If you are interested in bees you have come to the right place

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!)

Beekeeper opening hive

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 the Christian Fellowship 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 20.

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.

WDBKA supports Apple Day

WDBKA was invited to attend the annual Apple Day event at Groves Nursery in Bridport on Sunday 12th October.

apple day

The stall was manned from 10am til 4pm.

It was a good opportunity to promote beekeeping and sell some of the WDBKA honey stocks.

Thanks go to everyone who helped out on the day – setting up, dismantling and taking time to chat with interested members of the public.

Bee Safari- – September 2014

Kevin Pope, seasonal bee inspector for Dorset, kindly agreed to run a mini safari in the Bridport area. On a glorious, sunny day we started at Mangerton Mill, where Paul Harris showed us a fascinating example of wild comb in a hive he had collected. Kevin’s advice was to leave it be for the winter, and carry out a shook swarm next spring.

hive roof
From there we drove to Annabelle Jackman’s apiary at West Milton, then to Matthew Count’s at Bothenhampton where we ate our packed lunches in his lovely garden. We finished up at Colin Clark’s apiary on the outskirts of Bridport.


As usual Kevin was a mine of useful information and advice, showing us how to diagnose bald brood, sacbrood, chalk brood and chronic bee paralysis virus — but fortunately finding no more serious disease in any colony. He emphasised the importance of continually checking the health of our bees — not only monitoring varroa drop, which appears to be increasingly inaccurate as the mites evolve to stay on the bees more firmly.

Personally I came away with a determination to use tweezers more often, to pull out and inspect any pupating bee that arouses suspicion as to its state of health.
Ten beekeepers attended all or part of the safari. Thanks are due to those people who bravely agreed to their bees undergoing inspection. I think we all learnt a lot.

Report kindly by Caroline Dilke

Melplash 2014 – Another Great Show!

Due to WDBKA hosting the County Honey Show we had two judges this year. Revd Francis Capener from Kent and Margaret Davies from Dorset were supported by stewards Katharine Singleton-Smith and Georgina Browning. Judges and stewards 2


The number of entries was down on last year which was surprising considering the good honey crops many members have experienced.

Revd Capener congratulates William Legg on his Blue Ribbon award.

Revd Capener congratulates William Legg on his Blue Ribbon award.


Full show results have been circulated with the September newsletter. Special mention should be made for William Legg, our youngest member, who was awarded the Blue Ribbon for Best in Show. William collected many points from his numerous entries and we wish him well as his scores go forward to the Massey Trophy, which will be decided at the Dorchester Show on the 6-7th September.

We were delighted to welcome Mervyn Bown, County President, to award the various cups, trophies and sponsorship prizes.

Mervyn Bown, County President awarded the cups and trophies.

Mervyn Bown, County President awarded the cups and trophies.

The live bee demonstrations were popular

The live bee demonstrations were popular

It was an excellent day for the ever popular bee demonstrations and many people expressed interest in joining our next course for new beekeepers. In fact by the end of the day we had filled the 20 places and have a waiting list! It is very encouraging to meet so many people who have such an interest in beekeeping.

I would like to thank all the exhibitors, especially our members who have joined in the fun of showing for the first time.

The cake stall is always popular.

The cake stall is always popular.

Many thanks to all the folk who made lots of honey cakes and everyone else who manned the honey sales, judges table,

Bee buns swarn ... but don't last long on the cake stall.

Bee buns swarn … but don’t last long on the cake stall.

information post, and observation hives.

Putting the finishing touches to the floral arrangements - thank you Tilly!

Putting the finishing touches to the floral arrangements – thank you Tilly!

The teams who operate behind the scene, helping out before, during and after the day -there would be no show without you.

With thanks to you all

Carole Brown

What do you mean ... there isn't room for the beehives?!

What do you mean … there isn’t room for the beehives?!

Melplash is nearly here!

The annual Melplash Show is very nearly here.

Members and friends from the association have been busy preparing for what promises to be an enjoyable day. The opportunity to catch up with friends …  and make some new ones … a chance to treat yourself to some delicious honey cakes.

A display of honey and hive  products to inspire you to have a go at entering new classes next year.

The stands are ready for entries.

The stands are ready for entries.


The finishing touches have taken place and we are ready!

Thank you very much to ‘Team Melplash’ – your contribution is much appreciated.


We hope to see you there.


Lecture by Mark Greco at Yeovil BKA

On Saturday 21st June Yeovil BKA hosted a talk on Diagnostic Radioentomology by Mark Greco, an Australi- an academic working at Bath University, where he keeps eleven colonies. The talk was preceded by an excellent and sociable lunch at the Royal Oak in Over Stratton. (Before you ask, the title means studying insects using a scanner rather than physically.)
Mark started his career studying Australian stingless bees, which are used for pollination in greenhouses. These are tiny (about 3mm long) and store their honey in little pots like our bumble bees. In a year they gather about 1kg of honey, compared with the 20kg plus Australians expect from their honey bees. Despite not having stings, they defend their colony very effectively by clinging onto the aggressor and effectively disabling it. Humans need to wear a veil to prevent the bees clinging around their eyes. Mark needed to study their behaviour in the nest, but a physical inspection was not feasible because of the way they fly up when the hive is opened and the honey released from the damaged pots drowns the bees. He had the idea of putting the whole hive through a CT scanner so that they were not disturbed at all, and it was very successful.
Mark continued his research in Switzerland, imaging honey bee colonies and individual bees. His slides and what they show are fascinating and contradict many of the conclusions we beekeepers hold based on our experience of colonies we have opened. For example, what shape do you think the winter cluster is? He has shown that it is an inverted bell shape attached to the crown board. This takes advantage of the warm air-flow in the hive. We never see it because it disintegrates as soon as we remove the crown board. He has also shown that the queen patrols the cluster, presumably to spread her pheromone.
His technique allows him to study the way the colony stores nectar. He gave a colony two sources of food, one 50% sugar and one 70%. This showed that the bees stored the different concentrations in separate sets of cells.
He constructed a special box with three chambers. Two chambers were separate from each other whilst both could communicate with the third through mesh. He put bees from two different colonies in the first two chambers and bees from one of those colonies in the third, which had a feeder. This demonstrated that the bees in the third chamber fed their compatriots in preference to the strangers. He then repeated the experiment with drones and showed that drones feed other drones and workers. As the NBU has shown that drones carry EFB, this means they could spread EFB to the colonies they visit. It may not just be careless beekeepers that are spreading EFB.
He whetted our appetites by telling us he had designed his own type of hive, based on a National (groan), but did not give us any details of what features he had incorporated. A Bath beekeeper has made one and they are waiting to see how successful it is. That sounds like the basis of another talk in the future.

Many thanks to Paul Edwards for writing this report.

Beekeeping in Skeps

Over 70 members from East Devon and West Dorset BKA enjoyed an interesting talk by Chris Park who came to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for beekeeping in skeps.  Chris Parks and skep

When he first decided to keep bees Chris joined a local bee club and was well supported in his quest to develop his approach. Initially he kept bees in fixed frame hives and gradually transferred to skep beekeeping. He still uses some fixed frame hives on his farm – ‘to keep the Bee Inspector happy’ – and to act as a control.

Chris intuitively felt a skep hive was the ‘right thing’ for the bees and now after several successful years he is sure that ‘beekeeping in skeps is good for the bees… but not necessarily good for the beekeeper!’ He has only lost one colony, which was subject to excessive damp.

Skep 2He gave a potted history of the evolution of beekeeping, from tree beekeeping, to the provision of hollow logs to act as hives to make the honey more accessible. The word ‘skep’ is Anglo-Saxon for basket and the structure and materials used vary according to geographical location.   Chris has gradually developed his own style of skep and now uses a wooden base with legs to lift the hive and a mesh floor to help to manage varroa. His skeps are made of straw, 16″ in diameter and 14″ deep, with slender willow stakes inserted through the skep walls help to stabilise the comb. Chris has noticed that the bees will always choose to build their comb in the cold way. Surplus stores are collected in smaller straw skeps, which are placed over the hole in the top of the main colony. Supplementary feeding can also be given through the top of the skep.Skeps

Chris answered a wide variety of questions from the floor and took time to stress that although he was confident that skeps suited both him and his bees, he was respectful of other approaches and simply welcomed the opportunity to share his experiences.

The evening was rounded off with tasty refreshments and plenty of discussion … generated from the thought provoking talk we had all enjoyed.

Click here to read a more detailed account of  the talk.

WDBKA Annual Luncheon

We had an excellent turnout with forty three members and friends at the Bridport Golf Club on Sunday the 26th January, in the pouring rain, for our Annual Lunch. Lesley Gasson our County Chairman joined us this year for the first time which was good. Below is a picture of the guests chatting away on our Chairman’s table. The food was super and the company was great too — one of the good ways of meeting other beekeepers.

 Annual Lunch 2014

We will hopefully return again next year if you are all in agreement.

What else would you all be doing on a miserable rainy day — if you missed it this year hopefully you will be able to join us 2015




The Annual General Meeting of WDBKA was held in November. Twenty six full members and friends gathered to share reports from the committee and renew and appoint a full complement of committee members for the next year.

Congratulations and thanks to Sarah Moore who has agreed to stand as our Chairman, with Liz Moxom as Deputy.  We are indebted to Carole Brown who will continue as the Association Secretary – also to Paul Edwards for his role as Treasurer – and Sally Beeson, our Membership Secretary. A full list of committee members will be published with the new programme of events in 2014.

Caroline Dilke kindly waded her way through the extensive colony records from our apiary – deciphering different handwriting styles and notes to produce the Apiary Report for 2013. It makes interesting reading and enables members to hear about the results of the trial of predatory mites,  which were introduced to control varroa. The use  of MAQ strips is also featured.

Following the business aspect of the AGM and refreshed with tea and cake, members settled to watch a film about the beekeeping year.

Filberts Bees

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.filberts 1

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.

filberts 2Mark 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

WDBKA Marquee at the Melplash Show 2013

What a Great Show!

  Our Judge this year was Chris Symes from Marlow, Bucks and our Steward for the first time was Brigid Hillier whoBee Course 025 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!

IMG_20130828_220907The 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 Bee Course 028frame of bees for about a couple of seconds! —  worth a viewing!Melplash demo

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 joinMelplash honey salesed 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


CaroleWDBKA Sec