Dear FBKA Members,

As you may have seen, Defra and the National Bee Unit advise us to continue good beekeeping within the COVID restrictions. If you have hives away from home then it is ‘essential travel’ to visit for bee management and health checks. There is no restriction on moving colonies provided it is essential for good management or health of the bees.

Difficulties may arise if you are self isolating and unable to reach hives away from  home or too ill to cope with your home colonies. If you do not have a nearby fellow beekeeper to call on then help is on hand. Do, please, contact me and I will arrange for  a competent beekeeper nearby to call you to arrange assistance.

Telephone no.: 01539 532276 / 07484 678589 and email:

Of course, anybody visiting your home must follow the Government advice on physical distancing. There is specific guidance from the Bee Unit about not sharing tools and cleaning equipment.

Of course, our advice in the last message was to leave the bees alone until it is warmer. Well, there is some prospect of some warmer weather this week and I know many of you relatively new to bee-keeping will be itching to get in to your hive(s) to see what is going on. IF you do decide to look in this week – even though it is not necessary if all the signs mentioned last time are good – here’s a reminder of what to look for.

First, the standard principles of inspections:

•        Is the queen laying satisfactorily?

•        Are there any drone cells ?

•        Are there any queen cells?

•        Is the colony build-up consistent with other colonies in the apiary?

•        Are there signs of disease or abnormality?

•        Has the colony sufficient stores to last to the next inspection?

•        Has the colony got sufficient room for expansion and stores?

The second and third in that list are more likely to be of interest later in the season, of course.

Finding eggs is the key indicator that all is well. Take your time if you’re new to it and use the light to the best effect you can to see to the bottom of those cells.

Next, this first inspection is the time to clean up and sort out, after the winter. You can clean off brace comb and excess propolis and you should take the opportunity to remove any old brood frames that are not yet being used by the queen and are dirty / damaged and replace them with either cleaner drawn frames or frames of foundation. It is also a good idea to lift the brood box off and get right down the floor which you can either replace with a clean one or sweep the current one clean of dead bees and other detritus.

If you’ve found the queen in the brood box (or if there was no super on over winter) you can now put on a queen excluder and a super above it.

Remember to keep a record of what you’ve seen.

If you have an unmarked queen, you’re concerned about the possibility of disease or if there is anything else you feel unable to resolve, that is the time to get in touch, as mentioned above.


Dick Smith

Dear FBKA Members,

Our Associated activity is – on hold. The apiary at Haverthwaite is closed. Progress on the new Outcast apiary is paused (though everything is in place to go forward as soon as we have the opportunity).

The bees, however, are about their usual business and if you are relatively new to keeping you might appreciate some guidance. We can’t easily visit sites at the moment but we can offer advice remotely. Here’s a little. (Experienced members can skip this bit.)

We’ve at last had some fair March weather and the bees should have been flying. For the moment, we recommend you watch. See if there is pollen going in to the hive. If there is, there is almost certainly brood in there, which means a laying queen, which means you can leave them to get on with it.

We would NOT recommend starting inspections yet. They can be left to build up and a truly warm day in mid April is plenty early enough for the first inspection. (If you’ve already gone ahead and looked in, that’s not disastrous. Neither was it necessary.)

You can “heft” the hive (a gentle lift from the back). If it seems very light, you could open the hive enough to see the top of the cluster and put some fondant / candy on with an eke to make space. Make sure the bees are reaching it. They are so active now that this usually means you can put it on the crown board over a hole and simply use the lid space instead of an eke. Sometimes it is the larger colonies that need this feed most – especially if they’ve made an early start with brood and have been using up their stores at a rate.

If there have been few or no bees flying from and to a hive on these warm days then you will need to look in. If the colony is dead or dwindled to a handful of bees with no eggs, you should CLOSE THE HIVE. This will prevent other bees getting in to rob out any remaining stores and possibly carrying out disease. The hive should then be fumigated with acetic acid as soon as possible. (If you find a queen with just a scattered handful of bees and no eggs, I’m afraid there’s no option but to despatch her.)

Remember, you haven’t lost a colony, you’ve gained some spare equipment!

We have fondant/candy available. If you need some, please ring me – Dick Smith – on 07484 678589 or send a text. I’ll try to arrange a means of pick-up or delivery with all the usual social distances.

Finally, you’ll note that this message is not coming directly from David. His situation at home means that he cannot give very much attention to the work of the Association at present. He’ll be keeping up with what is  - and isn’t – happening but if you have queries it is best to address them to me or to Jim Knight or another experienced member for the time being.


Dick Smith

Previous Updates

Dear FBKA Members,

Many of you will have had first peek inside your hives and the bees are certainly enjoying the fine weather. A little rain would not go amiss, though, to get the nectar flowing. We should all say a quiet thank you to dandelions, perhaps; their deep roots are providing at the moment.

We’ve had some contacts from Julia Hoggard, our Seasonal Bee Inspector, and several of you will have heard from her directly. She has requested that we all remain vigilant for the Asian Hornet and also bear the small hive beetle in mind; keeping both from our shores relies on every bee-keeper’s vigilance. They are , of course, “notifiable” pests. That means we are required by law to inform the NBU if we spot them. While we’re on pests, it may be worth putting a varroa board under a hive or two to check that these, the pests that are always with us now, are not building up.

Julia has also requested an up to date list of members so that she can keep up with who is keeping bees in the area. We will supply this (unless you asked us not to on your membership form) so please let Carole Barr know if any of your significant contact details have changed.

Finally, and particularly for those in their early seasons of beekeeping, make sure you are providing space for any particularly large colonies – of which there are some already. These fine springs can produce some early swarming and there have already been some reports of prospecting scouts.

Please remember, if you have any difficulties and whether new to bee-keeping or an old hand, do get in touch and we will find a way to assist. If you are not yet practised in queen-marking, now is a good time for this job as the colonies are still building up and she is easier to find. Let us know if you need someone to come and do this for you.

My contact details again: 01539532276; 07484678589; .


Dick Smith

Dear Members and Prospective Bee-keepers

It had been a long dark – enclosed – winter. Normal for bees, I suppose but not for us.

However, there is light. As things are currently projected, we hope to be able to open up the apiaries this spring. It looks as if numbers at each session will need to be limited to six per session, at first. This means we will have to operate a booking system.

Sessions will consist of practical demonstration and instruction in inspecting colonies, combined with some of the introduction to bees and bee-keeping that would normally have been covered in our March lectures in Greenodd Village Hall. Those, clearly, have not been possible this year.

If you would like to book a session – 10.30 to 11.30 on a Saturday morning, at either Haverthwaite or Outcast – please contact our Secretary, David Oprey by emailing at or via mobile or text on 07834545408 no later than the Tuesday so that he can allocate spaces for the following Saturday.

Information he requires is:


Contact details:

Apiary you wish to attend:

Current Beekeeper or Prospective Beekeeper:  

He will then allocate spaces and inform people no later than 6pm on the Thursday of each week, once sessions have begun. He will let you know the dates available, once they’re confirmed.


Dick Smith