SNHBS 4th Annual Meeting

Loch Leven Community Campus, Muir, Kinross – 14 March 2020

By Justine Swinney

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual meeting on 14 March at the Loch Leven Community Campus in Muir, Kinross.  Considering the uncertain situation we were in just nine days before the full Covid-19 lockdown, we had an impressive turnout; and thank you to everyone for following the guidance at that time in terms of vigilant handwashing etc. 

Jo Widdicombe, President of BIBBA (Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association) valiantly journeyed up from Cornwall and gave us two inspiring talks on bee improvement (read more about Jo’s presentation here).

David Evans, who graciously stepped into the breach, when Keith Pierce reluctantly decided to stay safe at home in Ireland, gave us a fascinating talk, entitled “Who’s the Daddy?”, where he discussed the importance of polyandry – the mating of a queen with multiple (12-19) drones – and hyperpolyandry – the mating of a queen with 30+ drones – on colony health.  He then described the prevalence of rare patrilines in emergency queens, compared to those in worker bees and queens raised in supersedure and swarm situations.  You can find more detail on this topic in David’s website, and in Gavin Ramsay’s article in the last SNHBS newsletter. There was some interesting discussion about the potential implications of this evidence in queen rearing activities.  David pointed out that, although the evolutionary benefits of selecting rare patrilines in emergency queens are not clear, the fact that it happens repeatedly, suggests that there are evolutionary benefits!

A new board was voted in during the membership meeting:

  • Gavin Ramsay, Chair
  • John Durkacz, Deputy Chair
  • Margaret Packer, Membership
  • Sandy Scott, Fundraising
  • Alastair Sharp
  • David Morland (new)
  • Tracy Robinson (new)

Kate Atchley, Helena Jackson, Dawn Rigby and Justine Swinney will be stepping down and vacancies remain open for the Secretary and Newsletter Coordinator positions.   If you would like to join the trustees, take on one of these positions and help steer SNHBS’ direction, please reach out to us via

Finally, we had some very valuable discussion about what members would like SNHBS to be doing.  Thanks to everyone for their willingness to make suggestions and for the open dialogue.  Members appreciate the reality of shortages of Amm stocks and the limits this poses on progress.  Many of the suggestions centred around activities we could work on in the meantime, until Amm stocks build up. These included:

  • Help members build skills, such as queen rearing and new queen introductions.
  • Set up networking between bee breeding groups, by holding periodic video meetings to discuss specific topics and to share general learnings.
  • Consider opportunities to improve the best available stocks in areas where purity is currently an unrealistic aim.
  • Conduct a roadshow, visiting local beekeeping associations, to promote what SNHBS does and to dispel a few myths, namely:
    • that native bees are ill-tempered
    • that beekeepers in built-up areas cannot contribute to SNHBS’ aims: they can still get involved in local bee improvement.
    • that queen rearing is the domain of only the most experienced beekeepers: if you can do swarm control you can do queen rearing!
  • Find ways to encourage more new members

The trustees have begun and will continue to discuss these suggestions at our board meetings and build them into SNHBS plans for the next year.  We’ll share more as thoughts evolve.  If you have a particular passion about anything on the list and would like to be involved in, or even lead a team to make things happen, please reach out to us via

Thanks again to everyone who attended: we hope you all enjoyed it and are feeling inspired about the new bee season.

Identify Those Native Honey Bees – Winter workshop 2018

Newbattle Bee Academy – 17 Nov 2018

First of all, a note about the Bee Academy at Newbattle Acdemy: what a wonderful place for a workshop.  For those of you who haven’t visited, it’s a beautifully restored wooden hut, adjacent to the main college building, built for military purposes in the run up to WWII.  It’s now a cosy space – helped by the huge, well stacked wood burner! – well equipped for events such as this and home to an impressive library of bee-related materials.

Continue reading “Identify Those Native Honey Bees – Winter workshop 2018”

SNHBS Annual Meeting

Our annual meeting this year, held on the 17th March, saw 61 of our 181 strong membership join us at Kinross Community Campus to listen to speakers Per Kryger, Jon Getty and Ian Lennox and to participate in the afternoon’s business meeting of the Society. Thank you to all of you who managed to attend despite the dire weather forecast, and also to those of you who got in touch with well wishes for the day.

Continue reading “SNHBS Annual Meeting”

Identify those native bees – Winter workshop, 18 November 2017

How do we identify native honey bees? This question is fundamental to everything we aim to do at SNHBS and members were invited along to the University of Aberdeen in November to get a handle on just this question.  Forty-five attendees had a full day hands-on introduction to the basic features and traits of Apis mellifera mellifera and got to hear about really exciting new developments in DNA analysis that might be available to hobby beekeepers soon.

Continue reading “Identify those native bees – Winter workshop, 18 November 2017”

Summer 2017 Queen Rearing Workshop in Perth

by Gavin Ramsay

Forty-six beekeepers, mostly SNHBS members, came to Perth for the queen-rearing workshop organised by the Ochils Breeding Group over two days in August. After a classroom session going through the principles of selection, queen rearing, queen mating and subsequent management, the attendees divided into three groups for the three practical sessions occupying much of the day. Jeff took them through the grafting session, showing the right stage of larva to use and the methods employed to move the larvae into cups for cell raising. Participants worked in pairs to ensure that everyone had a chance to try grafting for themselves, many using magnifying headbands to help the careful handling of larvae of the right stage. John took his groups through everything to do with mating nuclei, the types available with their good and less good points, making them up with young bees and their management. I showed finding and handling queens and demonstrated harvesting queens from mating nuclei after the new queens were established. Everyone was encouraged to try their hand at lifting young workers and handling them as if they were queens. The yellow-spotted workers can still be seen in the MiniPluses now! Continue reading “Summer 2017 Queen Rearing Workshop in Perth”

SNHBS – News from launch event

Compiled by Kate Atchley from texts by Ewan Campbell, Em Mackie and Gavin Ramsay.  (Article first published in The Scottish Beekeeper, July 2017)

On 1 April at the Lovat Hotel in Perth, almost 80 members of the newly-formed Scottish Native Honey Bee Society (SNHBS) met to launch and help to establish priorities for the society.  In this article we offer news of the launch event as well as confirmation of the society’s aims and initial activities. Continue reading “SNHBS – News from launch event”