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National Honey Show

Lecture Programme for Beginners

Lecture Programme 2019

Quick links: Main Programme, Beginners Programme, Bee Craft Programme.

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.

Please be aware that National Honey Show Members and those with a daily admission ticket can attend lectures and book into Workshops.

The lecture programme may change for a variety of reasons. Substitutions may have a different topic from that intended and with a different speaker.

Download the Full Timetable [162KB PDF]

Main Lecture Programme

Gold Cup Suite

Thursday 24th October
09:00 Doors Open
09:30 Ralph Büchler: Varroa resistance characters and selection protocols
11:00 John Donoghue: Managing Bees For the Honey Crop
12:30 Jo Widdicombe: The Principles of Bee Improvement
15:00 Ralph Büchler: Environmental adaptation of honey bees and its consequences for selection
16:30 Harmen van der Ende: Our Beekeeping method on the island Terschelling
18:00 Doors Close

Friday 25th October
09:00 Doors Open
09:30 Mary Montaut Bees & Plants: the Best of Friends
11:00 Ralph Büchler: Sustainable Varroa management based on biological and technical methods
14:00 John Chambers: Basic Honey Bee Genetics For Beekeepers
16:00 Shona Blair: Honey - a sweet solution against superbugs
18:00 Doors Close

Saturday 26th October
08:30 Doors Open
09:00 Irene Power: Efficient beekeeping for the busy Beekeeper
10:30 Simon Rees: Langstroth: father of modern beekeeping or a man in the right place at the right time?
13:00 Ralph Büchler: Understanding the complex biology of honey bee colonies and its links to colony health
14:30 Simon Rees: How bees fly
15:45 Presentation of Trophies and Awards
17:00 Show Closes

Lecture Programme for Beginners

Saturday 26th 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.

Grandstand View

09:00 Roger Patterson: Sound and Simple Beekeeping
10:45 Brian Dennis: Winter through to Spring
12:45 Irene Power: Observations from outside the hive
14:15 Jim Ryan: Beekeeping without too many mistakes, How I manage my bees and why

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 25th October

Solario Suite

09:30 Harry Siviter: Royal Holloway, Uni of London Does a next generation pesticide pose a threat to bees?
11:00 Abigail Lowe: National Botanic Garden of Wales Investigating the value of gardens providing floral resources to pollinating insects.
12:30 Gabrielle Almecija: Uni of Tours and the CNRS Sensitivity / Resistance dynamic of varroa (Varroa destructor) to the acaricides: contribution to the integrated pest management.
14:00 Matthias Becher: Uni of Exeter Exploring bumblebee population dynamics.
15:30 William Boscawen: Maroude Craft Mead Getting Young People into the Bee Business.

Speaker Profiles and Presentations

Harry Siviter

2016 - Present – PhD candidate – Royal Holloway, University of London Research question: Do novel insecticides pose a threat to bumblebee colony fitness and behaviour? Supervised by: Dr Elli Leadbeater & Professor Mark J F Brown 2015 – 2016 – Research assistant – German Primate Centre (DPZ) Research question: Investigating the role of grunts in Guinea baboon communication. Responsibilities include - Focal observations, behavioural observations, playback experiments. 2014-2015 – MRes Biology – minor corrections, University of Lincoln (note: the UoL MSc programme awards pass/fail rather than pass/merit/distinction) Research question: Investigating the impact of egg incubation temperature on the behaviour and cognition of bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps). Supervised by: Professor Anna Wilkinson & Dr Charles Deeming 2011 – 2014 – 2:1 BSc (Hons) – Animal Behaviour Science – University of Lincoln.

Abigail Lowe

Abigail graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc. (Hons) in Biology in 2016. She is now in her third year of a KESS-funded PhD, registered with Bangor University and based full time at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. She has a passion for wildlife and the environment, with a particular interest in studying plant and pollinator genetics to tackle issues such as biodiversity decline and food security. Her PhD involves using DNA techniques to identify the plants visited by honeybees, wild bees.

Gabrielle Almecija

Passionate by nature, I decided to continue my study in biology and ecology. During my first year, I met a beekeeper. I stayed with him only 3 weeks, but I knew I was fallen in love with honeybees. Every summer holidays, I continued to work with other beekeepers from different regions and I worked with APINOV in 2015. Next to that, during the university period, I studied wild bees particularly in the city of Marseille. I became passionate by all bees. When I finished my master, I had the opportunity to work with APINOV and VITA beehealth on my PhD.

Matthias Becher

I first became fascinated by honeybees during my PhD at the University of Halle, Germany, studying the influence of developmental temperature on division of labour. I then moved to the UK to work with Prof Juliet Osborne at Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter to develop agent-based bee models of honey bees ("BEEHAVE") and bumble bees ("Bumble-BEEHAVE"). With these models we can explore how forage availability in the landscape affect colony development and population dynamics. Currently I am based at the University of Oxford, where I study plant-pollinator relationships.

Ralph Büchler

Ralph Büchler

Working with honey bees since his youth, Büchler studied agriculture and biology at Bonn University and finished his PhD in bee science. In 1990 he moved to the bee institute in Kirchhain which is one of the larger German training and research centres for beekeeping. Since 1997, he is leading the institute with its about 20 coworkers. Honey bee selection, disease resistance and alternative varroa treatment concepts are in the focus of Büchler´s research activities. He has participated in many national and international research projects like Smartbees, Coloss, Fitbee and is recently coordinating an EU study on varroa resistant stock and a national selection project on SMR. Büchler acts as the scientific adviser for the breeder association “Arbeitsgemeinschaft Toleranzzucht”. He is author of hundreds of papers, book contributions and scientific films.

Varroa resistance characters and selection protocols
Apis cerana as the natural host of Varroa destructor has developed effective resistance behaviors to cope with Varroa infestations without serious losses. And also from Apis mellifera several resistant populations are known by now which show interesting differences compared to susceptible populations. The mainly responsible characters of those resistant populations will be described. Together with the experience from different breeding programs a description of relevant characters and suitable testing protocols with regard to selective breeding will be given. Recent data on mite population development, hygiene behaviour, suppressed mite reproduction (SMR) and brood recapping (REC) will allow for a closer evaluation of the long term potential of resistant honey bees in European apiculture.

Environmental adaptation of honey bees and its consequences for selection
A recent European study showed strong genotype – environment interactions which do affect the productivity, behaviour and survivability of bee colonies. Some data will be presented to better understand for example the relevance of winter clustering or swarming tendency. If it is true, that the best bee has to be identified under local conditions, selection should be focused on local populations instead of importing breeding stock from external sources. And in general, preservation of the natural biodiversity of European honey bees has to be recognized as a priority objective. For those reasons, the EU funded SMARTBEES project ( supported the establishment of regional breeder groups in many European countries. A standard performance test protocol has been developed which enables access to modern breeding value estimation and improvement of local populations. Meanwhile, an “International Honey Bee Breeding Network (IHBBN)” was founded to support the cooperation of regional breeder groups and to further develop the strategy of “preservation by utilization”.

Sustainable Varroa management based on biological and technical methods
Most Varroa induced colony losses occur during the autumn or winter season in consequence of an insufficient health status of the winter bee population. Even when starting from a low initial mite infestation in early spring, critical mite and virus infection levels can be reached until the period of winter bee production if colonies continuously rear brood throughout the whole season. To overcome this situation beekeepers may learn from the brood dynamic of swarming colonies where the propagation of Varroa is interrupted by a brood break over several weeks at the peak of colony development which basically improves the health status of the hive. Several alternative biotechnical treatment strategies like total brood removal, trapping comb technique or queen caging are available to utilize the positive effects of a brood interruption without reducing the productivity in a modern beekeeping environment. The different requisites, advantages and disadvantages of those methods will be described in order to identify the most suitable procedure for a given beekeeping situation. In any case, colony losses due to Varroa can be avoided and the use of drugs can be minimized by a consequent use of these biotechnical measures in combination with the utilization of selected stock.

Understanding the complex biology of honey bee colonies and its links to colony health
Before we start to fight certain bee diseases and parasites we should ask how bee colonies cope with them under natural conditions and what may be the critical differences under modern beekeeping conditions. Why do swarms prefer to settle apart from the mothers nest, what can we learn from the inner nest structure, how does the complex mating biology of honey bees affect colony vitality? The idea will be followed that certain disease problems correspond with certain deficiencies in the natural self protection of colonies. Special attention will be paid to the natural brood and bee population dynamic of honey bees and its consequences for health protection. If we improve our understanding of these natural mechanisms we can improve our management concepts and develop strategies to control diseases and parasites by biological and biotechnical means. This will be explained with some practical examples from AFB, chalk brood and, most relevant, Varroa control.

Jo Widdicombe

Jo worked as a bee inspector for 5 years and now runs over 100 colonies, with the help of an apprentice, producing honey, queens and nucs for sale. Author of the book, "The Principles of Bee Improvement" which explains how to select and improve the quality of our bees from local stock rather than resorting to imported queens.
Jo is currently President of BIBBA.

The Principles of Bee Improvement
The talk will explain how I have gone about improving the quality of my bees by selecting from the stock in my area. After trying queens of various types I quickly got disillusioned with the results, at best short-term relief, and set about finding a more sustainable way to improve my bees. By simple methods we can maintain genetic diversity within the population and produce a hardy, locally adapted bee with qualities that can be built on year on year.

John Donoghue

John Donoghue

I grew up on a small farm in Co. Offaly Ireland and am a Carpenter/Joiner by trade. My first hive of bees was a swarm from a wild colony in the roof of the old farmhouse. My granduncle who kept bees all his life gave a hive to a neighbour and he helped hive the swarm. I was in primary school at the time. I manage 50 to 60 colonies, mostly national hives. I started to exhibit at honey shows in the mid 1970s and won my first trophy at the National in London in 1979. After many years exhibiting I now have the honour of judging at these shows and encourage new exhibitors. I have lectured to many associations over the years on the very practical craft of beekeeping and try to pass on some of the knowledge gained over more than forty years, some of which can only be passed on through touch and feel.

Managing Bees For the Honey Crop
Deals with knowing your local area and when to expect the main honey flow. Getting supers ready for run honey or cut comb. Maintaining strong stocks. Avoiding congestion, giving queens room to lay and providing space for incoming nectar . Predicting what might happen by reading the present situation. Minimise swarming and dealing with swarming colony.

Harmen van der Ende

Harmen is a beekeeper on the Island Terschelling in the North of the Netherlands. At the moment he owns 25 beehives on the west side of the island. He is a beekeeper since 2000 and his age is 56 years old. In his working life he is Senior Lecturer at the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz and owns a master degree in Maritime Innovation. His biggest hobby is beekeeping and he is specially interested in the native bees of the island (Apis mellifera mellifera). To preserve the black bees he is one of the organizers of a program to reach this goal. He is also involved organising the SICAMM conferences.

Our Beekeeping method on the island Terschelling
In this presentation a short history of beekeeping on Terschelling is discussed and some experiments we have done with different species of bees. Eventually we decided to keep our native bees and with these bees we have developed the beekeeping method I will describe.
This method has been used for a long time now and we are very satisfied with it. The method is based on the following important assumptions:
• As little intervention as possible in the hives.
• Swarm prevention/control as close as possible to a natural swarm.
• No selection on the best queens for honey production, but average based on how colonies handle normally (not aggressive).
• Providing spare queens.
• Brood break to reduce the amount of Varroa mites.
The steps to take are not very difficult and can be done by not very experienced beekeepers. From our experience using this method also reduces the total amount of Varroa mites to an acceptable level.
Our method will be explained from spring to autumn in steps, including a description of the inspections done by us. We have to note that this method is suitable for our island (Terschelling), where honey can be harvested in April and May (willow), in July and August (statice) and in August and/or September (heather).

Mary Montaut

Mary Montaut

Mary Montaut is the Editor of The Irish Beekeeper (An Beachaire). She has been keeping bees in Bray, Co. Wicklow, for about twenty years and regards herself as an Eternal Beginner, because there is always so much to find out and understand about bees. She also edits the Irish Garden Plant Society journal, which seems to complement her passion for bees. Her interest in honey bees has gradually extended to include all sorts of pollinators, and she is on the Steering Committee of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, representing the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations. However, she is the first to confess that she is more of an Eternal Student in both of these fields than any kind of specialist - always eager to learn and read more about the wonderful relationship between plants and bees.

Bees & Plants: the Best of Friends
The theme of this presentation is the mutualism between bees and plants. The aim will be to give you some simple principles on which you can make your gardening choices so that you will be benefitting the bees and other pollinators in your own patch, whether that be your garden, or an allotment, or just a window-box. There will be plenty of examples from my own garden, but also I will have regard for the different conditions of climate and soil, and I hope to encourage listeners to understand how best to cherish the pollinators in their own particular micro-climate.

Roger Patterson

Roger Patterson

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, which has helped him to develop his simple management system. Roger has been a demonstrator at the Wisborough Green BKA teaching apiary since the early 1970s and is currently the Apiary Manager, where there are normally over 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, who has recently been joined by a "Nell lookalike" called Rosie. He owns and runs the Dave Cushman website, which is considered to be one of the world's most comprehensive beekeeping websites.

Sound and Simple Beekeeping
This is a new presentation for the 2019 NHS Beginners Programme to help and encourage newer beekeepers to look beyond the often rigid "standard" teaching, so they can understand and manage their bees efficiently and with care based on knowledge they have gleaned themselves.
Rather than simply doing what they are told or what the book says, attendees will be encouraged to learn the "basics" so they have enough information to understand their bees and to challenge what they are told, as often advice is given without the person offering it knowing much about the location, bees or methods used.
Observation, lateral thinking and common sense are important skills needed to be a successful beekeeper. Knowing what is normal in a colony will allow you to spot a possible problem, so you can deal with it at an early stage.
This presentation has several hints and tips that should encourage you to develop your management system to suit your bees and your own situation.

John Chambers

John Chambers

For John, beekeeping represents escape from everyday pressures. Inside his apiary, he is at peace and connects differently with the world. Town noises recede as a multisensory symphony of natural rhythms comes to the fore. He enjoys the passing seasons; the cawing of the high-flying resident crows who have become his friends; the hedgehogs; the mice; and the toads. He loves the botanical chaos of the untended borders and the teeming biodiversity of the neglected and increasingly bumpy lawn. In the middle of all this are his many honey bee colonies which get darker and easier to handle with every generation of locally-reared queen. Nothing beats lying in long grass on a summer’s day, gazing up at the sky and watching one’s bees flying in their thousands as they go about their activities, completely unbeknown to people passing by on the other side of a simple brick wall.

Basic Honey Bee Genetics For Beekeepers
Trust honey bees to flaunt basic genetics as taught at school! They follow more complex rules that we have thwarted for the last 150 years. To improve our national stock, we must collectively act in sympathy with the biological realities of honey bee genetics. This presentation starts by considering what a breed is, before revealing something astonishing about breeds of honey bee. Then, Gregor Mendel’s failure to improve his honey bees is contrasted with his landmark work with the common pea. The rest of the lecture provides insight into why he failed. In turn it considers quantitative trait loci; haplodiploidy and sex determination; genetic recombination, polyandry and the benefits of intra-colony genetic diversity; the fates of fatal, maladaptive, neutral and beneficial genes; the perils of inbreeding depression; the ecological headache of outbreeding depression; the importance of selection pressure; and what we might infer from genetic bottlenecks. All these genetic considerations (and a few more besides) should concern and fascinate us all. By the end of this presentation, it should be clear why it is so damaging to import honey bee stock and how we can improve our local stock quickly, simply and optimally, using an augmented “bees know best” policy.

Shona Blair

Shona Blair

Dr Shona Blair is a microbiologist who has been studying the medicinal properties of honey for 20 years, pioneering this research in Australia. Shona was awarded her PhD in 2004 from the University of Sydney. She has since led many projects focusing on the wound healing and antimicrobial properties of honey, particularly against antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’, and the effects of eating honey on human gut health.
Shona has been an invited keynote speaker at numerous scientific, medical and beekeeping conferences in Australia, Brazil, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA. She has published her research findings in the scientific and popular press including microbiology and wound care journals, as well as popular beekeeping and health magazines. Since her student days, Shona has been involved in the Australian beekeeping industry and she has actively worked to raise awareness of the importance of honey bees, beekeeping and medicinal honey. She held the role of inaugural CEO of the Wheen Bee Foundation (2013 – 2014), established to raise awareness of the importance of bees for food security. In 2013, she joined the Executive Council of the NSW Apiarists’ Association, where she works with commercial beekeepers to help tackle some of the issues faced by the industry. She received the prestigious Keith McIlvride Memorial Award in 2017 in recognition of her services to the industry.
Manuka honey article on The Conversation (one of the top-read articles of 2017)

Honey - a sweet solution against superbugs
Honey really is liquid gold, and people have always held it in high regard. It has been a prized food and a powerful medicine for many different cultures throughout history.
However, its medicinal use largely fell from favour in the 1940s with the introduction of modern antibiotic drugs. Unfortunately, the misuse of these lifesaving drugs means that today we face a shortage of effective treatments for infections, because there is a huge global increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – or ‘superbugs’.
Our urgent need for other treatment options, has led to a renewed interest in complex, natural products with antimicrobial activity, like honey. One of the most exciting things about the antimicrobial activity of honey is that it works against a very wide range of microbes that cause infections, even antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Apart from its ability to stop superbugs in their tracks, honey also encourages wound healing and stimulates our immune response, and has additional therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and prebiotic (i.e. boosting gut health) properties.

Irene Power

Irene comes from a well-known and successful beekeeping family and has had many successes in honey shows in Ireland and London. As a lecturer she is always in demand at home but has also lectured in England, Wales, Denmark and Texas. She is a member of South Tipperary Beekeepers Association & former Secretary of the Clonmel Honey Show (Largest Honey Show in Ireland). Irene provides beginners courses, Intermediate & Senior Study Groups in county Limerick and helps with outdoor demonstrations in South Tipperary. A very practical beekeeper, she maintains 15 - 20 colonies, with keen interests in honey bee health, queen rearing and honey production. Irene believes that planning ahead and maintaining all your production hives at full capacity is important.

Efficient beekeeping for the busy Beekeeper
The age profile of beekeepers in recent years has lowered, with many in full time employment, possibly with young families and other interests that have a demand on leisure time. Even if you don’t fit into this category, our lives in general seem to be a lot busier these days. Grandparents play a bigger part in minding grandchildren than what I remember and also people are working longer and retiring at an older age. We are always rushing around and more often than not we are on-line & available on our phones or some other electronic device.
This leaves less time for our hobbies and enjoyment of the world around us. The amount of work involved in beekeeping with limited time requires extra planning, more organisation and adapting management methods to suit your available time. We often get one opportunity to complete tasks in the apiary, as we may not be available tomorrow, two, three or five days’ time that some manipulations demand.
My talk covers some tips of how to manage your beekeeping operation a bit more efficiently so that we can continue to practice & master the craft and enjoy it, in this incredibly busy world we live in today.

Observations from outside the hive
This talk covers what beekeepers can determine by observing their bees from outside the hive. We can learn a lot from watching the patterns/behaviour of the bees before ever opening the hive. It can prevent unnecessary opening of hives and unnecessary disturbance to the bees and save time. There is no substitute for necessary regular inspections to control swarming but observations outside the hive can improve the assessment of colonies and besides it is very enjoyable to sit and watch the bees for a while. It will only add to your beekeeping skills.

Jim Ryan

As a child I used to help my grandfather making up section crates and wiring and waxing frames. I started my real career as a beekeeper in 1983 and after attending Gormanston every year I qualified as a lecturer in 1989. I edited An Beachaire (the Irish Beekeeper) for 14 years retiring in 2012. I lecture at Gormanston Summer Course regularly and have also lectured and demonstrated in Scotland, England and Isle of Man. I run roughly 50 colonies for run honey and rear about 30/50 queens every year. I am a member of North Tipperary BKA, having been chairman for 16 years and Secretary for about 8 years and am currently chairman of Galtee Bee Breeders.

Beekeeping without too many mistakes, How I manage my bees and why
This talk will focus on aspects of my own practice developed over 35 years of beekeeping. I will look at the beekeeping year and what we should do and be doing at different stages. I will also look at some of the things we are taught to do and how and why we do them. I want to look at ways of getting the best from your bees by giving them as much help and as little hindrance as possible.

Simon Rees

Simon is a hobby beekeeper and has been keeping bees since 1995. Simon was born in Cardiff, Wales. Simon started keeping bees in Twickenham, Middlesex in 1995 after completing the Twickenham & Thames Valley BKA beginners' course. On moving to Dublin in 1996 he established an apiary in the garden. He currently has 2 apiaries in Co. Wicklow. Simon has completed the FIBKA (Federation of Irish Beekeeping Associations) preliminary, intermediate, senior and lecturer's certificates since moving to Ireland. Simon has a keen interest in lecturing, particularly on the science side of beekeeping. Simon is a former Chair and Honey Show Secretary of the Co. Dublin Beekeepers' Association. He set up and helps manage the Facebook group ‘Beekeepers of Ireland’ (open to beekeepers everywhere) which has over 3000 members. Simon lives in Dublin with his wife Eimear.

Langstroth: father of modern beekeeping or a man in the right place at the right time?
This lecture looks at the state of beekeeping in the 19th Century, and the life and times of Lorenzo Langstroth. We examine the context for his discovery of the bee space and the invention of the Langstroth moveable frame hive. Finally we assess the importance of Langstroth’s contribution to beekeeping.

How honey bees fly
In this lecture you will learn about the honey bee’s flight equipment – wings, engines, fuel and flight control. We will also look at the mechanics - at an introductory level - of honey bee flight. The lecture will contain videos and demonstrations to aid understanding. By the end you will have a good understanding of how bees fly.

Brian Dennis

Brian P. Dennis started keeping bees in 1976 and presently manages 20 colonies. He has served on the committees of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association, British Beekeepers Association and the Northamptonshire Beekeepers Association. He is a tutor and mentor on the local beginners’ course. Several articles of his have been published in the beekeeping press and he has appeared in the BBC programme Countryside Tracks demonstrating mead making – he has written Good Health & Long Life, a book on making mead and honey drinks. After keeping bees for many years he is convinced that Those who know it all know nothing. Those who know nothing are wisest of all!

Winter Through to Spring
You don’t plan to fail, you just fail to plan. An account of what you need to do to enable your bees to survive the winter and be ready for the spring.

Page updated: 08/08/2019

Quick links: Main Programme, Beginners Programme, Bee Craft Programme.

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