"The telling of the bees is a traditional European custom in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper's lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household."

Here we remember our fellow Beekeepers.

Bill & Mary Dartnall, Southampton & District Beekeepers Association 

Sadly Mary and Bill Dartnall passed away, beside each other, on Easter Sunday, 12th April, 2020 in Southampton General Hospital. They had both tested positive coronavirus. 

Mary was a Past President of BBKA from 1996 – 97 and an Honorary Member of the BBKA. During her presidency she campaigned for farmers to limit spraying of chemicals to protect bees. Both Mary and Bill were Joint Presidents of Southampton & District Beekeeping Association, a role they thoroughly enjoyed. They had been married for 63 years and their daughter, Rosemary, said "They came as a pair - they were a team. Life wasn't always a bed of roses but they got through it together and they left us together." There will be a Memorial Service for them later in the year.


Dinah Sweet, Cardiff Beekeepers Association

"As an experienced  Master beekeeper, Dinah willingly passed on her skills and wrote many articles helping beekeepers advance their knowledge. She was a well known and appreciated Seasonal Bee Inspector in South Wales where she lived with her husband, John.

"Dinah ran workshops at the Spring Convention encouraging exhibitors at all levels and giving helpful tips on how to improve. As a Honey Judge she gave willingly of her time at the National Honey Show and inspired others with her exhibits. Dinah also worked with Bees for Development delivering workshops in Trinidad for Honey Judges and was the author of many articles in BBKA News and of the Special Edition on Mead. Dinah will be warmly remembered by so many beekeepers as a positive person always willing to share her knowledge and encourage others. She was lovely person who will be sadly missed."

Anne Rowberry BBKA Chair


Peter Tomkins, Rothamstead

"I am very sad to report that my friend and mentor, Peter Tomkins, passed away on Friday at the age of 87.

"Peter was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, and left school at the tender age of 14. His father noticed in the local paper that somewhere called Rothamsted Experimental Station, which was nearby in Harpenden, had a vacancy. Peter sat speechless through an interview with the redoubtable Dr Colin Butler, and much to his surprise, was offered a job in what he understood to be the “B” Department.

"When he arrived for work on the Monday, he was horrified to discover that he would be working with bees. He was promptly stung on the face, which swelled up, and he was sent home. But this started a lifelong fascination with bees. He was Dr Butler’s “boy assistant”, working at the cutting edge in the studies on Queen Substance.

"After a few years, he left for another adventure, working with the eccentric Col. Gare down in Cornwall on the commercial beekeeping operation to supply honey for the Mead Makers enterprise. He was then called up for National Service in the RAF, and then returned to Rothamsted for the rest of his career.

"Initially he was technician in the Bee Department, working on many different projects and making much experimental equipment. On the retirement of Head Apiarist Norman Ellement in 1972, Peter took on this role until his retirement in 1991. I was fortunate to have a year overlapping with him, and I learned a vast amount. Although I had been an amateur beekeeper for over ten years, it was a revelation to work with large numbers of colonies, and to marvel at the simplified system of beekeeping aimed solely for research purposes, which he had developed over the years. This involved total standardisation of equipment, strict hygiene, and minimum intervention. I have followed many of his ideas ever since.

"After retirement, Peter began writing articles in the bee press, most notably in the Beekeepers Quarterly and Bee Craft, often on controversial topics such as the misrepresentation of evidence about pesticides and GM crops. He was persuaded to work part time doing beekeeping for the Rothamsted spin-off company Inscentinel (the “sniffing bees”), and then after the mass cull of bee researchers in 2006, he returned to Rothamsted Research as part time apiarist helping with the much reduced number of colonies.

"He was delighted that the new Rothamsted bee field laboratory was named the “Tomkins Field Laboratory” in recognition of his major contribution to bee research. I last saw him at the National Honey Show at Sandown Park in November. I was sitting next to him settling down for the quiz evening, but then I was called away home to deal with a cat related crisis. I hoped that I would catch up with him at Harper Adams, but it was not to be...

"Farewell Peter..."

Norman Carreck, 
Carreck Consultancy Ltd 
Main photo on page:Daria Rom on Unsplash
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