Statutory requirement to report Varroa from 21st April 2021

April 2021 – Reporting Varroa


From The National Bee Unit


On 21st April, 2021 an amendment to the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006 and the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2021 comes into force requiring beekeepers and/or officials to report the presence of Varroa in any of the hives that they manage. Reporting will be for each apiary site. This amendment will allow England and Wales to comply with the Animal Health Law which is necessary for future working relationships with the European Union. Similar arrangements are being made in Scotland.


To make this simple, a tick box will be introduced to BeeBase, the voluntary register for beekeepers managed by the National Bee Unit. This will allow beekeepers and inspectors to report the presence or absence of Varroa. This will be the easiest way to report Varroa. We are currently working on an alternative mechanism for those who do not wish to register on the BeeBase system and aim to share this before 21st April.


No action will be required until after 21st April.

Shock, horror – Honey without Bees!

“When you look at honey and how it’s made, it starts with bees collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers and then converting that into the building blocks of honey, which are fructose and glucose,” he says.


“We are simulating that in the lab, using micro-organisms which do the work of building the initial blocks of honey.”

Swarm collecting – American style

I have to say she is a lot braver than I am!


Neonics will not be used on sugar beet in 2021

Wednesday 3 March


A forecast from the Rothamstead Research Group says virus yellows in the sugarbeet crop will be very low this year and neonic seed treatment will NOT be used with first flights of aphids likely to be six weeks later than last year. 


The BBKA is pleased to hear this but will campaign against use of the neonics in years 2022 and 2023 which is allowed under the licence granted by Defra. 


The British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) says the weather was the reason.  “With February temperatures fluctuating from very cold to unseasonably warm conditions, especially during the last three weeks of the month, this has meant the independent virus yellows forecast has been uncertain with regards to the 9% trigger threshold for the use of Cruiser SB on seed. The 1st of March forecast predicts that 8.37 % of the national sugar beet area will be affected by virus yellows by the end of August 2021.” 


For more information see:

AGM 17th March – Revised start time of 1930hrs

Please note that the start time of the AGM on 17th March is now 1930hrs and not 1900hrs as originally advertised.

Latest OBKA Winter Talk videos

We have added two new video to the Members area – the Bees Abroad talk by Nicola Bradbear from 22 January 2021 and the talk on Queen Rearing by Ged Marshall on 12th February 2021.

Short training video – Oxalic Acid treatments

We have added a short video by Andy Pedley to our video collection in the members area.

The video is on how to treat bees  for varroa destructor using Oxalic acid, primarily by the trickle method.

If you’ve not treated you bees using Oxalic acid Andy’s video takes you through all the key steps.


OBKA Winter talk – The Magic of the Hive

Andy Pedley’s talk, given on 20th November 2020, is now available in the Members Area.

OBKA Winter Talk – ‘Differences in sub-Saharan and UK Beekeeping’

The video of the Zoom talk is now available to watch in the Members Area

OBKA Honey Show 2020 – video of George McGavin’s talk

The recording of George McGavins talk, on The BioSur Foundation in Costa Rica, is now available in the Members Area.

Video of OBKA Honey Show Awards now available!

Dear Member,

We now have the ability to host videos on this website.

Our first video is of the Honey Show 2020 Awards ceremony. This was of course held virtually and the video is a recording of the Zoom session.

It can be found on the home page of the Members Area. Enjoy!

And more videos are on the way.

OBKA Honey Show Results 2020

The results of the 2020 Honey Show, that were awarded tonight, 08 November 2020, are available in the Members Area.

For a bit more information and some lovely photos see the OBKA Honey Show 2020 page.

Report on our first Winter Talk ‘Queen Substance’

If you missed our first Winter Talk there is a report in the Members Area by our Secretary, Richard Stansfield.


Don’t miss the next next session, details are in the Events calendar.

OBKA Sponsors National Honey Show 2020

Well, to be precise, we sponsored a beeswax wrap demo:


OBKA Sponsors Beeswax wrap Demo National Honey Show 2020

Latest Covid-19 Update from National Bee Unit

If you have registered your bees on BeeBase you will have received their email with the latest Covid-19 beekeeping guidance.


If not then


(a) Why not – register your bees immediately on beebase, and


(b) Here is their guidance, as a downloadable .PDF : COVID-19_and_Beekeeping_-_GB_Update_October_2020.pdf

OBKA Beekeeper training under Covid-19 restrictions


We are pleased to announce that we have been able to carry out some training for new beekeepers at our Training Apiary at Marlborough School.


In line with Covid-19 guidance we are limiting the number of people at the Training Apiary to 6 people – 4 students and 2 tutors. We also require students and tutors to wear facemasks when working closely around a hive.


For further information please contact

European Foulbrood incidents in West Oxfordshire

We have become aware of a number of incidents of European foulbrood in West Oxfordshire, centred on Burford. The latest information from BeeBase may be found here:

We suggest you pay particular attention to monitoring for EFB at your next inspection and review your hygiene protocols to ensure you don’t make the problem worse.

If you have any concerns about the health of one of you colonies please contact our seasonal bee inspector, Mark Lynch.

OBKA Tutors Blog #15 – Honey Harvest 2 – Uncapping and Extracting

If you have been following the OBKA Tutors Blog 2020 you might notice that this is the second blog that covers uncapping and extracting.


The first blog was by David Lord, our Senior Tutor for the Beginners Course. This blog is by Andy Pedley. As always with beekeeping, especially as a beginner, it's always good to see different ways of doing things and picking put the elements that work for you (for example I always use a heat gun to melt the wax cappings.....)


So you’ve got your supers back home (or wherever you do your extracting) and they are stacked, probably on the floor, hopefully in a gravel tray to keep them off the floor surface and catch the drips, and covered to keep bees out (or in, perhaps); clean cloth is good for this!


You’ll need to be organised to extract – and a few words of warning …

  • First, honey is very sticky. If you think I am stating the obvious, then its because it needs to be said! It gets on your hands, the door knob, the phone, your mugs, kettle, and from there transfers ALL round the house. So be very careful – I go into “extracting mode” and don’t answer the door, the phone, or do anything except extracting until the job is finished.
  • If honey drips on the floor it will get on your shoes and then be tramped through the whole house; so minimise movement out of the extracting room, consider slippers to be taken off when you leave the room, dust sheets outside the room. Avoid dripping honey on the floor and wipe up any drips that do happen. When I was shown extracting, my mentor covered the kitchen floor with newspaper (remember that!!) and if there was a drop on the floor, put an extra sheet of news paper down to cover it. The paper was burned at the end of the exercise.
  • Honey flows silently. It makes no noise if it overflows or spills, so be very careful about not over filling buckets.
  • Honey is hygroscopic, so it absorbs moisture from the air; in order to keep, it needs to have a water content of 20% or less, and so the extracting room and all equipment needs to be as dry as possible.
  • Honey smells and will attract bees, so the extracting room needs to be bee tight – windows shut, and if there are airbricks they may need covering. Working in a room full of bees is not fun!
  • Finally, honey is veryheavy …. do not overfill buckets for that reason (you’re going to need to lift them when you are thinking about bottling the honey) and DO NOT STACK BUCKETS – buckets have been known to collapse under the weight of a bucket above, spilling the contents of the bucket on the floor …. 


Remember too that if you are going to sell honey, then food safety and trading standards law applies; everything needs to be food grade, clean, and you need to be healthy, clean and wearing appropriate clothing …. (picture, a well prepared food handler) – gloves are a good idea, some kind of overall, head covering and if you have a beard, a beard snood -all can be bought on line. During these COVID-19 Days, a mask is desirable.

A well prepared food handler

I find working left to right is good, so the super’s are stacked on the left; one is promoted to the worktop, and the frames are extracted one by one for uncapping.


Uncapping is done over a tray of some kind (I use a stainless steel baking tray with a wooden “bridge” to rest the frame lug on)as the cappings, dripping with honey, need to be collected.

“Cappings honey” is drained off later, and some say it especially good to prevent hay fever. Cappings themselves of course are bees wax, and clean, white, new, so some beekeepers keep it separate and use it to make their blocks of bees wax for the honey shows. 


There are lots of tools that can be used for uncapping … for hobbyists, then you can use a knife (bread knife, carving knife, or bee keeping suppliers sell special uncapping knives); a heated uncapping knife (I used to have one, but stopped using it as the honey could be seen boiling under the heat) uncapping fork, spikyroller, recent device is an uncapping plane). Each has their pro’s and cons, which I ll not go into here. Some also use a hot air gun – which can be very quick, but I can not make it work reliably! Commercially uncapping machines are available too.


Uncapping is done holding the frame so that the top overhangs a bit; the cut is then made and as it is overhanging, the wax drops clear into the tray. It’s good to minimise the bits of wax on the frame, as they ll clog in your strainers later.

Uncapping tools

Once uncapped, the frame can be put in the extractor; and the next frame prepared until the extractor is filled. Extractors spin the frames, and centrifugal force spins the honey out. Make sure the tap is closed when you start! There’s a video of a rather fun (but not recommended) transparent honey extractor on Thorne’s YouTube channel 


Extractors come in different types and sizes (in the Thorne’s video it’s a tangential, where frames have to be spun twice, with the frame being turned round in between); there are also Radial Extractors where the frames are like the spokes of a wheel, and both sides are extracted at once. Manual extractors are cheaper, but need hand “winding” . Electric extractors have a motor with variable speed, so save much effort, time (you can be uncapping the next batch of frames while the extractor spins all by itself) – but are of course much more expensive.


Frames need to be balanced in the extractor – full frame opposite full frame – as extractors will vibrate and move round the room – start on a slow speed and increase the speed as the honey comes out of the frames.


Once uncapped, the frames are put back in the super, stood out of the way (on a tray to catch drips) and when done, returned to the bees (for apiaryhygiene reasons, ideally the same hive that they came from) where the bees will clean off the residual honey) so you can store the frames for winter.


The honey is run out of the extractor, though some kind of strainer (see the video) and into buckets for storage; put the lid on the bucket and ensure it is sealed – make sure it is airtight! I cling film mine as a belt and braces approach.


(Next… straining and bottling.)


Andy Pedley

OBKA Tutors Blog #14 – Harvest – getting supers off the hive

So you keep bees – probably – as you want a honey crop, and this is the time when you’ll be thinking about harvesting.



Some beekeepers harvest “as they go” so when you ‘re inspecting, if you find a frame that is fully capped, then its taken out of the hive so the honey can be harvested from it.



Others may take off both a spring and a summer harvest, if the area they are in has a good “honey flow” in the spring – or if there is Oil Seed Rape grown nearby, as OSR honey crystallises very quickly and can set in the frames. You can also get a “flow” in the autumn, and some may harvest this, or you may want to leave it for the bees, to save needing to feed them, either at all or so much. Sometimes there is a late heather crop, but that needs special handling as the honey is thixotropic (jelly like) and won’t extract easily.

Ling Heather Honey

Ling Heather Honey

I think there are 4 stages to harvesting your honey –


  • getting the supers off the hive, and transporting them to your extraction facility


  • extracting,


  • straining and “ripening” and


  • packing for sale.


And in this blog I ll deal with the first stage, getting the supers off the hive.


When you are working your hives, you will have noticed that the bees are always in the supers, so the first step in taking honey off is to “clear” the bees out of the supers.


Traditionally this is done with a “Clearer Board” – a spare crown board can be adapted by fitting a “Bee Escape”, and this is then put in the hive, with the supers to be removed above it. Make sure the supers are bee tight …. once the bees are out of the supers, the honey is undefended and wasps and robber bees will find any hole, and you will lose an amazing amount of your crop in a very short time! Typically a clearer board is left in place for 24 hours, and ideally you remove the supers in the evening when bees are less active.


There are other methods of clearing bees from supers – from brushing each frame (time-consuming, but may save you a second trip, and feasible if you've only got a small number to process), using a repellent (not very effective in my experience) to using some kind of blower to blow them off (not a happy experience for the bees).


And of course there are several types of bee escape – the traditional one is the “Porter” bee Escape, which fits neatly into the precut holes in a proprietary crown board, but rely on the bees going through a pair of springs which need to be adjusted. Better in my experience are the “lozenge” escapes, which works more like a lobster pot – and has the advantage of not needing a perfectly sized and shaped oval hole.

National Crownboard with Porter bee escapes

Rhombus bee clearer board

Rhombus clearer in action - rhombus cut in half and put in opposite corners

Clearer board with 8-way clearer

8-way clearer - the exits!

It’s important is that when you remove the supers, that they are taken away to a bee proof location quickly; again the bees will find unprotected supers very quickly and will rob it out – this includes from within your kitchen or where ever you do your extracting. If you are removing several supers, put the crown board on top of the supers that waiting, or a cover cloth, to prevent bees getting back i while your back is turned!


If you ‘re using a barrow or transporting the supers in a car or van, then that needs to be clean (and the car/van bee tight – shut the windows and doors unless you are actually putting stuff in it.


Ideally put the supers in a tray (60 cm square gravel trays are good, and make good emergency roofs for hives too) in the boot, and again when you are stacking them on the floor waiting for extraction. Certainly stand them on something clean, and that will accommodate any slight leakage / drips.


You are unlikely to clear EVERY bee from the supers, and may find a few in the car with you – they ll fly up to the windows and if the windows are opened a crack, should leave. A small brush will help you flick others out. Cover the supers with clean cloth when in transit, but don't be concerned if you find you have the company of a few bees as you drive – opening the car windows while you are actually driving will help them out! There will be stragglers, and they’re very unlikely to be any bother (other than pooing on the car upholstery!).


If you are putting the supers in a car on a hot, sunny day, with the windows shut the car can get very hot, very quickly …. so park in the shade, otherwise your precious crop could become a sticky mess, as could your car.


Do remember that each super can weigh about 15kg (30lb) and should yield about 12kg of honey (25lb); heavy …. you may need assistance lifting and carrying them. And you may want to have records of which honey came from which apiary (if you have more than one), or hive, so fixing a label on each super with information on it can help here – a drawing pin and a bit of card is enough on wooden hives. Ideally put the label on before the supers are taken off the hives, very easy to get confused!


NEXT Post… Extracting ….


Andy Pedley

OBKA Tutors Blog #13 – Varroa Monitoring

Monitoring Varroa is an important part of beekeeping. It gives you an insight into when treatment may be required. If left unchecked varroa mites will build up exponentially to a point where the colony becomes nonviable.


Varroa affects the colony in many ways.


  • Deformed wings which are shrivelled and adopt a ‘spaghetti’ like appearance;
  • Stunted abdomens;
  • general weakening of the colony;
  • Patchy/ pepper pot brood patterns;
  • High level infestations can be a direct cause of colony loss;
  • The mite is also a vector of a number of viruses. Although bee viruses usually persist as unapparent infections and cause no overt signs of disease, they can dramatically affect honey bee health and shorten the lives of infected bees under certain conditions.


Source of information: Beebase

Left untreated varroa mites will expand exponentially and overwhelm a colony



One of the easiest methods of estimating the number of varroa is by inserting the varroa board below the open mesh floor. Before you do, it’s worth drawing squares on to your board, as it will make counting easier. If you also give it a light coat of Vaseline it will hold any mites dropping onto the board.

Varroa board marked with a grid to nake counting varroa drop easier

The board is then inserted onto the runners under the mesh floor and left for 7 days, then removed, a count can then be made. The lines on the board aid counting. Many events though the year have an effect on the number of mites in a colony so the number you get now needs to be entered into a ‘varroa calculator’ follow the link below and follow the instructions.


The result will advise when you will need to treat your bees. Keep checking the varroa count through the season but don’t leave the board in when not in use it defeats the object of open mesh floors.

Varroa drop

Varroa mite drop on a monitoring board

What you might find on a varroa monitoring board

...but not everything on the monitoring board is varroa!

David Lord