A spoonful of sugar helps Britain’s bees survive wet summer

18 July 2012

Beekeepers across North Yorkshire are busier than their bees, as they resort to artificially feeding their colonies to help them survive the exceptionally cold and wet British summer.

Preparing for their biggest event of the year, the annual honey show at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, members of the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers’ Association are making up for the lack of nectar by feeding sugar solution.

Peter Gudgeon, Harrogate Flower Show Secretary for the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers’ Association  said:

I have been keeping bees for 25 years and I have never had to feed my colonies at this time of year before. It is something we would normally do in the autumn as we prepare for the winter – we really are in uncharted territory this summer.

The cold, wet conditions mean that honey bees cannot venture out of their hives to gather the nectar needed to feed their young and, importantly, to produce the surplus honey we all enjoy. Ultimately this can also stop the queen bee reproducing and the colony could eventually perish.

Peter Gudgeon added:

Bees that have swarmed, when a queen bee leaves to start a new colony, are the most at risk because they haven’t been able to establish a store of food during the few warm spells we’ve had this year.

The answer is providing the 40,000 to 60,000 bees in each colony with their own version of a doorstep take away – a special feeding device, containing a sugar and water syrup, inserted into the roof of hive so the bees do not need to leave to gather food.

Despite their current battle with the elements, the beekeepers are confident that their annual display at this year’s Harrogate Autumn Flower Show will be a success and have even added a new class to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with afternoon tea fit for a Queen.

The 91-year-old Association expects around 200 jars of honey at this autumn’s event. It will also showcase classes for a wide range of honey-based products and beeswax items, as well as providing information about beekeeping and even a chance for visitors to get a first-hand glimpse of the inside workings of a live bee hive.

Peter Gudgeon added:

We are still looking forward to a good show this autumn. We have 450 members, who are responding well to the unprecedented conditions by feeding and protecting their hives during this unseasonable weather. And, who knows, there are still some weeks to go, we may yet get some sunshine!

The annual display by the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers’ Association will form part of Britain’s biggest exhibition by specialist gardening groups at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, staged at the Great Yorkshire Showground, 14 -16 September 2012.

Visitors to the UK’s premier autumn festival of gardening can also expect to see a staggering array of around 5,000 autumn blooms, the biggest display of Bonsai outside Japan, beautiful show garden borders, massive marrows and colossal cabbages in the giant vegetable competition, plus more bids to break the world record for the globe’s heaviest onion.

Expert teams from Kitchen Garden Live, the Garden Roadshow and the Garden Advice Bureau will be on hand for talks and demonstrations, or to answer tricky gardening conundrums, including how to cope with the weather conditions.

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show Tickets on the gate: Friday/Saturday £15; Sunday £14; under-16s go free. There is a £2.50 discount on every ticket booked before noon on Tuesday 4 September 2012. Ticket hotline 01423 546157 or book online at www.flowershow.org.uk



  1. This article refers to bees as pests that will “wreak havoc on your garden”. Wth??!!! We want to encourage bees into our gardens. They are dying out. Hello!

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