FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about the scheme and their answers.
Click on a question to see the answer.

The cut-off dates for 2022 are as follows:

Sample pack requests deadline: Friday 7th October 2022. Sample packs can be requested at any time however, those after the October cut-off date will not be sent out until the following year. Packs will be dispatched from mid-March 2022.

Sample pack returns deadline: Friday 4th November 2022. Participants failing to return their sample packs by the cut-off date in any given year can return it in any subsequent year.

Once we receive your sample pack you will be notified via email. This will allow you to request another sample pack via the website should you wish to do so. We allow 2 pack requests per beekeeper a year.

Sugar and water concentration:

You will receive basic sugar and water measurements usually within 1 month of return of your honey. You will be notified by email and can log into view results.

Plant taxa found (plant DNA barcoding):

To collect and process honey samples requires a significant amount of time. Such processes mean we have to filter the pollen, extract DNA, amplify and sequence the plant specific region as well as carry out data analysis. The latter stages can only be done in bulk. Therefore, we anticipate that results from any year will be available in the spring of the following year.

Due to resources we cannot guarentee that all samples will be included for DNA barcoding.

Once we have results from the laboratory these will be entered against your record and you will be notified by email and can log in to view results.

Land use type and crop coverage:  i the 2km surrounding sample site:

These data (for the 2km surrounding your hive location) will be provided at the same time as the plant DNA barcoding results. You will be notified by email and can log in to view results.


n order to receive a sample pack there are a number of things you have to do. 


1) Create an online user account on our website. This only needs to be done once and enables us to have an account we can report our findings to. We also ask for your address so we can send sample packs to you. No personal data is ever shared.  
2) Log in and visit the 'Taking Part' page to create a sample submission and request a pack. We only ask a couple of questions, importantly location, to enable a pack request. This needs to be done every time you request a new sample pack. This ensures details, particularly location and date of collection, are correct for each honey sample returned. We do not automatically send sample packs each year.

Details on how to collect a sample are included within each sample pack. 


Currently we allow a maximum of 2 sample packs/beekeeper each year, when you take them is up to you but a second sample pack can only be requested (again via yourTaking Part page) once the first has been returned. 

Unused sample packs can be saved for the subsequent year but please ensure samplesubmission details are correct. 

  

Potential pesticide residue analysis of NHMS samples requires changes to future sample packs

 

Recent analysis has shown that honeybees are key biological indicators for field exposure to pesticides (see Refs below). Their wide foraging range (typically up to 4 km from nests) means that they can integrate information on exposure risk to agrochemicals at a semi-landscape scale. Excitingly, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have provided funding for a pilot study which aims to evaluate the potential of the National Honey Monitoring Scheme to: i) quantify exposure risk of honeybees to pesticides, and ii) identify likely exposure pathways.

In this study, 100 NHMS honey samples collected from England in 2019 were chosen across a gradient of agricultural land use intensity and are currently being analysed by colleagues at UKCEH Lancaster. However, it is anticipated that funding will be extended to cover more samples and over a number of years. Consequently, we would like to start collecting honey for possible pesticide residue analysis this year.

As we want to quantify >60 of the most widely used pesticide active ingredients in honey, not just neonicotinoid residues, we will require more honey from participants.

Sample packs will now contain 3 sample collection tubes. One for plant DNA barcoding, one for inclusion in the National Honey Archive, and one for pesticide residue analysis. Further details on sample collection are included in the letter accompanying each sample pack (also, web link to letter) however, it is important to note that resource availability means that we cannot guarantee all samples will be included for barcoding or pesticide residue analysis.

Confidential reports from pesticide analysis will be passed onto participating beekeepers. Individual results from samples used in the pilot study will be sent via email. If additional funding is secured results will be made available via your Taking Part page, alongside other NHMS outputs. More information will be provided at a later date.

 

Please use the pack you currently have for your next honey sample to avoid waste. Subsequent sample packs (2 can be requested each year, but the 1st needs to be returned before the 2nd can be requested via your Taking Part tab) will include 3 sample tubes and can be considered for future pesticide analysis.

What are the cut-off dates for 2021?

Last date for sample pack request: Friday 8th October 2021

Any packs requested after this date will be kept on file for despatch the following year.

Last date for sample pack return: Friday 7th November 2021

Any samples returned after this date will be added to the National Honey Archive only.

 

We've now released a new set of instructions which all particpating beekeepers for 2020 should follow - this can be found on our News page. We encourage you to download the letter on that article and keep it for reference when sampling this season. Contact us with any questions.

We will always strive to analyse at least one honey sample you provide us in a single year using DNA approaches to identify what plants your bees have been feeding on.  Pesticide residue analysis is more expensive and may need to target our sampling into areas of particular concern.  We will always archive all honey samples so that if future resources become available they may be analysed at a later date.

 

Molecular work is now underway but there have been significant Covid-19 related delays. Please be mindful that we need to ensure our own safety throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and adhere to local and national guidelines, particularly with regards to lab occupancy and social distancing. For these reasons we do not have a definitive timeline for results, although spring 2021 seems most likely. Participants will be provided with progress updates (via email/ newsletters). 

Log on and visit your 'Taking part' page. At the bottom is a 'History' table of all samples associated with your account. Here you can view results and edit your sample submission questionnaire.

Log into your account and visit your 'Taking part' page. At the bottom of this page is a 'History' table of all samples associated with your account. Here you are able to view results and also edit the questionnaire to add sample submission details - such as the hive heath metrics we are collecting as part of the scheme.

Improved grassland is what dominates most of the UK. It typically comprises a small number of species (not necessarily sown) -particularly rye grass and white clover- and normally has fertiliser added to it to increase its productivity. It is effectively what the majority of cattle are grazed on and is floristically very species poor.  That said, while clover is a flowering plant and honeybees will feed on it. However, compared to traditional grasslands (like hay meadows or chalk grasslands) they are very species poor and of much lower value to insect pollinators.

Within the current scheme we identify the pollen within honey by sequencing a small part of a single plant-specific gene which has the most comprehensive database for plants. It is perfect our purpose, environmental monitoring of change (we follow the sequence rather than the identification given), it is not intended for the certification of honey. We can only give the closest match to the region we have sequenced; sometimes this is to the plant species level, other times it is only the plant family. Brambles rarely match to a higher taxanomic level than genus (Rubus) as they evolve so rapidly. Identification to species in the genus Brassica must also be regarded with caution. They are so highly cultivated that an identification of B. rapa (turnip) could very easily be B. napus (OSR). Therefore, if you get a high abundance of any brassica species it is most likely to be that flowering in highest numbers surrounding your hive.

Habitat data
Percentage cover of different broad habitats within a 2km radius around the hive location.  Habitats are derived from satellite imagery from the CEH Land Cover Map 2015 (for more details go to www.ceh.ac.uk/services/land-cover-map-2015).  

Crop data
Percentage cover of different crop types on agricultural land (arable and horticulture and improved grassland) within a 2km radius around the hive location.  Crops are derived from satellite radar data from the CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops datasets (for more details go to www.ceh.ac.uk/services/land-cover-map-2015).  Where the total area of agricultural land is small (see habitat chart), this may be dominated by a single crop which occupies all the available agricultural land.  Note that improved grassland can include amenity grassland which would not normally be considered a crop but which is heavily managed (e.g. parks, sports pitches, golf courses).

We have archived one of your honey samples and hope to analyse some of these for pesticide residue analysis when resources become available. Therefore you will not currently receive pesticide results from your honey alongside other results on your webpage.

Within the current scheme we identify the pollen within honey by sequencing a small part of a single plant-specific gene which has the most comprehensive database for plants. It is perfect our purpose, environmental monitoring of change (we follow the sequence rather than the identification given), it is not intended for the certification of honey. We can only give the closest match to the region we have sequenced; sometimes this is to the plant species level, other times it is only the plant family. Brambles rarely match to a higher taxanomic level than genus (Rubus) as they evolve so rapidly. Identification to species in the genus Brassica must also be regarded with caution. They are so highly cultivated that an identification of B. rapa (turnip) could very easily be B. napus (OSR). Therefore, if you get a high abundance of any brassica species it is most likely to be that flowering in highest numbers surrounding your hive.

There are no restrictions in terms of who can be part of the scheme, we are happy for both amateur and professional bee keepers to be involved.  Our only requirements are that you can provide us with honey and that you are willing to provide us with the additional supporting information on location, hive productivity and diseases we ask for. 

We hope that you will be able to provide us with up to two sets of 2 honey sample tubes (contained within your sample packs), ideally one early (spring- early summer) and one late (late summer-autumn).  However, when you take them is up to you- most sample when they harvest

What is important however, is that the honey collected is from the same hive at the same time, is the most recently capped honey and that the date of sampling is recorded correctly on the sample tubes. Also, within your sample submission form.

We really want to see a ‘snapshot in time’ from an individual hive, not mixed honey. By providing more than one sample we will get information on forage plants that are in flower at different times of the year. 

However, it is important to note that although each set of 2 sample tubes must be from the same hive you do not to have to collect from the same hive for future sample packs. Locations and hives can change, as long as your sample submission information is accurate and that only one hive is picked per sample pack used.

Pack requests don’t roll-over between seasons/years, so beekeepers should log in and request a pack each time they wish to participate per season.

Although our goal is to analyse all honey samples, like every other project we are limited by funding.   In some cases we may need to either undertake a reduced number of analyses or in extreme cases archive the sample for future research.   It is likely we will prioritise samples based on their location, as some regions have fewer bee keepers and so we have less information about what is in the honey of those areas.

The Honey Monitoring Scheme is supported by national capability funding from Centre for Ecology & Hydrology under the ASSIST programme. National capability funding is provided to CEH directly from the Government to support long-term, large-scale monitoring of environmental change in the UK.

All your personal information will be kept totally confidential and be treated in a manner that the meets all legal requirements.  Although we will analyse data we never give exact locations of sites so that, at most, people would know a hive originates from a 10×10 km area.

The overall data set will be maintained and curated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (see ASSIST).  As part of our goals to support National capability we aim to provide resources for the wider community, which will include scientists, industry, NGO’s and anyone else.   Data will be available to this wider community at a resolution that ensures the individual who provided us with samples remain anonymous and within a time frame that reflects the practicalities of processing large numbers of samples.

Although for funding reasons we may not be able to analyse every single honey sample (see related) we will provide you with results for any analyses we undertake.  These could be sugar/water measurements, habitat data or plant species information.

For each batch of honey we aim to collect two sample tubes of honey (each about 50 ml).  One of these we will use for immediate analysis, the other will be stored.  If, in the future, scientists are interested in re-examining honey from the past this sample will be available. For example, people may want to understand how a new disease has spread and may use DNA approaches to assess this. 

During the development of these scheme we have consulted with both the British Bee Keepers Association  and the Bee Farmers Association.

No, the work undertaken though the National Honey Monitoring Scheme is independent from work undertaken by FERA linked to honeybees.  We have no formal link with them and confidential information provided to us from you will not be given to them.

At the moment we are not part of a formal certification process but are providing you the results as a thank you and for personal interest.
Within the current scheme we identify the pollen within honey by sequencing a small part of a single plant-specific gene which has the most comprehensive database for plants. Although one gene is perfect for our purpose, environmental monitoring of change (we follow sequences rather than IDs), it is less ideal for the certification of honey. We have to give the closest match to the region we have sequenced; sometimes this is to the plant species level, other times it is only the plant family. It is known that different genes are better at identifying different plant species than others however, we currently can only offer one.

We hope that you will be able to provide us with two sets of 2 honey sample tubes (contained within your sample packs), ideally one early (spring- early summer) and one late (late summer-autumn).  However, when you take them is up to you- most sample when they harvest.

What is important however, is that the honey collected is from the same hive at the same time, is the most recently capped honey and that the date of sampling is recorded correctly on the sample tubes. Also, within your sample submission form.

We really want to see a ‘snapshot in time’ from an individual hive, not mixed honey. By providing more than one sample we will get information on forage plants that are in flower at different times of the year. 

However, it is important to note that although each set of 2 sample tubes must be from the same hive you do not to have to collect from the same hive for future sample packs. Locations and hives can change, as long as your sample submission information is accurate and that only one hive is picked per sample pack used.

Due to financial resources you will be able to submit two honey samples a year.  Remember, you will need to submit the first honey sample before we will send you a pack for the second sample.

Honeybees are sensitive to many forms of environmental stress; each of these may have an impact on bee health, including an increased likelihood of disease outbreaks.  If you provide us with information on the health of your bees we can start to understand this relationship and how it operates at national scales. This information can be added to your sample submission at any time by clicking on Edit questionnaire in your sample history list.

There are lots of different ways to assess how healthy and productive a hive is.  In an ideal world every hive would have the number of bees counted by the Liebefeld method or weighted on a daily basis.  Obviously we can’t do this due to the scale of this study. However, if you provide us with information on how much honey a hive has produced (or how much honey all of your hives produce as long as you tell us how many hives this information is based on) we can use this as a proxy for the colony strength of your hive. This information can be added to your sample submission at any time by clicking on Edit questionnaire in your sample history list.

As honeybees will forage over large distances if hives are closer than 3 km they cannot be considered to be statistically independent.  This means that it would be hard for us to analyse the data and we would need to ignore one of your hives.  To prevent this problem from the outset we have placed this 3 km restriction within the mapping system.

 

Our key goals is to generate a ‘snapshot’ of plant DNA found within an individual hives across the UK throughout spring-autumn.  For this reason we are interested specifically in the hive from which you collect the honey sample from rather than the apiary as a whole

Further, many of you will move hives to apiaries at different locations throughout the year.  For us the length of time the apiary has been at a location is not important, only how long the hive from which you sampled the honey has been at a given site.

In terms of sample collection hives and location can change between each sample pack request as long as the sample submission data is correct. Please see FAQ, At which time should I take my honey sample?, for further information.

Although each set of 2 sample tubes must be from the same hive you do not to have to collect from the same hive for future sample packs. Locations and hives can change, as long as your sample submission information is accurate and that only one hive is picked per sample pack used.

Please see FAQ 'At which time should I take my honey sample?' for further information.

Sample pack requests: Deadline Friday 9th October 2020.
Sample packs can be requested at any time however, those after the October cut-off date will not be sent out until the following year.

Sample pack returns: Deadline Friday 6th November 2020.
Sample packs dispatched in 2020, will only remain valid for 2020 honey. Participants failing to return their sample packs by the cut-off date in any given year will need to request another to be included in the subsequent year.

We ask for honey samples to be taken from the most recently capped honey, directly from the comb to ensure honey is unprocessed. We really want to see a ‘snapshot in time’ from an individual hive, not mixed honey. This ensures we can study less dominant or rare forage that may be environmentally significant but will be lost when a small volume from a large harvest is analysed. When collecting the sample, we’d like you to write the date of sampling on the tube and on your online submission form. When you take them is up to you - we would like 2 samples per year (early and late; depending on your honey production season). Although each set of 2 sample tubes must be from the same hive you do not to have to collect from the same hive for future sample packs. The location information of your hive must be accurately captured on your sample submission form. We appreciate locations and hives can change - although we would prefer the same location where possible, if your hive location changes please ensure this is changed on your map in the submission form.