Maldon Beekeepers Blog

Brigit Strawbridge – Bees & Trees

Bees as Pollinators

The unique relationship between pollinators and flowering plants has been evolving for over 100 million years and there are currently estimated to be around 200,000 different species of animal worldwide acting as pollinators. These include beetles, bats, flies, wasps, birds, butterflies, moths and some mammals; but it is without doubt the humble bee that does the lion’s share of the work.
From a ‘human-centric’ point of view, bees are responsible for pollinating around a third of the food we eat (this includes meat from animals that graze on bee-pollinated clover and alfalfa) – as well as many of the crops we grow for drinks, medicines and textiles. However, bees are important for more reasons than the fact that they pollinate food for human consumption……….

Bees also pollinate over 80% of the world’s wild flowers and, interestingly, whilst great attention is always given to the bee’s role as our main crop pollinator, we would do well to note that they play an equally important role as ‘keystone species’ in the planet’s eco-systems. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Female H rubicundus


There has been a great deal of coverage in the media over the last decade about the decline of the Honeybee, whose value to the ‘economy’ has been estimated at many £££billions.

But, apart from the fact that honeybees should be valued for more than just their economic worth, it is important to note that:

  1. a) it is not just honeybees that are in decline
  1. b) honeybees our not our only In fact, of the 100 or so crops that feed and clothe the world, it is estimated that 15% are serviced by domestic honeybees – whilst over 80% are serviced by native wild bees and other wild pollinators.

N.B. No one species of bee is more important than another. They all have different roles to play and are active at different times of the year/day. Without honeybees there would be very little pollinating going on early in the year and we would have no lemons, without bumblebees out tomato and blueberry crops would struggle and without solitary bees our apple trees would suffer. 

Here’s a very interesting list of ‘who pollinates what’ – List of plants pollinated by bees

Setting aside, for a moment, their importance as pollinators of food, medicine and textile crops for humans, I‘d like to come back now to the fact that bees are ‘keystone’ species – playing absolutely crucial roles in sustaining many of the world’s eco-systems.

If you remove a keystone species from any given eco-system, you risk at the very least a great reduction in the biodiversity of that community – and at worst it’s complete collapse.

Eco-systems are incredibly complex; each made up of numerous, diverse, dynamic, interconnected communities.

We cannot keep removing the building blocks that hold these systems together and expect them to survive.

By compromising the earth’s eco-systems we compromise all life on Earth, including, ultimately, our own. Our lack of joined-up thinking and our blinkered human-centric behaviour are, ironically, leading us to neglect and destroy the very systems that nurture and sustain us. I cannot over emphasis the importance of the role bees and other pollinators play in supporting and maintaining the fragile balance that allows ‘life as we know it’ to exist on planet Earth.

There are over 25,000 species of bee in the world and around 250 of these species live in the British Isles. British species include the European Honeybee, 24 species of Bumblebee and over 230 different species of Solitary Bee. All are suffering from the effects of intensive agriculture, pesticides poisoning and urban sprawl, which, together, have led to the fragmentation, degradation, and loss of their once rich and diverse habitat. Add to these factors the effects of climate change (which has caused significant problems for bees this year) and a rise in disease and pests – and it’s no wonder our poor beleaguered bee population is on the brink.

(As well as the alarming decline in honeybee populations, 3 of our bumblebee species have disappeared over the last 50 years, many more bumblebees and solitary bees are severely threatened and there are currently 7 bumblebees and 10 solitary bees on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority list.)

Bombus pascuorum on alkanet

To halt this decline we need to take action NOW. Talking, debating, spending millions of £££s on further research to tell us what is already glaringly obvious, writing reports and holding summits on the other side of the world are all very well, but without immediate ACTION these are a complete waste of time.

So what has all this got to do with trees and woodlands…..?

From the trees point of view, most are wind pollinated so they could survive without bees. There are exceptions however; including fruit bearing trees such as apple, pear, cherry and almond which all rely (some exclusively) on bees for pollination.

The importance of trees for bees is, however, is an entirely different matter. The fact that most trees are wind pollinated doesn’t preclude them from being incredibly rich food sources for bees and other pollinators – in fact certain species of trees provide an absolutely vital source of pollen and nectar for early spring foraging bees.

Honeybees store sufficient honey to feed the colony through the winter, but need to replenish their stocks by early spring. There is very little around in the way of flowering plants during the first few months of the year, so the early flowering willows, especially goat willow, provide them with a lifeline. Willow is also a vital food source for early rising bumblebee queens when they emerge from hibernation. Just walk along any riverbank on a sunny February/March day and you will easily locate the willows with your eyes closed by the sound of bees buzzing in the branches above your head.

Deforestation has been occurring in the British Isles since the arrival of Neolithic man and has reached the stage where, today, less than 12% of the UK is still wooded. Crucially, less than half this area is planted with native trees(the rest being planted with non-native conifers) – and only 2% of the land area in Britain is still covered in ancient woodlands. Given how little of our ancient woodland remains, it beggars belief that in the last 10 years 648 ancient woods have come under threat from unnecessary or insensitive development.

Add these figures to the fact that we have also lost 98% of our wildflower meadows and grasslands since the 1940s… and it is no wonder our pollinators are in trouble.

Habitat decline has impacted enormously upon our once diverse wildlife and we simply cannot afford further losses….of habitat or species. So many species of bees and other insects, not to mention small mammals, amphibians and birds, are now teetering on the brink – and what remains of our ancient and native woodlands provides an absolutely vital source of habitat and forage for many of these remaining species and populations.

Whilst the media and the ‘powers that be’ continue to bang on endlessly about the economy, time is gradually ticking away. For every single moment that their focus remains on the perceived importance of rebuilding the economy rather than addressing the very real importance of the imminent breakdown of our eco-systems, we are coming closer and closer to a sixth major extinction scenario. It really is quite bizzare that these seemingly intelligent people are so blind to this fact.

We need to address both issues of ‘habitat loss’ and ‘pesticides’ (which I haven’t gone into in this article but have written about here) urgently and simultaneously.

What can we do to help?

 Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances and skill sets will determine the part you have to play in helping to halt the decline of biodiversity. You may like to plant more trees, hedgerows and/or flowers; write to your MP about these issues; join a local wildlife group; support the The Woodland Trust; stop using pesticides; ask your local garden centre to stop selling all pesticides containing neonicotinoids or send a link to this article to a friend!

Anything you do is better than doing nothing. Doing nothing is not a good option.

N.B. Do please check out this site, packed with stunningly beautiful photographs, to find out more about the amazing world of  Woodland & Hedgerow Bees


Willow (NP) Pear (P) Apple (NP) Cherry (NP), Crab Apple (NP) Medlar (NP) Quince (NP) Sweet Chestnut (NP), Acacia (NP), Field Maple (NP) Mountain Ash (NP), Alder (P) Blackthorn (NP), Horse chestnut (NP), Hawthorn (NP), Crab apple, Lime (N), Whitebeam (NP), Sycamore (NP) Hazel (P) Holly (NP) Bramble (NP)

* N = nectar; P= pollen

Excellent website for wildlife gardening 


Consultation – DEFRA – Invasive species

Wildlife Team Horizon House Deanery Road Bristol
BS1 5AHEmailDear Consultee

DEFRA website

Consultation on tackling Invasive Non-native Species: a new enforcement regimeI am writing to invite views on a regime to enforce the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation in England and Wales. The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation came into force in 2015. It currently applies restrictions on 49 invasive non-native species of most concern in Europe including a ban on keeping and sale. This consultation sets out proposals for enforcing those restrictions through the use of civil and criminal penalties. It will be of relevance for businesses that import or trade in non-native species and individuals that keep them, as well as those working in zoos and aquaria and NGOs with an interest in protecting the environment from these species.

The following documents may be found on Defra’s website
Consultation – 9 January 2018

 Consultation document.
We welcome your views and comments on the proposals. If you wish to obtain a

paper copy of this consultation, please contact email



To submit your consultation response please complete the consultation questionnaire provided through Citizen Space (Citizen Space is an on-line consultation tool) or alternatively please email or post your response at the address above.

  1. Responses should be received by 3 April 2018.
  2. This is a twelve week consultation.

Consultation Criteria

This consultation is in line with the Consultation Principles. This can be found at Cabinet Office resources

Confidentiality and data protectionA summary of responses to this consultation will be published on the Government website at: DEFRA. The summary will include a list of organisations that responded but not personal names, addresses or other contact details.

Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be made available to the public on request, in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs). Defra may also publish the responses to the FOIA/EIR requests on DEFRA.

If you want information, including personal information such as your name, that you provide to be treated as confidential, please explain clearly in writing when you provide your response to the consultation why you need to keep these details confidential. If we receive a request for the information under the FOIA or the EIRs we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot guarantee that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. However, Defra will not permit any unwarranted breach of confidentiality nor will we act in contravention of our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as a confidentiality request.

Defra will share the information you provide in response to the consultation, including any personal data, with a third party of contracted external analysts for the purposes of response analysis and provision of a report.

Defra is the data controller in respect of any personal data that you provide, and Defra’s Personal Information Charter, which gives details of your rights in respect of the handling of your personal data, can be found at: PERSONAL INFORMATION CHARTER

This consultation is being conducted in line with the “Consultation Principles” as set out in the Better Regulation Executive guidance which can be found at: CONSULTATION GUIDANCE

If you have any comments or complaints about the consultation process, please address them to:

  • Consultation Co-ordinator 8A
    8th Floor, Nobel House 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.


Thank you for your help in this matter. If you have any queries, please contact us as above.

Yours faithfully
Invasive Alien Species team
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs



Natural Beekeeping Trust Summer Newsletter

Summer Newsletter

18 Jun 2018


Dear Friends

 As the sun reaches its highest position in the sky and the bees’ broodnests in the hives (under ideal conditions) approach the form of a sun-like sphere, our work at the Trust, too, is characterised by greatly heightened activity this midsummer.

 Learning from the Bees Conference

 Our conference Learning from the Bees, which has been the focus of our activities for more than a year, is very near now. It has been an interesting journey from first conceiving the need to organise a gathering of bee people across a variety of disciplines – then envisioning an event worthy of the honeybee and relevant to people who engage with the bees lovingly – to actually bringing the ideas down to earth, in a manner of speaking. Of course, when it comes  to bees, the heavenly is never far away.

Perhaps this is why – despite the hard work and the inevitable crises that arise whenever mere human beings attempt to work together – we feel buoyant, enthusiastic and ever refreshed as we walk the path towards our great celebration of the Bee, our much-anticipated “non-beekeeping” conference.

 There is magic at work here, and we thank the bees and all the beautiful people who have inspired us with their enthusiasm, their interest and participation. So many have contributed in thought and deed and for this we are deeply grateful.

Bee lovers from more than 30 countries  will convene in Holland in late summer – a lovely prospect indeed for all of us privileged to be there, meet one another, be inspired and evolve our ways of relating to the bees in our lives, the bees in the world.

 Let Bee – Setting new guidelines for sustainable bee keeping

 We have also brought to a successful completion our “Let Bee” project, in which we, together with our partners from SmartBeeing in The Netherlands and Aronja in Macedonia, formed a consultancy taskforce on the theme of setting guidelines for  “sustainable beekeeping” in Turkey. This two-year project involved many eye-opening field visits and fruitful memorable encounters with beekeepers in Holland, Macedonia, Britain and Turkey.


 The beautiful rewilding project location

We are in the early stages of an exciting honeybee rewilding project in Andalucia in Spain. In brief, the owners of a mountainous holding extending to 2000 hectares have enlisted the NBKT’s practical support in transforming a conventional apiary of 100 layens hives into a dispersed forest setting for honeybees that represents a decisive departure from beekeeping with the purpose of honey-production. To help evolve a cohesive vision of the land and its creatures in harmony – to inspire fresh ways of thinking about the honeybee, its place in the world and our task to safeguard it.

 This has involved numerous excursions by several of our trustees to Southern Spain to lay the groundwork for the creation of a habitat for honeybees that accords with their intrinsic need to live undisturbed and thereby allow the power of natural selection to work its magic towards re-establishing the bees’ long lost vitality and resilience. We look forward to sharing the project for the first time at the Wild Bees, Bees in Trees, Rewilding parallel session at the learning from the bees conference, and hope to apply some of the lessons learnt in other projects.

This year we have given support to a number of smaller rewilding projects, have donated to and participated in a promising French documentary film project, and given various talks and interviews on the bee themes close to our hearts.

The True Beekeeper

 Picture © Ujubee

 Our bee work has engendered so many fruitful connections with people working for the honeybee in many places in the world, and to one of our friends in South Africa, Ujubee, we would like to introduce you by means of our latest blog post – The True Beekeeper, knowing that their inspired words will resonate with many of you.

 Thank you, dear bee friends and supporters of the Trust, it is you and your appreciation of our work that allows so many good things to happen.

Best wishes for a wonderful summer with your bees!

 The trustees

 Cover Picture Copyright Ujubee – South Africa

Diploid Drones……. you said what?

Source: Honey Bee
Date:   19 March 2018

Normally drones develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid. Diploid drones (called also “biparental males”) develop from fertilized eggs [1][2] which are homozygous at sex locus. In nature diploid drones do not survive until the end of larval development. The larvae of diploid drones are eaten by workers [3] within few hours after hatching from egg [4] despite the fact that they are viable [5][6].

Adult (imago) diploid drones can be reared in laboratory by hatching eggs in incubator and feeding larvae with royal jelly without workers [7][8]. The larva can be transferred to colony after 2-3 days. At this age workers feed them normally. Diploid drones can be reared also in autumn in mating nuclei with about 1000 workers [9].

Externally adult diploid drones are similar to haploid drones. In comparison to haploid drones diploid once are larger, heavier [10][11][12] but see [13][14], have smaller testes [15][14], fewer testicular tubules [16], fewer wing hooks [14] and lower vitellogenin concentration [14]. Diploid drone larvae produce more cuticular hydrocarbons than workers but less than haploid drones [17] but see [18].

Drone - side view - Adam Tofilski

Diploid drones produce diploid spermatozoa [19] containing twice as much DNA as haploid spermatozoa [20][14]. Diploid spermatozoa are longer than haploid spermatozoa; their head is particularly long [21]. Ultrastructure of haploid and diploid drones is similar [22]. In theory triploid honey bees can be obtained by inseminating queen with diploid spermatozoa [21], however, this was not achieved so far because of small number of sperm produced by diploid drones.

Workers recognize the diploid drones larvae using substances present at their bodies [23]. It was suggested that diploid drones produce pheromone called “cannibalism substance” which is a signal to workers that they should be destroyed [23] see also [24]. Such self-destructive behaviour of diploid drones can evolve because they are neither able to reproduce nor help their relatives. Eating of the diploid drones at early stage of larval development allows to save valuable resources and produce bigger number of their relatives. However, no cuticular compound specific for diploid drone larvae was found [17]. First instar larvae of haploid and diploid drones differ in relative amount of cuticular compounds [17] and the difference can be used by workers for detection of diploid drones. In older larvae the differences in cuticular compounds are smaller [14].

In natural conditions frequency of diploid drones (before destruction by workers) in a colony is 0.05±0.03 (mean±SD) [25]. The frequency can be much higher in case of inbreeding. In colonies with large proportion of diploid drones there is “shot brood” – brood of different ages scattered irregularly on a comb [26][27][28][29]. Multiple mating by the queen leads to reduced variance of proportion of diploid drones present in the colony [30]. When a queen is artificially inseminated with semen of one drone which is her brother, half of her female offspring develop into diploid drones [26].

Reviews: [31][32]
Other references: [33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]



  1. Woyke J., Knytel A. (1966) The chromosome number as proof that drones can arise from fertilized eggs of the honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 5:149–154.
  2. Woyke J., Knytel A., Bergandy K. (1966) The presence of spermatozoa in eggs as proof that drones can develop from inseminated eggs of the honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 5:71–78.
  3. Woyke J. (1963) What happens to diploid drone larvae in a honeybee colony. J. Apic. Res. 2:73-75.
  4. Woyke J. (1962) The hatchability of “lethal” eggs in a two sex allele fraternity of honeybees. J. Apic. Res. 1:6-13.
  5. Woyke J. (1963) Rearing and viability of diploid drone larvae. J. Apic. Res. 2:77–84.
  6. Woyke J. (1965) Study on the comparative viability of diploid and haploid larval drone honeybees. Journal of Apicultural Research 4:12–16.
  7. Woyke J. (1969) A method of rearing diploid drones in a honeybee colony. J. Apic. Res. 8:65-74.
  8. Woyke J. (1969) Rearing diploid drones on royal jelly or bee milk. Journal of Apicultural Research 8:169-173.
  9. Polaczek B., Neumann P., Schricker B., Moritz R.F.A. (2000) A new, simple method for rearing diploid drones in the honeybee (Apis mellifera L.). Apidologie 31:525–530.
  10. Woyke J. (1977) Comparative biometrical investigation on diploid drones of the honeybee. I. The head. J. Apic. Res 16:131–142.
  11. Woyke J. (1978) Comparative biometrical investigation on diploid drones of the honeybee. II. The thorax. Journal of Apicultural Research 17:195–205.
  12. Woyke J. (1978) Comparative biometrical investigation on diploid drones of the honeybee. III. The abdomen and weight. J. Apic. Res 17:206–217.
  13. Chaud-Netto J. (1975) Sex determination in Bees. II. Additivity of maleness genes in Apis mellifera. Genetics 79:213-217.
  14. Herrmann M., Trenzcek T., Fahrenhorst H., Engels W. (2005) Characters that differ between diploid and haploid honey bee (Apis mellifera) drones. Genet. Mol. Res. 4:624-641.
  15. Woyke J. (1974) Genic balance, heterozygosity and inheritance of testis size in diploid drone honeybees. Journal of Apicultural Research 13:77–85.
  16. Woyke J. (1973) Reproductive organs of haploid and diploid drone honeybees. J. Apic. Res. 12:35-51.
  17. Santomauro G., Oldham N.J., Boland W., Engels W. (2004) Cannibalism of diploid drone larvae in the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is released by odd pattern of cuticular substances. Journal of Apicultural Research 43:69–74.
  18. Bienefeld K., Mattausch A., Möller U., Pritsch G. (1994) Ursache von Kannibalismus bei Arbeiterinnen der Honigbiene (Apis mellifera L.) an diploider Drohnenbrut. Verhandlungen der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft 87:30.
  19. Woyke J., Skowronek W. (1974) Spermatogenesis in diploid drones of the honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 13:183–190.
  20. Woyke J. (1975) DNA content of spermatids and spermatozoa of haploid and diploid drone honeybees. Journal of Apicultural Research 14:3–8.
  21. Woyke J. (1983) Lengths of haploid and diploid spermatozoa of the honeybee and the question of the production of triploid workers. J Apic Res 22:146-149.
  22. Woyke J. (1984) Ultrastructure of single and multiple diploid honeybee spermatozoa. Journal of Apicultural Research 23:123–135.
  23. Woyke J. (1967) Diploid drone substance–cannibalism substance., Proc. XXI Int. Beekeeping Congr., Maryland, pp. 471–472.
  24. Dietz A., Lovins R.W. (1975) Studies on the ‘cannibalism substance’ of diploid drone honey bee larvae. Journal of the Georgia Entomological Society 10:314-315.
  25. Adams J., Rothman E.D., Kerr W.E., Paulino Z.L. (1977) Estimation of the number of sex alleles and queen matings from diploid male frequencies in a population of Apis mellifera. Genetics 86:583-596.
  26. Mackensen O. (1951) Viability and sex determination in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). Genetics 36:500-509.
  27. Laidlaw H.H., Gomes F.P., Kerr W.E. (1956) Estimation of the number of lethal alleles in a panmitic population of Apis mellifera L. Genetics 41:179-188.
  28. Hachinohe Y., Jimbu M. (1958) Occurrence of lethal eggs in the honeybee. Bull. Natl. Inst. Agric. Sci. Ser. G 14:123–130.
  29. Woyke J. (1984) Exploitation of comb cells for brood rearing in honeybee colonies with larvae of different survival rates. Apidologie 15:123-135.
  30. Ratnieks F.L.W. (1990) The evolution of polyandry by queens in social Hymenoptera: the significance of the timing of removal of diploid males. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 26:343-348.
  31. Woyke J. (1974) The story of diploid drones in the honeybee., Bee Research Association, 1949-1974: a history of the first 25 years. Bee Research Association, pp. 151-154.
  32. Woyke J. (1986) Sex determination. in: Rinderer T.E. (Ed.), Bee genetics and breeding. Academic Press, Orlando, pp. 91-119.
  33. Woyke J. (1963) Origin of unusual bees [in Polish]. Pszczelnicze Zeszyty Naukowe 6:49-63.
  34. Woyke J. (1963) Drones from fertilized eggs and biology of sex determination in the honeybee. Bull. Acad. Polon. Sci. Cl. V. Serie des Sciences Biologiques 9:251-254.
  35. Woyke J. (1963) Drone larvae from fertilized eggs of the honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 2:19–24.
  36. Woyke J. (1965) Genetic proof of the origin of drones from fertilized eggs of the honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 4:7–11.
  37. Woyke J. (1965) Do honeybees eat diploid drone larvae because they are in worker cells? J Apic Res 4:65–70.
  38. Woyke J. (1965) Rearing diploid drone larvae in queen cells in a colony. Journal of Apicultural Research 4:143–148.
  39. Woyke J. (1980) Genetic background of sexuality in the diploid drone honeybee. Journal of Apicultural Research 19:89–95.
  40. Woyke J., Adamska Z. (1972) The biparental origin of adult honeybee drones proved by mutant genes. Journal of Apicultural Research 11:41–49.
  41. Woyke J. (1973) Laranja: a new honey bee mutation. Gene dosage and maleness of diploid drones. Journal of Heredity 64:227-230.
  42. Woyke J., Król-Paluch W. (1985) Changes in tissue polyploidization during development of worker, queen, haploid and diploid drone honeybees. Journal of Apicultural Research 24:214–224.




Ted Hooper Memorial Lectures 2018

Ted Hooper Memorial Lectures 2018

Where / When

2pm Sunday 22 April 2018
at the Lecture Theatre Writtle University College CM1 3RP


This year’s guest speakers are:

Professor Richard Pywell

Richard is the Senior Principal Scientist at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. He will talk about his research supporting wildflowers boosting natural predators widely published in the national press at the end of January and the Honey Monitoring Scheme researching neonicotinoids in honey.

Norman Carreck

Norman is the Science Director at the International Bee Research Association (IBRA) based at Sussex University and he will talk about the work of the IBRA and, in particular, about the founder, Eva Crane.

This is the third Ted Hooper Memorial lecture which is an important event in  the beekeeping calendar. Members again will have the opportunity to hear the presentations from key speakers on topics that are of interest and relevant today. It is also a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet in the  new surroundings at Writtle University College.


The ticket price, including refreshments, is £10 and must be purchased in  advance.

Buy Tickets here

Beekeeping Taster Workshops a hit

Two Beekeeping Taster Workshop have been a huge success with 18 would be Beekeepers trying it out, including handling live bees.

Students listening to talk on Kit and Costs involved with beekeeping over tea and cake.

A nervous youngster looking over Darren's shoulder.

Looking at a frame of bees with Apiary Manager, Darren.

Opening hive looking for a queen with apiarist Kate.

One of the younger Beekeepers, Amy, was nervous and not keen about handling bees, yet here she is holding a frame and smiling from ear to ear.

A frame full of bees