Note this page will be updated during August 2022.
All last years main lectures can be viewed on YouTube from Lecture Videos.
There is no booking for lectures, seats are available on a first come first served bases.
The lecture programme may change for a variety of reasons. Substitutions may have a different topic from that intended and with a different speaker.
Programme updated 19/07/22
Gold Cup Suite
Thursday 27 October
9.30. Jeff Pettis: “Bees that survive Varroa”
11.00. Nicola Bradbear: “Bees for Development’s first 30 years”
12.30. Roger Patterson: “Beekeeping: Challenge what you are told”
14.30 Dave Goulson: “Silent Earth: Saving Our Insects”
16.00 Jeff Pettis: “Apimondia, a long history and how to keep current”
Friday 28 October
9.30. Willie Robson: “Reflections on 60 years of commercial beekeeping”
11.00. Jeff Pettis: “Global beekeeping”
14.00. Dara Kilmartin: “Bee Vision”
16.00. Grace McCormack: “Insights on beekeeping from wild honey bees”
Saturday 29 October
9.30. Grace McCormack: “Protecting honey bees on the island of Ireland: Our journey from discovery to legislation”
11.00. Rachel Monger: “A Story of Beekeeping Abroad”
13.30 Willie Robson: “An hour with Willie Robson”
15.00 Jeff Pettis: “Back to the future: Hands off vs intensive management?”
Saturday 29 October
The Beginner’s Programme is intended for those who are in their early years of beekeeping, perhaps up to 2/3 years experience, although all beekeepers are welcome. The topics have been carefully chosen as being relevant to those new to the craft, covering what beginners are often confronted with in their early years and giving information to aid the understanding of how a honey bee colony works. The presenters are experienced beekeepers who are used to teaching, so they will pitch their presentations at the relevant level, with little or no overlap between lectures.
It is strongly recommended that beginners attend all presentations and that local beekeeping associations or groups encourage their members to attend. It may be that attendees are visiting the National Honey Show for the first time, so the programme has been arranged to allow time for beginners to see the exhibits and visit the trade stands.
9.15. Jane Medwell: “What do bees collect and how do they use it?”
11.15. Roger Patterson: “Observation: Interpret what you see”
13.00. Selwyn Runnett: “Listening to the Bees: The Case for Sustainable Beekeeping”
14.30. Dan Etheridge and Peter Davies: “National Bee Unit (NBU) – The Beekeepers Friend”
Bee Craft Lecture Programme
Friday 28 October
Information to be announced.
I grew up in a farm community in rural Georgia in the US and fell in love with bees and beekeeping as a student at the University of Georgia. After completing my studies at Georgia in 1985 and Texas A&M in 1991, I joined the USDA-Agricultural Research Service as a scientist and worked in that role for over 20 years. I published on bee biology, varroa control, the effects of pesticides on bees and CCD. I left USDA in 2016 and now run a consulting business on bee health and manage around 100 colonies of bees with my son Kevin in Salisbury, MD USA where I live. In my spare time I serve as President of Apimondia and enjoy birding and kayaking.
Presentation 1: "Bees that survive Varroa"
Varroa mites are a major threat to bees and beekeeping but not all bees are damaged by these mites. Why is this? Some bees evolved with the mite such as the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and they have unique defence mechanisms not found in European honey bees Apis mellifera. I will report on one of these populations, from Brittany France, and discuss possible resistance mechanisms that honey bees use to fight varroa.
Presentation 2: "Global beekeeping"
Bees are managed in various ways around the globe. We tend to think of the European honey bee as the “bee”. In fact, many other types of bees are managed, and we will explore some of the diversity of bees and how humans manage them. Starting with hunting and gathering all the way to commercial beekeeping.
Presentation 3: "Back to the future: Hands off vs intensive management?"
Humans have kept bees for thousands of years. Before we actually kept beehives we hunted them in the savannahs and forest and then moved towards managing them in hives that we provided. As beekeeping has changed, we left behind in many cases the more rustic forms of hives in favour of movable frame hives. I will discuss hive type and management style to try and convince you that indeed you can manage bees in a hands off manor, but indeed this is not for everyone. The pros and cons of various management styles will be discussed.
Presentation 4: "Apimondia, a long history and how to keep current"
Apimondia is the only global beekeeping association in the world. With a beginning in Belgium in the 1800s, Apimondia has moved beyond Europe to now holding global meetings every other year in such places as South Korea, Ukraine and Argentina. A brief history will be discussed and that will lead to a discussion of how Apimondia hopes to grow in our changing world. We were to hold our 47th Congress in Russia in 2022, this will be discussed along with predictions for the future.
Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology at University of Sussex, specializing in bee ecology. He has published more than 400 scientific articles on the ecology and conservation of bumblebees and other insects, plus seven books, including the Sunday Times bestsellers A Sting in the Tale (2013), the Garden Jungle (2019), and Silent Earth (2021). Goulson founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2006, a charity which has grown to 12,000 members. In 2015 he was named number 8 in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s list of the top 50 most influential people in conservation. For each of the last 4 years he was named as a “Highly Cited Researcher” by Thompson ISI. He is a trustee of Pesticide Action Network, an “Ambassador” for the UK Wildlife Trusts, and president of Pesticide Free Scotland
Presentation: "Silent Earth: Saving Our Insects"
Insects are vital, fascinating, weird and wonderful. They are food, pollinators, recyclers, pest controllers, and much more, so we should be deeply concerned that they are in rapid decline. Dave Goulson will explain the many causes of insect decline, and then turn to the solutions of this crisis. We can all help in many ways, first by turning our gardens and urban greenspaces into oases for life, and second by fundamentally changing the way we grow food, and the food we buy.
Rachel has lived and worked for many years in Tanzania. Her work included starting community beekeeping groups and establishing beekeeping project management in the Mwanza region. She worked with a group of women with albinism to establish “The Hive”, a social enterprise honey processing centre and shop, selling honey and making and selling handcrafted beeswax products. She now lives in Bath and continues to support beekeeping in Africa with Bees Abroad. She loves the adventure that makes beekeeping in Africa so exciting and is passionate about seeing individuals supporting one another in community, learning and developing new skills and generating their own income to better support their families.
Presentation: "A Story of Beekeeping Abroad"
This presentation will look at the life-changing work of Bees Abroad through the lens Rachel’s adventures and experiences learning to be a beekeeper and then starting rural beekeeping groups in northern Tanzania. As she shares about her work, you will hear about the challenges and the benefits of Tanzanian beekeeping. You will hear the stories of vulnerable, stigmatized women with albinism who now proudly run a Honey Centre and Shop, selling honey from village beekeepers and their own beeswax products. You will learn how Bees Abroad projects provide more than just a sustainable ongoing income, creating “Beekeepers for Life” and changing lives in some of the most disadvantaged of rural communities in Africa.
Willie Robson has been a full-time commercial beekeeper for 60 years, keeping black bees in the traditional manner producing oil seed rape, heather and cut comb honey as well as cosmetics and polish. Chain Bridge Honey Farm is presently trading directly into 500 retail outlets, selling products that are produced from their bees that are kept within 40 miles of Berwick - upon - Tweed. There is an extensive visitor centre on the banks of the River Tweed. Like many others, Willie is currently experiencing difficult times with the bees due to queenlessness.
Presentation 1: "Reflections on 60 years of commercial beekeeping"
Willie Robson heads the well-known Chain Bridge Honey Farm based in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. In 60 years of making a living from working bees in difficult conditions, he has developed ways of managing the bees using methods that many beekeepers will be unfamiliar with and may not be in books. In this wide ranging talk, Willie will cover some of what he has learnt and done for well over half a century, that will include hive manufacture, processing and marketing his products and the kind of bees that will survive and produce good honey crops in a harsh environment.
Presentation 2: "An hour with Willie Robson"
Willie Robson has been a large-scale commercial beekeeper for over 60 years, working bees in the harsh Northumberland environment, where many others would have failed long ago. To be successful in these conditions you need to observe and work with the bees, developing suitable techniques, rather than taking standard ones from books that are generally written by and for beekeepers in much more favourable conditions. Willie’s father was teaching beekeeping in the Scottish Borders, where he had learned a great deal from the people he was teaching, including W W Smith, who was then the only commercial beekeeper in Scotland. Willie learned a lot about beekeeping through going round with his father.
This presentation will feature Willie answering questions and discussing topics about his beekeeping experiences that have been submitted by beekeepers beforehand. Questions will not be taken at the show, to avoid repetition and to allow the discussion to flow. Where appropriate, some questions may be combined. To ask questions or to raise a point, please email it to email@example.com by 20th October.
Roger is a practical beekeeper who started keeping bees in his native West Sussex in 1963. He has learnt a lot by observing bees and beekeepers in a wide variety of locations, which has helped him to develop his simple management system and to question what he is told.
Roger has learnt a lot from bees, that he passes on to others as a prolific speaker, demonstrator and writer with five books published. “Live @ the Hive” features him being live streamed inspecting colonies and giving tips from his home apiary.
He has been a demonstrator at the Wisborough Green BKA teaching apiary since the early 1970s and is currently the Apiary Manager, where there are normally over 30 colonies for tuition. For about 15 years he had 130 colonies of his own, but is now down to around 25. He owns and runs the Dave Cushman website http://www.dave-cushman.net/, which is considered to be one of the world's most comprehensive beekeeping websites.
Presentation: "Beekeeping: Challenge what you are told"
In beekeeping, there are a lot of people who are keen to give advice, whether verbally or the written word. There are a lot of myths and misinformation, often “cut and pasted” from other sources, which may simply be copying someone else’s mistake, who copied someone else’s mistake and so on. The same thing is then seen in different places and because it’s in print it’s believed to be correct, but is it? Inexperienced beekeepers may have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff, but the more experienced a beekeeper becomes, the more they realise that some of what they have been told, sometimes quite forcibly, may be unreliable or inappropriate for them. This presentation highlights a few topics that may not always be as we are told. It doesn’t rubbish the “standard information”, but gives experiences that have been acquired during over half a century of practical beekeeping.
Presentation: "Observation: Interpret what you see"
Lateral thinking and observation are two of the most valuable assets a beekeeper can possess. There are many things an observant beekeeper will see during a colony inspection that will help them to understand bees and what is happening in their colonies. These abilities develop with experience, but the key is to know what is normal, so you can spot something different. A colony of bees is telling you something all the time, often before you open it. Good beekeepers are able to interpret what the bees are telling them and what may happen in a colony in 2, 5 or 10 days time. This presentation shows some things that may not be taught or seen in books or videos, but are regularly seen in hives.
Prof Dara Kilmartin is a hobbyist beekeeper with 12 years experience managing 20-30 colonies in 6 apiaries between central and suburban Dublin, rural Wexford and a remote island in Connemara, Galway, Ireland. He is a Beemaster and was awarded the CFL qualification of FIBKA in 2016 following exam lectures in Gormanston on Bee Stings and Bee Vision. He is the Bee Health Officer of the County Dublin Beekeepers Association and is an active member of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society. He regularly gives pollen microscopy workshops and bee dissection/disease analysis and has attended most NDB short courses. Particular beekeeping interests include bee diseases, pollen nutrition effects on bee immunity and comparative bee vision.
His day job is as a consultant eye surgeon and Clinical Associate Professor, University College Dublin. He holds a first class honours Masters degree in Physiology and has subspecialty fellowship training in ocular immunology and retinal surgery.
Presentation: "Bee Vision"
Bee vision is extremely well adapted to the key visual tasks required of honey bees: efficient flower pollination and nectar gathering by workers, queen spotting by drones and mating by queens. Honey bees have highly specialized structural and physiological visual features: an advanced form of the insect compound eye, a blue shift in the visible light spectrum compared to humans, ability to detect ultraviolet and polarized light and high temporal resolution allowing highly sensitive motion detection. Traditionally, the bee compound eye has been regarded as inferior providing a mosaic image with poor resolution. However, localized structural adaptations in the dorsal eye show a focal area of high resolution approximating human levels of ‘super’ acuity, and we still do not fully appreciate the functional importance of bee colour vision and ultraviolet light navigation.
Key questions remain unanswered: if bee colour vision is shifted towards the blue/ultraviolet region, why has no one proven that bees use ultraviolet flower markings in foraging? Why have studies shown a more than 50% loss of queens returning from mating flights to hives marked blue on white, features which should prove advantageous? Recent evidence suggests that bees navigate preferentially towards blue and green contrast, which confounds more than a century of perceived wisdom.
Jane Medwell learnt beekeeping in her childhood learnt in Essex and has kept her own bees in Warwickshire since 1999. Although she got to the heavy demands of 40 hives at one point, she has scaled back her hive numbers and focusses on training, assessing and working with other beekeepers. She particularly enjoys the actual bee husbandry and is passing the craft to her son. Jane is a Master Beekeeper and BBKA trustee.
Presentation: "What do bees collect and how do they use it?"
This presentation will consider all the things bees collect: propolis, water, pollen and nectar and what they do with it in the hive. However, it will particularly focus on the way pollens are processed and stored, and the way honey is produced from nectar. These “mysteries” are the basis of colony life, but are rarely the focus of our attention. However, knowing about these processes helps us to intervene more effectively and thoughtfully in the life of our colonies.
After completing her PhD at Durham University, working for 10 years at the International Bee Research Association, and lecturing on bees at Cardiff University, Nicola Bradbear founded Bees for Development. Since 1993 Nicola has been the elected President of the world body Apimondia’s Scientific Commission Beekeeping for Rural Development.
Nicola has instigated bee development activities world-wide, is an advisor to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other international agencies, and has worked in many nations including Afghanistan, Chechnya, El Salvador, Eritrea, and Iraq.
Nearer to home, Nicola is a beekeeper and President of her local beekeepers’ organisation, Gwent. Nicola initiated the Bee Friendly campaign which has successfully lobbied the local Council to reduce mowing and adopt a Pollinator Policy, run the annual Monmouth Bee Festival, and built the profile of Monmouth as the UK’s first Bee Town.
Presentation: "Bees for Development’s first 30 years"
Bees for Development was the first charity devoted to the use of beekeeping as a tool for development, having carefully understood and articulated the reasons why it can be so useful. Today the organisation enjoys a high reputation for its work, with a royal President, high profile Patronage, and supporters and beneficiaries world-wide. It operates at the heart of a network of people, projects, schools and organisations in 120+ countries to train, inform and improve beekeeping skills. Bees for Development has received major awards for its work, most recently the Award for the Welsh organisation achieving greatest overall impact in Africa. Our educational materials are distributed globally, and our projects support co-operatives and honey trade organisations to establish good markets for honey and beeswax. We support simple, sustainable, nature-based beekeeping for biodiversity and livelihoods. We endeavour to understand the factors important for extensive, productive and profitable beekeeping systems. In recent years, we have increasingly provided training to beekeepers in UK, promoting a natural, extensive approach to maintain healthy populations of honey bees. In this talk Nicola will describe the current approach and work of the charity and share exciting plans for the future of this dynamic organisation.
Selwyn has been interested in environmental issues for a number of years and has been a member of a number of environment-related organisations. He first became interested in beekeeping because of the importance of honey bees as part of the wider eco-system and their role as pollinators. He has been keeping bees actively for 12 years and became a part-time commercial beekeeper four years ago committed to methods of sustainable commercial beekeeping.
He is the Chair of BIBBA and is also a Member of the Bee Farmers’ Association, the Central Association of Bee-Keepers and of the Entomological Society of America. Selwyn is currently undertaking the Master Beekeepers’ Program at Cornell University and is particularly interested in applying the increasing amount of scientific research around the World to practical beekeeping management techniques based on sustainability.
Presentation: "Listening to the Bees: The Case for Sustainable Beekeeping"
Many methods of modern beekeeping start with the needs of the beekeeper rather than the needs of the bees. There is increasing evidence that this is leading to problems for our honey bees. By “listening to the bees” we can adopt bee-centred methods of bee husbandry, to the benefit of both the bees and the beekeeper.
Selwyn explores the central principles of sustainable, bee-centred bee husbandry, explains why this should be the preferred method of beekeeping for all beekeepers, and how these principles can be applied in practice. He discusses both the scientific issues and the key objections to adopting sustainable methods of beekeeping. He also briefly touches on natural and biodynamic methods of beekeeping.
If you want to know more about sustainability and how you can become a sustainable beekeeper, this presentation will give you all the basic information you will need.
Grace McCormack is a Professor in Zoology at NUI Galway. Her interests lie in evolutionary biology and particularly in using molecular data to understand how organisms are related to each other and the impacts this may have on conservation and on the evolution of organismal traits. The interaction between animals and their parasites/pathogens over evolutionary time is also of interest as is the use of this information in applied science such as biodiscovery (marine sponges) and apiculture (bees). Grace started beekeeping to better understand the species she is now studying, and the University apiary managed by her has 12-15 colonies.
Presentation 1: "Protecting honey bees on the island of Ireland: Our journey from discovery to legislation"
When Prof McCormack first started working on honey bee research in Ireland little was known about the genetic composition of the Irish honey bee population. It was assumed that no honey bees were able to survive in the wild and while members of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) were confident that they were breeding the native dark bee others were more sceptical. The main objective of NIHBS is to protect Ireland’s only native honey bee. In collaboration with other scientists, beekeepers and members of the public Prof McCormack’s group set out to explore some of these assumptions. More recently NIHBS also joined up with the Climate Bar Association and a Green party TD and together we got enough support to present a Bill to Dail Eireann to ban imports. This talk will present this story.
Presentation 2: "Insights on beekeeping from wild honey bees"
Considered to be extinct due to habitat loss, parasites and disease, anecdotal evidence from beekeepers and genetic data first indicated the likely survival of honey bees in the wild. Dismissed initially as only being ‘feral’ (i.e. escapes from local apiaries) with poor survival we now know that honey bees continue to survive and thrive without beekeeper assistance. Not only that, but the threatened subspecies native to Ireland and the UK, continues to do well in Ireland despite the continued threats from imports. Evidence suggests that Apis mellifera mellifera also contributes significantly to the gene pool in the UK in many places. Understanding how wild honey bees have adapted to current threats facing honey bees will be of use to beekeepers in many ways. Also, the genetic characteristics of those bees that can survive multiple years in the wild will give additional insights around the bees that are best fitted to local environments. Here I will discuss results from our project investigating diversity of wild honey bees in Ireland, how we are using genomic data to better understand the impact of hybridisation on native bees and how wild bees compare to managed bees across a range of features. Preliminary data confirms the existence of local breeding pools. Given the tight association between bees and their environment this data suggests that it is better to use local bees where possible, and hints at the possible negative impact of importing bees into an area.
Dan Etheridge (Jointly with Peter Davies)
My Interest in beekeeping started around the turn of the century through an old bee farmer friend of the family who is no longer with us. Around that same time I moved to New Zealand and then on to the USA, finally returning to the UK in 2014 specifically to become a bee inspector. My experiences are varied but my focus has always been leaning towards the commercial side of beekeeping. Now in my 9th season with the NBU I have covered several Inspection areas, Berkshire/Oxon, Powys Wales, Hampshire and IOW and now covering the role of Regional Bee Inspector for Southeast England. I currently run circa 50 colonies with capacity for 100, if necessary, I tend to concentrate on honey production and queen rearing/breeding. I am proud to be member of such a passionate team at the NBU whose dedication to honey bee health is second to none.
Peter Davies (Jointly with Dan Etheridge)
I started beekeeping in 2007, grew colony numbers to 120 and left a real job after 20 years in 2014 to concentrate on being a professional beekeeper. My approach was one of commonsense along with getting the basics right and learning from mistakes and the bees.
I started with the NBU in 2016 as a seasonal bee inspector in Norfolk and reduced my colony numbers to 80 to allow time for both roles. In 2019 I temporary took the role of Southern regional bee inspector managing a great team of inspectors across Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, from my home in Norfolk along with many miles on the road and nights in travel lodges, later Leicestershire & Rutland were added to my patch. My temporary post became permanent until 2022 when I moved regions to become RBI in my home Eastern region.
I now run between 30 and 50 colonies, I have a love of beekeeping and am passionate about Honey Bee health. I am proud of the work my colleagues and I do in a sometimes difficult and restrictive environment.
Presentation: "National Bee Unit (NBU) – The Beekeepers Friend”
The NBU has existed for over 70 years in one guise or another. The aims have always been the same, to promote Honey Bee health and manage and control notifiable Pests and Diseases. Beekeepers aren’t always aware of how the NBU and their Bee Inspectors are organised or how they operate, so Bee Inspectors Dan Etheridge and Peter Davies will explain these and how Bee Inspectors need an ability to work with bees and people, understanding what both beekeepers and honey bees need to thrive and survive and a way of bringing that together is a good start point. That coupled with patience, understanding and being a great communicator helps in delivering the inspection and education programme. Although on the NHS Beginners Programme, this presentation is suitable for all beekeepers.
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Jean Blaxland Memorial
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