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June 16, 2019

Howard Jones, based at the University of East Anglia, gave a fascinating talk about the research project, "Orchards East - Recording, Conserving, Creating". If anyone is interested in volunteering for local orchard surveying, more information is available on www.orchardseast.org.uk

With thanks to Sally and John for hosting the meeting and for the photo.

June 3, 2019

Videos kindly provided by Lizzie Beard

In an excellent set of practical sessions, Robert and Douglas Pickford demonstrated a popular method of raising queen cells. Worker larvae - the smallest larvae that can be handled easily (approx 24-36 h old) - were transferred using a grafting tool from cells on the comb into artificial queen cell cups on a cell bar. 

Queen bees were raised in a colony with two brood chambers. The lower brood chamber containing a strong colony with the queen, queen excluder and two supers, and on top the second brood chamber containing eggs, larvae and the cell cup bars. This system encourages nurse bees, which are isolated from the queen in the lower brood chamber, to raise queen cells in the artificial cups. Ten days after grafting, the cell cups were checked and successful grafts, with sealed queen cells present, were ready to transfer into mini-nucs containing a 'baked bean tin' of bees. 

Fourteen days after grafting, each mini-nuc was inspected for evidenc...

November 29, 2018

Saffron Walden Division took time to celebrate its centenary during a Christmas Social and Quiz night held on the 29 th November.
The evening was held at The Three Horseshoes pub in Duton Hill.
The quiz included beekeeping related questions, as well as questions about Saffron Walden and general knowledge. There was much laughter and a good time was had by all.
Tony Yeats, Chairman,(in picture) made a short speech about the history of the division. A special cake in the shape of a WBC Hive was made to mark the occasion. At the end of the evening attendees were gifted cupcakes decorated with bees and flowers.

August 26, 2018

A rather rainy Sunday morning saw us setting up Saffron Walden Beekeepers entries for the horticultural element of the Countess of Warwick show. This large farm show, held in Little Easton, has a long history and is run by a group of volunteers raising money for the local 5 Parishes churches. As well as a horticultural show, there are various stalls and exhibits, animal demonstrations, craft stalls, classic cars, ploughing competitions etc.

The 5 classes being judged by Mike Barke from Harlow were: Clear honey; Creamed honey; Natural-Set honey; Honey Cake and Candles.

We were pleased with more entries this year than last, with most coming from the Clear Honey and Honey Fruit Cake classes. It was fascinating going around with Mike and watching and learning from his methodical process of judging and eliminating.

The overall standard in all classes was high and Mike was particularly impressed with the quality of honey; which shows that as a division we do seem to know what we’re doing. It is...

May 29, 2018

Robert Pickford demonstrated the equipment he uses for grafting cells to produce new queens. Short video (with thanks to Lizzie Beard) was taken of Robert checking the success rate of recent grafts. 

December 1, 2017

Somewhat different but equally absorbing was the ‘Bee Improvement for all’ day, lead by Roger Patterson at Sewards End.

Roger is a well known speaker and promoter of breeding better bees. He is based in Sussex and has worked through the divisional apiary to improve the local bee stock, with good temper being an absolute priority. 

He and his dog gave 4 sessions working through the strategies to use, the criteria for good bees and the changes he has observed over his beekeeping life. Collaboration with others was strongly encouraged together with a willingness to be ruthless in grading and culling the less desirable queens.

If you haven’t heard him speak, keep an eye out for future events. You may not agree with him about everything but you will evaluate your own beekeeping and perhaps plan how you will change your own practice.

As usual, Sally had refreshments under control, the biscuits (chosen by the strategy of picking the multi-buy deals) were well received and the use and reuse of deg...

November 13, 2017

The Thaxted Day centre was the venue for  Arthur Davey, Master of the Worshipful Company of Chandlers to tell us all about the history of the company and give us many insights into its historic and current activities.

A definite buzz of approval was heard as we were told about the history of the phrase ‘at 6s and 7s’ and why we refer to carnival ‘’floats’.

We were intrigued by the depictions of beekeeping from the past and could not always understand fully what was being shown. There were the usual signs of a successful meeting with much discussion after both on the beekeeping links and the insights into the customs of the City of London.

Our thanks to Deryck Johnson for suggesting this meeting and for Arthur for an excellent presentation.

April 24, 2017

Our bees and other pollinators and more widely, the animals and plants in our countryside know nothing of the June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. They don’t know that it took place nor the outcome, nor the ongoing ramifications, arguments, hopes and fears. Nonetheless there may be implications for wildlife and beekeepers.

The drivers of change will almost certainly be found in the interplay between:

  •  Changes to food and farming policy as the UK finds its way starting with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and moving to something else of our own choosing

  • Environmental Regulation including responses to pollution and climate change

  • Farmer and landowner attitudes, fears and ambitions

  • Agricultural economics including cost of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides due to world prices and UK exchange rate

  • Labour availability

  • Food policy and the power exerted by food manufacturers and supermarkets

  • Changes in th...

March 22, 2017

I am writing this on the International Day of Forests.

Trees have always fascinated me. Their variety of form, their longevity, the way in which they give shape to our landscapes, particularly in the East of England where hills are modest, mountains are absent and throughout the year it is the trees that mark the season particularly in spring and autumn.


Trees have shaped our architecture, provided materials for much of our furniture and timber is often the ‘canvas’ for decorative carving.

Latterly we have become aware of the symbiosis between trees and mycorrhizal fungi, the complex underground network that physically connects trees with their offspring and their peers – and even between species. The role of trees in creating and supporting biodiversity is breathtaking. They do have a finite life span and need our care and attention.

While contemplating trees and watching my bees out and about in the spring weather I wondered if I could add anything to the familiar truth t...

August 25, 2016

Feral Bees – what are they?
They are normal honeybees that at some point have swarmed and taken up residence in a hollow tree, a cavity wall, a chimney, a soffit or other amenable place. Amenable place meaning it is of suitable size (typically > 3 cubic feet / 80 litres), unaffected by overheating or ingress of water, preferably a few metres above ground. They may be the result of an earlier feral colony that swarmed. If the comments below are correct, then a feral colony that survives long enough to generate a swarm may be a rare thing. I spoke recently with a local beekeeper that was called to assist with an established wild colony that had left its home in an old tree in a public area.
What happens to feral colonies?
The following comment is an extract from The Kent Beekeepers’ website: From 1994 in South East England conditions have changed, there are thousands of colonies fewer, the Environment is adversely affected, an Asiatic mite, varroa destructor is here,...

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