Monitoring Varroa Mite Levels


To ensure the health of your honey bee colonies, it is essential to regularly monitor and check varroa mite levels. There are a number of ways of testing and counting varroa mite but one of the quickest, accurate and easy ways is to use the VarroCheck recently launched by Vita (one of my sponsors).

How to use

You put diluted alcohol into the test bottle, choose two or three frames from the centre of the brood area, shake the bees into a large tub, scoop a full measure of nurse bees and put them in the bottle, clipping it shut. You shake the bottle to wet the bees and euthanase any varroa mites and count the varroa mites. You then do a quick calculation to work out the percentage infestation level.

There are a lot more details here.

How much does it cost

At the time of writing it cost less than £20 in the UK and less than $20 in the USA.

Happy beekeeping!

For further information, please see my guide to Varroa Management.

New Wedding Speech Writing Services

Help Is At Hand With New Wedding Speech Writing Services

Speechy Logo
Speechy – Wedding Speech Writing Service

This might seem a bit of a random post, but read on to the bottom and you’ll see how it relates to bees.

When my wife-to-be found me struggling with my groom speech she knocked out a really good first draft that got me started.  Then I had to write a best man speech – and I again, struggled.  In fact, speaking with friends at the time, many were hiding in darkened rooms and stressing about the speeches they had to write.

This highlighted an opportunity to help people with their wedding speeches and my wife has launched a wedding speech writing service utilising the talents of professional TV Scriptwriters (Heidi used to work @ the BBC).  And it’s coming to a marquee near you.

Speechy sell a range of wedding speech templates, including for best man, groom and father of the bride templates and recently had launched an AI wedding speech writing tool.  They are all excellent.

PS – THIS IS IMPORTANT – Heidi says the more ‘likes’ I get her the more time she’ll spend extracting honey with me.

Brian Sherriff Obituary

Founder of BJ Sherriff Beekeeping Clothing 

It is sad news about a beekeeping legend. The innovator Brian Sherriff has passed away at the age of 94.

Celebrated for the protective beekeeping clothing which bears his name, Brian Sherriff was born into a family of British corset-manufacturers, his grandfather having set up his first factory in Bristol, UK in the late 1800s. Brian was apprenticed into the family business, starting out in the cutting room. As fashions morphed from full-length corsets into the modern bra, so Brian’s career also took shape. In the 1950s, under his father’s guidance, he became director of a bra factory in Cornwall.

Brian Sherriff at St Michael’s Mount

Brian created his own calling card. When asked to explain his line of business, this could be brought out with a flourish. “The Bra-kerchief” was a miniature replica bra which could be tucked into a gentleman’s top pocket with just a starched peak emerging, resembling a handkerchief. The presentation pack read: ‘Size 15 inch. Guaranteed to fit … as long as you’re the right size!’ 

 The bra factory enjoyed success. However, as market forces changed in the late 1960s, Brian acquired his first beehives, intending to set himself up as a bee-farmer. This was not to be his future, however.  

Brian Sherriff in one of his beesuits

It was a bee sting which took his career in a new direction. Brian always credited his beloved wife Patricia with the invention of the BJ Sherriff beekeeping hood. Unlike a traditional hat and veil, which he had found not to be sting-proof, the structured hood she designed was very effective and revolutionized beekeeping. The first prototype was made using materials they had to hand in the bra factory: boning and net intended for bras, and fabric reserved for swimming costume gussets. A full-length bee-suit soon followed, featuring a sheriff’s star and the brand BJ Sherriff was born. 

 Brian’s early life was spent in Bristol, where as a teenager he experienced bombing raids, later recalling the smoke and the sound of the lions roaring in Bristol Zoo. He fully expected to go into active service when he left school and was trained in the use of a Sten gun. To his relief, he never went to war; peace was declared just weeks before his seventeenth birthday. 

 Brian Sherriff, born 24 May 1928, died 6 August 2022. 

Never Lose a Queen Again

Never Lose a Queen Again

I wanted to let you all know that BJ Sherriff, a sponsor of this blog, have recently launched an innovative QueenSafe™ bag.

QueenSafe Bag - BJ Sherriff
QueenSafe Bag – BJ Sherriff

New Queen bees are either expensive to buy, or take time to rear, so you don’t want her to go missing!

The bag allows beekeepers to safely and securely manipulate their queen bees with ease: transferring queens between containers, colour marking or wing clipping.  The tube is self-supporting and is hand washable. It concertinas in to a flat circular shape.

Their researcher Johnathan says “can’t believe how easy this is to use – having lost a few queens in my time whilst trying to mark them in my truck – they like to climb down the air vents never to be seen again! But not anymore – this is a great piece of kit”

Link to QueenSafe™ bag on the BJ Sherriff website.

Festival Of Bees 2021 – Kent, Bath, Yorkshire

Festival Of Bees 2021 – Kent, Bath, Yorkshire

The Festival Of Bees is for beekeepers and those who are interested in becoming beekeepers.  More information can be found here: Festival Of Bees

They are looking for Stewards and Ambassadors.  Please contact Kerry if you are able to offer your services: tel. 01227 831220;

Festival Of Bees 2021
Festival Of Bees 2021

Bee Suit Warranties And Repairs

Bee Suit Warranties And Repairs

Many of us will be getting out our beekeeping suits and discovering holes in the veil or the knees.

This is a timely reminder that some of the beekeeping clothing manufacturers offer warranties and have in-house repair services, so do use these services if available.

A sponsor of this blog and the bee suit I use: BJ Sherriff garments carry a 5 year warranty on all zips and they repair garments of any age as long as it is deemed economically viable to repair them.  They have repaired a few garments over 40 years old in recent weeks!  Contact them if you need a re-veil or refurbishment of your BJ Sherriff protective clothing.  Repairs are carried out by their authorised specialist machinists and therefore do not revoke their warranty.  Call them weekdays, 9.30am to 14.30pm: tel. 01872 863304; or email:  Link to their website:

Forlorn Beesuit
BJ Sherriff Bee Suit In Need Of Some Love

Further Information:

Kate Humble Beekeeping On Escape To The Farm

Kate Humble Beekeeping On Escape To The Farm

It was nice to see a reminder of last summer’s beekeeping, and something to look forward to next summer, as I watched Kate Humble doing some beekeeping last week on Escape To The Farm (Channel 5, UK, 20th October 2020, 9pm).

Stay safe everyone and see you on the other side.

Kate Humble Wearing BJ Sherriff Apiarist Suit On TV
Kate Humble Filming With Honeybees

Kate Humble BJ Sherriff Channel 5
Kate Humble Setting Up Beehive

Kate Humble Wearing BJ Sherriff Suit On Escape To The Farm
Kate Humble Filming Escape To The Farm (Apiarist Suit)

It was nice to see the beekeepers wearing BJ Sherriff beekeeping suits, which are massive a Cornish, success story.

I wrote a review of bee suits and if you want to visit the Sherriff site here is the link: . *

* Please note, BJ Sherriff are a sponsor of this blog.

Part 2: Failed Queen Leading To Wax Moth

Part 2: Failed Queen Leading To Wax Moth

The answer to Part 1 was “no”:  it was a swarm from someone else’s hives.

Lockdown beekeeping: what’s happened since I last wrote?

  • The new, mated Queen I bought and introduced was killed
  • At the time, I assumed either (A) they just didn’t like her; (B ) poor beekeeping or (C) there was a virgin Queen in the hive at the time
  • A few weeks later I started to then find drone comb in the colony (but no cells with lots of eggs in, i.e. no laying workers)
  • That must have meant when I killed the old Queen in April, a Virgin Queen was in the hive (is this even possible?)
  • I concluded the Virgin Queen never mated and she became a drone laying Queen
  • With a dwindling colony and no other solutions I hoped that perhaps somehow she would lay some workers or a new queen
  • Wax moth got in and destroyed all the comb

All of the above presented some good lockdown biology lessons for my daughter and some awareness of the “birds and the bees”, but not great beekeeping lessons!

Wax Moth Photos

I was a big fan of Vita’s B401 and when its successor B402 is released in the UK next year I’ll be stocking up after 2 years of wax moth infestations.  It’s already available in the USA.  Please note Vita are an important beekeeping supplier and a sponsor of this blog.

Wax Moth Cocoons - September 2020
Wax Moth Cocoons – September 2020

Wax Moth In Honeybee Comb
Wax Moth In Honeybee Comb

The first time you experience wax moth destruction, it’s really distressing.

The Future

I am down to zero colonies.  A winter without any bees!

Catching a swarm next April/May will be my priority.  A hive in the field and a nuc box at the front of our house both with swarm attractant will hopefully do the job.  We’ll see.  But I’m hopeful.

Stay safe, lots of love and see you next year!

Part 1: Are An Introduced Queen & A Swarm Related?

Part 1: Are An Introduced Queen & A Swarm Related?

I introduce a queen to a colony and a swarm goes over my garden a few hours later.  Are these incidents related?  I don’t know the answer to this question, yet.  I’ll post next week.

The Inspection

I am down to one hive after 2 seasons of weak colonies, wax moths, wasps and lets be honest, some bad beekeeping, so it was with crossed fingers I went to carry out my first inspection of the season.

At first glance all looked good, with bees coming and going … but I could also observe they were not bringing in any/much pollen, which was a worry.

In the hive there were no eggs, larvae or capped brood.  This was a big worry!  No pollen, but plenty of honey stores.  About 6 frames of bees.  I found the marked queen.  Luckily no cells with multiple eggs, which would have been a sign of Laying Workers.

I assume the queen has stopped laying and I assume there isn’t a virgin queen as there is no brood from which a virgin could have been made in the last few weeks.  I assume the Queen is producing enough pheromone to stop bees becoming Laying Workers.

Next Steps

I went online and bought a queen (delivery was going to take about 10 days).

To reduce risk of bees becoming workers, I added a frame of eggs from a friends hive (thanks Carolyn).

Introducing Queen (10 Days Later)

There is some best practice with how to introduce a queen but being (A) not a great beekeeper, (B) time limited (full time job and kids at home under lockdown) and (C) reducing the chance of beekeeper error, I did the minimum.  Doing the minimum does reduce the risk of the bees not accepting her … but I calculated this was a lower risk than me losing or injuring the queen.

So, I killed the current queen, removed the plastic tabs from the end of the queen cage and popped the cage into the hive.

Marked Queen 2019
Marked Queen 2019

I’ll inspect in 7 to 10 days to see if there are eggs or a dead queen.

The Swarm

So, I did all the above in the morning. Three hours later a large swarm went through our front garden, down the cul de sac, over a few neighbours gardens and then seemed to settle in a hole in a tree (high up).  Luckily the neighbours found the swarm reduced some of the monotony of lockdown and I shouted out to anyone that would listen that “it wasn’t mine” (probably wasn’t mine would have been more accurate).

I don’t think it was mine for the following reasons:

  1. Earlier the same day, I had both killed the queen (definitely) and left a queen in a cage which will take a few days to get her out of
  2. I presume there wasn’t a virgin queen in my hive (I hope)
  3. I think the swarm was too big (about 15,000 bees by my estimate: 30m long swarm x 10m wide x 5m high, with density of 10 bees per cubic metre – has any one got better ideas of how to estimate a flying swarm size?)

However, I’ll find out when I next inspect and you can find out in Part 2.

There was another swarm the next day, that passed 20m from my house. Starting to get excited about the season.  I need more bees, so I’ve ordered some Vita swarm attractant wipes (blog sponsor) and set up a nuc box.

Not My Swarm - April 2020
Not My Swarm – April 2020


Hope all going well with the start to your beekeeping seasons.

I also found these little wasp nests in the upstairs window sill.  Spring is in full flow.

Wasp Nest (Next To "Cole", From Ninjagos)
Wasp Nest (Next To “Cole”, From Ninjagos)

New Food Supplements For Bees

New Food Supplements For Bees

I have written much already on Feeding Bees but I just wanted to let you know that Vita (blog sponsor) have launched two new bee feeds onto the market (and is now available in retailers in the UK and other countries):

  1. VitaFeed Patty: Pollen-rich feed that is best used in autumn to create strong winter bees
  2. VitaFeed Power: A liquid nutritional supplement packed with essential amino acids and best used in spring to promote colony growth and when producing splits, packages and nucs

These feeds complement their existing feeds:

  1. VitaFeed Nutri: Protein-rich feed that can be used at any time of the year to create strong winter bees
  2. VitaFeed Gold: Best for colonies that have been weakened by dysentery or related conditions.

Vita state that rigorous trials in different countries have shown the positive effects of using VitaFeed Patty and VitaFeed Power. Studies show that bees increase their pollen consumption by 50% when the percentage of protein in the pollen drops from 30% to 20%. When protein content drops, bees turn to their own body reserves. This in turn reduces their lifespan, their brood-rearing capability and therefore the development of the colony. VitaFeed compensates for protein deficiencies. Studies have shown that use of VitaFeed in spring results in an average of two additional frames of brood per colony, compared with control colonies fed only with sugar.

More Information

Images below click through to the Vita site and provide a full image:

VitaFeed Patty label English

VitaFeed Power label

Further Reading

Season 7 – I Still Don’t Know What I’m Doing

Season 7 – I Still Don’t Know What I’m Doing


  • 2 colonies in total:
    • 1 colony is either drone laying queen or laying workers
    • And 1 good colony
  • 2 new queens bought in the post and ready to pop in


  1. Hope bad colony was drone laying queen, find her and pop in a 2019 queen
  2. Artificially swarm the good colony and pop new queen in the new colony so it gets motoring straight away (leaving old queen in the hive on original site)

What Happened

Bad colony

  • I could not find a queen and the egg pattern looked distinctly like laying workers, i.e. patchy.  No point wasting a queen on this colony.  Best to let the colony gradually dwindle.

Good colony

  • 10 frames of bees.  Had not gone into the supers at all.  Quite a bit of drone comb. Little progress in 2 weeks.
  • I couldn’t find the queen hence did a 3 way split
  • Took 3 frames out and placed into the other side of the beehaus and popped in a queen. I also made sure drawn comb and stores in this hive
  • Took 2 frames out and placed into beige nuc. Made sure drawn comb and stores in this hive.
  • Hope queen is in the hive on original site
  • Will leave for 2 weeks and see where we are
  • Not confident that any of my colonies will make honey this year … but they do have 7 weeks to build up ready for the July nectar flow


Not one of those days when you spot and mark halve your queens and feel almost competent.  This was a reality check that it’s tough to find queens some days.  However, at least I vaguely knew what to do – hopefully create some colonies that are good to go into winter.  Over to the bees!

My Apiary - 12 May 2019
My Apiary – 12 May 2019

Read More

Beehaus Review – Season One

Beehaus Review – Season One

The Beehaus has been an object of desire for me since I started beekeeping and the Omlet team kindly provided me with one to experience and review. I set it up and populated it with honey bees in May 2018.

Here is my first season review – and I would be really interested to hear the experiences of other beekeeper’s who use the Beehaus.


The bees have thrived … and importantly, the ergonomic height and double brood box (allowing easy combining of colonies and artificial swarming) has meant there is almost no heavy lifting and shifting and no pressure on my back.  This has to be one of the key benefits of this hive.



  1. The bees have done very well in this hive.  They produced honey, they are strong in numbers and they are healthy.  Obviously I could say the same for my wooden 14×12 hives but the point is the bees have thrived in the Beehaus, as they would in a cedar or poly hive
  2. The high stand, thick insulation and entrance that helps defend against wasps has given me confidence that they are protected and have a good home
  3. The double brood box allowed me to:
    • Easily unite two colonies without the lifting and shifting boxes of bees
    • Give the bees extra space to put further honey stores
    • Be confident that I can readily perform an artificial swarm next year
  4. The thick insulation should further help see them through the winter
  5. The high stand and ease of combining hives and artificially swarming takes the pressure off beekeeper’s back and is excellent ergonomically

The Frustrations

  1. The cover boards slide around and it is a challenge to make sure they are bee tight. I’m getting better at this and always make sure it is bee tight … but I would have thought they could have been designed to simply slot into place
  2. Where the grey panel meets the green panel, my Beehaus has a large gap.  I have had to tape this up (see photos below)

Beehaus - Gaps
Beehaus – Gaps

Beehaus - Making Sure It's Bee Tight
Beehaus – Making Sure It’s Bee Tight

I look forward to continuing my beekeeping with the Beehaus.  My back particularly appreciates working with this hive.

Reader Feedback

I would be really interested in the experience of other beekeeper’s who use the Beehaus.

Read More

  • My original Beehaus review
  • Beehaus Website (20% discount as I write this post)
  • I also have an active page where people are looking to buy and sell their Beehaus: Beehaus For Sale.  This is free to use, but I sometimes take a few days to approve adverts and replies.
  • I keep notes of my beeking in My Apiary

Video Of Beehaus In Action


Thermosolar Hive – Guest Review

Thermosolar Hive – Guest Review

John in Ireland has very kindly provided a review of his first season with the two Thermosolar Hives:

29th May 2018: Purchased 2 overwintered nuc’s from a friend and brought them to my site in the countryside where I already had 2 Poly Hives.  There are no other Bee Hives within 2 miles of these so they have free range.

30th May: The following evening I transferred the frames into the Thermosolar Hives in which I had fitted the Hoffman frames and foundation.

Thermosolar Hive (Green) With Bees
Thermosolar Hive (Green) With Bees – Photo when in Roger’s apiary

9th June: Routine check – found that the colony were building comb on to the existing national frames that I had inserted from the Nuc and as a result I was unable to carry out a full inspection, but I added a super.

24th June (during our Irish heatwave): Found evidence of honey in Supers. Bees could be seen using the Super exit and I blocked off the Solar Panel at front as I felt the bees would get burnt alive in the soaring temperatures.

8th July: Supers full and added the other 2 Supers.

15th August: I put on clearing boards and as the weather had deteriorated I removed the board that was blocking the Solar Panel in front.

17th August: Removed 3 full capped supers from each which extracted 95 lbs of golden honey.

The brood chamber seems quiet full of Stores & I have not seen any evidence of Varroa in hive to date.

I intend to give them a feed of just sugar and water syrup this week.

I will not be doing the Thermosolar Treatment this year on these hives as the temperatures have dropped a lot here in the last few weeks and I did not want to do the treatment with the Supers on.

I hope to get a few more Supers made locally where the carpenter made up feeding boards for me.

I notice that there is no crown board and as a result I found that when opening for inspection the frames were coming away with the roof!!!

Overall I am quite happy with the Thermo Hives this year 2018.

Thanks John – much appreciated, great honey production.  Roger.

Read More

Wax Moth Infestation

Wax Moth Infestation

Greater Wax Moth Infestation (Galleria mellonella)

I didn’t have my camera, so I can only describe the extent of the infestation.

Upon taking off the roof I was presented with a few hundred wax moth larvae in the polystyrene that I used in the roof. I could see larvae spilling out of the two Porter bee escapes in the crown board.  I was met with resistance when trying to prise off the crown board – it was stuck down with a very sticky and thick cotton wool like fibre.  This cotton wool like web was 1cm thick over the top of all the frames.  It was full of larvae and so thick that there was no way the bees could get through it.  Upon trying to pull out a frame I was met with this thick cotton wool web down each seam of bees and in each frame. The frames were beyond repair and I chucked them in a pile to be burnt. By this stage there are thousands of larvae crawling around which I slice through in the hope that they do not enter my other hives.  Ten minutes after I started taking the hive apart, I even find them on my smoker which was on a spare hive stand 1m away.  They don’t stop crawling, searching for food and shelter.  The brood box was also beyond repair as the larvae had bored into the woodwork and made hundreds of boat-shaped indentations as well as the thousands of eggs that would be present in the cracks.

“Luckily”, Mike, a reader of this blog did have a camera to take some photos of his wax moth larvae infested hive.  Mine looked similar.  He lit a fire below the hive below.

Wax Moth Infestation - Mike
Wax Moth Infestation – Mike

I lit a fire in the allotment and burnt all the frames and brood box.  I took my propane torch and scorched the roof, crown board and floor.  I’ll leave that in the field and hopefully a cold winter night will kill any remaining baddies (it needs to be below -7C for 5 hours to kill the wax moth eggs).

There were a few hundred surviving bees, so I hope they were welcomed into one of the other hives.

Here is a photo and video of a surviving larvae I found the following day:

Greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella
Greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella

I couldn’t find any photos online as bad as the infestation I experienced, but here are a couple of photos from Bee Aware in Australia.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomolog
Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology

Wax moth cocoons stuck onto frames. Chantal Forster
Wax moth cocoons stuck onto frames. Chantal Forster

How I Think It Happened

  • Weakness – The hive this happened to did not have many bees.  It had failed to requeen and I added a new queen too late in the season.  A strong hive will keep the wax moth and the larvae at bay
  • Easy entrance to the hive – The wax moth probably got into the roof.  I had blocked the Porter bee escapes with Blu Tack, which means the eggs could become larvae without being attacked by the bees and then the larvae could move into the brood box
  • On a couple of occasions I removed bits of wax and left them on the grass

How To Reduce Likelihood of Wax Moth Infestation

  1. Strong hives – colonies with many bees will manage the wax moth and keep any infestation to a minimum
  2. Solid crown boards – this will close an entrance for wax moth or their lavae to readily get into the hives
  3. Cleanliness – bag any wax and recycle it
  4. Scorching – use a flame to scorch hive equipment that is put into storage
  5. Freezing – if space and low quantity, place brood frames in freezer for 5 hours
  6. B401/Certan – spray stored brood combs with B401 (also known as Certan), a safe and environmentally friendly product based on a concentrated solution of Bacillus thuringiensis, that does no harm to humans and bees

The Good News

But there was some good news.  2 out of my 3 hives are in excellent shape.  Full of bees, lots of flying bees bringing in pollen, plenty of stores for winter.

Here’s a video of the Beehaus:

Read More

Buying & Introducing A Buckfast Queen Bee

Buying & Introducing A Buckfast Queen Bee

It always seems hilarious to friends that one can buy a Queen and it gets delivered by post within a couple of days.

In mid-August, I identified a Queen-less hive and bought a 2018 Buckfast Queen from a local bee breeder.

I bought a Buckfast as it scores well against all traits, particularly, low aggressiveness and tendency to swarm and high calmness, honey collection and late season foraging. See table below for more information.

Queen Bee Traits

Queen Bee Traits
Queen Bee Traits – Table from I Want Bees

Queen Cage

The Queen arrived in a Queen cage in a bubble wrapped envelope.  She had a few attendant workers.

Queen Cage
Queen Cage

There was a candy bung at the end so they couldn’t get out.

Introducing The Queen

Some Queen suppliers advise to remove the workers before introducing the Queen, but I was too concerned I could lose the Queen in the process.  Some Queen suppliers also advise leaving the tape at the end on for a few days, to give the colony more time to get used to the new pheromones.  But I was going to be away – and my preference is to intervene as less as possible with the bees.

After doubling checking the hive was indeed queenless I simply inserted the Queen cage in the middle of the colony and closed it up.  Note: I had Apivar strips on at the time, and still do.

Queen Accepted

I checked two weeks later.  On the outside of the hive, a 100 or so bees were just wondering about and I didn’t see any bees coming or going.  But on inspecting a couple of frames I found larvae. I assume the Queen has been accepted and that the aimless bees might be because the hive is already full of honey, or the bees are now old?

I’ll go and have a look again soon, to see if they are bring in pollen.

Read More

I keep my more detailed beekeeping notes in: My Apiary

A Respectable Honey Yield?

A Respectable Honey Yield?

The Hot Weather & Honey Production

2018 has given us an extraordinary summer in the UK. Since May there has hardly been any rain and temperatures have regularly been 25C plus.  Rain dilutes nectar and the UK is not as hot as other countries … so I assume this has been a good honey production year for all UK beekeepers.

My Numbers

It’s been my best season – doubled my previous personal best and this time with only two production hives.  I record My Yields here.

My two production colonies produced 13 frames of cut comb honey. Typically a super frame holds 3lb of honey and I would say I had overall 80% completion of the frames – hence I produced 31lb of honey which made 84 cartons of beautiful cut comb.

… 15.5lb per production hive … this is almost getting respectable.

How are you all doing?

In Pictures

Honey Super Frame 2018
Honey Super Frame 2018

Cutting Comb
Cutting Comb

Cutting Comb - 2
Cutting Comb – 2

Comb Cutter Full Of Honey
Comb Cutter Full Of Honey

Cut Comb In Container
Cut Comb In Container

Ikea Box Full Of Honey
Ikea Box Full Of Honey


And Stores For The Bees

The hive bodies are also full of honey … and I doubt I will need to feed the bees this year.

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BEE Fayre – 11 & 12 August – Cornwall

BEE Fayre – 11 & 12 August – Cornwall

If you are near Enys House and Gardens, Penryn, Cornwall on Saturday 11th or Sunday 12th August 2018 it is worth going to this charitable and educational BEE Fayre.

BJ SHERRIFF organise this event to help raise awareness of the plight of the bee. There will be interesting short talks and demonstrations, including Skep Making, build an Insect Hotel throughout both days as well as Honey for Sale, Bee Gifts, bee friendly plants, Honey Cosmetic stalls, paint your own bee pottery at Starglazers and a creativity area for children.

This year the money raised will be donated to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Beekeeping at Help for Heroes and Bees Abroad.

BEE Fayre Timetable

BEE Fayre 2018 Flyer - Page 1
BEE Fayre 2018 Flyer – Page 1

BEE Fayre 2018 Flyer - Page 2
BEE Fayre 2018 Flyer – Page 2

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Beehaus Up & Buzzing

Beehaus Up & Buzzing

In May 2018, with 3 weeks of great sunny weather, I set-up my Beehaus (external link to Beehaus), dragged it up the farmer’s field and installed bees.  Exciting times.

Before The Beehaus

Two 14×12 colonies, back to back, lots of bees.

Beehives Back-To-Back
Beehives Back-To-Back



Installing Bees Into Beehaus

Key points:

  • Turned  the two 14×12 wooden hives 90 degrees and moved them 1m away (see photo above)
  • Allowed flying bees to enter the Beehaus
  • Unable to find the Queens in my busy 14×12 wooden hives, I made two simple splits, making sure eggs in all 4 colonies (2 colonies in the Beehaus)
  • Both 14×12 hives had brought in loads of nectar


No idea where the Queens are but all should be OK.

One Week Later

  • Left wooden hive – Found Queen (and eggs, brood, stores), marked her and walked her in to the left side of Beehaus
  • Right wooden hive – Found 7 Queen cells (but no eggs) and removed 5.  I left 2 queen cells right next to each other, so hopefully first Queen out will kill the other rather than creating additional swarms (both queen cells looked a bit on small side, so I wasn’t confident to kill them both)
  • Beehaus – No eggs and no queen cells (and hence walked in the Queen from left wooden hive). Put newspaper between 2 sides of the Beehaus in order to combine
  • I added supers to all hives as they had continued to pile in the stores despite a cold start to the Spring

Beehaus With Flying Bees
Beehaus With Flying Bees

Further One Week Later

  • Beehaus – The bees in Beehaus had accepted the Queen and combined
  • Beehaus – I saw Queen in left side of Beehaus, moved any frames with brood into left side of Beehaus and added QE so that Queen stays in left. In 30 days I will close right entrance and put blocker between left and right so that I have spare hive for a swarm
  • I added the Beehaus entrance narrowers – “wasp” setting – as the number of flying bees is decreasing as they die off
  • Left wooden hive – Found 5 Queen cells and removed 4 leaving 1 large Queen cell
  • The left wooden hive had drawn most frames in super and filled half (uncapped) – so I added additional super
  • I did not disturb the right wooden hive as it may have virgin Queen now
  • None of the colonies bringing in much pollen

Beehaus In Field
Beehaus In Field

Lessons Learnt

  • Add supers by end April – even if think it has been cold
  • Queen from split hive can be walked back into her old colony one week later and accepted


  • Not expecting swarms for next few weeks
  • It’s 17C and rainy for the next week … so just as I want good weather for queen mating the weather is not conducive
  • All colonies – I will leave for 2-3 weeks to inspect for eggs
  • Beehaus – in 4 weeks, seal and close right hand side so that this is a spare hive for swarms

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Efficient Beekeeping

Efficient Beekeeping

As I become a more confident beekeeper I am observing the honeybees more and inspecting them less. This in turn is good for the bees and saves me time.

On Saturday my focus was to observe (in order to make plans) and add Apiguard (to reduce varroa).

I spent about 1.5 hours beekeeping – and most of this was taking equipment backwards and forwards.

It was great to see the colonies thriving and to be working with the bees again.

Bees With Pollen
Bees With Pollen

Beehives Back-To-Back
Beehives Back-To-Back

External Observation

5 of the colonies have many bees leaving the hive and returning laden with pollen.  Pollen = brood rearing. All fine.

1 colony had very little going on. Suspect no queen.

Internal Observation

I opened the hives, observed for 5 seconds, added ekes and applied Apiguard.

5 colonies were packed with bees and had expanded over 9-11 frames.

I was glad of the 10Kg of sugar I fed each colony 6 months ago.

The 1 dubious colony had 4 frames of bees but I suspect this colony is failing. Plan – keep under observation. On next inspection – possibly close the hive and throw bees onto the grass if required.

The objective of today was to check the 2 nucs I was selling had eggs, stores and gentle bees.  Which they did.

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The Bras And The Bees

The Bras And The Bees

I love a good story. I especially love tales of entrepreneurs and how their ideas can change the way we live and make our life a little bit better.

Bees have obviously existed very happily for tens of thousands of years without any ‘new ideas’. The beekeeper, however, has benefited from an explosion in new technology. Some choose not to exploit it but, for me, it makes sense to make use of the innovation that helps my beekeeping mission. Basically I need all the help I can get!

While Elon Musk is the man who wants to fly us all to Mars and Dyson is the dude who’s dedicated to keeping our carpets clean, Brian Sherriff is the beekeeping maverick who keeps beekeepers like me sting-free.

You might not have heard of Brian before but he’s a bit of a saviour in my eyes. Yes, you old school types can use your affinity with the bees, but me? Well, I need beekeeping armour.

This is the story of how Brian Sheriff created the Bentley of bee suits…

Brian Sherriff

The Bras

Before Brian Sherriff became a beekeeper, he was a designer of military uniforms, lingerie, corsetry and swimwear for top international high street stores like Marks and Spencer’s.

From B-cups to beekeepers – we both need support I guess?

Stretch Bra
Stretch Bra

His bra designing skills lead to an interest in technology and a lifelong devotion to working with quality, local people to product long-lasting products.

When he became a beekeeper in the 60s, it made sense to apply all his skills to his new passion.

After a few too many stings, the Sherriff suit was born!

Quality Bee Suits

Brian Sherriff Cutting Beesuits

50 years on, the bee suits are now sold around the world. They’re not made on a production line but by a skilled team of seamstresses in Cornwall, England.  Each piece of protective clothing is individually hand-cut, using professional and traditional tailoring methods in the industry.  Each item has its own unique serial number, meaning they know which roll of fabric the garment was cut from, who cut the cloth, the seamstress who brought it to life and who quality checked, every detail, each and every seam.These dudes are devoted to making quality suits!

Today Brian is joined at the helm by his daughter Angela (well every Sherriff needs a Deputy!). It’s lovely to see a proper family business producing great British products 50 years on.

Angela Sherriff

Brian & Angela Sherriff In Cutting Room
Brian & Angela Sherriff In Cutting Room

The Book

Sherriff have been exhibiting at BBKA conventions since the 1970s and will be exhibiting at the BBKA Spring Convention on the 13-15 April 2018.

As part of Sherriff’s 50th anniversary celebrations there will be an opportunity at the convention to sign up to receive Brian Sherriff’s biography ”The Bras and the Bees – the Remarkable Life of BJ Sherriff”. I suspect he’ll tell his story a bit better than me and I’m sure it will be worth a read.

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