All last years main lectures can be viewed on YouTube from Lecture Videos.
There is no booking for lectures, seats are available on a first come first served bases.
The lecture programme may change for a variety of reasons. Substitutions may have a different topic from that intended and with a different speaker.
Main Lecture Programme
Gold Cup Suite
Thursday 26 October
9.00. Doors Open
9.30. Tom Seeley: The Bee Colony as a Honey Factory
11.00. Panel: One question may have several different answers
12.30. Will Steynor: Beekeeping as a Profitable Sideline
15.00. Kim Flottum: A Lot About Drones
16.30. Heather Mattila: Hardworking Bees Need Pollen!
18:00. Doors Close
Friday 27 October
9.00. Doors Open
9.30. Heather Mattila: Do we Have an Audacious Vision for the Future of Bees?
11.00. Tom Seeley: Hive Thirst: How Does a Honey Bee Colony Regulate its Water Collection?
14.00. Peter Tomkins: 70 Years Man and Bee
16.00. Heather Mattila: Well-mated Queens Produce the Busiest Bees
18:00. Doors Close
Saturday 28 October
8.30. Doors Open
9.00. Heather Mattila: A Novel Defence of Honey Bees Against Formidable Wasp Predators
10.30. Tom Seeley: The Bee Hive as an Information Centre
12.30. Roger Patterson: Honey Bees in the Wild - What Can we Learn From Them?
13.45. Tom Seeley: Honey Bees in the Wild - What Do We Know About How They Live?
15.00. Q&A and discussion based on both previous presentations.
The two lectures on Saturday afternoon are a "mini programme" on how bees live in the wild, with Roger Patterson describing what he has observed during 50 years of removing wild honey bee nests in Southern England, Tom Seeley explaining what he has discovered with his extensive experiments on wild colonies in the U.S. This should be a fascinating topic that is rarely addressed, coming from both practical and scientific angles. Will they agree or disagree? Will Tom provide answers for the many questions Roger will pose? Find out by attending both presentations, which will be followed by a discussion session. There will only be short breaks between presentations, with approximate timing.
16:30. Show Closes
Saturday 28 October
The Beginners Programme is intended for those who are in their early years of beekeeping, perhaps up to two years experience. The topics have been carefully chosen as being relevant to those new to the craft, with many of the things covered that beginners are often confronted with in their early years. The presenters are experienced beekeepers who are used to teaching, so they will pitch their presentations at the relevant level, with little or no overlap.
It is strongly recommended that beginners attend all presentations and that local beekeeping associations or groups encourage their members to attend. It may be attendees are visiting the National Honey Show for the first time, so the programme has been arranged to allow time for beginners to see the exhibits and visit the trade stands.
09.00 Roger Patterson: I've Got my Bees - Now What?
10.45 Meg Seymour: How do I know what that is? Is it a goodie or a baddie?
12.45 Pat Lehain: Oh No, Queen Cells! Managing Swarming Better
14.15 Daisy: The Rise and Fall of the Colony Throughout the Year
Beginners who have enjoyed these lectures in the past, may wish to enrol for Workshops, where the topics are covered in more detail.
Bee Craft Research Lectures
Friday 27 October
09:30 Mario Vallejo-Marin Buzzing bees: The use of vibrations in pollen collection (Univ of Stirling).
10:45 Nicola Burns Genetic studies of European Foulbrood (Univ of York).
12:00 Dominic Clarke The bee, the flower, and the electric field (Univ of Bristol).
13:15 Ben Woodcock Neonicotinoids and bees (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford).
14:30 Emily Bailes The Pollination of Field Beans to improve crop yield (Royal Holloway, Univ of London).
15:45 Jonathan Pattrick Grip, slip, petals and pollinators: The biomechanics of plant-pollinator interactions (Univ of Cambridge).
Thomas D. Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University. His research focuses on the behavior, social life, and ecology of honey bees. He has been an avid beekeeper since he was 16, hence for nearly 50 years. He is the author of several books on bees: Honeybee Ecology (1985) The Wisdom of the Hive (1995), Honeybee Democracy (2010), and Following the Wild Bees (2016). For fun, besides beekeeping he enjoys bee trapping (catching swarms in bait hives) and bee hunting (finding wild colonies by bee lining). He lives in Ithaca, New York.
The bee colony as a honey factory
We will explore how a colony of honey bees operates as a factory that produces honey efficiently despite tremendous day-to-day swings in the supply of nectar, the raw material for making honey. An important feature of the organization of the honey production process is a division of labor between the nectar foragers, elderly workers who toil outside the hive collecting the nectar, and the nectar receivers, middle-age workers who toil inside the hive converting the nectar into honey. We will see how the bees can boost their colony’s rate of nectar collecting during a honey flow, using the waggle dance and the shaking signal. And we will see how the bees can also boost their colony’s rate of nectar processing—to keep the rates of nectar collecting and nectar processing in balance—by means of the tremble dance and stop signal.
Hive thirst: how a colony regulates its water collection
Water collection is essential to two parts of the physiology of a honey bee colony: thermoregulation of the broodnest and nutrition of the larvae. When overheating of the broodnest threatens on a hot day, a colony must increase its water intake. And when a colony is rearing brood but is not gathering much nectar, then it must boost its water intake to produce the watery (70-80% water) food for the larvae. We will look at how a colony's water collectors precisely start and stop their collection of water as a colony's need for water rises and falls.
The bee colony as an information center
Whenever foraging is possible, a honey bee colony must solve the problem of keeping its foragers optimally allocated among the flower patches that its scouts have found. Flower patches that are large and highly profitable should be allocated many foragers, while those that are small or less profitable should be allocated relatively few foragers. We will look at how a honey bee colony solves this highly dynamic problem, and we will see that the logic of the solution that they have evolved (the so-called "Honey Bee Algorithm") is extremely important to human beings as well, for we use the same logic for allocating server computers (analogous to worker bees) among web sites (analogous to flower patches) around the world.
Honey bees in the wild: What do we know about how they live?
The ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor, and the viruses that it transmits, usually kill the colonies of European honey bees that are kept by beekeepers unless they are treated with miticides. Nevertheless, in Europe and North America there exist populations of wild honey bee colonies that are infested with Varroa and that receive no miticide treatments. We will review the results of genetic studies of one population of wild colonies in New York State that have revealed how these bees have changed genetically over the past 20 years, probably due to natural selection for resistance to Varroa. We will also review the results of ecological studies of non-genetic factors (small nests, frequent swarming, etc.) that are also helping these wild colonies to survive without miticide treatments. We will conclude by considering what lessons about beekeeping we can learn from these honey bees living in the wild.
When I was growing up my father kept 3 WBC hives with colonies at the end of the garden. I was always interested and particularly loved the honey, but the closest I got was accidentally kicking the hives when playing chase.
I finally started keeping my own hives about 25 years ago with 2 hives on an allotment, but rapidly moved up to 5 colonies and had a lovely site in an old walled garden for several years. I was encouraged to take the basic exam and worked my way through the BBKA module system. Although I found some parts incredibly boring, I have found the basic fundamental theory of keeping bees to be a great help as I have progressed with my own beekeeping. I was also lucky enough to win the Wax Chandlers prize in 2008.
Currently, I have about 25 hives on several different sites and concentrate on queen rearing rather than honey production. My job as a Seasonal Bee Inspector since 2008 has given me a huge amount of experience and the chance to see a great variety of hive types and ways of keeping bees.
How do I know what that is? Is it a goodie or a baddie?
This presentation is intended to encourage beekeepers to look closely when inspecting a colony as this makes it easier to learn and understand what is going on. Constant observation when inspecting bees will help beginners to develop the knowledge and experience to know what is normal. It then becomes easier to spot something that is different, but what is it? It could be perfectly natural or a potential problem that needs attention. This lecture will cover some of the many normal things you need to recognise as well as others, including varroa related signs, which affects all beekeepers.
Many beekeepers are scared of the prospect of finding brood disease in their hives and so are reluctant to look! Getting over this hurdle and being able to see the brood to examine it properly is the first step. So I am going to talk about how to go about this - using glasses when necessary and removing bees in an appropriate fashion is the first skill to learn. Once into the brood box, understanding what you are looking at and knowing what is healthy is the next step. Even if you cannot remember or have never learnt the signs and symptoms of the notifiable diseases, being able to identify and therefore dismiss minor problems such as drone laying queens and chalk brood before calling for back up is important for all beekeepers.
Varroosis (parasitic mite syndrome) is not a disease but is a result of infestation by varroa mites and is quite common. Although mites are found in the vast majority of colonies throughout the British Isles, when they are kept at low levels there is often not a serious problem. However, once the numbers build up, even without the affect of virus’ as well, the damage to the brood can be quite clear but difficult to diagnose. Varroosis is a frequent reason for call-outs of inspectors so understanding what makes the difference in symptoms is important. Monitoring for mite numbers and then doing something about them is an important part of beekeeping today and also helps to reduce brood problems, keeping your bees healthier as well as making foul brood easier to diagnose.
Daisy is a horticulturist, has a degree in Field Biology and has been keeping bees since 2006. In that time she has acquired a tremendous amount of experience with her own and others’ bees. She is a member of the Wisborough Green Beekeepers Association and a valued demonstrator and teacher at their training apiary. Daisy completed her BBKA exams and in 2012 became a Master Beekeeper.
Daisy currently has 30 colonies with one hive located in the local primary school. Every week during term time, 6 children assist her with inspecting the bees. So far, over 60 children have experienced handling bees, a project she is very proud of. One student completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Scheme with Daisy during 2016, the whole project being based around bees and beekeeping.
Daisy also gives a number of very useful talks throughout the region (Sussex) both to beekeeping and non-beekeeping groups and can usually be seen at the annual South of England Show, explaining the ins and outs of bees to the visiting public.
The rise and fall of the colony throughout the year
Daisy is going to look back at her beekeeping year. Sharing the mistakes made (there were some) and the things that worked well (there were some). She'll look at how to prepare and plan for the coming season, including that sudden flow of OSR, swarming, how to approach extraction and when to do it, as well as preparing the colony for winter. Working with the bees is very much the emphasis of this talk, with lots of sound practical advice.
Kim Flottum has been the Editor of Bee Culture Magazine for over 30 years. He has a background in honey bee research, horticultural research and commercial horticulture. He is the author of several popular beekeeping books covering beginning, intermediate and commercial aspects of the craft along with a co-authored text on varietal honey tasting. He has edited 3 editions of ABC&XYZ, and more than a dozen other beekeeping books while with the magazine. He and his wife Kathy have been privileged to attend and speak at several National Honey Shows. They live in NE Ohio, near Cleveland, with their bees, cats and chickens.
A Lot About Drones
Drones receive the least attention from beekeepers because mostly they make few contributions to the life of the hive. But we’ll uncover some of the more important roles they play, look at normal, and not so normal behaviors, study the life cycle, health issues, and their retirement program. And then, we’ll learn how to take a drone for a stroll around a classroom.
Peter Tomkins has over 70 years beekeeping experience. For 40 of those years he worked at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden: 4 years as apiary assistant, 14 years as assistant to Dr. Colin Butler involved with the pioneering research identifying "queen substance" the queen pheromone and 22 years as head apiarist. From 1948 - 52 he was employed as an apiarist by Mead Makers Ltd. a commercial enterprise running over 300 colonies of bees in Cornwall. Peter has had his own bees since 1956 and at one stage, with the help of his wife Sonia, was running around 70 colonies. After his retirement from full time employment in 1992 he acted as consultant for 3 years to a company, Inscentinal, who were developing a detection system using "sniffer bees" and until 2011 was employed on a casual basis helping with the beekeeping at Rothamsted.
70 Years Man and Bee
This presentation will describe the very unusual and interesting beekeeping experiences of Peter Tomkins, who was lucky enough to have worked with the bees and researchers at Rothamsted during the time that queen substance was discovered. As an experimental establishment there were many other experiments done which required co-operation between researchers and the apiarists. We will learn about some of these, together with many other experiences gained during more than 70 years of beekeeping.
Heather Mattila completed her Ph.D. in 2005 at the University of Guelph (Canada), where her research focused on the effects of nutritional stress on colony health and productivity (with advisor Dr. Gard Otis). She subsequently completed a four-year postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University (USA), where her research shifted to an examination of the mating behavior by honey bee queens and its impact on the colonies that they produce (with advisor Dr. Tom Seeley). Heather has been a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College in Massachusetts since 2009. At Wellesley, her research continues to focus on mechanisms of social communication and organization, including honey bee behavior, the chemical ecology of colonies, the microbiology of queens and workers, and impact of nutritional stress on workers. Her research program is supported by a dedicated group of Wellesley students, collaborations with colleagues from universities across North America, and by 20–40 colonies of honey bees on the Wellesley College campus.
Well-mated queens produce the busiest bees
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that the promiscuous mating behavior of honey bee queens has clear benefits for colony health and productivity. The ancestral state for bees, ants, and wasps – all members of the dynamic insect group Order Hymenoptera – is presumed to be monandry (a single mate per queen). However, queens of every honey bee species are extremely polyandrous (multiple mates per queen). While mating with multiple males is a risky business for honey bee queens, it simultaneously boosts levels of genetic diversity in each colony by introducing into work forces multiple subfamilies of workers who carry genes from many drone fathers. I’ll discuss the reasons why beekeepers and researchers are paying attention to this strange quirk of honey bee mating biology.
Hardworking bees need pollen!
Some of the most important tasks that workers perform are nursing and foraging. Foragers bring into colonies the food that fuels the capacity of nurses to care for developing larvae. Pollen is particularly important for colonies because it is their primary source of the building blocks that are essential for worker growth and development, including proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. I will describe how pollen stress during the early days of larval development creates a lasting legacy of poor task performance by workers when they are adult nurses and foragers. This research shows why hardworking adult workers require consistent availability of pollen-based brood food during the early part of their lives, and how the success of colonies’ pollination services could be impacted by a loss of the type of foraging habitat that provides a reliable supply of this critical bee food.
A novel defense of honey bees against formidable wasp predators
Despite being some of the most studied insects in the world, honey bees continue to surprise us with the complexity of their social behaviors. In parts of its range, the Asian honey bee is known to employ the spectacular tactic of “heat balling” to defend colonies against mass attack by giant hornets. In Vietnam, we observed a novel response of honey bees to attack—worker bees search for, collect, and then plaster animal dung and other “filth” around their colony entrances to thwart attack. Not only is this the first report of an exciting new defense of honey bees against giant wasp predators, it is also the first observation of the collection and manipulation of filth by any honey bee species. Are bees using tools? I’ll discuss our field work and findings from Vietnam with the perspective of a researcher working for the first time with an unfamiliar species of honey bee.
Do we have an audacious vision for the future of bees?
In December 2016, a diverse group of people gathered at a working conference in California to discuss bold and evidence-based ideas to increase the prosperity of honey bees and wild bee pollinators, as well as the beekeepers and pollination managers who work with them. This was a unique conference that brought together beekeepers, researchers, extension specialists, and members of advocacy groups. The conference was sparked by Mark Winston’s “Manifesto” (published in 2015 in Bee Culture Magazine), which called for beekeepers to re-envision their role as stewards of honey bees and promoters of healthy environments. Using the approach of “dialogue” over this two-day conference, participants brainstormed ways to reach this goal. As one of the conference’s facilitators, I will bring to the National Honey Show some of the audacious ideas that were generated by this enthusiastic collective.
Having spent the first 30 years in and around London, I moved down to the West Country over 20 years ago. After a spell living in Cornwall and Devon, I have settled in Somerset and started beekeeping about 15 years ago. After a period managing rather too many hives, I now keep around a dozen colonies on a mix of Commercial, single and double National.
Oh No, Queen Cells! Managing Swarming Better
The swarming season is often viewed with unease by beekeepers. The methods we read about or are taught often seem not to work when we carry them out and the reasons are often unclear. Uncontrolled swarming frequently presents difficult consequences for us, other householders and perhaps surprisingly the bees themselves. We will look at why bees swarm, what can be the consequences when they do, why popular control methods often fail and some of the simple methods we can adopt that should put us back in control and better able to help our bees. These should hopefully help us reduce stress and manage this natural process to both our (and the bees) advantage.
Will Steynor started keeping bees in 1964 having built a WBC hive in a woodwork class at school. In the mid-70’s he decided to expand his hobby into a business running 70 hives as a side line alongside his career as an airline pilot. He joined the Bee Farmers Association in 1978 and ran his business until 1993 when he sold his operation and returned to the ranks of the hobby beekeeper.
Beekeeping as a Profitable Side Line
This s a lecture about turning a hobby into a business and the challenges this represents when the time available to devote to it is limited. The various options to maximise the income from a small number of hives will be looked at along with ways of modifying equipment to enable the operation to run as efficiently as possible. The talk concludes with a section on marketing produce and putting on beekeeping demonstrations at a craft show.
Roger Patterson started keeping bees in his native West Sussex in 1963. He is a practical beekeeper who has learnt a lot by observing bees and beekeepers. Roger has been a demonstrator at the Wisborough Green BKA teaching apiary for over 40 years and is currently the Apiary Manager, where there are normally more than 30 colonies for tuition. For about 15 years he had 130 colonies of his own, but is now down to around 25. In addition to writing, Roger speaks and demonstrates widely on the practical aspects of beekeeping, where he is usually seen with his well known border collie Nell. He owns and runs the Dave Cushman website http://www.dave-cushman.net/, which is considered to be one of the world's most comprehensive beekeeping websites.
Honey Bees in the Wild – What Can we Learn From Them?
In over 50 years of beekeeping Roger Patterson has been involved in removing several hundred wild colonies of honey bees from trees and buildings, many of them pre-varroa. Since varroa arrived, so killing colonies earlier than normal, it is difficult to fully observe what happens over the natural life span of a wild colony. Outside influences, such as land management, have changed considerably over several thousand years, so bees have had to adapt in order to survive, which they have done very successfully until fairly recently. By observation, Roger has learnt a lot about how wild colonies survived with little intervention from man. This has convinced him that perhaps we should review some of our “standard” management methods and thinking. Honey bee colonies don't always do what we are told they should do, so by following advice without understanding what the colony is trying to achieve, we may be working against them. Learning how a natural colony works may help beekeepers manage their own colonies in a more caring way that suits the bees better, instead of the "beekeeping by numbers" approach so often employed.
I’ve Got My Bees - Now What?
Many beginners are enthusiastic about their new hobby, but are often confronted with problems, or what they may see as problems, soon after acquiring their first bees. The learning of the "basics" should be done at an early stage and is important in trying to understand what is happening in a colony. The knowledge gained makes it easier to spot a possible problem and help the beekeeper to deal with it.
The level of advice and support for new beekeepers varies a lot, depending on the resources available locally. It is well known that if "X" number of beekeepers are asked the same question there will be "Y" number of answers, or in some cases "Y+Z"! What should a new beekeeper believe? How can they sort the wheat from the chaff? Will their bees suffer? Will they buy something they don't need? Confusion is not the most effective or enjoyable way of keeping bees.
Roger Patterson has been teaching beekeeping for over 40 years. He is a prolific writer, speaker and demonstrator who understands what beekeepers, especially those new to the craft, need to know in order to keep their bees in a caring and productive manner. This is a fairly wide ranging presentation, highlighting some of the myths and false logic in beekeeping, yet full of practical advice. There will be suggestions on what to be aware of, sound resources to consult and what to study in the early stages of beekeeping.
NHS Thursday 26 October 11.00 Panel
One question may have several different answers
In previous years there has been little for attendees to do before the Honey Show is opened, so for 2017 a "Question and Answer" session has been introduced. There will be a panel of experienced beekeepers to answer questions posed by the audience. These sessions are usually very productive as beekeepers get answers to questions that are relevant to their own beekeeping. Please bring along your own questions for the panel to answer. As ever, there may be several answers, which could be for a number of reasons. It may be that one question leads to discussion on a relevant topic.
Dr. Mario Vallejo-Marín is an Associate Professor at the University of Stirling. Mario started his academic career studying plant-animal interactions in the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He went on to complete a PhD at Duke University studying the evolution of plant sexual diversity using the potato genus, Solanum, as a model system. After a two year postdoc at the University of Toronto studying the evolution of pollination strategies, Mario moved to the United Kingdom as a Lecturer at the University of Stirling. Over the past 10 years Mario has studied buzz-pollination, a peculiar mechanism in which some bees use high frequency vibrations to remove pollen from flowers with specialised morphologies. His current work on buzz pollination focuses on understanding how floral characteristics including size and shape affect their interaction with buzz-pollinating bees.
Nicola started her PhD titled ‘The genetic and environmental factors affecting virulence of EFB, a bacterial pathogen on honey bees’, in October 2016. It is a 4-year project funded by BBSRC and by BDI through an industrial CASE partnership with Fera. She is supervised by Dr Thorunn Helgason and Dr Ville Friman at University of York and by Dr Giles Budge at Fera. She will be finding out which genetic factors predict whether a bacterial strain is deadlier to the bee larvae or likely to remain persistent in bees. After graduating, Nicola worked as a Research Technician studying antibiotic resistance at the University of Sheffield before returning to her studies last year.
I completed my PhD in sensory biophysics in the University of Bristol in 2015, where I currently still work as a research associate. During my PhD I was able to show that bumble bees can detect and measure the weak electric fields given off by flowers. My research since then has been aimed at understanding the sensory biology of this phenomenon. How does this sensory ability work? What information is carried by these electrical signals? What are the sizes of the forces involved? How is this information useful to bees? What other electrical signals are there out in the world that bees might be able to detect?
Emily did her undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford, where she specialized in plant biology and evolution. Her interest in the pollination of flowers took her to the University of Cambridge where she undertook her doctoral research investigating the flower traits of the field bean and how they could be selected for to improve crop yield by attracting more bee pollinators to the crop. She is now working as a post-doctoral research assistant on bumblebee diseases and how floral traits may influence disease transmission.
I am in the final year of a PhD in pollinator-plant interactions at the University of Cambridge, working with Beverley Glover and Walter Federle. Specifically I am interested in the physical interactions between bees and the flowers they are visiting, investigating what attachment devices the bees use, how these vary between species, and how plants may help or hinder the interaction. I am fascinated by the ecology and behaviour of social insects, particularly enjoy getting out into the field to see these for myself. Previous to my current work, I completed undergraduate and Masters degrees in Zoology at the University of St Andrews.
Ben Woodcock is an Ecological Entomologist in the Community Ecology Group at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford. He gained his BSc in zoology followed by a PhD both from Imperial College London. He is involved in research developing applied management solutions to enhancing ecosystems service delivery and biodiversity within arable and grassland ecosystems. This has focussed principally on the development of agri-environment schemes, which are the main policy mechanism for changing the management of UK farming systems. His research has included projects for both the UK government (eg Defra and Natural England) and private sector (Syngenta). Ben’s research has been underpinned by a mechanistic understanding of the competitive interactions and trade-offs between invertebrates and the plant communities. This has been at a variety of spatial scales, from small scale through farm scale monitoring to landscape scale analysis. He was the lead researcher on the recent CEH field trials on the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees.
Page updated: 03/09/17
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Federation of Middlesex Beekeepers
Mr R Blaxland