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Penrith Beekeepers Association : Queen Rearing Course June 2022

 The course was led by Graham Royle:

Graham has been beekeeping since 1988 and started to study for the BBKA examinations in 1995 when he decided he wanted to know more about the bees he was keeping. His studies resulted in achieving the BBKA Master Beekeeper certificate in 2002 and the National Diploma in Beekeeping in 2004 (the highest beekeeping qualification recognised in the UK). He was also awarded the Wax Chandler’s prize in 2002. Until recently Graham was a seasonal bee inspector. 

The one day course covered the following aspects and approaches to beekeeping: stages of queen rearing; 3 possible queen rearing techniques; cell raising; queen cell distribution; mating and queen introduction techniques.

The course was held at Acorn Bank (CA10 1SP) National Trust property at Temple Sowerby. The theoretical aspects of the session took  place in the Drawing Room of the Main House. The bees and equipment that were used during the course came from the Penrith Beekeepers Association apiary which is located in the orchard at Acorn Bank.

The 15 participants provided the following feedback:

Key : % of responses:

The course increased my knowledge/ understanding of queen rearing strategies:

A lot                93% A little                7% Not at all


-Practise techniques that be taken into action.

-Perfect level of course for our needs

-Interactive, engaging. Lots of knowledge given

-I was coming from limited knowledge, and course was delivered really well, with good knowledge and a great teaching style.

-I had little success before.

-There is a lot to learn

-Clearly demonstrated procedure. Good responses and interaction and questions.

-A little because I have already been doing this for a while

-Increased skill with grafting

I will now try to rear queen bees using some of the strategies that were demonstrated today:

Definitely  86% May be   7% Not yet  7%


I would like to learn more about:

-Disease ;  Bee husbandry;

Overall the course was :


Excellent 100% Satisfactory Disappointing


-Good teaching style and good pace.

-Good pace. Plenty opportunity for questions and practical experience.

-Gave us more confidence and knowledge with how to proceed.

The approach was simple and well explained

Excellent presenter, nice setting. Good chocolate biscuits!

Very knowledgeable presenter, well organised, engaging delivery, with good pacing.

Very well presented, taking the mystery our of queen rearing.

-Simple, concise, entertaining presentation

The course could have been improved by:

Excellent as it was

Not much- two days?

Many thanks for extending the invitation to KBKA. Very interesting and helpful opportunity.

Additional comments:

-Just to say very many thanks for inviting us to the Queen Rearing Session. Not only enjoyable, we learnt so much to help our endeavours. Charlie Payne (Chair Keswick Beekeepers Association)

– Thank you so much for allowing us to join onto your queen rearing course, which was really excellent. We learnt so much and it was great to see the wonderful setup you have at Acorn Bank.  I do hope there may be opportunities in the future for members from South Westmorland to join in with your activities. (Stella Crompton)




Gardeners’ Question Time  Sunday 19th June

Enthusiastic gardeners gathered at Up Front Gallery last Sunday afternoon to present their questions to the panel of experts. The event was organised by Penrith Beekeepers Association to raise awareness of how bees and pollinators can be supported through more environmentally sensitive approaches to gardening.

Unfortunately, due to family commitments Eric Robson could not Chair the session, but Shelagh Todd (Head of Horticulture and Garden Design based at Lowther Castle Gardens part of Newton Rigg Training) was happy to rise to the challenge.  She managed to make the audience and the panel feel at ease. There was a lot of jovial banter between Shelagh and the panel which brought a great sense of fun and enjoyment to the proceedings. Shelagh acknowledged that the expert line-up of horticulturists on the panel, it made her job very easy. There were helpful and humorous references to bees throughout the afternoon.  The five horticulturists on the panel included:

Heather Birkett who is Senior Gardener at Acorn Bank Gardens. Heather was referred to as the  Queen Bee. Karen Roberts who is an independent Garden Designer & Fashion Designer. Karen was the Sewing Bee. Martin Ogle who has recently become a freelance Horticultural Consultant,  was the Drone Bee (a male bee).  Lyn Brunetti, an expert horticulturist who works as a hands-on gardener and part time lecturer in Horticulture at the School of Horticulture based at Lowther Castle Gardens. Lyn is always always buzzing with energy and is known as a ‘Busy Bee’  Louise Stoddart combines a variety of horticultural work with part time lecturing in Horticulture at the School of Horticulture based at Lowther Castle Gardens. Louise is just the bee’s knees when it comes to the world of horticulture”

The audience asked a varied range of questions, includingWhat’s attacking my peas? What hedge do I plant to attract wildlife? How do I produce a wildflower meadow? What flowers attract honeybees? Can you give hints on successfully growing plants using peat free compost. Why is my aunt’s waterlily not flowering? What’s wrong with my magnolia?

At the end of the GQT each panel member was asked to give the audience advice on what they should be doing in or gardens in June:

Karen advised a bit of pond maintenance & reminded everyone to net their strawberries to protect them from birds. Heather advised the cutting back of early flowering herbaceous perennials and reminded very one to regularly water and feed their plants. Martin suggested to take time to observe what’s happening in your garden. What’s looking good and note what’s not performing. Lyn was adamant that we should all be composting our grass clippings and cardboard boxes.  Finally Louise suggested we pour ourselves a glass of wine (or cup of tea) and take time to sit in our gardens and enjoy the flowers, scents, sounds, bees, butterflies, and other visiting wildlife.

At the end of the afternoon, four floral pots that had been donated by a member of Penrith Beekeepers Association were auctioned. The proceeds raised from the auction and other donations made during the afternoon will enable Penrith Beekeepers Association to send  the British Beekeepers Association £100 toward their appeal for support for beekeepers in Ukraine.  Ticket holders also had the opportunity to win a packet of ‘bee friendly plant seeds’ that had been donated for the occasion by Sutton seeds. The Chair of British Beekeepers Association, Stephen Barnes, who attended the event, congratulated the panel on the expertise that they had shared, their interest in providing advice on planting ‘flowers for pollinators’ and thanked Penrith Beekeepers Association for organising the event.

The audience were very enthusiastic and provided the following feedback;

  • Very informative – Thank you
  • Very professional panel and chair with lots of very good information. Lovely afternoon.
  • Very many thanks! Such and enjoyable session. (Ash)
  • Thanks for an informative afternoon. I would definitely come again, given the opportunity.
  • Very interesting and useful.
  • Great afternoon. Lovely panel. Thank you.
  • Very good presentation overall- care of detail like names, brining exhibits, bee theme speakers, table layout, timing good. I’d come again! Well done all round.

Bee Hotel Workshops

Bee Hotel Workshops were  held at Upfront Gallery on  22nd May and 18th June.   They were designed to help family groups make a bee hotel to take home to install in their own garden.

PBKA had been allocated grants from Persimmon Homes and Penrith Town Council which enabled PBKA to produce 20 commercially produced bee hotel kits. Across the two workshops: 12 bee hotels were constructed by 13 adults and 12 children.

The remaining 8 kits will be used at workshops at community events now being planned for 2023.

Each workshop session was introduced by Margaret Riches, a PBKA member who explained the similarities and differences between the three main types of bees in the UK : Honey bees, Bumble bees and Solitary bees.  Each family group was provided with a presentation pack about bees , which included information about the types of Solitary bees that will be most likely to use the bee hotel as a nesting site:  Leaf cutter bees and the Red mason bee. For further information they were recommended to read: ‘The Secret Lives of Garden Bees ‘ by Jean Vernon. (publ. Pen & Sword 2020)

Feedback from attendees included the following comments:

I enjoyed it 100% A lot   A little   Not at all
Making the bee hotel was 42% Easy 58% A little difficult   Very difficult


The best thing was:

-Everyone in our family enjoyed it

-The fun we had whilst here

-It was fun making the hotel and I enjoyed learning about bees.

-Having a finished bee hotel that can be put to good use.

-The construction

-The hotel

-Not getting glue all over herself and the grand daughter helping her and us all laughing about it.

-Glueing on the cute little bee with the glue gun.


-Learning about bees.


The Bee Hotel workshop could have been improved by:

All good thank you

-Honey to taste

-Larger visuals at the front.

-A sweetie or two.

-seeing some bees

-More guidance to make it.

-No improvements needed. Margaret was very good. An excellent way to spend an hour.


Excursion to Slovenia

  • During late August and the beginning of September 2022 , Penrith Beekeepers Association led a six day  excursion to Slovenia for a group of 16 beekeepers from Cumbria and other parts of the UK.  The trip was organised by ‘Aritours’ ( a company specialising in excursions for beekeepers world wide) , and their Slovenian based ‘ApiRoutes travel agency’.  They supplied a specialist guide who remained with the group for the week and arranged all the visits to beekeepers and other specialist venues across the country.

In Slovenia, beekeeping is a  way of life. In this small European nation of 2 million people, 1 out of every 200 people is a beekeeper.

The Slovenian government has schemes to raise the awareness of children as young as 3 years old to the value of bees in the environment by providing schools with the financial support to provide ‘honey breakfasts’.   This extends to ‘Pollinator breakfasts/ lunches’ as the children grow older. All educational schemes and capital initiatives to promote and safeguard bees receive 70% government funding.

Slovenia’s commitment to safeguarding and managing bees dates back to the 18th century, when Maria Theresa, the empress of the Hapsburg empire created the first beekeeping school in the world there, appointing Anton Jasna as the school’s teacher.  Today, Jasna is considered the pioneer of moder apiculture and Zirovnica- his home valley- the cradle of Slvoenian beekeeping. World Bee Day is celebrated in Slovenia in honor of Jasna’s birthday. In 2017 it was adopted by the UN General assembly as a day to be celebrated globally. The purpose of the international day is to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem.

The Slovenian approach to beekeeping draws upon ancient traditions but also highly localised practises. In 2002, the government gave conservation status to the Carniolan honey bee, Slovenian’s native bee. It banned the import of other honey bee species to avoid the introduction of new diseases. It also funds a Carniolan bee breeding programme. Today, the ‘Grey Carniolan’ honeybee is the only protected native bee species in the EU. It is particularly valued for its calm disposition. It is also able to survive cold withers with lots of snow, and summers with frequent wind and rain. It continues to forage even in poor weather and collects honey dew from spruce and fir as well as nectar and pollen from other flowering plants and trees. Recently beekeepers noticed that it has a good cleaning instinct which makes it more resistant to varroa.

Slovenians also promote their unique AZ hive, after the initials of its creator Anton Znidersic. 90% of Carniolan honey bee colonies live in these small-scale painted hives designed in the early 20th century. The AZ hives allow beekeepers to  monitor their bee colonies effectively by opening them at the back and sliding out the frames. The hives are arranged together side by side with a roof enclosing them and an integral  room at the back for the beekeeper to sit inside to inspect the bees. Any escaping bees fly to the windows at the side of this room and escape through narrow bee space vents at the top. The gentle nature of the bees, means that they are no threat to the beekeeper when inspections are undertaken in this enclosed space.  The overhanging roof protects the bees from the harsh winter conditions and the enclosed space and warmth from all the hives fitting together provides warmth and insulation throughout the year.  The tradition of hand painting the fronts of the hives with different patterns and murals continues.  Beekeepers also mount the hive houses onto trailer bases so that they can be easily transported to different sources of forage that become available at different times of the year.

The excursion included:

Visits to beekeepers specialising in

  • the production of honey brandy and different flavours of honey, particularly those sourced from trees such as chestnut, acacia and linden.
  • biodynamic beekeeping using honey massage and bee venom treatments and aromatherapy from beehives to cure emotional and physical illness.
  • growing herbs and flowers for pollinators, who also produced dried herbs and homemade preserves to promote healthy diets.
  • the construction of especially designed trailers to transport the bee houses
  • the collection of bee pollen on specially designed trays. The pollen is then used to cure common ailments.
  • queen rearing for distribution of queen bees locally, nationally and globally. (No longer permitted for import into the UK)


Venues that provided specialist information:

  • The headquarters of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association
  • The Apilab Carniolan Bee House : with its research and interactive technology about the comparative characteristics of different types of bees .

Tours of different locations:

  • the Karst region where the rocky limestone landscape provides foraging challenges for honey bees.
  • Maribor : the capital of the Styria and the region’s university, cultural and economic centre.
  • Ljubljana : the capital city of Slovenia
  • Postojna Caves

 Comments from the participants included:

Something I will always remember….

  • A really lovely trip to the herb garden.
  • Slovenian Beekeepers Association, amazing 3D bee.
  • The very Modern interactive Museum.
  • And of course the beautiful countryside and all huge variety of trees.
  • I particularly found the biodynamic and Apitherapy talks of interest, as these areas of beekeeping are generally not taken too seriously over here in the UK, so it was refreshing to see how the bees and their products are used in different ways in Europe.
  • The AZ hive was also a bit of an education! – I’ve not seen one of these before and ended up having a very long conversation when I got back with a Romanian beekeeper that I know, who also uses them throughout the more remote mountainous areas of Romania.

I’ve made a brief list of what struck me most about beekeeping in Slovenia:

  • Lots of beekeepers!
  • One thing that’s made a great impression was the fact that the bees take 2-3 days to recover from having their hive opened up, and it loses weight.
  • The national monitoring system of weighing the hives at designated apiaries and location of forage notifications.
  • Their different methods of Varoa treatment, especially the strip across the entrance.(I’d like to find that here in the future)
  • That varroa don’t like a humid atmosphere, bees can keep the humidity high with a solid floor. (Did I understand that correctly?) As bees don’t like damp, I’m thinking it must be in the warmer months which is of course when varroa multiplies with lots of brood being produced.
  • The other pest, we don’t usually see e.g. deaths head hawk moth.
  • The wonderful Carniolan Bee
  • All the fascinating variety of Apitherapy treatments.


Additional comments:

  • We had such a fascinating time in Slovenia, and so lucky with Klaudji  our guide, such a knowledgeable  personable young man. Also of course a lovely mix of fellow beekeepers and their partners.
  • It also goes without saying that our guide Klaudji was exceptional – and that’s putting it mildly! He was so knowledgeable and accommodating – a real asset to Api/ Ari-Tours. I would definitely recommend the trip.
  • I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you to PBKA for patiently organising and arranging the trip. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and learnt a thing or two about beekeeping!!
  • An amazing trip….

The PBKA ‘Introducing Beekeeping Course’ Review


The PBKA ‘Introducing Beekeeping Course’ run by Julia Pigott and Martin Hoggard was an intensive two day programme based at Greystoke Village Hall.  As well as detailed information about bees and beekeeping techniques it included a practical session inspecting the beehives at the apiary on the Greystoke Castle Estate.  The Feedback Summary below shows the extent to which the twelve participants appreciated the training that they had received.


The next PBKA ‘Introducing Beekeeping Course’ will take place in June/ July 2023 – date to be arranged.


Introducing Beekeeping

Feedback Summary

Course at Greystoke Village Hall : July 2022



Key: % of responses of 12 participants


1=not at all    5=very well 1 2 3 4 5
How well has the course met your learning needs? 100%

-Extremely well, very well to understand everything.

-Provided a good and detailed overview of how to start beekeeping.

-As a beginner and now to bees- this has been fantastic.

-All information very relevant.

-Huge amount covered, but realistic about our memory- so a memory stick was very useful.

-Broad range of essential topics covered in good presentations and practical sessions.

Very practical hands on course, Julia and Martin are very knowledgeable, but also very humble trainers- excellent advice overall.

Incredibly useful overview with lots of detail too


Was the information presented well and clearly? 100%

-Yes, very clearly, presented well.

-A lot of great information – the memory stick is greatly appreciated and will be well used in the future.

Yes, and it’s great to have the presentation on a memory stick too-thank you!

-Really good pace, informative and opportunity for discussion and questions.


-Very professional- confidence provided by Julia’s professional role + their joint experience.

-Excellent teaching at a slow, steady pace with repetition that helps.

-Mixture of theory and practical training was very effective- slides as pictures vs lots of werds very effective.

-Great pace of information & reinforcement through practice.

Do you feel the weekend provided value for money? 100%

Yes, very much so, I have been given so much advice.


-Yes very much so- I have been to Acorn Bank a few times , but this course has brought it all together.

We feel that we are trying to give you the foundations on which to build your beekeeping hobby, do you feel you have made a good start? 100%

-Yes I feel much more confident to get started now and know what to look out for.

Yes, very much indeed- have thoroughly enjoyed my weekend.

-I feel  a lot less overwhelmed at what I need to do to be a successful beekeeper.

-A good start definitely, however, I think I need a refresher next year before I get bees.

-Excellent start, (Plenty to learn!)

-It helped to cement information previously gained from reading.

-Hopefully that will be provided in practise next year.

-Loves see extraction.

-Really thorough varroa management.


Follow up required:

-Gain confidence to get some bees and get going.

Not sure yet, some bees (ha ha) – may be a refresher course?

-A starter kit list.

-Revision session.

-How many hives supers/ brood boxes etc is it sensible to start with. I know it is an open ended question!

-I need to begin – get a hive and some bees!

– A refresher course next spring.

-Equipment and mentor/ buddy

I think ongoing training like this, with like minded beekeepers is very effective, so indeed March 12th Course is of interest to me- let me know the details. (A.Dorset)

-Mentor would be useful.

-Another course in a year or two.


Most enjoyable aspects:

-The year overview.

-The practical visit to the apiary- you can’t beat seeing it all for real. Overall even though the theory was pitched at the right level.

-Good mix of presentation and practical- it really helps having ‘hands on’.

Probably the practical as I remember that better than the theory, but obviously we needed the theory.  Which was excellent too.

-The practical sessions.  

-Practical and hands on activity.

-All been very good (Great opportunity to handle bees.)

-Meeting some real bees- the bit you can’t get from books or videos.

-Practical visit to the hives.

-The last session in the apiary.

-Not afraid to share sources e.g. brands that have worked or not preferences and why; personal errors that you have shared.

-Mixture of theory and practical tasks – well balanced


Source of information about the course:

PBKA (85%)


Additional comments:

-No, thank you, other than I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend and was so looking forward to it.

-Thanks to Julia, Martin and Margaret

-Many thanks!

-Looking forward to future courses!

-Thanks for the USB- great to be able to look back.

-Thank you so much for a fabulous weekend- very interesting, accessible and fun learning.

-Just a huge thank you to Julia and Martin for giving us their time and knowledge in this fascinating area- highly effective trainers, and has built my confidence to keep bees now!

The Hive Geometrix Exhibition: May – July 2022

The ‘Hive Geometrix Exhibition’  was held at Upfront Gallery, nr. Penrith  17th May – 3rd July 2022,  showcased Stephen Livingstone’s paintings about the lives of honey bees throughout the seasons.

Stephen Livingstone is a visual artist who is based in Durham. His work deals with human impact upon landscapes and habitats and often involves collaboration with museums and archives, academic institutions and individuals with specialist knowledge and skills. He has developed major projects for the British Library, the National Trust, Durham University and the Museum of Art and Design in New York.

Stephen prepared for the exhibition over a number of years by observing Penrith beekeepers at work, participating in hive inspections and honey extractions and studying how bee colonies change throughout the seasons. The vivid images he created illustrate the impact of seasonal patterns on the ways in which honeybees work together to reproduce, collect and manage their stores of pollen and nectar and cluster over the winter months. He has also been instrumental in selecting photographs taken by association members to complement the paintings.

Stephen says this about his paintings:

‘Beehives are places of mystery and magic. Even beekeepers, who over many centuries have developed an intimate, symbiotic relationship with honeybees, can never properly understand nor fully visualise the complex inner-workings of their hives.

In my paintings I imagine the inside of a working beehive, representing the activities of the queens, workers and drones throughout a bee year, portraying, in symbolic form, their political and social activities and often desperate efforts to survive, aided and abetted by the interventions of their human guardians. The paintings are cutaways, architectural diagrams of the interior structures of a beehive, each panel representing a particular part of the hive, the colours selected and layered in order to evoke the light and scent sensing experiences of the bees.’

A large mobile, ‘Dancing Bees’, was created by the pupils of Temple Sowerby School to hang in the exhibition area.   PBKA aims to raise awareness of the value of bees to the environment, the issues that are causing their decline and how they can be helped to survive.  It provides schools with opportunities for their children to learn about bees through cross curricular programmes. Between January – March, Key Stage 2 pupils at Temple Sowerby Primary School worked with visual artist, Ali McCaw and beekeepers Alex Wilkinson, Jane Taylor and Margaret Riches. Through interactive learning activities, the children discovered how honey bees in particular, communicate with each other, pollinate plants and produce honey . They used observational analysis to identify the characteristics of bee friendly plants and created their own designs of a ‘perfect flower’ for bees and large models of honey bees.

Alongside Stephen’s paintings, Penrith Beekeepers Association displayed ten panels of information about bees and beekeeping activities to provide additional information. This display also included photographic prints of ‘bees in action’ that had been taken by beekeepers for the PBKA Calendars.

A note book was provided in which visitors to the exhibition were invited to provide their comments. These included the following:

17/5/22  ‘An excellent and informative exhibition – MOST interesting!’ D.Spence, Appleby

18/5/22  ‘Lovely art work, particularly good to see the link with local schools.’ M&R Houston

18/5/22  ‘Absolutely first rate.’  A. Beetie

‘Beautiful paintings – extraordinary.’  Red Silktone, Shropshire

22/5/22  ‘Incredibly and fascinating exhibition. Art work superb. Wonderful colour combinations. Are you going to produce a book?’ Romey Chaffer Durham

‘Absolutely stunning!’

‘My favourite one was queen cups. It is so beautiful.’  Esca B

‘I really enjoyed it.’

‘Fabulous I need much more time to fully appreciate it!’

‘Brilliant! Especially love the high flying bees.’   Janet

‘Couldn’t resist coming again. Enjoyed it just as much. Thank you’   Romey

‘Absolutely fantastic! Wonderful work – beautiful and fascinating- the detail is extraordinary. I love the surface quality.’  Janet Snailey

‘Great exhibition, bringing design and knowledge with awareness of the power of the bee.’ Gloria

‘Superb combination of knowledge, skill and creativity. Excellent show.’  Andy

‘Very informative and interesting’  Kathleen

9/6/22 ‘What a great show! Great combination of aesthetic and storytelling . I spent ages enjoying and absorbing- fantastic!  Johnnie Foker  Durham

18/6/22 ‘Plenty of information to digest + interesting ID of Asian Hornet as against the European Hornet.’  WAA

22/6/22 ‘Best ever exhibition put on here at Upfront!  Thank you’ Daphne Honey

22/6/22 ‘Very Very fun and stuff – merci beaucoup’  Jeremy Honey

30/6/22 ‘Very very interesting exhibition  Pleased we came. Love all the dancing bees especially the furry faces.’ Frances Allan

1/7/22 ‘This is excellent. I want to go back to Carlisle and meet up with some beekeepers to find out more!’  G. Stables

‘Just wonderful, vibrating noisy paintings.’  Christina Thwaite

‘Beautiful paintings showing the order and structure and movement of the bee world.’ Tinks Weinell S.A.

6/6/22  ‘We thought it was wonderful.’   Alex Playford

6/6/22  ‘Really felt the knowledge and passion beneath the surfaces of these works of art, wonderfully compelling and the intricate attention to the structure and geometry really gives the feel of a hive’s inner workings.’   Lucy Playford.


Photographs were taken by Ian Smith and David Wheeler.

During the period of the Hive Geometrix Exhibition, PBKA also ran other events at Upfront Gallery:

  • ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ attended by people who posed questions about their gardening issues to a panel of experts.
  • ‘Bee Hotel Workshops’ which provided opportunities for families to learn more about bees and make a bee hotel to hang in their garden in which types of  solitary bees can lay their eggs.
  • ‘Pop up Shops’ to sell bee products created by the members and friends of PBKA and their bees.

Bees in Action Pictures

These photographs of ‘bees in action’ were taken by members and friends of Penrith and District Beekeepers Association (PBKA).

They were originally selected by Stephen Livingstone for inclusion in the editions of the PBKA Calendar which has been produced annually since 2017.

Prints of these photographs are available for purchase : £10 each. This includes postage and packaging. Each picture will be printed in colour on 260gsm photo paper with a satin finish . The only size available is A4.

To order any of these prints, contact Margaret Riches :

Please note that copyright belongs to Penrith and District Beekeepers Association and the pictures should not be reproduced without permission.