Saturday, 24 December 2011

all closed down for the winter

The bee credible bees are all tucked up in their winter quarters clustering together to keep the hive warm. We have used straw bales as a windbreak on one of the top bar hives where the fierce wind and rain have been lashing down over the past weeks.

We can still see the odd bee peeking out but sensibly she pops back in again very quickly. All drones had been evicted from the hive earlier in year which makes their winter honey stores go further. There will be very little opportunity now to collect more nectar.

New bee keepers are anxious about whether the bees will survive the winter, but now all we can do is watch and wait and hope for the best. We have done all we can.

We will soon have news about basic training which will probably start in February so watch out for this if you have already requested it.

Have a very happy Christmas and new year.

Friday, 14 October 2011

pollen sacs brimming

It always seems like Todmorden and the surrounding locale gets more than its fair share of rain fall – it’s a wet place.
But today was one of those rare days of glorious autumn sunshine. We went to one of the hives to install a mouse guard. However, we couldn't because the bees were so active: taking advantage of the warm, dry day. They were busily going in and out of the hive, their pollen sacs bulging with bright yellow pollen. We wished we’d had our camera with us to take a photo of them. But in the absence of a camera a drawing will suffice.

To see other fab drawings of honey bees check out  Henry Touray’s school project  about bees

Friday, 16 September 2011

all clear for bee credible bees

On 6th September to the regional inspector e-mailed to inform us that:
 there is an outbreak of American Foul Brood in the Todmorden area (OS 10Km square SD92). The Bee Credible group’s bees are located in the ‘at risk’ area and I will therefore need to inspect them.

Yesterday, Thursday, 15 September, all of our 8 hives were inspected.
The Bee Inspector, Ivor, gave us the 
ALL CLEAR; NO American Foul Brood.

Ivor inspected each and every frame in all of the hives starting with a top bar colony that Bee Credible set up in June of this year.

He then moved onto inspect the other hives; 5 nationals (no added foundation) and 2 top bars at 3 more sites in Todmorden.

We can all breath a sigh of relief - for now. There are still hives to be inspected in the 'at risk' area...

We should also be grateful to the beekeeper that reported American Foul Brood - for his diligence. If he hadn't of acted so quickly and responsibly the story in the valley could have been quite different.
All his hives and bees were destroyed – burned. We are sorry for his loss.
We asked Ivor how American Foul Brood could have got in the region. Apparently it could be something as simple as someone throwing away a honey jar (bought off the shelf from an unknown source) with some honey left in it. Foraging bees could find this, eat it, contract the bacteria, and then pass the disease onto the whole colony – and beyond if not caught in time. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

bee first encounter

On Tuesday, August 23rd, we invited the 58 bee interested people who have contacted us to an evening about bees and our group. Around 24 people came to the Odd Fellows Hall where we had tea, coffee and homemade cakes.
Andy welcomed our guests, Helmut and Alan gave a slide presentation of our history and our bee keeping methods, then Kerry talked about our part of the ‘beespoke’ people’s millions award: community beekeeping in the valley.
We broke for more tea n coffee n cakes n biscuits and had time to answer individual questions as well informal chatter.
At the end we arranged “meet the bees’ sessions for all those who were interested in becoming beekeepers.
It was a very jolly evening and 2 people signed up to become members of beecredible there and then.

On Saturday, September 10th, our first ‘meet-the-bees’ session took place. A moderate breeze and nice sunshine – very pleasant conditions.
Three ‘bee meeters’ came; and what a great meet it was.

We had a cup of coffee, made sure our guests were properly dressed and bee-sting-proof wrapped (that applied to us, too!). We talked them through our plans for the morning and gave some behaviour instructions – don’t panic, don’t stress, relax, and enjoy. We prepared some bicarbonate of soda (the magic ease of sting related pain) just in case!

Then we opened 2 hives: a national and a topbar

Our ‘meeters’ handled frames and bars with bees and combs 

- all without foundation

They took to it like bees to honey!

No bicarb was necessary; our bees showed themselves from their best side!!!

Day 2 on the 11th was similar, following the same procedure.

They came in peace

we opened a national hive and the ‘meeters’ handled the frames

we then opened a topbar hive and explained how it functions before exposing the interior

and handing some bars to our guests

14 people had signed up to meet the bees – 6 turned up.
Of those 6, one joined beecredible.
Beekeeping isn’t for everyone. Some people are simply interested in beekeeping; others want to do it as part of a community group: like James – one of our new members; others prefer to solitary bee keep

As a group we will continue to be ‘open’ to new members, but we wont be twisting anyone’s arm. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Happy Anniversary!

 July 13th 2011 marks Bee Credible’s first anniversary as beekeepers.  Just a year ago we put our first bees into the top-bar hives – not even the louring skies and intermittent rain could dampen our excitement on that evening.

Although there have been one or two setbacks during the year – not least the bees’ insistence on building comb across the bars rather than along them - both colonies survived the worst winter weather for many years and are still going strong.

During the year we have added five more hives and, with the success of the Bee Spoke Bid we are ready to expand further – adding more hives and getting more people involved.

So, charge your glasses with some suitable honey-based concoction and make a toast to the bees and a year of success for Bee Credible!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hive inspection, 2nd july

Some of us
Just before
Hive inspection

Two weeks ago the group purchased a new five-frame nuc of bees for a national hive. The nuc came on frames with foundation but our intention is to keep these bees without foundation, so the brood box was filled with empty frames.
Today was the day to open up hive and see how they are doing.

Fantastic! We saw the Queen. And then we lifted a frame without foundation and to our delight the bees had built new comb within the frame, including a small teardrop shaped extension

We then moved on to check one of the top bar hives. In theory bees should build comb along the bars in a teardrop shape.

And sometimes they do this by the book
However, the bees don’t always read the books
And, for reasons best known to themselves, decide to build across the bars.

This is something we have encountered in all of our top bar hives and we are working to modify our top bars in order to rectify this. It doesn’t appear to be a problem for the bees, but it does hinder hive inspection.

Friday, 1 July 2011


Bee Spoke Todmorden has been awarded The Jubilee People's Million award.
A massive THANK YOU to all those who picked up the phone and voted for the bees.
And a big thank you to all the project partners and people of Todmorden who pulled out all the stops to promote the bee spoke project.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

bee spoke todmorden vote today

Working in partnership, Incredible Edible, Todmorden in Bloom, Todmorden Pride, and Bee Credible have submitted a bid to the Jubilee People’s Millions to create a Beespoke project in Todmorden. If the bid is successful the partners in the bid will be in a position to:
  • Create six bee friendly gardens in Todmorden, with bumblebee and bug hotels;
  • Install interactive interpretation learning pods at each bee garden, all about bumblebees, honeybees, other pollinators, and bugs;
  • Create a Bee Trail along Todmorden’s new Incredible Green Route;
  • Design and publish bee route maps;
And, importantly for Bee Credible and all wannabe local beekeepers:
  • Purchase beekeeping equipment, more bees and beehives - top-bar hives, national hives, and warre hives;
  • Train new beekeepers;
  • Provide the opportunity to become hands-on community beekeepers in 2012.

PLEASE CALL 0871 6268147 NOW

For more information go to

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Bee Credible is a community beekeeping group based in Todmorden. Our aim is to keep bees as a collective, sharing hives, knowledge, and beekeeping responsibilities. We are a democratic group and decisions are made collectively.  We welcome people of all ages, sexes, orientation, nationality, and ability.

Bee Credible kicked off in November 2009. Paul Clarke, co- founder and director of Incredible Edible Ltd, and Kerry Morrison initiated the community beekeeping group. Paul was a beekeeper with two years experience of national hive beekeeping and Kerry initiated a community beekeeping group, wild and productive, in Sefton, as part of the Liverpool Biennial Urban 09 programme, where local people were trained to be beekeepers and beehives were situated in Brownfield sites along the Leeds Liverpool Canal. By January 2010 Bee Credible had eight members. Aware that the bee population was in decline (and no one explanation for this decline) members wanted to look to alternative, organic, and sustainable, methods of beekeeping and began to research top-bar hives (  Collectively they decided that they would like to try to keep bees using the top-bar method.
Bee Credible was quickly established, providing training and beekeeping opportunities for people living in Todmorden and the surrounding areas. In spring 2010 nearly all members with no previous experience of beekeeping undertook a bespoke training programme led by the Manchester Beekeeping Association in Heaton Park, Manchester. To equip Bee Credible with hives, bees, and equipment, each member paid a £50.00 membership fee (or less according to means). This enabled Bee Credible to purchase four top-bar hives and three bee nuclei. Local joiner, Brian Furness, of Ebor Studios in Littleborough, made the top-bar hives and Paul Clarke donated a national hive complete with a full colony. Two top-bar hives were put into storage because our group did not have the means to purchase further colonies at that time.
To accommodate a community beekeeping project, three sites were identified in Todmorden. Responsibility for the beekeeping was divided among the members: each hive having six primary beekeepers. Each group of six purchased the necessary tools: a smoker, water spritzer, a hive tool, and bee brush, and each beekeeper bought their own protective clothing.

Our first bees arrived on 13 July 2010. The bees that were about to make their new homes in top-bar hives were emptied into the empty hives, just the bees: no frames, no brood. 

The groups of six co-ordinated who was to attend to the bees and when. The bees were fed a heavy syrup solution daily. Each new top-bar beekeeper took their turn in feeding the bees. After 10 days the hives were opened for inspection. The top-bar hive bees had begun to build comb to the top bars: beautiful white honeycomb in teardrop shapes. 

From that point a record sheet was placed under the lid of each hive to record each hive inspection. The bees for the national hive arrived a little later, a full colony complete with frames (including foundation) and brood. The bees for the national hive arrived a little later, a full colony complete with frames and brood. By this point our group has risen to 24 members. Not all Bee Credible members were able to partake in full-on, hands-on beekeeping during the first year. These members decided that they would rather wait until the new season and the installation of a fourth hive on a site nearer to their homes. Even so, these members participated in beekeeping activities for the top-bar hives and the national hive, as and when they wished to.

 Winter began early and took us beekeepers by surprise. However, it didn’t appear to take the bees in one of the top-bar hives by surprise at all. A few days before the snowfall came this hive was inspected and to our surprise we discovered that this, the smallest colony of bees we had, had braced comb all around the edges of the top bar hive leaving only one small gap through which they could come and go.  And then the snow came. At the beginning of the winter, in addition to their own honey store, we fed our bees in all three hives with heavy syrup solution (we took the decision not to harvest from any of the hives during this first year). The winter was an anxious period for us all. We were aware that many colonies throughout the UK have not been surviving through the winter months and into the spring season. The beekeepers responsible for the top-bar hive with the tiny colony were particularly concerned and anxious; they felt that this colony could be too small to survive. In January they began to feed these bees with fondant. It was not until March that we saw the first promising signs of activity at all three hives. All three four hives made it through the winter.

The tiny colony of top-bar bees has thrived. By June 2011 it was a full and healthy colony. On the 20th June they swarmed. We were able to catch the swarm and moved them into a national hive with frames but without foundation. The bees in the other top-bar hive swarmed in April. Unfortunately we were unable to retrieve these bees as they flew 150 feet up into a Sycamore tree. From their resting place on high they flew to another unknown destination. We wish these bees well and in some respects are happy in the knowledge that there are more bees out there. The bees in the national hive are also thriving. They are now a colony and a half with no signs of swarming. A fourth site has been established, a top-bar hive installed, and populated with a nucleus of bees. These bees are also doing well, out and about and returning to the hive with the pollen sacs full to brimming. All Bee Credible members, who want to be, are now involved in full-on, hands-on, beekeeping, with shared responsibility for a hive. Two of the groups have purchased two further hives and two nuclei of bees. These bees are in national hives. We still wish to keep bees organically so have taken guidance from the German organic beekeeping society, Demeter (UK branch The bees in the national hives will be kept without using foundation. Without foundation the bees should build their comb onto the national frames in a natural teardrop shape. In other words, the name of the hive i.e. top bar or national, is less relevant, what is relevant is our method of beekeeping.

With regard to varroa, a lot of has been found on the varroa tray of the national hive, but the most seen on the trays of top-bar hives is three. At this stage we are not concluding anything from this, but our observation is that the top-bar method, where drone bees are not controlled by us at all, appears more of a challenge for the varroa mite. We will continue to monitor varroa mite in all our hives.

As for honey, well we haven’t done very well on that front. We took the decision not to harvest any honey last year; our priority was to make sure that our bees overwintered and survived into spring. Then we had a fabulous April with lots of forage. Things looked good and we thought that perhaps we’d be able to harvest a jar or two (we took 3 half pound jars of honey), but then the rain and cold weather came, so the honey store was left for the bees. We are all hopeful that July, August, and September will be warm and sunny and that the bees will be out and about around Tod, taking nectar and gathering pollen to bring back to their hives. If the honey stock is plentiful we hope to be able to harvest some of it for Bee Credible. That said we will leave plenty of honey for the bees to feed on over the forthcoming winter.

We, Bee Credible, are now coming to the end of our first year as beekeepers (13th July). We have four community beekeeping sites and seven beehives with bees. We are still a young community beekeeping group, but with 12 months experience under our belts we feel we now have the capacity to expand our group and open it up to new members. Working in partnership, Incredible Edible, Todmorden in Bloom, Todmorden Pride, and Bee Credible have submitted a bid to the Jubilee People’s Millions to create a Beespoke project in Todmorden. Incredible Edible is fronting the bid. If the bid is successful the partners in the bid will be in a position to:
  • -      Create six bee friendly gardens in Todmorden, with bumblebee and bug hotels;
  •        Install interactive interpretation learning pods at each bee garden, all about bumblebees, honeybees, other pollinators, and bugs;
  •        Create a Bee Trail along Todmorden’s new Incredible Green Route;
  •        Design and publish Green Route maps;
-       And, importantly for Bee Credible and all wannabe local beekeepers:
  •        Train new beekeepers;
  •        Provide the opportunity to become hands-on community beekeepers in 2012.

Being a member of Bee Credible community beekeeping enables people to become beekeepers that otherwise may not have. The cost of setting up a hive can be prohibitive, as can a full-time occupation along with other day-to-day life commitments. Not having enough time and not being able to afford to set up a hive in the first place are two barriers to beekeeping. The other thing that prevents some people from becoming a beekeeper is not being quite sure how to get started. It is quite a big step to take if you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy it or, in reality, you don’t actually have enough time to commit to beekeeping.

Bee Credible is set up to accommodate six beekeepers to one hive. This means beekeeping becomes a shared responsibility. It also means that if your work takes you away (or family commitments, or the desire to have a holiday) the bees will still be taken care of by the other members of your group. It also means that if you find that you are not suited to bee keeping, or it’s not quite your thing, you can step back.

So far, Bee Credible community beekeeping has worked really well. We have all learned from each other, shared responsibilities, shared knowledge, and shared the joy of being a beekeeper. We meet regularly, usually at the Staff of Life on Burnley Road, Todmorden. The meetings are friendly and jolly. They are loosely chaired and each meeting is minuted.