Author Archives: Stephen

Tesco Bags of Help

We have just received the great news that the SSBKA have been successful with the Tesco Bags for Help Grant and have been awarded the top grant of £5000. This is completely down to you, our members, and we would like to thank you for every token you put towards helping us achieve this result.  A post from Debbie Park.


If you enjoyed the candle making workshop that we ran in December you may be interested in the Wax workshop being run by the Scottish Beekeepers. There a few spaces left. Please get in touch with Alan Riach Tel 01506 653839 or text 07702436612.


A one day course on candle making, wax moulding, flower & fruit moulding and foundation moulding/wiring will be held at E.H.Thorne (Beehives) Ltd at Newburgh, KY14 6HA on Saturday 4th March 2017 from 10-00 am to 4-00pm.

Course tutors will be: Enid Brown (Lead tutor & wax preparation) Margaret Thomas (moulded candles/model making), Bron Wright (dipped candles), Joyce Nisbett (wax fruit), Cynthia Riach (wax flowers), David Wright/Alan Riach (foundation making). Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided but bring a packed lunch and mug.

If you wish to attend the course, please check for availability of places with Alan Riach Tel 01506 653839 or text 07702436612 and if places are available send the fee of £30 for SBA members, £40 for non-members, made out to the SBA, to Alan Riach, Woodgate, 7 Newland Ave, Bathgate, EH481EE or book via the shop on the SBA web-site See also Workshops & Courses page at


Hopefully our bees are comfortably tucked up in their hives with plenty of stores to keep them going.

Meanwhile the work of the Association goes on.

As you will be aware we have almost been a victim of our own success.  Our membership numbers are now up to 112 which is about double that of four years ago.  We have trained over 50 new beekeepers and provided colonies to those that needed them.

To continue being able to meet that demand we are attempting to arrange conversion of a redundant building just north of Dumfries into a centre of excellence where we can carry out all of our activities.

We are attempting to fund most of the cost of this by applying for grants and one where we have been successful is the TESCO Bags of Help scheme.

Eight Tesco stores across Dumfries and Galloway have a display near the exit into which you can place a blue token which the checkout cashier will give you.  There are three options for your token and when the scheme closes on the 28th of January all the tokens will be counted.  The project with the most tokens will be awarded £5,000 with the other two receiving £2,000 and £1,000 respectively. We really want to win the £5,000 as it will give us the money to buy bee suits in smaller sizes so we can reach out to schools as well as microscopes and some equipment to help raise nucleus colonies.

Try to spread the word among your friends and colleagues, every token is a vote which could help our Asssociation to be even more vibrant and interesting.  Post your support on Facebook.  Get the word out there any way you can.  Write a letter to the local paper. You will be able to think of something.

Good luck!


Crystallization of Honey

Here is a link to an article on crystallisation of honey by Khalil Hamdan Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.   Hamish passed it on to me, though he says the original source was Sheila.  Hamish  says he thinks it will be of particular interest to beginners.  It contain a very nice table which will alert you to which honeys are liable to crystallise quickly [and be difficult to extract] and which are not.  I had certainly heard of oil seed rape as a honey needing early extraction , but there are quite a few others in this category.

John Mellis Swarm Management

There was a fine turnout for the SSBKA visit to John Mellis’s Honey house on Saturday 23rd July.  The event    started with John opening up and commenting on a selection of his hives.  As I had arrived late I was on the outer edge of the spectators and was unable to catch all that was of interest,  but I was immediately alert when John described his method of swarm control.

John makes makes no claim that his method is foolproof.   As a professional beekeeper, he bases his practice on percentage results relative to convenience of the method – so if it is easily done and works most of the time, then it is a good method.   

Scaled Image for Website - View from JMs Apiary

The view from John’s Apiary.

John’s hives are all on a brood and a half, and with many hives to manage, he frequently uses the hinge method of inspection. Having removed the supers, any seal between brood and half brood is broken open with a hive tool and the half brood slid slightly to one side – by about 5cms.   The overhanging edge is then lifted up, using the opposite edge as a hinge.  The lower edge of the half brood and the upper edge of the brood box are the likely location of queen cells which are of course the harbinger of swarming behaviour.  John’s advice is that if only queen cups – acorn like cups -are visible, then the hive may be closed up with no need for immediate action.  Queen cells on the other hand require action as, even if broken down, they are an almost certain indication that a swarm is on its way.

In the event that queen cells are seen the brood and half brood are first moved to a temporary location at one side of the hive.  The half brood is then returned to the original position on a new floor.  On the top of this is placed a deep brood box filled with frames with foundation followed by the queen excluder and one or two of the partially filled honey supers.  The idea at this point is that there is a large reduction in the amount of brood in the hive, usually to just six or seven shallow frames, and that there is a big reduction in the number of bees.  Because the queen cells which were found during the “hinge” inspection are not removed this unit has the wherewithal to produce a new queen in due course but with reduced numbers it is unlikely to swarm.

The logic of placing the foundation above the shallow box is that this gives the bees enough space to cluster right to the bottom of the new frame thereby producing combs which do not have a gap along the bottom edge.

But what about the queen?  John has not spent time looking for her so she may be in this new hive or she may still be in the old deep brood box.  This does not concern John.  If she is in the shallow box then the large reduction in hive population will remove the swarming urge and the bees will pull down the queen cells themselves. If she is in the deep box then that is fine too.

At this point John has two options.  If he does not want to increase his hive numbers then he will use a swarm board.  This is a board placed above the supers of the new hive with bee space on both top and bottom and an entrance/exit on the upper side of the board, so that it faces in the opposite direction of the original hive.  The old brood box is then placed on top of this  and the crown board and roof replaced.  In this case there will be a lot more brood and several queen cells.  That might be expected to lead to a swarm or several casts but the reality is that as the flying bees in that box go out to forage they naturally return to the original entrance and join the colony below.  That has the added benefit of producing a stronger colony below which no longer wants to swarm but has a large population of foragers to gather a large honey crop and draw out foundation rapidly.

For the bees and brood left in the top brood box they either have the queen or they have cells from which they will produce a new queen.  In either case it is important to ensure that this box does not go hungry.  Because the experienced foragers all return to the hive below there will be little income until a new generation become foragers in their own right and bring in what is needed.  If there is doubt then it is possible to keep back one of the original supers and add this to the upper hive. Alternatively a feed of syrup can be applied.

A few weeks later John expects to have two units with laying queens and honey in both.  Assuming he does not need additional colonies then it is a simple operation to put the top unit to one side, lift off the supers from the bottom unit, add a sheet of newspaper with small slits cut in it and place the upper unit on the paper (without its floor).  Bees in supers usually don’t fight but to be on the safe side John adds a further sheet of newspaper on top of the upper box then the supers from the lower unit.  The end product is a double brood chamber with lots of brood and three or four supers on top – an ideal heather going hive.

But what about the two queens?  John does not take time to find them both and kill one, he lets nature take its course and allows the two queens to decide which is the stronger.

Earlier mention was made of there being two options.  The second is when there is a desire for increasing hive numbers.  The same process is followed with respect to the shallow box on the old site but the deep box is treated differently.  In this case there will be 10 frames with a lot of brood, some queen cells and some stores.

The frames are divided equally between two Payne’s nuc boxes so that there is at least one queen cell in each.  It is important to ensure that there are enough bees in each box to keep the brood warm so sometimes it is necessary to shake the bees from one or two super frames into the Payne’s box or alternatively to donate one or two frames of brood to a weaker colony nearby.  (Take great care that there are no queen cells on the donated frames or else that colony will probably swarm).

Add a splash of liquid feed then these two Payne’s boxes can be moved to a different apiary where they will hatch their queen and hey-presto, what was a single colony has become three.

John recommends overwintering the original hive with the half brood in the lower position.  This may then be reversed early in the following season.

It is easy to see how a beekeeper with many hives to manage would find this method appealing.  However, in that it does not require the queen to be found, the method may also appeal to the inexperienced beekeeper with limited time who wishes to keep a small number of hives.


Hamish Steele – Summer Management: Collecting Swarms

Here is a copy of Hamish’s presentation on managing swarms, slightly reorganised to make it comprehensible without Hamish actually being present to present.   It includes an excellent “swarm kit” which,  if your bees haven’t swarmed yet, is well worth checking out.

Link to presentation.

Hamish has also provided this excellent link to a document summarising information about the 3  different types of Queeen cell, how to recognise them and what they tell us about the behaviour of the hive.


Commercial Apiary Liquidation Bees + Hive £300

Get yourself good bees and professional equipment on an exceptional bargain. I am closing down my commercial apiary for personal reasons. All must go by mid-May!

Bees available from now till end of stock! You cannot get this offer at any shop: my bees have their comb drawn on the 3 boxes. Don’t waste time, money and honey. These bees are ready to gather honey from this spring!

These are not just overwintered nucleus but actual colonies, available from now till end of stock! These bees are ready to make the most of the season. Are you?

Golden Age Honey is a registered Member of the British Bee Farmers Association. Following Best Practice, Bees won’t be sold to Varroa Free or AMM areas.

I have been working for four years with these well-tempered bees. The Scottish Bee Health Chief Inspector has personally visited my apiaries in Dumfries. The initial stock consisted on a mixture of locally reared black mongrels acquired in 2012 from a respectable local honey farmer, and Buckfast bees supplied by the Chairman of the Bee Farmers Association in 2013. The stock has mated naturally.

The stock is in good health, it has been treated with Apivar/Apistan. Colonies were split when showing signs of swarming and reunited in September to overwinter as large colonies. Queens are not marked. Queen right check has been performed. Bees have been reared and overwintered exclusively on their own honey.

The colonies come on a green polystyrene bottom space National hive from the commercial Danish maker Swienty/Denrosa. These Scandinavian hives are warm, dry and light to work with. They are generously supplied with one brood box and two supers (not just one super like many offers). The hive comes with mesh floor, poly roof, and wooden crown board and queen excluder.

A colony + hive complete is £300 collection. Delivery available for a charge. You are welcome to collect 24/7.

Discounts available for multiple purchase, let’s talk and agree on something.

Contact Luisa (0750 357 68 61)–

Luisa Gonzalez

Mob: 07503 576 861

Lead beekeeper at Golden Age Honey

The Bothy

Boreland of Southwick

Dumfries, Scotland


Expanding Our Horizons


IMG_0044_1_300xLess than a month ago a group of 13 hives of my hives were subjected to the ravages of a river in flood and three pairs of hives, which were strapped to their stand, floated away to end up on their sides, trapped by the branches of a tree.  Somewhat surprisingly the bees seemed to be OK when the hives were brought back to the vertical.

As a precaution I loaded all 13 up and moved them back to the home apiary where there are now 48 colonies waiting for spring.

But then came Storm Gertrude.  Not to be outdone Gertrude decided to add to the travails of these poor colonies.  By morning, 5 hives had been tipped off their stands and another 12 roofs were scattered far and wide.  Two of these hives were lucky (?) – they still had their hive straps, so they remained pretty well together.  The other three had tipped over and split apart.

IMG_0051_1_300xWorse yet, two of them had been blown down the steep bank in front of the honey house and it took quite an effort to recover them.  Amazingly, bees in the biggest one, which went down the bank, came out to see what was going on when I stood it back upright, and seemed no worse for the experience.

Of course there is no way of knowing what effect all of this will have had; possibly queens have been lost or damaged, but we live in hope that some at least will have come through unscathed.

At the time of writing we are in the middle of storm Henry;  I wonder what I will find tomorrow morning?