s the earliest swarm you’ve had?” Tony asked the audience. The winner was: 23rd March! According to research by swarm expert Tom Seeley, most wild colonies swarm once in spring, but 40% of those swarms will swarm again before the end of the summer. Seeley’s studies indicate that the average survival rate of wild swarms may be low, with around 80% of swarms moving into natural cavities failing to survive their first winter.

Swarming countdown

Below is a photo I took of one of Tony’s slides, showing the timings leading up to a swarm, which I thought was quite helpful. Bee maths! He showed us some videos of behaviour such as the Dorsoventral abdominal vibration (DVAV) shaking dance, which can be done up to 300 times an hour on the old queen as the first queen cell is sealed. The workers grab hold of the queen and rapidly vibrate her. As a result, her egg laying behaviour is inhibited – she’s being harassed too much to have time to lay! The DVAV dances stop a few hours before the swarm departs. The workers will also do dances on sealed queen cells – communicating with the virgin queen inside.

Swarming countdown chart

Swarming countdown chart

Composition of a swarm

  • 70% of workers less than ten days old leave with the swarm.
  • Drones make up less than 1% of the swarm population

Choosing a new home

Once the swarm leaves, they will temporarily settle in a spot (such as an inconveniently high tree – or, for some lucky beekeepers, a low bush!). The swarm sends out a small number of scout bees, who will explore an area of up to 30 square miles in their search for an ideal home. Below is one of Tony’s slides summarising what a perfect bee home looks like, based on research by Winston and Seeley & Morse. Although bees are supposed to prefer high-up locations, Tony noted that he’s had more success with bait hives placed on the ground!

Swarm site selection criteria

Swarm site selection criteria

Meanwhile the swarm hangs clustered together. They can maintain their temperature at 35C in their core and 17C for the outside bees, regardless of the ambient temperature that day. The scout bees return to the cluster and carry out waggle dances for the best location they’ve discovered. If it happens to rain, the waggle dances will be paused!

Gradually, a consensus will be reached once all the scout bees are dancing for the same location.  When that happens, the cluster will soon take off and head for their new home. If you need to buy yourself some time while you get equipment ready to collect a swarm, Tony suggested gently spraying the hanging swarm with cold water (please don’t train a hose on them!). The reason behind this is that all the bees need to warm their flight muscles up to 35C to be ready to fly.

Virgin queens

Back in the old parent colony, the first virgin to emerge from her cell will often seek out any ‘quacking’ virgins still in their cells. The quacking noise is produced by the virgins vibrating their flight muscles, pressing their thorax against the comb as they do so. The emerged virgin’s sting is long enough to reach her rival queens and kill them before they hatch.

If two virgins emerge at the same time, they may fight, using their mandibles to grasp each other. Another possibility is that a virgin will leave with a secondary ‘cast’ swarm, taking a smaller number of bees off with her.

Aren’t swarms wonderful? As long as they’re not in your chimney, of course.

Emily Scott, CBKA member


Neonicotinoid pesticides and bees

Dr Ben Woodcock, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH),was the second speaker on ‘Neonicotinoid pesticides and bees at our annual Cornwall Beekeepers Association/West Cornwall Beekeepers Association ‘Bit of a Do’ conference this September.

Ben is an Ecological Entomologist in the Community Ecology Group at CEH. He began his talk with a bit of background on how bees are doing in the UK, and why neonics may have contributed to the decline of some species. At the moment honey bees can only deliver about 34% of pollination demand in the UK, so farmers do need wild solitary and bumble bees for pollination too. There are a few species which have done really well under modern agriculture – for example, the Ashy mining bee. But there are plenty of others doing really badly.

The issue with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) is that they stay inside the pollen and nectar of treated plants over a long period of time (but at a low concentration). Typically test studies into the toxicity of neonics are just short-term studies carried out over about ten days, whereas in real life neonics affect honey bee colonies over periods of months.

Ben mainly discussed two studies he’s worked on which investigated the effect of neonics on bees. The first was:

Impacts of neonicotinoid use on long-term population changes in wild bees in England (Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 12459.)

Ben and his fellow researchers divided 62 species of wild bees into two groups:

  • 34 known to forage on oilseed rape (OSR)
  • 28 not known to forage on OSR.

The study found that wild bee species which forage on OSR were 3x more negatively affected by neonics than non-foragers. Ben stressed that neonics are just one factor affecting bees. However, the research indicates that they add detrimental extra pressure on wild bee species.

Bumble on blackberry bramble

The second study Ben mentioned was one he worked on, a big pan-European study across three countries, the UK, Hungary and Germany:

Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees (Science 30 Jun 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1393-1395)

He acknowledged that the funding for this was controversial, as the pesticide giants Bayer and Syngenta contributed £3m towards it. To ensure that the research remained impartial, the results were peer-reviewed and all emails associated with the research were recorded.

In the study 36 farms across the three countries were each allocated to a treatment: no neonics (control), Modesto (Clothianidin) or Cruiser (Thiamethoxam) – Modesto and Cruiser are big neonic products. There was an average of 60 hectares of sown OSR surrounding the farms. Six honey bee hives, twelve buff-tailed bumble colonies and a number of red-mason bee nests were put at each site. The study looked at the resulting overwintering success, colony strength and forager mortality of the bees.

With the honey bee hives, the honey bees exposed to Clothianidin in Hungary and the UK suffered higher mortality over the following winter. The neonics appeared to have less of an effect on the German honey bees. Ben said this may be because the bees relied more on OSR in the UK and Hungary, plus the OSR happened to flower later at the German sites, so the German bees had a more varied diet. At the beginning of the study the German honey bee bee hives were also less diseased, with lower varroa levels. Whereas the UK hives sourced for the study happened to be quite small and diseased – hives in a poor environment with a lower variety of forage crops are more vulnerable to disease to begin with.

For the wild mason and bumble bees, the higher the concentration of neonics found in their nests, the more their reproductive potential (measured in new queen or egg cell numbers) declined.

Ben then went on to talk about neonic residues in honey, which he studied in Woodcock et al (2018)  ‘Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium‘. Neonic residues were identified in the honey samples, even for honey harvested after the moratorium in 2014. However, the concentrations were typically low and the likelihood of honey containing neonicotinoid residues was higher before the moratorium than after it. There’s a National Honey Monitoring Scheme run by CEH which UK beekeepers can get involved with – donate honey and they do analysis on it to identify the mix of pollens collected by the bees. The samples are also being archived for research in the future. If you’re into Twitter you can follow the scheme at @CEH Honey.

Following the neonics ban, farmers haven’t all switched to organic methods and stopped treating their oil seed rape. Instead, they’re using pyrethroid insecticides more – but some of the main species of aphids and beetles that feed on OSR have developed pyrethroid resistance. As a result, Ben suggested that OSR may stop being an economically viable crop in some parts of the UK. Unfortunately there is no obvious big alternative crop which is bee friendly. Soya is likely to expand in the UK, but it doesn’t require insect pollination.

Emily Scott, CBKA member

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