Ian Campbell, Newcastle & District BKA & BBKA Social Media Manager

I’ve kept bees since 2009 in Newcastle upon Tyne. Beekeeping advice? Now there’s a poisoned chalice! Unsolicited advice is about as popular as an inbox full of spam! Over the years, I’ve learnt a core set of interventions that ensure colonies are healthy, pest-free, have adequate stores and minimal swarming. By sharing these, I hope to help you keep one step ahead.

Photo:  David Wootton

Leave alone
Remember the age-old phrase: ‘First, do no harm.’ The work you did with autumn preparation was time well spent.
Nature is now in the driving seat; even if you spot a problem, not much can be done about it now

Equipment sales
Think what you may need this season because you will always need more kit!  Full prices and long lead times later in the year can be painful.

Pests and disease
Varroa: Monitor first for Varroa, treat if required. When monitoring boards for Varroa are removed the debris will also show where the bees are clustered and on how many frames.

Oxalic acid is the preferred winter treatment with a broodless colony and was best done, perhaps, late last year. However, if monitoring boards show your colony needs treatment, then a licensed oxalic acid product can be effective. Trickle or vaporisation options exist and literature for all products can be found on the Veterinary Medicines Directorate Database:  https://tinyurl.com/mv76xsfn 

The National Bee Unit’s Managing Varroa leaflet on BeeBase offers good guidance on treatment thresholds: https://tinyurl.com/2p84ca6s 

The label is the law on veterinary medicine products, so follow packet instructions. A Veterinary Medicines Directorate record card must be completed and kept for five years:  https://tinyurl.com/2fsvza9m 

Green woodpeckers: Mesh cages can help prevent woodpecker damage.

On a warmer day watch entrances for activity. 

Clear entrances
Mouseguards can cause blockages of dead bees at hive entrances; check each time you visit. A stick poked in the holes can help clear them. Do wear your bee suit! 

Hefting hives, feeding fondant
Hefting or some similar way of gauging weight can help estimate stores. If light fondant can be added.

Apiary maintenance
Take advantage of the bees not flying to do any groundwork or fence repairs in the apiary.

Storm damage and snow
Check hives after poor weather to see if they need attention. The brightness of snow can deceive bees into flying. A board at 45 degrees shading an entrance can limit this.

We all know how busy the summer months can get. Take the opportunity now to read some of the many excellent books, new and old, on beekeeping. Knowledge is the most useful tool we have.


The BBKA’s Spring Convention tickets will be available to book in January.

Photos:  Ian Campbell unless marked otherwise.