Maldon Beekeepers AGM. 20 February 19 7pm followed by Bees & the Law 8pm

Come along to hear Chad Colby-Blake give Members the low down on keepings and what the law says.

Talk starts at 8pm after the Annual General Meeting which is at 7pm.

Require any information please call 07979 862952 or email


Varroa feeds on fatty organs NOT hymolymph of the Honey bee

Honey bee parasites feed on fatty organs, not blood

January 14, 2019, University of Maryland

Honey bee colonies around the world are at risk from a variety of threats, including pesticides, diseases, poor nutrition and habitat loss. Recent research suggests that one threat stands well above the others: a parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, which specializes in attacking honey bees.

For decades, researchers have assumed that varroa mites feed on blood, like many of their mite and tick cousins. But new University of Maryland-led research suggests that varroa mites instead have a voracious appetite for a honey bee organ called the fat body, which serves many of the same vital functions carried out by the human liver, while also storing food and contributing to bees’ immune systems.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 14, 2019, could transform researchers’ understanding of the primary threats to honey bees while pointing the way toward more effective mite treatments in the future.

“Bee researchers often refer to three Ps: parasites, pesticides and poor nutrition. Many studies have shown that varroa is the biggest issue. But when compromised by varroa, colonies are also more susceptible to the other two,” said UMD alumnus Samuel Ramsey (Ph.D. ’18, entomology), the lead author of the paper. “Now that we know that the fat body is varroa’s target, this connection is now much more obvious. Losing fat body tissue impairs a bee’s ability to detoxify pesticides and robs them of vital food stores. The fat body is absolutely essential to honey bee survival.”

In addition to breaking down toxins and storing nutrients, honey bee fat bodies produce antioxidants and help to manage the immune system. The fatty organs also play an important role in the process of metamorphosis, regulating the timing and activity of key hormones. Fat bodies also produce the wax that covers parts of bees’ exoskeletons, keeping water in and diseases out.

According to Ramsey, the assumption that varroa mites consume honey bee blood (more accurately called hemolymph in insects) has persisted since the first paper on the topic was published in the 1960s. Because this paper was written in Russian, Ramsey said, many researchers opted to cite the first English-language papers that cited the original study.

In this cross-section of a honey bee’s abdomen, a parasitic varroa mite (orange) can be seen lodged between the bee’s abdominal plates, where the mite feeds on honey bee fat body tissue. Credit: UMD/USDA/PNAS

“The initial work was only sufficient to show the total volume of a meal consumed by a mite,” Ramsey added. “It can be a lot easier to cite a recent summary instead of the original work. Had the first paper been read more widely, many folks might have questioned these assumptions sooner.”

Ramsey noted several observations that led him to question whether varroa mites were feeding on something other than hemolymph. First, insect hemolymph is very low in nutrients. To grow and reproduce at the rates they do, varroa mites would need to consume far more hemolymph than they would be able to acquire from a single bee.

Second, varroa mites’ excrement is very dry—contrary to what one would expect from an entirely liquid blood diet. Lastly, varroa mites’ mouthparts appear to be adapted for digesting soft tissues with enzymes then consuming the resulting mush. By contrast, blood-feeding mites have very different mouthparts, specifically adapted for piercing membranes and sucking fluid.

The first and most straightforward experiment Ramsey and his collaborators performed was to observe where on the bees’ bodies the varroa mites tended to attach themselves for feeding. If the mites grabbed on to random locations, Ramsey reasoned, that would suggest that they were in fact feeding on hemolymph, which is distributed evenly throughout the body. On the other hand, if they had a preferred site on the body, that could provide an important clue to their preferred meal.

“When they feed on immature bees, mites will eat anywhere. But in adult bees, we found a very strong preference for the underside of the bees’ abdomen,” Ramsey said. “More than 90 percent of mites we found on adults fed there. As it happens, fat body tissue is spread throughout the bodies of immature bees. As the bees mature, the tissue migrates to the underside of the abdomen. The connection was hard to ignore, but we needed more evidence.”

Ramsey and his team then directly imaged the wound sites where varroa mites gnawed on the bees’ abdomens. Using a technique called freeze fracturing, the researchers used liquid nitrogen to freeze the mites and their bee hosts, essentially taking a physical “snapshot” of the mites’ feeding habits in action. Using powerful scanning electron microscopes to visualize the wound sites, Ramsey saw clear evidence that the mites were feeding on fat body tissue.

This microscopic image shows a varroa mite that has consumed honey bee fat body tissue tagged with Nile red, a fat-soluble fluorescent dye. Observing this red fluorescence in the mites’ digestive systems helped researchers determine that …more

“The images gave us an excellent view into the wound sites and what the mites’ mouthparts were doing,” Ramsey said. “We could see digested pieces of fat body cells. The mites were turning the bees into ‘cream of honey bee soup.’ An organism the size of a bee’s face is climbing on and eating an organ. It’s scary stuff. But we couldn’t yet verify that blood wasn’t also being consumed.”

To further shore up their case, Ramsey and his colleagues fed bees with one of two fluorescent dyes: uranine, a water-soluble dye that glows yellow, and Nile red, a fat-soluble dye that glows red. If the mites were consuming hemolymph, Ramsey expected to see a bright yellow glow in the mites’ bellies after feeding. If they were feeding on fat bodies, on the other hand, Ramsey predicted a telltale red glow.

“When we saw the first mite’s gut, it was glowing bright red like the sun. This was proof positive that the fat body was being consumed,” Ramsey said. “We’ve been talking about these mites like they’re vampires, but they’re not. They’re more like werewolves. We’ve been trying to drive a stake through them, but turns out we needed a silver bullet.”

To drive the proverbial final nail into the coffin of the idea that mites feed on hemolymph, Ramsey performed one last experiment. First, he painstakingly perfected the ability to raise varroa mites on an artificial dietary regimen—hardly an easy task for a parasite that prefers meals from a live host. Then, he fed them diets composed of hemolymph or fat body tissue, with a few mixtures of the two for good measure.

The results were striking: mites fed a diet of pure hemolymph starved, while those fed fat body tissue thrived and even produced eggs.

“These results have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the damage done to bees by mites,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a professor of entomology at UMD and a co-author of the study, who also served as Ramsey’s advisor. “Fat bodies serve so many crucial functions for bees. It makes so much more sense now to see how the harm to individual bees plays out in the ways that we already know varroa does damage to honey bee colonies. Importantly, it also opens up so many new opportunities for more effective treatments and targeted approaches to control mites.”

Explore further: New insights on how bees battle deadly varroa mite by grooming

More information: Samuel D. Ramsey el al., “Varroa destructor feeds primarily on honey bee fat body tissue and not hemolymph,” PNAS (2018).

Read more at:

BBKA Spring Conference 2019

Harper Adams University,
TF10 8NB

12, 13, and 14 April 2019

 The National Beekeeping Event of the Year!

  • 20+ Lectures; 60+ Workshops & Seminars for all levels of beekeeping experience
  •  Research Session Saturday 13th for BBKA sponsored studies
  • Hear from scientist Samuel Ramsey who discovered varroa mites feed on bee organs not their blood  
  •  Large Tradeshow Saturday 13th
  •  Excellent facilities and great value catering
  •  On-site, en-suite accommodation

Book Now

Click on the blue links for more information: download the Full Programme or FAQS

Tickets: Entry all areas with full Convention Wristband:  Full Day or Week-End tickets from £12 to £26 In-Advance (£15 – £30 On-the-Day).  Trade Show Only – £5 on-the-day.. All delegates must wear a wristband for admission.  Website wristband bookings close 2nd April.  Thereafter wristbands can only be purchased at the Convention Reception.

To go to the booking website click, BookEvents and scroll down for Wristbands, Workshops & Seminars, Accommodation and Dinners.

Read How to Book using the web-based system. The Events Listing and Events Schedules give an overview of what’s on offer to help you plan your visit. Details of the Lecture Programme are here and the Workshops & Seminars are here. It’s best to pre-book Workshops & Courses to secure your place. Course fees are payable for some workshops, but many can be booked free of charge. Read about the Accommodation & Catering that’s available on-site.  Just click on the BookEvents link to take you to the booking web-site.

The Tradeshow on Saturday 13th only, features all the main suppliers/leading companies. Non-profit organisations will be exhibiting on Friday and Saturday. Buy Trade Show Only day tickets, £5, on Saturday in the Harper Adams Faccenda Building. The Site Plan is here

Plan for a great visit now

EBKA Conference 2018



Bees and Well Being’

The theme of our conference is the ways in which bees enrich our lives and make a difference to our world. Bees promote biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops ……… honey is becoming a powerful new weapon in the battle against hospital-acquired infections ……… being around bees can raise a person’s self-esteem and the educational benefits are now being recognised. Let’s learn more from our three speakers.


Bunny Campione, Daws Hall Trust

Many of you will know Bunny from the Antiques Roadshow, but you may not be aware that she is a fellow beekeeper. At Daws Hall young people from all back- grounds are able to gain hands-on experience with the bees. The educational bee room is equipped with an observation hive, microscopes, extracting equipment and all sorts of bee paraphernalia. Bunny will speak about her many beekeeping exploits at Daws Hall and how the bees can help to raise the self-esteem of young people. SponsoredbyTheEastofEnglandCo-op&GreatTilkeyHoney

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Swansea University Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. Rowena is a lecturer in microbiology, her research is focused on the current challenge of antimicrobial resistance, investigating novel antimicrobial agents and their potential role in combating chronic antibiotic resistant infections. A major part of this has been researching the potential of honey as an antimicrobial agent to inhibit and eradicate bacteria. She will inform us about how honey inhibits bacteria, its ability to improve antibiotic activity, the future use of honey in infection control as well as the possible future directions for this special therapy. Sponsored by Global Elevators , Alchemize Ltd & Humphrey Munson Handmade Kitchens

Chris Newenham, Managing Director, Wilkin & Sons Ltd . ‘Fruit & Honey, the storyofWilkin&Sons’ andhowbeesarecentraltotheirbusinessaspollinators and how honey sales have become increasingly important to the business in recent years. The first jams were produced in Tiptree in 1885 and with a farmed area in excess of 850 acres around Tiptree, the company grows a significant proportion of its own fruit. Sponsored by Wilkin & Sons Ltd

Date and venue

 Saturday 3rd November, 2018, 10-4pm

 Chelmsford City Racecourse Great Leighs, CM3 1PZ

 Tickets £25

 Registration and view trade

stands from 9am

 Three excellent speakers

 Coffee and Danish pastries on arrival.

 Buffet lunch

 Afternoon tea and cakes

 Raffle and trade stands

….. to accompany cheques:


Division: …………………………………….

Number of tickets: …………………………

Email address for e-ticket: ……………………………………………….



By cheque payable to EBKA Braintree Division. Send to Neil Reeve, Hilly Ley, High Easter, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4QZ

BACS Transfer. Sort code 20-97-40 Account number 80089230. Reference EBKA Conference. Send an email to to advise transfer has been made and you will receive an e-ticket by return.

Cash to Braintree Committee Members when visiting Divisional Meetings (a ticket will be given immediately).





The East of England Co-op Great Tilkey Honey

Wilkin & Sons Ltd

Global Elevator Components Alchemize Ltd

Clive de Bruyn

Humphrey Munson – Beautiful Handmade Kitchens


Northern Bee Books

The Bee Shed (National Bee Supplies)

Roy Cropley – wax exchange and foundation.

Raffle prizes:

Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens – basket of plants The Bee Shed (National Bee Supplies) – queen excluder Halstead Wine & Social Club– case of wine

And Sew On Fabrics – in-store voucher

Kat Jurczenko—Stained Glass Artist

Kat Jurczenko – stained glass suncatcher


Chelmsford City Racecourse is situated in Great Leighs, 5 miles north of Chelmsford.

The car park is located at the side entrance of the racecourse in Moulsham Hall Lane, CM3 1PZ. Racecourse Stewards will be on hand to direct everyone.

Northern Bee Books – beekeeping book Roy Cropley Wax – wax foundation

Clive de Bruyn

Cleaning your suit


How often do you wash your suit?

Every time you’ve been to the Apiary?

Maybe every other.

Maybe once a month when you have time or can be bothered? Or even once a year – because it so dirty and smoky you have no option and you think you should.

Bees have their backs up against the wall. There is a plethora of health issues not to mention wasps and hornets that want to attack them so why do we insist on wearing a dirty suit when we do our inspections. The risk of disease transfer is increased and we should always remember that honey is food product that goes directly into the food chain. Do we want to infect it with fox urine or poo from the previous night’s foxy visit? Do you wear dirty clothes to work? Why do we do it when visit our hives.

Don’t be a stereo typical beekeeper. Wash your suit after EVERY Apiary visit. Wash gloves (preferably wear latex that can be disposed of after use) between visits.

Tools – they too need a good clean. In fact they should be washed between hives to prevent spore and bacteria transfer. A 3 Ltr tub of water with with 500g of washing soda is all you need. A sponge is an additional luxury!

There really is no excuse.

Body odour is also unliked by bees (and also fellow Beekeepers). Equally don’t spray yourself in cologne or body spray as this can also cause the bees to react badly and sting you repeatedly.

When was the last time you cleaned your boots? Never is probably the answer. Why? Can you be sure there isn’t anything nasty on them? Wash then when you do your suit after EVERY Apiary visit. Not when you remember. Get into good habits. You can then be sure that you have done all that you can to protect your bees health, your own health and that of those who will consume your honey sometime in the future.

Next time: Changing brood Comb