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Section 1

1. Hive Design Types

Flow Hive


The Flow Hive is a relatively new type of hive that allows beekeepers to harvest honey without disturbing the bees. It has frames with partially-formed honeycomb that can be opened from the back, allowing the honey to flow out into a collection container.



Largest size of bee-hive in use in the UK



William Broughton Carr hive. Classic tapered double walled hive normally associated with English Country Garden beekeeping



Most common hive used in the USA and world-wide. Very popular as colony size can be much larger than National

Long Hive


Similar to Top Bar but takes standard frames, can be designed for National, Commercial, or Langstroth frames.



Similar to the Warre hive. All boxes are the same and uses top bars and no queen excluder



Similar size to National but frames have smaller lugs



Used primarily by UK commercial bee farmers. This has a larger brood box and frame to house a larger colony

Top Bar


A top bar hive is a long, horizontal hive with bars that the bees build their comb on. It doesn't use frames and foundation, instead bees build comb from wooden bars laid at the top of the hive. This design is popular in Africa and other parts of the world because it is inexpensive and easy to build



A Long Hive, constructed from insulated concrete blocks



Originating in France, the Warre hive is a vertical hive that uses top bars instead of frames. It is designed to mimic the natural environment of a bee colony, with the bees building their comb in a more natural, tree-like shape. This design is popular with natural beekeepers who prefer a more hands-off approach to beekeeping.

National Hive


Most common amateur beekeeping hive used in the UK

2. Super

A Super is the box placed above the brood box in a hive where the bees store excess honey. The name "Super" derives from Latin where "Super" means "above".

3. Manley/Hoffman Frames.

Deep National - DN
Super National - SN

Hoffman frames (DN4/SN4) are self-spacing frames where the side-bars of the frames have a built-in wedge shape ensuring that a bee-space is maintained between adjacent frames.

Manley frames (DN1/SN1) have rectangular side bars. Either spacers placed on the end lugs, or castellations on the box itself are used to provide the specific spacing preferred by the beekeeper.

4. Frame Designations

If Hoffman frames for a National brood box were needed these would be DN4 frames. Manley frames for a National Super would be SN1 frames

BS Frame Designations

5. Wired/Un-wired foundation

Wire in wax foundation provides increased strength minimising the likelihood that the wax will break when honey is extracted in the spinner. So if honey is to be extracted by this method wired foundation is recommended.

Un-wired foundation is used in the Super if "cut-comb" or "chunk-comb" is to be produced. 

6. Bee-Space

"A gap which the bees won't fill up". Typical this is a spacing of around 7mm +/- 2mm. Bees will seal small spaces with propolis and in larger spaces will build wax brace comb.

7. Drawing Foundation

When honey bees are between 12 and 20 days old, they develop a special wax-producing gland in the abdomen of their bodies. This special gland converts sugar into a waxy substance and deposits flakes of the substance on the abdomen. Thus if you need bees to draw out wax it is recommended that the bees be fed a 1:1 sugar syrup so that they have the necessary resources to produce the required wax.

8. Queen Excluder
A queen excluder is a perforated barrier placed between the brood chamber and the honey super that prevents the queen from entering the honey super and laying eggs. The brood chamber is the part of the hive that the queen is confined to raise brood or baby bees. The queen excluder ensures only honey and not eggs, larvae or bees is present in the super.

9. Propolis
Propolis is a resin-like material made by bees from the sticky buds buds of certain trees. Bees use it as a "glue" to reduce large gaps in the hive and they may also coat the inside of the hive with it. Propolis helps fight against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

 10. "Bee Bread"

Bee Bread is a fermented mixture of pollen, nectar and bee enzymes/secretions, made specifically as nutrition for developing larvae.
"What happens when bees make pollen into magic bee bread ?"

Section 2

1. Bee Types
Queen - Long abdomen, egg laying 
Worker - Females, majority of bees in a colony
Drones - Males, larger than workers. They carry solely the queens DNA and main function is to fertilize virgin queens.

2. Day 8
A charged queen cell is capped/sealed on day 8 of the queen's development. If there is an existing queen in the hive and the weather is fine then the colony may decide to reproduce and swarm. The existing queen and a significant portion of the colony bees leave the hive, impacting honey production.

3./4./7.  Bee Activity
Bees age in days - Generally bees
   under 3  clean and polish the cells for the queen to lay in and for food storage;
   3 to 7     feed the older larvae;
   7 to 14    secrete royal jelly for feeding the queen, younger worker larvae, and queen larvae of any                                            age, and they secrete wax for comb building;
  14 to 21   forage primarily for pollen;
  over 21    forage for nectar

5.  Eggs/Larvae/Sealed Brood Ratio

For a worker, which are the majority of bees in the hive: approx.  3 days as an egg,  6 days as a larva (feeding stage), then the cell is sealed for 12 days to allow pupation (metamorphosis stage), giving us 21 days total worker bee development time.  Given this you would expect to see twice as many larvae than eggs, and twice as much sealed brood as larvae. For every one egg you would expect to see 2 larvae, and 4 sealed brood. i.e. 1:2:4
Honey Bee Development Cycle

6.  Hive communication

  1. Waggle dance 

  2. Pheromones

  3. Taste - Trophallaxis

Bee learning and communication

7.  Older bees forage for nectar

8. Bees per frame

A National frame contains 60 x 46 = 2 700 cells per side, i.e. 5400 per frame.
A typical brood frame produced by the black bee may be only half filled with brood; the rest being filled with pollen and honey. Each brood frame at any one time would then contain about 2 700 brood cells, and 2700 cells of stores.


Section 3

1. Waggle Dance
The position of the sun is the navigational reference used as the reference location in the waggle dance.

2. Waggle Dance - Distance, Quality, Direction

During the waggle dance, a worker bee moves in a figure-eight pattern while waggling its abdomen and shaking its wings rapidly. The direction of the dance indicates the direction of the food source or nest site relative to the position of the sun, and the duration of the dance indicates the distance. The angle between the sun and the direction of the dance represents the angle between the food source and the vertical position of the sun in the sky. The quality of the food source is communicated in the bees waggle dance through the duration and intensity of the dance. During the waggle dance, the worker bee moves its body rapidly and vibrates its abdomen while emitting pheromones. The duration of the dance reflects the distance of the food source, while the intensity of the dance reflects the quality of the food source. When a food source is of high quality, the worker bee will dance more vigorously and for a longer period of time, which indicates to other bees that the food source is worth the effort of visiting. Conversely, if the food source is of lower quality, the waggle dance will be less intense and shorter, indicating that the food source may not be worth the bees' effort. This communication of the quality of the food source helps the colony to make efficient use of its foraging resources, as bees will prioritize visiting high-quality food sources that provide the most benefit to the colony.
Waggle Dance Video

3. Bee Vision
A honey bee has five eyes, which are located on the top of its head. These eyes are composed of two large compound eyes and three smaller simple eyes, which are also known as ocelli.
The compound eyes are made up of thousands of individual lenses called ommatidia, which allow the honey bee to detect movement, light, and color. They are particularly sensitive to ultraviolet light, which helps the bees navigate and locate flowers.

4. Ocelli
The ocelli are used by the honey bee to detect changes in light intensity and to maintain flight stability. They are not as well developed as the compound eyes and do not contribute significantly to vision, but they are still important for the honey bee's ability to navigate and fly accurately. They are sensitive to ultra-violet light allowing the bee to orientate itself even on cloudy days when the sun is obscured.
5. Navigation


Bees use various methods to navigate their surroundings, including visual cues, odors, and the earth's magnetic field. Here are some ways that bees navigate:

  1. Visual cues: Bees have excellent eyesight and use visual cues to navigate. They can detect patterns of polarized light in the sky, which helps them navigate and orient themselves. They also use landmarks such as trees, buildings, and other objects to find their way.

  2. Odours: Bees have a strong sense of smell and use odor cues to find food, water, and their hive. They can detect pheromones released by other bees to communicate the location of a food source or the direction of the hive.

  3. The earth's magnetic field: Bees are also able to sense the earth's magnetic field and use it to navigate. They have tiny iron particles in their bodies that act like magnets, allowing them to detect the magnetic field and orient themselves based on it.

  4. Sunlight: Bees also use the position of the sun to navigate. They can detect the position of the sun even on cloudy days and use it to determine their orientation and direction.

Overall, bees use a combination of visual, odour, and magnetic cues to navigate their surroundings and find food, water, and their hive. Their navigation abilities are essential to their survival and the success of their colony.

6. Thermoregulation


Honey bees are able to regulate their body temperature and the temperature of their hive to maintain a comfortable temperature range for the colony. Here's how they do it in both cold and hot temperatures:

In the Cold:

  1. Clustering: When the temperature drops, honey bees cluster together to conserve heat. The bees in the center of the cluster generate heat by shivering their flight muscles, while those on the outside insulate the cluster by forming a layer of warm air.

  2. Flapping wings: On warmer winter days, bees may also flap their wings to generate additional heat and warm up the cluster.

In the Hot:

  1. Fanning: When the temperature rises, bees fan their wings to create air currents that cool the hive by evaporative cooling. The movement of air over the bees' bodies helps to evaporate moisture from their bodies and from the surfaces of the hive, which has a cooling effect.

  2. Water collection: Bees also collect water and use it to cool the hive. They will spread water droplets around the hive and fan their wings to increase evaporation, which helps to cool the air.

  3. Ventilation: Bees also use the ventilation system of their hive to regulate temperature. They may open or close the hive's entrance to control airflow, and some bees may act as "doorkeepers" to regulate the movement of air into and out of the hive.


7. Swarming

Honey bee colonies reproduce through a process called swarming, which occurs when a large group of bees, including the queen, leave the original hive to establish a new one. Here's how the process works:

  1. Queen lays eggs: The queen bee lays eggs in special cells in the hive, which hatch into larvae.

  2. Worker bees feed the larvae: Worker bees feed the larvae with a mixture of pollen and honey called "bee bread."

  3. Larvae develop: The larvae go through several stages of development before emerging as adult bees.

  4. New queen is raised: When the hive becomes crowded, the worker bees will begin to raise a new queen by selecting a few larvae and feeding them royal jelly, a special type of food that stimulates their development into queens.

  5. Old queen and swarm depart: When the new queen is ready to emerge, the old queen and a large group of worker bees, known as the swarm, will leave the hive to find a new location to establish a new colony.

  6. Swarm finds new location: The swarm will typically gather on a tree branch or other surface near the original hive while scouts search for a suitable location for the new colony.

  7. New colony established: Once a suitable location is found, the swarm will move to the new site and begin building a new hive.

  8. New queen starts laying eggs: The new queen will begin laying eggs in the new hive, and the worker bees will continue to build and expand the colony.

Overall, swarming is an important reproductive strategy for honey bee colonies, allowing them to establish new colonies and continue to thrive and grow.

8. Mating

A virgin honey bee queen will typically mate with multiple drones during her mating flight. The exact number of drones can vary, but research suggests that the average number of drones mating with a queen is around 12 to 15. However, some queens may mate with as few as 6 drones, while others may mate with more than 20.

9. Drone-Congregation-Areas

During the mating flight, the queen will fly to a "drone congregation area" where she will mate with multiple drones in mid-air. The drones transfer sperm to the queen during mating, which she stores in a special organ called the spermatheca. The sperm is then used by the queen to fertilize eggs throughout her lifetime. After mating, the drones will die, and the queen will return to the hive to begin laying fertilized eggs.

10. Polyandry

Polyandry, or the mating of a honey bee queen with multiple drones, has several advantages for the colony:

  1. Genetic diversity: Mating with multiple drones increases the genetic diversity of the colony, which can improve the overall health and fitness of the colony. It also helps to increase the adaptability of the colony to changing environmental conditions and disease resistance.

  2. Mating competition: By mating with multiple drones, the queen can ensure that the strongest and most genetically fit drones are the ones that pass on their genes to the next generation. This helps to increase the overall genetic quality of the colony.

  3. Sperm competition: When a queen mates with multiple drones, the sperm from different drones will compete for fertilization of the queen's eggs. This can result in a higher proportion of genetically diverse offspring, which can improve the overall fitness of the colony.

  4. Reduced inbreeding: Mating with multiple drones reduces the likelihood of inbreeding and the negative effects that can result from it, such as reduced fertility and disease susceptibility.

Overall, polyandry is an advantageous reproductive strategy for honey bee queens, as it increases genetic diversity and improves the overall health and fitness of the colony.

10. Super-Sisters

Half-sisters and super-sisters

Half-sisters share the same mother but have different fathers and share about 25% of their genes. Super-sisters share the same mother and father and so share about 75% of their genes (25% from the queen and 50% from the drone)

Section 4

1. Laying Worker Signs


Here are some signs of a laying worker honey bee:

  1. Multiple eggs per cell: Normally, a honey bee queen will lay a single egg per cell. Laying worker bees, on the other hand, may lay multiple eggs per cell, resulting in a cluster of eggs.

  2. Random egg placement: Laying workers may lay eggs in irregular patterns throughout the hive, rather than in the organized pattern of a queen. Eggs may be found on the bottom of the cell or off-center, rather than attached to the sidewalls of the cell.

  3. Lack of fertilization: Laying worker bees are not able to fertilize their eggs, so all the eggs will develop into male drones. This can result in an overabundance of drones in the hive.

  4. Absence of queen cells: In a queenless colony, worker bees will often attempt to raise a new queen by constructing queen cells. However, in a colony with laying workers, queen cells are usually not present.

  5. Aggressive behavior: Laying workers may exhibit more aggressive behavior than typical worker bees, possibly due to the disruption of normal colony function and the presence of unfertilized eggs.

2. Notifiable Diseases

There are the four notifiable diseases of honey bees in the UK:

  1. American Foulbrood (AFB): AFB is a bacterial disease that affects the brood (larvae) of honey bees. It is highly contagious and can lead to the death of entire colonies. AFB is a notifiable disease under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order (1992).

  2. European Foulbrood (EFB): EFB is another bacterial disease that affects the brood of honey bees. It is less serious than AFB but can still lead to significant colony losses. EFB is also a notifiable disease under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order (1992).

  3. Small Hive Beetle (SHB): SHB is a pest that can damage honey bee colonies by feeding on the honey and pollen stores and causing the combs to collapse. SHB is not native to the UK, but if it is discovered, it is a notifiable disease under the Animal Health Act (1981).

  4. Tropilaelaps Mite (T. mercedesae and T. clareae): Tropilaelaps mites are a type of parasitic mite that can infest honey bee colonies and cause significant damage. They are not native to the UK, but if they are discovered, they are a notifiable disease under the Animal Health Act (1981).

If a notifiable disease is suspected, beekeepers must notify the National Bee Unit (NBU) of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) immediately. The NBU will provide guidance on how to handle the situation and may carry out inspections to help prevent the spread of disease.

3. Beebase

Registering on BeeBase is highly recommended for beekeepers in the UK for the following reasons:

  1. Disease management: BeeBase provides information and guidance on how to manage and prevent honey bee diseases, including notifiable diseases such as American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood. By registering on BeeBase, beekeepers can receive alerts about disease outbreaks in their area, and the NBU can contact them if there is a suspected outbreak of a notifiable disease.

  2. Swarm alerts: BeeBase allows beekeepers to register to receive alerts when there is a swarm in their area. This can help beekeepers to catch swarms and prevent them from becoming a nuisance or causing damage.

  3. Research: BeeBase collects data on beekeeping and bee health that is used to inform research and policy decisions. By registering on BeeBase, beekeepers can contribute to this research and help to improve understanding of honey bee health and management.

  4. Support: BeeBase provides support to beekeepers, including guidance on beekeeping practices, disease management, and pest control. By registering on BeeBase, beekeepers can access this support and connect with other beekeepers in their area.

Overall, registering on BeeBase is a valuable resource for beekeepers in the UK, providing information, support, and alerts to help manage honey bee health and prevent disease outbreaks.

4. Matchstick Test AFB

The matchstick test for AFB:

  1. Insert a matchstick into the suspected diseased cell, then stir it around for a few seconds.

  2. Remove the matchstick: Carefully remove the matchstick from the cell and examine it closely.

  3. Check for AFB symptoms: If it is infected with AFB, the matchstick will come out with a stringy, ropy substance that can be stretched between the matchstick and the cell. This is a characteristic symptom of AFB and indicates that the colony is infected.

If the matchstick test is positive for AFB, it is important to take immediate action to control the disease and prevent its spread to other colonies. In the UK, AFB is a notifiable disease, and beekeepers are required by law to report any suspected cases to the National Bee Unit (NBU) of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

5. EFB

European Foulbrood (EFB) is a bacterial disease that affects honey bee brood, causing larval death and reducing the overall health of the colony. Here are some signs and symptoms of EFB that beekeepers can look for when inspecting their hives:

  1. Discoloured larvae: Infected larvae will appear yellow or brown, rather than pearly white like healthy larvae.

  2. Sunken, perforated cappings: Infected brood cells may have sunken or perforated cappings, with a dried or shriveled appearance.

  3. Foul odour: EFB-infected brood can have a sour or rotten smell that is distinct from the sweet smell of healthy brood.

  4. Spotty brood pattern: EFB can cause a spotty brood pattern, with empty cells scattered throughout the brood nest.

  5. No ropey texture: Unlike American Foulbrood, which produces a ropy or stringy substance when a matchstick is inserted into an infected larva, EFB does not produce a ropy texture.

If a beekeeper suspects that their colony may be infected with EFB, they should contact their local beekeeping association or the National Bee Unit (NBU) of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for guidance. It is important to control the spread of EFB to prevent it from infecting other colonies.

6. Mummified Larvae - Chalkbrood

Chalkbrood is a fungal disease that affects honey bee brood, causing the infected larvae to become mummified and turn into chalk-like structures. Some signs and symptoms of chalkbrood are:

  1. Discoloured larvae: Infected larvae will appear white, gray or tan, rather than pearly white like healthy larvae.

  2. Chalk-like mummies: Infected larvae will dry up and turn into hard, chalk-like mummies that are often found in the brood nest or on the bottom board of the hive.

7. Varroa and viruses


Varroa mites are known to be carriers of several viruses that can affect honey bee health. The mites feed on the bodily fluids of honey bees, which can transmit viruses from one bee to another. Some of the most common viruses associated with varroa mites include:

  1. Deformed Wing Virus (DWV): DWV is a highly infectious virus that can cause deformed wings, shortened abdomens, and other developmental abnormalities in honey bees. Varroa mites are known to be the primary vector of DWV, and can transmit the virus between bees.

  2. Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV): CBPV can cause sudden paralysis in honey bees, leading to their death. Varroa mites can transmit ABPV to honey bees, and colonies with high levels of varroa infestation are often more likely to be infected with ABPV.

8. Varroa Treatments (UK)

Use only VMD authorised treatments in accordance to the manufactureres instructions


9. Oxalic Acid Treatment

The optimal time for Oxalic Acid treatment is when there is little or no brood present in the hive, as the acid can harm developing larvae.

10. VMD Approved Oxalic Acid

In the United Kingdom, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has approved two products containing oxalic acid for the treatment of varroa mites in honey bee colonies. These products are:

  1. Oxuvar: Oxuvar is a varroa treatment product that contains 3.2% oxalic acid dihydrate. It is approved for use by beekeepers in the UK and is available for purchase through authorized suppliers.

  2. Api-Bioxal: Api-Bioxal is another varroa treatment product that contains 99.5% oxalic acid dihydrate. It is approved for use in the UK and is available for purchase through authorized suppliers.

It is important to note that both of these products must be used according to the manufacturer's instructions, and beekeepers should take care to follow all recommended safety procedures when handling and applying the treatment.

11. Robbing

Robbing is a behaviour in which bees from one colony attempt to steal honey and resources from another colony. This behavior can be harmful to the colony being robbed, as it can lead to the spread of disease and the loss of valuable resources. Here are some steps beekeepers can take to minimize the risk of robbing:

  1. Reduce colony stress: A colony that is stressed or weakened is more vulnerable to robbing. Beekeepers should ensure that their colonies are healthy and well-fed, with access to adequate water and forage.

  2. Minimize scent and spillage: Robbing can be triggered by the release of scent and the spilling of honey or sugar syrup. Beekeepers should take care to minimize scent and spillage in and around the hive, for example by using entrance reducers and avoiding excessive ventilation.

  3. Maintain hive security: Beekeepers should ensure that their hives are secure and well-ventilated, with no gaps or cracks that could allow robbers to enter.

  4. Limit access: Beekeepers may limit access to the hive by installing entrance reducers or reducing the size of the entrance. This can help to prevent robbers from gaining access to the hive, and helps the guard bees who will have a reduced enterance area to protect.

Section 5

1. Swarming


While swarming is a natural and important part of the honey bee life cycle, it can be disadvantageous for beekeepers for several reasons:

  1. Loss of honey production: When a colony swarms, it can significantly reduce the honey production of the hive, as many of the worker bees leave with the queen. This can result in a significant loss of income for the beekeeper.

  2. Risk of colony failure: Swarming can also put the health and survival of the colony at risk, particularly if the swarm is not successfully captured and established in a new hive. This can result in a total loss of the hive and all of its resources.

  3. Risk of disease transmission: Swarming can also increase the risk of disease transmission, as the swarm may come into contact with other colonies or wild bee populations. This can spread diseases and pests, and increase the risk of colony failure.

2. Swarm Signs

There are several signs that a honey bee colony may be preparing to swarm. Here are some of the most common signs:

  1. Queen cells: One of the most obvious signs that a colony is preparing to swarm is the appearance of queen cells. These are large, peanut-shaped cells that are built by the bees to raise new queen bees. If you see several queen cells in a hive, it may be an indication that the colony is preparing to swarm.

  2. Congestion: When a colony is preparing to swarm, it can become congested with bees. You may notice that there are more bees in the hive than usual, and that they are clustering together in certain areas of the hive.

  3. Reduced brood production: In the days leading up to a swarm, the queen may reduce her egg-laying rate, which can result in a reduction in brood production. This can be an indication that the colony is preparing to swarm.

  4. Restlessness: Bees that are preparing to swarm can be very restless and active. You may notice that they are flying in and out of the hive more frequently than usual, and that they are clustering together in unusual places.

  5. Increased drone population: When a colony is preparing to swarm, it may produce more drone bees than usual. This can be an indication that the colony is preparing to produce a new queen bee.

If you observe any of these signs in a honey bee colony, it may be an indication that the colony is preparing to swarm. It is important to take action to prevent swarming, such as removing queen cells or splitting the colony, to maintain the health and productivity of the hive.

3. Swarm Preparation/Management


"Swarm preparation" refers to the actions taken by the beekeeper to minimise the likelihood of a colony swarming. These can include weekly inspection, and providing adequate space for the colony as it increases.  

"Swarm management" refers to the actions taken by beekeepers once a colony has decided to swarm. This involves various techniques such as removing queen cells, and splitting the colony. The goal of swarm management is to prevent the loss of bees from the colony while also maintaining the health and productivity of the hive.

4. Sealed Queen Cell

Finding a sealed queen cell is often a sign too-late that a colony has swarmed. A colony may swarm on the first good weather day following the sealing of a queen cell, on the 8th day of queen larva development.

5. Action on finding an open charged queen cell


On finding an open charged queen cell during a weekly inspection, the beekeeper moves from a swarm prevention to a swarm management, since the colony has decided to swarm. This may mean they remove all queen cells and perform a split. Swarm management techniques are outlined under Swarm Prevention/Control Methods 


6. Removal of Queen Cells

Just removing queen cells is not sufficient to prevent swarming because the impulse to swarm is not solely controlled by the presence of queen cells. Swarming is a natural reproductive behaviour of honey bees, and there are several factors that can trigger or influence it, including the age and productivity of the queen, the size and congestion of the hive, and environmental factors such as temperature and weather conditions.

Removing queen cells is a short-term solution that can delay swarming, but it does not address the underlying factors that may be contributing to swarming behaviour. If the queen is old or failing, or if the hive is overcrowded or lacking in resources, the bees may continue to prepare for swarming even after queen cells have been removed.

To prevent swarming more effectively, beekeepers need to address the underlying factors that are driving the swarming impulse. This may involve techniques such as adding more space to the hive, splitting the colony, or requeening the hive with a new, younger queen. These strategies can help to reduce congestion and increase the availability of resources, which can in turn help to reduce the likelihood of swarming.

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