FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about the scheme and their answers.

Click on a question to see the answer.

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.

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 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.

 

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 30th 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 27th 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.

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.