The site is designed to be a resource for members of the West Dorset Beekeepers’ Association (WDBKA) and for interested members of the general public.
Our Association draws its members from West Dorset, the area roughly west of Dorchester and the A37 (a smaller area than that covered by West Dorset District Council!)
What to do if you have a swarm of bees turn up in your garden? DON’T Panic! Find out more, and where to get help, by clicking on the “swarms” tab above.
Thinking about starting to keep bees?… again, contact us and we should be able to help, guide and support you in this exciting new venture. We usually run our popular course for beginners, which starts in early February, based at St John’s Hall, Bridport 7-9.30pm for seven consecutive weeks. This is followed by four practical sessions in our own teaching apiary, where you can gain some experience in handling bees yourself, even before you acquire your own. The apiary meetings for beginners run fortnightly on Saturday afternoons in April and May.
Cost £60, including a non-refundable £10 deposit. Numbers are limited to 25.
Let us know if you’d like to visit us or click the tab at the top of this page to find further details about our course.
The WDBKA is affiliated to the BBKA – British Beekeeping Association. Their website provides a wealth of information and advice. All members of WDBKA will have been issued with a membership card for the BBKA which includes login details and a password to gain full access to the BBKA site.
All beekeepers are encouraged to register with BeeBase, the Fera National Bee Unit website. It is designed for beekeepers and supports Defra, WAG and Scotland’s Bee Health Programmes and the Healthy Bees Plan, which set out to protect and sustain our valuable national bee stocks.Their website provides a wide range of free information for beekeepers, to help keep their honey bees healthy and productive.
If you’ve read or heard about the pressures facing the honeybee – diseases, parasites, and so on – and would like to know what you can do to help, click here to download a list of Ten Things to do to Help Honey Bees. There’s guidance on everything from planting bee-friendly plants, through offering a home for a hive or two, to lobbying your MP to press for more support for research! If you’re interested in helping by planting bee-friendly trees, flowers or shrubs, click here to visit the comprehensive list published by the Royal Horticultural Society.
The first talk in the autumn lecture programme was given by Philada Rogers and her son Mark of Filberts Bees. They are regulars in the Melplash show marquee and Mark has been a member of WDBKA for some time.
Members enjoyed an entertaining evening in which Philada described the journey they had made towards creating a viable business – building a reputation for making quality products using Dorset beeswax. Their luxury balms, salves and butters were passed around the room for everyone to enjoy. The distinctive artwork on all their packaging, flyers and brochures is really eye catching.
Mark talked about the challenges he faces in attempting to build up his colonies to maximise their production of both honey, wax and propolis. Experiences were shared and the merits of different approaches to collecting propolis were discussed – there is no easy way!
Philada and Mark were pleased that the Country Living magazine had approached them to write an article about their family business – a direct link is available from their website – www.filbertsbees.co.uk
What a Great Show!
Our Judge this year was Chris Symes from Marlow, Bucks and our Steward for the first time was Brigid Hillier who thoroughly enjoyed her day and learnt a lot about showing—one of the main points for all to remember is to read the schedule! We had 154 entries this year which was very good considering the terrible weather all our bees had at the start of the year— unfortunately there were a few gaps on the day but not too many!
The Blue Ribbon for best in show was awarded to Brigid Hillier with 2 jars of clear light honey in class 492.
We were delighted that Ken Bishop Vice President of the WDBKA came and presented all the Cups Trophies and the many Sponsorship prizes. Helen Legg was presented with the MC Bond Challenge Shield for gaining the most points across all the beekeeping classes.
The excellent weather meant that we were able to perform two live bee demonstrations which the public really enjoy. Melplash is a great showcase for our Association and encourages more people to take up the craft. A lovely little film was made on the show day for the Spirit of Bridport - Caroline Dilke is the voice and I am in the blue suit with the frame of bees for about a couple of seconds! — worth a viewing!
Mark Smith came again to share his expertise in skep making – he sat happily all day outside the Marquee chatting to passers-by, as well as getting sun burnt.
I would like to thank all the exhibitors especially our new members who have joined in the fun of showing for the very first time – many winning prizes which is absolutely fabulous – plus all the folk who made lots of honey cakes and everyone else who manned the honey sales and observation hives, plus for helping out before the show and on the day – there would be no show without you!
Next year we will play host to the Dorset County Honey Show as well as our own… make sure you put the date in your diary now – Thursday 21st August 2014
If any of you have any bright ideas to improve our displays please let me know
Thank you everyone for making the show a great success for 2013
Carole and her stewards are ready for the judging to commence
It is Show Time again!
Our large Marquee will be in the same place as last year, in the middle field.
The judge this year is Chris Symes from Marlow Bucks. We are anticipating lots of entries from the ‘old hands’ and the beginners — so please do not disappoint … and have a go!
Melplash entries close the 14th August; schedules and entry forms are available from the Show office – 23 South Street Bridport Tel 01308 423337– the entry forms and schedule are on their website www.melplashshow.co.uk. Carole has some copies which will be available at the Apiary meeting on the 3rd August— you can also enter on line which is so much easier
It was another terrible start this year for our bees, but hopefully due to this spell of beautiful weather you will have some honey for showing, making honey cakes for show and for selling. Please make an effort as we need over 100 entries to be able to award the Blue Ribbon. I want to see some of the new members having a go – there is a special novice class for you
As always, we will be selling home-made honey cakes for our funds, so any contributions will be gratefully received; the cost of ingredients will be refunded. I have recipes for honey cakes and cookies if required. We ran out of cakes/honey fudge last year by lunch time!
It would be great to have some new faces helping out, even if you can only offer a couple of hours. The marquee will be open on the Wednesday evening and Thursday from 7.00am for exhibitors to stage their show exhibits. Judging commences at 8.30am prompt.
Stands include – Candle Rolling – Hoeny Cosmetics – Children’s Corner – Plants for Bees – ABeeC Maisemore Agents
The Observation Hive will be there as well as the opportunity to watch the live beehive demonstrations.
To all members, including new members (especially!) and friends – why not come along and see what fun we all have on show day.
Only WDBKA exhibitors will be permitted to sell their honey and honey products with the correct labelling on show day, with the understanding that honey and honey products from the West Dorset Beekeeping Association Apiary are sold first.
My what a hot day, the golfing brollies were up to give us all a bit of shade! We had a super time looking at bees in 3 Apiaries at Corscombe, South Perrot and Stoke Abbott. Just by chance they all kept different types of hives—Smith, WBC and National.
Kevin Pope our local SBI did all the inspecting of the colonies giving a running commentary as he went along, as to what he had found and advice on what to do in certain circumstances. Thankfully no notifiable diseases were discovered —just the usual sac brood, bald brood and the unfortunate laying worker with the tell tale signs of multiple eggs being laid in the cells half way down.
I am sure all of us would like to thank Katharine & Daniel, Liz and Sarah for letting us invade their apiaries on mass and for the hospitality they gave us—much appreciated also for Kevin coming along and giving us some expert advice.
This years Melplash show is fast approaching. It is our annual show case of what the Association is all about. Although a lot of work goes on behind the scenes it is you, our members and friends, who make the show such an enjoyable occasion.
If you have some honey or honey products to show, please enter one or more of the classes. It’s always fun to have a go!
We sell honey cakes and honey related products to help our funds, so if you can help out with cooking a few honey cakes to sell we will be most grateful. We are always in need of volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly. If you can spare a couple of hours or more please let Carole know.
The Melplash Show Schedules are now out—you can collect from the Show Office in South St Bridport or go onto their Website and complete entries online.
A full set of the Honey Show Rules can be found on the tab at the top of this page.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon for our meeting on the 1st of June when Mervyn Bown the Dorset County President joined us.
Wood and straw hive dating from the 1880′s
Sadly very few members came along to enjoy the demonstration and see the excellent collection of Queen Cages Mervyn had gathered over the years, which are now in splendid presentation case, plus a very old Wood & Straw Hive dating back to the 1880’s. Mervyn told us that he has kept bees in this hive over the years quite successfully, which holds 15 national brood frames — he has made a super that goes on the top to collect all the honey!
He then went through all our colonies at the apiary in doing so we collected 3 samples of bees for a nosema test from Colonies 2,4 & 6 , as Meryvn is very keen on microscopy, he kindly offered to take the samples home and look for nosema under his microscopes for us. A couple of days later he sent me the results -
Hive 2— light infection Hive 4 – Medium Hive 6 was clear.
There is always someone attending the apiary at the weekend on a Saturday —please do look at the Rota pinned on the shed and you are all most welcome to come along and join in the fun of going through the colonies of bees and seeing how they are progressing – best to ring one of the folk on the rota first to check time of the session or contact me and I can tell you who is on duty.
On Saturday 4th May Simon Jones, RBI for the South West, visited the WDBKA apiary to lead a disease inspection. He started the afternoon talking about the anticipated arrival of the Asian Hornet and asked all beekeepers to be especially vigilant.
Asian Hornet trap
Our apiary may become a sentinel apiary with a specially designed hornet trap. Simon also encouraged everyone to have a go at constructing their own trap, following guidance from the BeeBase website.
The meeting was well supported by 32 members who appreciated the opportunity to see Simon in action and answer various questions relating to the season so far. He stressed the importance of maintaining high standards of hygiene and controlling varroa levels to reduce susceptibility to viral infection.
Simon Jones addresses WDBKA members
The Langstroth hive, in which the predatory mites were introduced last month, has maintained an acceptable level of mite drop. The colony has continued to build up and a second super was added. The other two hives were relatively weak in comparison and Simon identified a variety of signs for concern. He carried out a test for EFB, which proved negative. He considered that there was evidence of viral damage and recommended that both hives are treated to reduce the high level of varroa. The apiary committee have decided to try the Mite Away Quick Strips which will be introduced next weekend.
Bill Brushett shares his idea for a home made frame for cut comb production
Bill Brushett also brought along a new idea to share with everyone. He had used a piece of correx plastic boarding to fashion a frame to encourage his bees to create fresh comb. In the brood box this could be used for drone trapping. Frames in the supers might help with the production of cut comb honey. We wait to hear the results of his trial.
The afternoon ended with a tasty spread of cakes and biscuits. Members will be pleased to hear that our gas bottle has been refilled so no one will need to go home thirsty after the next meeting – this will be held on Saturday 1st June.
We look forward to welcoming Mervyn Bown, our County President.
Members of WDBKA gathered at the apiary on Saturday 6th April for the first meeting of the season. Not surprisingly the weather was deemed too cold to open hives and inspect the colonies.
Hives were hefted to assess the weight of stores to keep the bees going whilst the cold snap continues. Varroa trays were also inspected and the Langstroth hive was selected to trial a new treatment for varroa.
The predatory mites are a species of stratiolaelaps mites which are native to the UK where they live in leaf litter.
The first sachets of predator mites are introduced into the Langstroth hive
They have been used in biological control in horticulture for over 15yrs but have only recently been trialled for use in controlling pests of livestock species. This species of stratiolaelaps is a non-specific predator which attacks the phoretic (adult) stages of the the Varroa mite. They provide an on-going reduction in varroa population through the season to maintain it below a level which would cause significant health problems in the colony. Each treatment consists of two paper sachets, each containing approx 500 mites, which are placed on the top bars in the hive at two monthly intervals. The bees chew through the paper and the mites spread through the colony.
It will be very interesting to monitor the health of the bees and the varroa levels in the hive over time.
On March 3rd members from across Dorset gathered to support the AGM of the Dorset Beekeepers Association.
Caroline Dilke has recorded the key points from the presentation by our guest speaker, Ged Marshall.
Ged Marshall, a commercial beekeeper since the 1980s, runs 200-400 hives and reaps about 10 tons of honey in a good year. Based in Buckinghamshire, he moves bees to Kent, Derbyshire and Northumber-land to follow crops such as borage and heather.
He buys in 1,000 queens annually from Denmark and selects for honey production, aiming for large, hard-working colonies. He also buys in Buckfast drones, to saturate the area with good genes. He gives his bees plenty of space – often with a spare super above the crown board – feeds heavily and breeds for slow swarmers.
With so many hives to care for, the main disease inspection is in late summer. When the drones are gone he introduces new queens, replaces old combs and feeds the colony. In early spring, again he feeds his bees (with candy such as Apifonda). The next inspection is in mid-March. “When the pussy willow is out and I hear the first cuckoo, I count my colonies: they’ve made it through the winter.”
In May comes the first disease inspection of the year, and a check for signs of supersedure, and to make sure the queen has space to lay. Ged now pulls out frames of brood from prolific hives to boost the mediocre ones – but not the weakest hives.
He emphasises that supers are to house bees, and the top one should be not more than half-full of bees to ensure there is enough space. He does little note-taking but scribbles on the boxes, numbering each hive’s supers from the bottom up.
Poor May weather may lead to feeding with fondant (not syrup, which would contaminate the hon-ey), even if there is a big crop out there. But if the bees have full supers of honey they stop working so hard, so Ged takes it off as soon as it is sealed. If a colony swarms, its honey goes on to another strong hive. He leaves half a super of honey on all summer to ensure against starving.
When moving hives he does not screen them or block entrances; the wind keeps them in, and if they have enough space they are fine. He finds field beans, though not a huge crop, are useful to plug the “June gap”.
At the end of May Ged stops doing swarm checks, but finds it is worth walking round on a sunny day following two weeks of rain and checking in the trees. He later transports all the swarms together to a new site, and subsequently changes the queens and finds he gets three strong nuclei from each four swarms. He also changes the queen in the parent hive.
He puts out spare equipment as bait hives – as high up as practicable — each with only two drawn frames and an empty frame between. If he catches a swarm, he fills it up with new foundation. He watch-es for scout bees at a bait hive: one of the colonies may be about to swarm.
When chasing heather honey, Ged chooses a sheltered spot and provides just one super on each hive. He says borage is a wonder crop with heavy honey flow, although it does tear the bees’ wings. He mixes in lime honey to improve the flavour of other honeys.
Ged’s no-nonsense approach gave us lots of practical ideas to try. For example, if he detects signs of swarming and there is a nectar flow, a quick fix is to add more supers. Also, he says that in the early days he hugely improved his stock by killing the worst 25% of queens each year.
Judy and Brian Godfrey created a great centre piece for the refreshments.
Following Ged’s talk we enjoyed a wonderful range of homemade sweet and savoury dishes before the AGM business element of the afternoon commenced.
Our course for new beekeepers is well underway. A variety of topics are covered during the evening theory meetings, held at Netherbury Village Hall, delivered by a team of WDBKA members who are all experienced beekeepers. Students have already considered the merits of different hives, frames and foundation. Protective clothing and basic equipment, siting an apiary and colony composition, have also been covered. More recently Ken Bishop gave a practical demonstration on the creation of an artificial swarm as part of his input on swarm prevention and control.
Ken Bishop demonstrates how to make an artificial swarm. Remember to keep track of your queen bee!
Further sessions will cover bee health and diseases, feeding and overwintering, as well as how to harvest the honey. As the course progresses the students gather a number of handouts to help them to create a file of information as they build their knowledge and understanding.
The theory part of the course is followed by practical sessions in our apiary, where bee suits are available for loan. Close supervision enables prospective beekeepers to gain experience in handling bees as they consider establishing their own colonies.