Recent events and news

Sussex Beekeepers Convention was held on 25th November in Uckfield.

Several of our association members attended.

We enjoyed informative and entertaining talks from the five speakers and during breaks we also had the opportunity of meeting members from other associations.

First to speak was Dr John Feltwell  a fellow member of Hastings and Rother BKA and accomplished entomologist. He has been studying the Asian Hornet in France and Jersey. We were shown many pictures of the insect and its nest which gave greater knowledge aiding in its identification. The talk also went into some detail of the nesting and predatory habits. Emphesis was placed upon the need to be vigilant for any sign of this invasive pest which has decimated bee colonies in several European countries since it arrived in France.

Nikki Gammans spoke next, mentioning the many species of bee in the world (around two hundred and fifty!) and the twenty five species of bumblebee in the UK.

She has been involved in the reintroduction of the short-haired bumblebee into the UK and currently working with The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, as their Short-haired bumblebee Project Manager.

She spoke at length about her work “with farmers and land owners across the release site of South Kent and East Sussex, collection and release of the short-haired queens and working with 39 volunteers on bumblebee monitoring”.

Her project aims to educate and work in conjunction with those managing land to co-ordinate grass cutting outside of the relatively short breeding season of the newly re-introduced bee and to encourage the planting of suitable bee friendly plants including wildflower meadows, 97% of which have disappeared from the UK since the Second World War!

Mike William's presentation, The bee sting, how it works and the effect of bee venom on humans.

We were shown detailed diagrams of the bee sting mechanism, how it operates and how the venom reacts with the tissue and immune system of the victim. Unfortunately, sometimes with the severe consequences of anaphylactic shock.
A very thorough and informative session from a surgeon and hobbyist beekeeper.

After a lunch break, Roger Patterson told us about his ‘Simple approach to bee improvement’.  He gave us his views on how to better our stocks with simple selective breeding methods. Apart from being an accomplished beekeeper of fifty plus years, he owns and maintains the ‘Dave Cushman website’  containing much useful information (see our bee info links page) Roger is president of Wisborough Green BKA in West Sussex.

The final speaker, Bob Smith gave an appraisal of UK beekeeping, its value and contribution to the environment and the economy (through pollination services). He then  explained his thoughts on how best to look after the bees in our charge, with emphasis on diligent hygiene in the apiary in order to maintain good disease management. As per promoted good practice from BBKA and the national bee unit, he was advocating the use of disposable gloves, changed between each hive inspected and a strong solution of washing soda to sanitise hive tools etc. Bob was a bee inspector in Kent for six years and concurred with Roger Patterson that the more hives you see the better you can recognise a healthy colony of good natured bees.

All in all an enjoyable day .

Please note: For new beekeepers and those wishing to remind themselves of Apiary hygiene current best practice, the following links are informative. (clicking on them will download the relavant files direct to your download folder) 


Saturday 2nd December

Our association's Annual general meeting at Mountfield Village Hall.

There was a reasonable turn out of members.

The usual business of the accounts etc was dealt with and then some changes to the committee were announced and members voted in favour as follows.

Harold Cloutt has replaced Joy as Chairman (Joy has sadly retired due to ill health of herself and her husband)

Sheila Fellows-Turnbull (Secretary elect) was appointed to replace Harold Cloutt

Two association members Graham Burgess and Jeremy Carr who have attended committee meetings as guests were nominated and voted onto the committee.

After the AGM came to a close, we were treated to a mead making demonstration by Steve Gibson of Brighton and Lewes Association.

He prepared a batch of mead using an old recipe. It  was both highly informative and amusing and followed by the opportunity to sample three different meads that Steve had made and brought with him all having been allowed to mature in the bottle, apparently the longer the better. They were all rather delicious and I am sure Steve has inspired some of us to try making our own, indeed as the event was advertised as a 'workshop' two members brought their own brewing equipment and ingredients making their own first batches!

Sussex Beekeepers Association Spring Symposium incorporating the AGM Saturday 3rd March

A cold Saturday afternoon saw the Sussex Beekeepers Association Spring Symposium incorporating the AGM take place.

Considering the state of the roads up until the thaw that occurred on the morning of the event, the turnout was good, when I arrived the carpark was full. This year the event was hosted by High Weald division at Broad Oak Village Hall just outside Heathfield.

The event begun with the Hall opening and trade Stalls from Mantle Farm and ‘The Bee People’ both trading beekeeping equipment, Mantle Farm have extended their range of stock.
At approximately 2.15 the AGM commenced.
The Sussex BKA Chariman Pat Clowser opened proceedings with the usual business dealt with expediently.
The treasurer's report was presented and the following were re-elected to their current roles.
Pat Clowser as SBKA Chairman, Liz Twyford secretary and Harold Cloutt Treasurer.
The charman then invited each association’s representative to give an update on their association’s progress.
Each division (Brighton and Lewes, Eastbourne, East Grinstead, Hastings and Rother, High Weald) had a representative give a brief summery of their division’s year.
All had at least some good news and success. Our own division was the only one with successful candidates in any of the BKA modules and practical assessments.

There were two presentations.

The first speaker, fellow beekeeper Edward Hutt from Hawkhurst in Kent gave us a talk on the Flow hive.
For those who do not know anything about this product see:
The result of 10 year development by and Australian father and son team with a very successful crowdfunding campaign.
The super frames in the hive are plastic and ‘split’ into two halves, by means of a simple lever mechanism the halves can be manipulated from outside the hive causing the honey flowing out of the cells in the frames to channels that connect to tubes which are directed into food grade buckets and the honey flows out of the hive.
The bees then become aware the frames are empty, remove the cappings from the cells and start filling the frames again!
The inventors point out the  benefit of there being no need to clear and remove supers, uncap and then extract.
The system is not cheap, lowest price option is six flow frames at £200 and that is without special super! The frames need periodic cleaning.
Perhaps on a small scale, one or two hives there could be a benefit to some beekeepers, but the durability of the frames will have to be proven to most in order to justify the cost.
There is of course the benefit of being able to harvest some honey without doing anything more than move a lever.
Edward Hutt has been keeping bees for two years and is pleased so far with the results, it takes a few hours for the honey to flow out of the frames (dependant on the viscosity by it’s nature and temperature)
After his talk we were able to examine the frames and supers he had brought along and see in detail how they work.

The second speakers subject was about Arnia Hive monitoring.
Full details and explanation of this system can be found at

George Clouston from Arnia was to have presented their product, however he lives in Cumbria and the snow that had fallen the day before meant he was unable to leave his village for the next five days!
Peter Coxon, a Sussex beekeeper who happens to own an Arnia system kindly stepped in and explained how the system works, but his experience of using it.

Arnia have been remotely monitoring beehives for nine years in 25 countries.
Their system comprises a total of five sensors.  A microphone, Hive temperature, brood temperature and humidity sensor, and on the ‘upper end systems’ the hive sits on a digital scale, monitoring the weight of the colony / hive.
There is a base station that receives the information from the hive transmitters (up to twenty hives' data can be collected and relayed in any Apiary)
From all the hive sensors, data is collected and sent to the Arnia servers by GPS messaging using the mobile phone network. The data is then analysed by the Arnia systems.
The microphone can detect the frequency the bees are ‘buzzing’ at, according to Arnia’s extensive work over the years they can detect when the bees are about to swarm, when they are fanning to beckon a virgin queen back into the hives.
whether the colony is healthy or diseased.
The scales reveal bees leaving to forage, nectar being brought in, water being evaporated from the nectar and perhaps more usefully, during winter an idea if the bees have enough stores left without having to heft the hive.
The hives data can be viewed by logging into the users account on the Arnia servers on any device with a web browser.Information is displayed in the form of graphs showing the interpreted sounds and recorded temperatures and hive weight etc.
A tilt switch in the hive will inform if the hive has been knocked / blown off stand or moved (possibly stolen by rustlers!)
Alarms can be set at specified thresholds (for example, during winter if the hive weight drops below a certain weight, it would suggest the colony may be running out of stores, a message is then sent to the owners mobile phone alerting them without them needing to remember to login and check, or during summer alerts might warn of imminent swarming.
As Peter Coxon pointed out, this is all very well providing you are close enough to your Apiary when you get the ‘alert’ to be able to respond!
All in all a clever system and over time, Arnia will perhaps be able to learn more and be able to provide more ‘feedback’ on the state of colonies, however, at approximately £600 for the base unit and all hive sensors it is not something many of us could afford to think about ‘trying out’! Perhaps with time, if volume of sale increases this will lead to prices becoming more affordable?

Abundant refreshments were provided and much enjoyed by those who indulged, an interesting afternoon.