Too many honey bees; too many beekeepers?

Honeybees are voracious’: is it time to put the brakes on the boom in beekeeping?


The number of beehives in Britain’s cities is growing rapidly, putting pressure on native bees ‘that really need our help’, say scientists and experienced beekeepers.

OBKA President on ‘The Wonder of Bees’ BBC4


The Wonder of Bees with Martha Kearney is currently showing on BBC4 at 1930hrs. It’s 4 episodes and dates from 2013.


Tonight’s episode (Tue 03 August), Episode 2, had quite a long piece with Dr. (as then) Geraldine Wright who was then investigating the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. Fascinating how they train the bees.


Overall the programmes are very good (so far) and with our President being on one of them they are worth watching.


Available on iPlayer for a month; Episode 2 is at

Queen Rearing Course – July

We are running a queen raising course at Woodstock in July and would like to canvass interest from members who would like to find out more about this fascinating topic. The course will follow the process of queen raising from setting up a queen raising hive, selection of larvae, grafting, hive manipulations and setting up mating nucs. This process takes over two weeks and we will invite students to participate on three critical days: set-up, grafting and moving queen cells to mating nucs. The course will be run by member Andrew Brough who raises queens throughout the summer and gave a talk on this topic to members earlier in the year.


At the first session, Andrew will give a detailed explanation of the process and we will have a practice at grafting. The actual grafting day will be eight days later and for this Andrew will supply suitable larvae from his own stock. The final session will take place just over a week later when the larvae have been capped over and are a few days from emerging. The timing is, of course, dictated by the bees!


The dates are as follows:


Saturday 3 July – presentation on the process and hive setup – 2-3 hours in the afternoon


Sunday 11 July – grafting – 2-3 hours in the afternoon


Tuesday 20 July – setting up mating nucs and transfer of queen cells – 2 hours starting 1830hrs


The cost is £35 per person and we can have up to eight attendees. Each participant will graft their own larvae and if successful will be allowed to take away one mated or virgin queen in a returnable mating nuc. Because you will be expected to help with setting up the queen raising hive and the hive manipulations, you need to be confident handling very strong honey bee colonies and be able to recognise larvae by their age. You should also bring any visual aids (reading glasses, magnifying glass etc) you may require to see one day old larvae.


If you would like to participate, please complete the form that is in the Members Area

Why get training to become a beekeeper?

There is no requirement to get any training before keeping bees in the UK.


However we at the Oxfordshire BeeKeepers Association strongly recommend that if you are thinking of keeping bees you do get some training so you understand the costs and time commitments before you get the equipment and the bees.


A Top Bar Hive

Top Bar Hive – courtesy of North Hearts BKA

We had a contact recently from someone in Oxford. They had bought a top-bar hive. And then got a nuc of bees on National frames.


Except National frames won’t fit a top bar hive.


We were able to help. But the person hasn’t attended a training course. And probably has not read up that much about keeping bees.


We really, really, recommend you get some training before considering keeping bees.


And of course once you have got some training, and got your bees, you won’t regret it!

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