How to attend?


Members are welcome to attend the Association Apiary meetings as advertised. The track to the apiary can be rutted and muddy. Please let us know if you require adjustments or access assistance. If you would like to go along, please check timings and remember to take clean gloves and boots. There are always plenty of suits available to borrow.

Remember that the weather can lead to last minute changes … a quick phone call could save a wasted journey!

The Apiary Management Committee -AMC –  have agreed to stand for another year. They have updated the policy for the new season. Please take time to have a read … it explains the aims and management approach  we hope to achieve!

Latest reports from the Apiary Management Committee:

What a month of contrasts. Our first visits of May were in the cold and rain but the last visit of the month was warm with every colony very busy. At our visit on the 22nd May we found stores were dangerously low in several colonies and had to feed them but a week later on 29th May most had brood frames stuffed with nectar and we were adding supers.
From the original eight colonies, the two with the oldest queens attempted supersedure in May and we are still waiting to see if this has been successful. Two colonies have made very slow progress but seem at last to be building up. A further colony made what appeared to be a few swarm cells despite not being very big or congested. Two colonies have made swarm cells, have been split and we are waiting to see if the new queens successfully mated in the poor weather. The strongest colony has not yet made attempts to swarm.

We have been delighted to welcome the tutors and students from last year’s course to complete their practical sessions at the Apiary. There were months of planning to make sure that we could maintain social distancing. This meant recruiting additional tutors and helpers and spreading out the groups with staggered start times.
A few surprises…..
At one of the planning sessions with the tutors, we found a cluster of bees under one of the colonies that had been split and so presumed that this was a cast swarm. After much sweeping and smoking with Sally Boxall crawling under the hive stand with a nuc box these bees are now in their own space. They were given a block of fondant in the feeder on top of the nuc, ate it and decided to take up residence in the feeder rather than on the frames below. Having extricated them from there and got them back onto the frames, we found a week later they had built comb down the side feeder instead. Hopefully they will expand on to the frames when the mood takes them.
Arriving to set up for the first student session and knowing it was going to be a very long morning, one of the AMC decided to make use of the bushes round the side of the Apiary and looked up to find three clusters of bees that had probably been out all night. Most of them were retrieved and hived and have drawn out nearly a whole National brood box of frames a week later.
At the first student session a new queen decided to fly out and land on the head of a student — fortunately she was spotted by another student and put back into the hive by Caroline.
We have two more teaching student sessions in June and a visit from Kevin Pope towards the end of the month.
Hopefully by then we will have some mated, laying new queens and some honey!
Kindly by Carole Astbury


What a difference a month has made. At the beginning of April we shook out the two colonies with failed queens leaving five to go forward for 2020. By the end of the month several of the colonies had their 4th super and two had started to make queen cells so have been split.”

That was the introduction to the Apiary Report for the Newsletter this time last year………….
This year, April has been a very different picture, with some colonies still taking fondant well into the third week of the month as stores have run low in the cold spring weather.
None of the eight queens failed over the winter although Colony 1 has rather a lot of drone brood and two probable supersedure queen cells were observed at the inspection on 24th April.
All the varroa mite counts have been well below the recommended treatment thresholds and all the brood appears healthy.
Two colonies had their 2nd super added at the end of April. The rest have just one on each hive apart from colony 4 which has been very slow to expand and is still not filling a National brood box.
There are no signs of swarm preparations yet, although at the last inspection on 24th April it was felt the two strongest colonies need careful monitoring over the next few weeks.
All the colonies apart from Colony 8 have been very well tempered, especially as some of the inspections took place on fairly chilly days.
With the relaxation of Covid restrictions we plan to run the deferred practical sessions for the students from the last course in May and June, with a rota system to avoid congestion and to maintain social distancing.
In the meantime we will be undertaking a weekly check for queen cells and providing super space as needed.

Kindly by Carole Astbury

We have made three visits to the Apiary since the last newsletter. On 28th February every hive had bees flying and bringing in yellow and orange pollen.
All the hives apart from Colony 8 have fondant on and at the end of February only one needed topping up.
At the next visit on the 14th March, again all the bees were flying and bringing in pollen. Half of the colonies had consumed all their fondant and another two had very little left. They were all topped up and at a further check on 23rd March, again four hives had no fondant left and required another block.
It has been too cold to look in but all the colonies appear to be expanding as evidenced from the debris on the varroa trays. In mid-March most of the colonies were on five seams with plenty of brood cappings debris on the trays. The only colony that hasn’t needed feeding is on at least nine seams.
We have a further visit planned on the 3rd April, when hopefully it will be warm enough to look in the brood boxes.
Thereafter, Covid restrictions permitting we plan to gradually introduce all our course tutors to the new set-up at the Apiary in readiness for student teaching sessions at the end of May.

Kindly by Carole Astbury


Becoming a member of West Dorset Beekeeping Association puts you in touch with a network of experienced Beekeepers. We enjoy our hobby and love to share our enthusiasm for our craft. See the list of benefits on the Membership page. A monthly newsletter keeps everyone involved and up to date with events and activities throughout the year.

Meeting other members and comparing colonies in the Association Apiary helps to develop practical experience and knowledge.

Yes! We would always encourage anyone who might be thinking about starting to keep bees to access some training. The WDBKA  annual course for beginners  is a good introduction and gives access to ongoing training with attendance at the Association Apiary throughout the season.

The time commitment varies through the year. During the active season each colony needs regular weekly inspections. Depending on the manipulations required this can take over an hour … or a matter of minutes! It is likely that your Beekeeping will absorb as much time as you are able to spend … once you catch the Beekeeping bug it seems to grow.

A good bee suit can cost up to £100. A hive and basic equipment will be around £300. A small nucleus colony will be about £200. Sometimes local swarms are offered to members for a donation to club funds.

The amount of surplus honey each colony produces will vary from one year to the next. A good beekeeper will always be sure to leave plenty of stores for their bees to use during the winter.

A strong, well established colony could give around 50lbs if the forage and weather are favourable … but there are always a lot of variables to consider.

The Association has close links to Kevin Pope, our local Seasonal Bee Inspector. He is always available to give advice and will visit your Apiary to check your bees.

Timely reminders are shared through the Association newsletter to guide members in good practice and to encourage close monitoring of Bee stocks.

All Beekeepers should register with the National Bee Unit.  Their website contains a wealth of valuable information. They will also send direct email alerts to raise awareness of potential issues to Beekeepers e.g. reported sightings of Asian Hornets, how to identify diseases etc..

Cabin number 2 has arrived...
see the posts on the NEWS page for further details.