Welcome

I write the weekly posts on The Apiarist and offer talks on a range of beekeeping topics during the autumn, winter and early spring. I’m a scientist, so there’s usually a bit of lightweight science mixed in with the practical beekeeping. I think that’s the best way to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The following pages contain details of the talks I currently offer, fees and arrangements that seem to work well for online talks, an indication of my availability and my contact details.

I look forward to hearing from you.

David

Hives and OSR

The talks

Here are synopses of the talks that I currently offer.

There is a trade-off between the breadth of coverage of a topic and the amount of detail I can reasonably include. For example, a talk on Preparing for Winter will inevitably contain much less detail on why the timing of Varroa control is so critical than my talk on Rational Varroa control, because I also have to discuss woodpeckers, feeding and hefting the hive etc.. If you want to know why it’s not possible to schedule your Varroa treatments using the calendar you need the detailed talk.

In my experience talks are best appreciated when they ‘fit’ with the expectations of the audience and the beekeeping season - for example, talks on Varroa control in autumn, talks on DIY in winter and talks on bait hives or queen rearing in early spring.

Rational Varroa control

Deformed wing virus symptoms

Varroa remains the greatest threat to bees and beekeeping. The mite, and the viruses it transmits, are responsible for most overwintering colony losses. To avoid these mite levels must be minimised. This presentation discusses some of the science behind why Varroa and viruses are a threat to our bees before moving on to practical beekeeping considerations including how and when to control Varroa in your hives. Many beekeepers treat at the wrong time of the season, or use the wrong treatment, for maximal effect. In addition to a late summer and midwinter treatment (which should be all that are needed for successful Varroa management) the opportunities to treat in the middle of the season, the importance of managing Varroa in swarms and the strategic, landscape-scale, management of Varroa are also discussed.

Bait hives

Bait hive … waiting for bees

This talk covers theoretical and practical aspects of swarms and bait hives. Starting with a brief overview of honey bee colony reproduction I then cover the role of scout bees in identifying a new nest site, the process of swarming, bivouacking and then relocation to the chosen location. After a brief digression into capturing swarms I then discuss setting up bait hives, the choice of box, its location and contents. This covers both scientific studies and how these findings can best be applied to practical beekeeping. Discussion of the contents of the bait hive necessitates another digression into using foundationless frames, which offer particular benefits for bait hives. The talk closes with a discussion of what you can expect to observe when scout bees find and favour your bait hive, and the things you need to do having attracted a swarm – these include moving it somewhere else and managing the Varroa that also arrive with the swarm.

Queenright queen rearing

A full house … queen cells

Queen rearing gives both tremendous satisfaction and independence to beekeepers. Loss of a swarm or a queen, or the need to make increase are easily solved if you rear your own queens. Beekeepers can easily rear queens of comparable quality to most commercially raised queens with a little effort. This talk is aimed at beekeepers with a year or two of experience who are interested in rearing a small number of queens each year. It is a gentle introduction to the subject and describes an effective and economical approach that employs methods that can be readily scaled as needs and experience increase. The talk covers the importance of the quality of the starting material – the larvae and drones – and the necessity for good record keeping. It moves on to cover the practicalities of grafting larvae (much easier than most beekeepers realise), cell raising and getting queens mated from nucleus colonies. The talk does not try and cover the myriad of different queen rearing strategies, but instead focuses on methods achievable by beekeepers with as few as 1-3 colonies and limited additional specialist equipment. At the end of the talk there will be a brief overview of teaching practical queen rearing in a beekeeping association – using the same methods, but distributing grafted larvae for cell raising and queen mating.

DIY for beekeepers

Buster the Hivebarrow

This talk covers topics as diverse as recycled For Sale signs, the number of jars of honey it takes to pay for a Toyota Hilux (and how to move hives slightly more economically), foundationless frames and wasp-resistant hive entrances. It is an entertaining look at some of the things that either aren’t available commercially, or that can be built at home both better and cheaper. None of the items discussed require any specialist, expensive (or even power) tools . . . though a pizza cutter will come in useful. Several of the items described have won prizes in beekeeping shows (for readers of The Apiarist, unfortunately not for me). This is the ideal talk for late autumn or early winter when beekeepers have a little more time on their hands … it is intended to convince you that the bees don’t need fancy woodwork, and to inspire you to build something yourself.

Bee sheds

The bee shed

In the same way that bee hives provide shelter for the bees, bee sheds or shelters protect the beekeeper and the hives from the elements. Although often seen in continental Europe they are rarely used in the UK. They provide significant advantages in areas with poor weather or for beekeepers who must visit their hives on particular days – for example, due to commitments during the working week that necesitate all inspections are conducted on rainy weekends. My experience with bee sheds has evolved over 6+ years using them to house colonies for scientific research. The talk covers the advantages and disadvantages bee sheds offer and provides advice on what works well (and on some of the failures learnt the hard way!). If the weather forecast says “mainly dry” you know it’s likely to rain, probably as you don your beesuit. This isn’t a problem if you house your bees in a shed.

Preparing for winter

Hive in the snow

Winter is the season when more colonies succumb – to disease, starvation, queen failures or natural disaster – than any other time of the year. In the UK, annual overwintering colony losses are regularly as high as 20-30%. Proper preparation for winter, a process that starts in August, is essential if losses are to be minimised. This talk covers the essential components of that preparation; the features of the bees themselves that aid successful overwintering, the preparation and protection of the hive, feeding the colony in the autumn, and midwinter checks. The second half of the talk focuses on Varroa management in autumn and winter, stressing the key aspects of a rational approach to controlling the mite and the viruses it transmits.

Preparing for the season ahead

Evenng in the apiary

We know what’s coming in the season ahead, but we’re not quite sure when it will happen. The goal of this talk is to make beekeepers a little more proactive and a bit less reactive. The bees will do whatever they want (as usual!) but with a little preparation the relatively short season can feel a bit less frantic. I cover record keeping, equipment needs, feeding, Varroa management and queen rearing. Inevitably, because of the breadth of topics covered, each gets less attention than it would in a dedicated talk. However, focusing on some of these subjects before the season starts should allow beekeepers to think, plan and prepare for events when they (inevitably) happen.

Queen

Details

Since March 2020 I have only given talks online. These work well and many beekeepers welcome the opportunity to learn something new without having to drive halfway across the county on a cold, wet, winter night. I live very remotely but have a fast fibre connection and high quality webcam and microphone … it’s not the same as being in the same room, but it’s pretty good.

With the easing of lockdown restrictions some beekeeping associations are likely to want to have at least some talks ‘in person’. I’m happy to entertain invitations, but be aware that I live about 4 hours from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Most journeys are not practical as they take several days.

Arrangements for online talks

I’ve used Zoom and Teams extensively for presentations (and use them regularly for work) and have some experience with GoToMeeting. Of the three, Zoom is the most widely used and is certainly the most intuitive.

Most talks last ~70 minutes and I therefore include a refreshment break. Unlike ‘in person’ talks you have to provide your own tea and biscuits.

Questions and answers are an important and enjoyable part of the evening (after all, I’ve heard the talk before, but I’ve not heard your questions). For small groups, say less than ~30, questions can be handled by the audience unmuting and asking the question directly. The host usually needs to coordinate this … a free for all does not work. It helps if the audience are familiar with the ‘raising the hand’ Zoom gesture which makes things a lot easier. For larger groups - and I’ve talked to 350+ - questions really need to be submitted via the ‘chat’ function. The host then reads questions out, ideally following a bit of sanity checking, ranking by popularity and weeding out duplicates.

I’m happy to have a 10 minute pre-meeting with the host to discuss arrangements for the evening if needed.

Recordings

Since some association members may not be able to attend ‘on the night’ I’m happy for talks to be recorded with the following restrictions; 1) talks are not shared on a public website and should only be viewable by the members of the association that booked me, and 2) recordings are taken down one calendar year after date of the talk. It’s a lot of work preparing a talk and - if shared freely - I’m unlikely to get any future invitations. In addition, some of the content may be time-sensitive (e.g. VMD-approved miticides) and I want the talk you watch to be current and relevant.

Talks to several associations

My fees reflect the popularity and quality of my talks. If you want to share the talk with a neighbouring association then, within reason, that’s fine with me. However, if you want to run a public talk or invite a fee-paying audience please contact me in advance.

Fees

Fees for the majority of talks are £125. Talks at weekend meetings or conventions are £150 as it breaks up a day when I would otherwise be outside (or building stuff in the shed). Fees are payable by BACS after the talk. I’ll send you an invoice.

Fees are reviewed on the 1st of April and I honour the fee applicable on the date the talk is booked.

Beekeepers in a field

Diary

I give evening and weekend talks between September and March (inclusive) so I have time for my own beekeeping. I can talk any day of the week, but only talk once a week. Current availability is indicated below.

Week beginning:

  • 03/01/22 - unavailable
  • 10/01/22 -
  • 17/01/22 - booked
  • 24/01/22 - booked
  • 31/01/22 - booked
  • 07/02/22 - booked
  • 14/02/22 - booked
  • 21/02/22 - booked
  • 28/02/22 - booked
  • 07/03/22 - booked
  • 14/03/22 - booked
  • 21/03/22 - booked
  • 28/03/22 - booked
  • 04/04/22 - booked

OSR

  • 29/08/22 -
  • 05/09/22 -
  • 12/09/22 -
  • 19/09/22 -
  • 26/09/22 -
  • 03/10/22 -
  • 10/10/22 -
  • 17/10/22 -
  • 24/10/22 -
  • 31/10/22 -
  • 07/11/22 -
  • 14/11/22 - booked
  • 21/11/22 -
  • 28/11/22 -
  • 05/12/22 -
  • 12/12/22 -

Hive in the frost

  • 09/01/23 -
  • 16/01/23 -
  • 23/01/23 -
  • 30/01/23 - booked

Hives

About Me

This section is written in the third person to allow direct copy/paste as needed. No need to use it all (or any of it), just chop out the bits you don’t want. I usually include a slide in my presentations that has a few bullet points about me to save having an extended introduction.

David Evans (The Apiarist)

David Evans is Professor of Virology in the School of Biology, University of St. Andrews. His research interests include the replication and evolution of human and animal viruses including poliovirus, Zika virus and both Deformed wing virus (DWV) and Chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV) of honey bees.

Current research topics include:

  • mechanisms and consequences of recombination in RNA viruses
  • replication of DWV in honey bees, Varroa and non-Apis pollinators
  • rational Varroa control at the landscape scale
  • the biology of CBPV, an emerging pathogen of honey bees

Studies of honey bee viruses involve collaborations with groups in the Universities of Aberdeen (Alan Bowman) and Newcastle (Giles Budge), with the Science and Advice Service for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), and with several beekeeping associations.

David has held previous academic positions at the Universities of Reading, Glasgow and Warwick, conducting research on HIV, HCV and poliovirus with extensive grant support from UK Research Councils and charities. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications and supervised more than 20 PhD. students.

David is an enthusiastic beekeeper – an activity that pre-dates his research on honey bee viruses by several years – and a member of Fife Beekeepers, the East of Scotland BKA and Lochaber BKA. He runs about twenty colonies for research and pleasure and is particularly interested in queen rearing and ‘pottering in the shed with bits of wood and a nail gun’.

His interest in DIY for beekeeping resulted in a regular column in the Warwick and Leamington Beekeepers newsletter Bee Talk which, over time, evolved into his personal beekeeping website The Apiarist. On this he covers topics as diverse as Varroa management, responsible mentoring, the price of honey and practical waspkeeping. New posts appear every Friday afternoon and he regularly discusses recent scientific advances on the biology of honey bees. The popularity of the website has resulted in numerous invitations to talk at local, national and international beekeeping meetings.

David now lives on the remote west coast of Scotland in one of the few remaining parts of mainland UK that is Varroa free.

Loch Sunart and rainbow