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Margaret Murdin has been keeping bees for about 15 years and a trustee of the BBKA for the last 7 years, Chair in 2017 and elected President of the BBKA Trustees in 2018. Margaret has been a member of the Exam Board and is currently Assistant Moderator for the written exams. Margaret is a BBKA Assessor for the Basic, General and Advanced Husbandry Assessments and writes, moderates and marks the written papers. She is also a tutor for Correspondence Courses. Previously Margaret was the Principal of a large further and higher education college in the North West of England, and retains a particular interest in education.
I got into beekeeping by attending a training course on what I thought was an endangered species, the Honey Bee, it was held in a barn on a farm where there was absolutely no heating at all and we were warned to attend in warm clothing. We were provided with a hot drink mid-morning but continued to shiver, by lunch time I decided that something must be done, so I went to the car and got two blankets. After a lunch of hot soup and a sandwich, we sat in our chairs, muffled up with clothing and then wrapped the blankets round us to try to keep warm. I have to say, after that year all training courses were in centrally heated accommodation.
My biggest work achievement has been building up a security business from nothing into a multi million pound company that is still growing. My experience and business skills have been very useful to me whilst serving as a trustee.
My first contact with honey bees was 55 years ago when my father swapped pheasant rearing for bee keeping. I helped him from time to time and went with him to conferences at Newton Rigg College. My father tolerated angry bees in the belief they were more productive and that rather put me off. I studied farm management at Harper Adams and spent 11 years in Tropical Agriculture in Papua New Guinea. On returning to the UK I became involved in the world of logistics eventually joining a logistics training company based in Carlisle.
My father passed away in 1997 and after lot of thought I decided to take up the hobby. My father’s bees were still angry and I nearly gave up. Fellow beekeepers encouraged me to stay and with a bit of re-queening and selective queen rearing I now have bees that are pleasant to work with and bees are now my main interest.
After 10 years as Cumbria delegate I decided to stop throwing brickbats and start catching them.
I currently run my own successful business after a career as a professional trumpet player, and read, some ten years ago, about CCD in the US from a Sunday newspaper. This sparked my interest in beekeeping to where I am now. Like most of us who started beekeeping later on in life, I wish I had started years before as they are fascinating insects and there is so much to learn.I decided to become a Trustee after being asked by my Association in Surrey, where I am Chairman of the Wimbledon Division. I currently sit on the EC, Finance,, Governance, Education & Husbandry and Research committees.I am passionate about education in beekeeping as knowing what the bees ‘are and do’ is the way forward to becoming better beekeepers and looking after this precious species.
Married with 4 grown children, it was my granddaughter who re-sparked my interest in beekeeping. I joined the introduction to beekeeping course run by the High Wycombe branch of the BBKA in 2013, and have kept my own bees since March 2014. Throughout my working life till subsequent retirement in 2006 I was responsible for the running and change management of a number of companies both in the UK and overseas.
I became a trustee of the BBKA at the January 2015 ADM. Since that period we have worked hard to generate improved reporting, control, simplicity, and transparency within the finance area. 2017 showed the first surplus in the account for 4 years - and a modest improvement on budget commitments.
It’s funny how often in life it’s a number of things that contribute to a decision. For me, getting into beekeeping was a combination of: donning all the garb to join an inspection at a friend’s apiary...buying some local honey and hearing that it has natural properties which help guard against infections...and my son having asthma, and spending a fortune on bought local honey to alleviate his symptoms. Then when a friend said she was doing the Introductory Course, we did it together – in 2011. A few months later we got a swarm and we were beekeepers.
As for my greatest work achievement, there are lots of ways to measure success. From a personal satisfaction point of view, mine would still have to be negotiating a sabbatical year from the civil service to teach english as a foreign language in Japan in 1991-2. I took my certificate over with me and found a job, lived with Japanese people and taught business men and women around Tokyo and Yokohama. It was a stunning cultural experience and taught me that people’s beliefs and values can be very different from ours – not right, not wrong, just different.
I am committed to developing beekeeping and improving bee husbandry; I give lectures and practical demonstrations to other Associations, belonging to Avon myself. I believe strongly in getting young people involved in learning about bees and beekeeping and in encouraging an understanding of these wonderful creatures. Since taking early retirement, after a career in teaching and charity work overseas, I am able to further pursue my interests in bees and in Chelonia.
Pam has been keeping bees for over 25 years and is a Master Beekeepers. She is also a member of BIBBA and the Central Association of Bee-Keepers.
Pam's background is in biological sciences. She was employed in microbiological research in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years before becoming a freelance consultant and writer.
Until recently Pam was Chair of the BBKA Examinations Board.
Bumblebees, or as the Victorian’s called them ‘Humble bees’, are similar to wasps in that only the queen hibernates and survives the winter. In the spring the queen bumblebee seeks an old mouse- or vole- hole and builds within it a nest of leaves and moss. She constructs nodular wax cells and incubates her young as a bird would. As her first offspring hatch and begin to fly the queen increasingly stays within the hive to produce young. Bumblebees do make a small amount of honey and store it in one special cup like cell. There is no more than a tablespoon at any time. The typical maximum population of a bumblebee colony is tiny, compared to the honey bee, being between 50 and
In any hive there are three types of honey bee: a single queen; thousands of female worker bees and, in the summer, hundreds of male drones. The drone bee does no work and in the early autumn they are evicted by the workers and die.
It is often asked how – or if – bees are awake or asleep. Bees do not sleep – but they do remain motionless to preserve vital energy for the next day of foraging. During the day, and out on their travels, bees eyes can detect a wide array of colour. Their eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the spectrum and into ultra violet. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultra violet light and to a bee will be very bright. Curiously, when it comes to red, bees are totally blind.
The distance each bee flies in its life is astonishing. It is possible for bees to fly as far as 5 miles for food, however an average distance would be less than a mile from the hive. A strong colony therefore flies the equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon everyday.
The normal top speed of a worker would be about 15-20mph (21-28km/h) when flying to a food source and about 12mph (17km/h) when returning with nectar, pollen, propolis (resin collected from tree buds) or water.
There are a number of diseases affecting bees, some more serious than others. They are not infectious to humans but dangerous for the bee. Certain bee diseases are even notifiable to the Government.
The most serious are AFB (American Foul Brood) and EFB (European Foul Brood), which affect the larva in the hive. These are normally treated by destroying the colony by burning it. If left alone, the disease can spread throughout out the whole apiary and affect surrounding beekeepers. Spores from AFB can remain dormant for over 50 years in old beekeeping equipment and cause problems decades later.
The most alarming threat to honey bees in the UK right now is the potential arrival to Mainland Britain of Asian Hornet. Please see here to learn how to help beekeepers by being aware of them and keeping an eye out.
Honey bees mix plant pollen with water to form a type of bread that is fed to the growing larvae. It provides a rich source of protein and fat whilst honey provides energy (carbohydrate). Bees collect about 20kg of pollen every year - that’s 1 million pollen loads at 20mg per trip!
We need people to plant more flowers wherever they live – the more flowers, the more food (forage) for the honey bees. Greater food sources enable honey bees to be much stronger in the face of disease. You can find a comprehensive guide to planting here which tells you which pollen will be available when the bees need it throughout the year.
A bee only stings under two conditions. To protect the colony or when frightened. When a bee stings, barbs in the lance of the sting cause it to firmly stick into the victim pulling out the venom sacs and glands when the bee is shaken off. The venom sac muscles continue to pump after these organs have been torn from the dying bee.
Only the female workers and the queen can sting, the queen having a smooth sting which she uses to kill other queens, while surviving herself.
Bees use the position of the sun to navigate and there is evidence of their sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field. Also bees' eyes are sensitive to polarized light, which penetrates through even thick cloud, so bees are able to ‘see’ the sun in poor weather.
As well as two compound eyes on either side of its head the bee has three ‘ocelli’ on top of its head. The ocelli (collective noun for all 3 eyes) can detect the transition from darkness to light. If the horizon moves up it means the bee is flying down so it can rotate the angle of its wings to compensate. In this way the bee can make sure it’s flying along a flat plain to achieve a greater distance over a shorter space of time.
Yes, bees' eyes are sensitive more to the blue end of the light spectrum and into ultraviolet. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultraviolet light and will appear very bright to a bee. Bees are totally red blind.
A honey bee will not fly much higher than the height of any obstacle in its path. The bee will learn to fly straight out from its colony at high speed and will be most surprised if it strikes an new obstacle, such as you standing in the way. It may lash out and you will receive a sting, so be careful when walking close to the front of a busy beehive.
Mating drones will fly up to 30 metres above ground to find a queen, and can go much higher if warm rising thermal air carries them.