Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to set up a hive with bees?
To buy a beginner’s kit and a nucleus of bees from an agent will cost from £350.00 to £600.00. Through Penrith Beekeepers’ Association networks it is usually possible to find second hand equipment at reasonable prices. The Association will also sell bees from the apiary to members at less than commercial rates.
What type of hive is the best?
The most popular hive in the United Kingdom is the National hive. This is a square hive, not very pretty but practical.
The cottage garden traditional hive is the WBC. If you want a couple of hives in your garden and want them to look good, go for the WBC. Don’t be put off by some beekeepers who will say they’re impractical. Yes, they are awkward to move to a field of rape or a heather covered mountain, but if you want to stay with a small-scale hobby, you probably won’t want to move them.

Our advice would be to start with a National or WBC.

What are beehives made of?
Hives are all made from red cedar, deal or pine. Cedar wood contains natural oils, which help preserve the wood and insect attack. Deal and Pine are less expensive and can be treated with the correct preservative. Polystyrene hives are also available and used by many commercial beekeepers and an increasing number of hobbyist beekeepers.
Do I need a big garden?
No. Of course, if you live in the countryside with a large garden, you have an ideal location. However, beehives can be found on numerous roofs and balconies in big cities. With the parks and small town gardens packed with plants, there is excellent forage for bees in built up areas. The important thing is to choose a site where there will be plenty of ‘bee friendly’ plants available for the bees to forage all the year round. 
Do the hive entrances have to face one way?
Ideally they should be faced either south-east, south or south-west. On level ground. Ensure they do not face directly onto a footpath or road because people walking by may get stung.
Will the bees help my plants?
Yes, they will pollinate your fruit trees and soft fruit and the crops will be bigger, better, tastier and more regularly shaped.
Do I need planning permission?
Will bees cause a nuisance to my neighbours?
Possibly; make sure you site the hives so that the bees will not fly out of the hive and straight across your neighbour’s garden. Bees do have cleansing flights and are prone to “doing their business” over the neighbour’s washing line. Try to chat to your neighbours about your interesting hobby. Encourage them to put on your spare veil and look into your hive. Make sure they are well supplied with honey!!
Where can I learn the basics of beekeeping?
The best way is to join a beginner’ s course. Penrith Beekeepers run an Introductory Course at least once a year. Members are also encourage to attend the branch meetings at the Apiary during the season, where beginners can handle the bees under the watchful eye of more experienced members.
What else do I need to start?
A hive tool, a smoker, a feeder, a veil and a box of nitrile gloves.
Do I need planning permission?
Will I get stung?
You can’t call yourself a beekeeper until you’ve been stung! Treat the bees gently, don’t flap your arms about or look in the hive if the weather is not suitable. Always wear the correct protective clothing.
Do I need lots of time to look after bees properly?
No. In the summer months, you need to look into the hive once a week. In the winter, you just need to check they have food, perhaps once a month. However, if you’re stressed after a hard day’s work, sit and watch the hive entrance, it’s very therapeutic and relaxing.
How do I get the honey out of the hive and into the jars?
First you need to get the bees out of the super which is full of honey – there are quite a few ways to do this. The most common is to use two bee escapes (a one-way valve) in a board. The bees can go down but not come back up into the super. Remove the super to a bee tight clean room. Carefully remove the cappings, put the frames into an extractor (you can usually borrow one for the first year) and spin out the honey. Strain it and leave it to settle. Then put it into the jars and label it. If you want to sell your honey you need to check on the information that needs to be on the jars and the recommended hygiene precautions for extracting bottling and storing.
Are there any other useful hive products?
Yes. Beeswax can be made into candles, polish and cosmetics. 
Can I sell honey?
 Yes. Put up a sign at your front gate or take some jars to work with you. There is a big demand for local honey. If you want to sell your honey you need to check on the information that needs to be on the jars and the recommended hygiene precautions for extracting bottling and storing.
Do bees need feeding in the winter?
Yes. You should check the hives every two or three weeks. If they feel light, (i.e. the stores seem to be running low and the hive is light in weight when you try to lift (heft) it, the place a pack of fondant sugar onto the top of the frames. 
Are there many diseases and pests to treat?
Like all pets and domestic animals, there are problems to watch out for. Sadly these seem to be increasing. The most common pest is the varroa mite. This is the biggest threat to bees’ survival. You will need to regularly inspect the hives for evidence of the varroa mite and use approved treatments to try to eradicate it. 
What type of bees are the best?
Local strains of bees will survive the Cumbrian winters better than bees that have been imported from countries with less harsh conditions. Penrith Beekeepers Association may be able to provide you with bees from the Association Apiary. 
How do I obtain insurance cover?

Penrith Beekeepers Association provides access to insurance cover within their full membership subscription.

Brood Diseases Insurance(BDI): although Penrith Beekeepers Association provides the cover for 3 colonies of bees, additional fees have to be paid for more colonies. The insurance certificate is E mailed/ posted out to members when annual membership is renewed.

British Beekeepers Association (BBKA)provide public and product liability cover. A BBKA membership number is given to each beekeeper subscriber annually.

If you would like to see your BBKA insurance documents then:


  • Go to the BBKA website.
  • Click on “members” tab.
  • Log in. It gives details on the page but basically you enter your BBKA No. with full stops. The default Password is…. bbka_surname. You can then change it if you want.
  • Type “insurance” in to the search box at top right of page and search.
  • This pulls up Public Liability and BDI.
  • Choose which you want and click on “read more”.
  • Various options appear on bottom of page, select which one you need (eg.certificate) and print off from screen.

AFBAmerican Foulbrood
BBKABritish Beekeepers’ Association
BDIBee Diseases Insurance Ltd.
CBKACumbria Beekeepers Association
CBTCumbria Bee Times/td>
DefraDepartment for Environment and Rural Affairs
DWVDeformed Wing Virus
EFBEuropean Foulbrood
FeraThe Food and Environment Research Agency
IPIInsect Pollinators Initiative
IPMIntegrated Pest Management
LFDLateral Flow Device
NBUNational Bee Unit
PBKAPenrith Beekeepers Association
SSShook Swarm
VMDVeterinary Medicines Directorate

Terms commonly used by beekeepers

AbdomenThe largest body segment of the bee containing the heart, stomach and intestines. In the worker it also contains the sting and wax glands. In the drone, the testes. In the queen , the ovaries and the spermatheca.
AcaricideA chemical preparation used to destroy mites.
AcarineA disease caused by mites (Acarapis wood) which infests the tracheae i.e. breathing tubes, leading from the first pair of spiracles on the thorax.
<Africanized bees>A hybrid between the African honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) and several European honeybees. Often referred to as ‘killer bees’.
American Foul Brood (AFB) A notifiable disease, AFB is caused by a spore-producing bacterium. The spores develop in the gut of the larvae, which hide in their cells.The cell caps appearing darker and sunken and are often perforated. AFB may occur anywhere in the world.
AntherThe part of the flower that releases pollen.
Apiary The place where one or more beehives are kept.
ApicultureThe practice of keeping bees.
Ashworth FeederA wooden feeder covering the hive cross section , with one syrup reservoir . The bees gain access to teh syrup from one side.
Bee brushA very soft brush used to remove bees from the frame or to coax them into a confined space. A large feather could also be used.
Bee cageA device for safely introducing a new queen into a hive. The other bees lick the queen through the mesh grid of the cage and pass her pheromones around the hive without harming her.
Bee hiveA container for housing honey bees, consisting of a floor, brood box an inner cover (crown board) and roof. Supers can also be added.
Bee spaceThe space of 7-8mm (about 1/4inch) left between the comb and other surfaces in the hive. frames The bees will the gaps with propolis (if smaller) or honeycomb (if larger). The bee space is large enough for the queen, the worker and the drone to pass through. The bee space enables the beekeeper to easily remove the frames.
Bee suitA suit worn by a beekeeper for protection when opening the hives.
BeeswaxA hydrocarbon produced byglands on the underside of the abdomen of the worker bees. It is used by the bees to cap cells and build comb.
Bottom bee space hiveA hive in which the frames hang in the boxes with a space between the bottom of the frames and the boxThis style is most often seen in National type hives.
Bridges of wax built between adjacent surfaces within the hive.
BroodThe immature stage of the bees’ development (eggs, larvae and pupae) in cells that may be uncapped or unsealed (eggs and larvae) or capped or sealed (larvae)whichwill pupate into adult bees.)
Brood boxThe area in which the queen is confined (by a queen excluder) and the brood is reared. A hive may contain more than one brood box.
Candy/ fondant A solid food made from sugar, more frequently used to separate queens in a new hive.
Capping The beeswax covering sealing a cell. Cappings over honey are made of wax. Cappings over brood contain hair and other materials.
Cells Small, six sided compartments, made of wax. They are used to store honey, pollen and brood.
Chalk brood Disease  caused by a fungus Ascospheaera apis, which ‘mummifies’ larvae in the brood frame.
Clearer boardA board used to remove bees from supers before the honey is harvested. It is designed to accommodate one or two Porter bee escapes
Cleansing flightA flight made by bees that have been inside the hive during the winter or bad weather. They avoid defecating inside the hive and make a cleansing flight when the weather improves.
Crown boardAlso known as the inner cover. The board that is placed on the top super and below the roof of the hive. The board has a hole in it for ventilation.
DroneA male bee. A drone has no sting, unlike the queen and worker bees,
Entrance block A removable block of wood ,or other suitable covering, used to reduce the width of the hive entrance.
European foul brood (EFB) A notifiable disease. EFB is caused by the bacterium Melissococcus pluton, which infects the guts of developing larvae and competes with them for food.
ExoskeltonThe hard outside surface of an insect’s body which protects and supports it.
Feeder One of two types are usually used, a large rectangular or smaller rounder version. They are filled with sugar syrup to feed the bees- particularly in the spring and the early autumn.
Flight boardThe wooden strip in front of the hive on which bees land. Also referred to as to as the alighting board.
Following The habit of some bees to follow and possibly sting the beekeeper/ other animal who has been near to the hive.
ForagingThe act of seeking and collecting, nectar, pollen, water and propolis.
Foundation A wax sheet embossed with a hexagonal pattern used as the basis for bees to build comb.
FrameA wooden or plastic structure that holds the wax comb and allows the beekeeper to remove the comb from the hive to inspect it. The beekeeper usually makes his/her own frames.
Guard bees Bees that wait at the entrance to the hive to protect it from foreign bees, wasps, animals (including beekeepers!).These bees release pheromones to alert the other bees in the hive if the colony is threatened.
HeftingThe act of lifting the hive from its support to ascertain its weight. with the roof on but with no supers in it as a way of establishing its weight.
Hive tool A metal tool used by beekeepers manipulating a colony i.e.for levering and separating frames.
Hoffman frameA type of self- spacing frame.
Honey flowThe period during which the supply of nectar from flowers is at its peak.
Integrated Pest Management /td>The use of chemical preparations and colony manipulators to reduce Varroa Destructor and other pests.
Landing board Also know as the ‘alighting board’. The strip of wood that is attached to the bottom of the hive on which bees land before they enter the hive.
Langstroth hiveThe most commonly used type of hive in North America.
Mouse guardA metal strip punched with holes that allow bees in and out of the hive while excluding mice.
Nasonov glandA gland on the abdomen of a worker bee that secretes a substance used to attract bees back to their hive.
National hive A square, single walled hive. It is the most widely used hive in Britain.
NectarThe sugary substance that is produced by plants in order to attract pollinating insects . Nectar is made into honey by bees.
NucleusA small colony, usually on three, four or five frames. Used for rearing new colonies or for rearing/ storing queens. Often referred to a s ‘nuc’
Nucleus hiveA small hive designed to contain three, four or five frames only.
NosemaA disease caused by a protozoan (Nosema apis), which affects the gut of adult bees.
Nurse bee The name given to young worker bees 3-10 days old, which help to rear brood in the hive.
Open mesh floorA fine mesh floor that is used to both improve ventilation in the hive and help control varroa mites, which fall through the mesh, but are unable to return to the hive.
Pistil The female reproductive organ of a flower.
PollenThe dust-like grains which are produced by a flower’s anthers (the male part of the flower) . These are used to fertilize the female ovule.
Pollen basketThe corbicula, also known as pollen sac. The area on the hind leg of a bee in which pollen is transported to the hive. The basket (actually a hollow in the tibia) is surrounded by brush like hairs, which enable the bee to scrape the pollen caught on its body hairs into the basket. It is also used to bring propolis back to the hive.
Porter bee escape A one way bee escape, often used on clearer boards, which allow bees to exit but not return.
Propolis Also known as bee gum or bee glue. The reddish or black-brown resinous substance which is collected by bees from plants, particularly trees. It is used in the construction of the hive.
Queen The sexually developed female bee that lays eggs.
Queen cell An elongated cell on the face or bottom of the frame whichhouses a grub destined to become a queen.
Queen excluder A screen with slots or a mesh which  allows worker bees to pass through it, but can be positioned to exclude the queen and drones from parts of the hive.
Queen marking grid A device for holding a queen on the frame surface allowing the beekeeper to mark her. Marking sets the queen’s age and makes her more visible.
Queen substancePheromones produced by the queen. Transmitted throughout the colony by the exchange of food between workers to alert other workers of the queen’s presence. When there is a decrease /cessation in the queen’s pheromones, the workers begin to rear queens.
Queenless>When a colony has no queen, if bees have access to eggs or very young larvae they are able to rear a replacement queen.
RetinueWorker bees who attend the queen and care for her needs within the hive.
Royal jelly Also known as bee milk. The substance is a highly nutritious glandular secretion by the worker bees and fed to future queens.
Sac brood A viral disease that causes larvae to die before their final moult.
Scout bees Worker bees that search for new sources of nectar, pollen ,water andpropolis.When a colony is preparing to swarm, scout bees will search for a new home for the colony.
SkepAn old -fashioned type of hive, made of wicker or straw and without moveable Frames. Nowadays beekeepers mainly use to collect swarms.
Smoker The device used by beekeepers to introduce cool smoke into a hive to calm bees before a hive is opened.
StigmaThe part of a flower’s pistil that receives the pollen during pollination.
StingQueen and worker bees have a barbed sting. When the sting is used, it is left in the wound together with parts of the bee’s viscera. This means that after the bee has stung it will die. The queen uses her sting to kill rival queens, usually when one or more are hatching during the swarming period.
Sugar syrup A solution of 50-50 sugar: water. It is used to feed bees in times when no nectar is flowing or honey supplies are low.
Super The boxes of frames placed above the brood box in which the bees store their honey .
SupersedureThe process of removing a queen and replacing her with a new one without a colony swarming.
Sulphur candle A device for killing off a whole colony if some disease problem makes it necessary.
Swarm A mass of bees that is not in the hive. The bees could be attempting to establish a new colony or absconding from an unsatisfactory hive/ environment. Usually a swam includes a mated queen.
Top bee space hiveA hive in which the frames are suspended so that there is a space between the top of the frames and the top of the box. This arrangement is most often seen in Langstroth hives.
UnitingThe act of combining two or more colonies to form a larger colony .
Varroa destructor The mite which breeds in brood cells and feeds on the larval blood. It weakens the bees and although some may not be killed by it, it can trigger viruses which lead to serious deformations such as shrivelled wings.
Varroa stripsA plastic strip impregnated with insecticide that will selectively kill varroa mites in the hive.
Virgin queen A young, unmated queen.
Waggle danceA circular or figure of eight communication dance performed by the bees . They use this movement to inform other bees about the distance and direction of a food source from the hive.
Wax moths Both the lesser (Achroia grisella) and the greater (Galleria mellonella) wax moth are serious pests in the hive. They damage stored comb.
WBC hive A double walled hive designed in 1890.
Winter clusterThe roughly spherical mass adopted by bees to generate / maintain heat and survive the winter.
Worker <Worker bees are the most numerous residents of a hive. They are female and perform tasks within the hive to maintain the hygiene of the hive environment, and feed the brood.They also forage for honey and nectar.