Guest Blog by Ruth Burkhill.

Ruth and others at a Nairn & District ABA heather picnic.


Ruth has been a stalwart member of my local beekeeping association for as long as I can remember. Although not currently managing bees, Ruth supports members and has been a long standing and popular secretary and newsletter editor. When she can, Ruth travels to exciting far off places and has recently been in India. She kindly agreed to be my first guest blogger and covers varied topics in the following.

Rambling Rose.

Firstly, thank you to Ann for asking me to write this guest blog.  I live in a rural area not far from Forres which is a town on the Moray coast in north east Scotland. So, I’d like to show you some of the plants that are in flower near me just now, as well as some from farther afield.

Winter Aconite

Let’s start with some plants of interest to beekeepers: this little gem is Eranthis hyemalis, commonly known as winter aconite (not to be confused with true aconites). It only grows about 4-6 inches (15cm) from the ground and provides honeybees with pollen early in the year.  It can be distinguished by its ruff of leaves. The second photo shows one of the problems with various plants which don’t close up at night or in bad weather, such as we have had lately.  The flowers get flattened and the nectar may be washed out.  This can also happen later in the spring with fruit blossom, such as apple.  One plant which is more “savvy” is the snowdrop, whose flower heads hang down, protecting the pollen from the vagaries of our climate!


Beech Mast.

For the beekeepers among you out there, fallen beech mast (the husks of the beech nuts), is great for burning in your smokers.  Here’s a closer look at it above.

Early Flowering Plant for Cheering Us.

Drumstick Primula.

Not so useful for bees but just because it brings a bit of colour to a cold winter day, I’m including a photo of the first drumstick primula (Primula denticulata) to flower this year in my garden.  Its “drumsticks” are a bit short – perhaps it’s keeping its head down until the worst of the gales blow over!  

Local Beekeeping Association Roles.

Ann has also asked me to say a little about mentoring and being secretary of a local association.  Being the secretary is a great way to get to know other members of the club!  Of course, it’s also one of the most pivotal roles in the association but the rewards are immense.  Every year, the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association holds an annual Secretaries’ Meeting, when all the secretaries of the Local Associations get together for a day of talks and info.  It’s a great way to meet other beekeepers from all around Scotland and maybe to pick up a few ideas that you might like to try out yourself! 


Mentoring is important, especially when people first start keeping bees. As with any interest, there is only so much you can learn from a book (or the internet!); sooner or later, you have to get “hands on”!  While it’s exciting to take ownership of your first bee colony, it can also be a bit daunting which is why having a good mentor is crucial.  Sometimes, novice beekeepers can be bombarded with too much information, which is often conflicting.  A good mentor will show the novice the basics of the craft – what makes a good colony site; how is the hive put together; how much food do the bees need; the vital points of bee development; diseases likely to be encountered; how to prevent swarming; etc – from the bees’ point of view as well as the beekeeper’s.  He/she will guide each particular student in the way that seems best for that person.  One of the best pieces of advice I was given was: stick to one method of beekeeping until you have the basics right.  If you then find that method doesn’t suit you (or just as importantly, your bees), then try another.  For those of you who may be considering whether to become mentors, it is a wonderful way to encourage more people into beekeeping and with the right mentor, it is something that will stay with them for life.


Now for some exotica.  I was fortunate enough to visit India recently and while there I saw these beautiful yellow flowers. Can anyone confirm what they are?  Sorry it’s not a better photo.

Just as we do in the UK, India has a problem with non-native species.  Some time ago, the state planted Australian acacias because they grow quickly but they are now threatening to crowd out the native species. 

Other plants in bloom were these wonderful bougainvillea.  The purple one was in Delhi; in the background, you can see what I think are sumach trees (Rhus).  The orange one was spotted on the way to Jaipur. 


Bougainvillea seems to thrive in many sunny areas of the world, such as in this photo, taken near the Sea of Galilee in the late 1980s.  Sadly, life in Israel for beekeepers and their bees isn’t always easy.  Farmland in the south of the country has come in for incendiary balloon attacks (instigated by Hamas) on land which includes bee colonies.  These actions benefit neither Israelis nor Palestinians and, as one person remarks in the article cited, the bees are the innocent victims in it all.

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