Microscopes play an important role in many aspects of beekeeping, from bee disease and pest diagnosis through to the examination of collected pollen loads to gain an insight into their foraging behaviour.

In 2012-4, several courses involving microscopes were run, and whilst the 2015 courses are yet to be confirmed, previous course contents are listed here to give a general idea of the types of topics we may cover.


Microscopy 1 – an introduction

This full day course aims to equip delegates with an overview of the many uses of microscopy in beekeeping. There will be a mixture of practical sessions, in the lab, looking at several applications plus a lecture on the basic theory of microscopes. Some time will be devoted to the correct set-up of both stereo and compound microscopes before taking a quick look at the applications. Stereo microscopes will be used to study the external anatomy of the honey bee, to examine bees for the presence of the acarine mite and to perform a dissection of the bee’s abdomen to reveal the honey crop and digestive tract. After lunch, the compound microscopes will be used to test bees for Nosema and to look at pollen, both from flowers and from collected pollen loads.

The day will be rounded off with a short session on buying a microscope and on cleaning and maintenance.

Overall, a general introduction to many aspects, without getting too deeply involved in any.

Microscopy 2 – Adult Bee Diseases

This half day cours on 24th March will focus on the use of the microscope in diagnosing Acarine, Nosema and Amoeba. There will be sufficient time to practice the acarine dissection several times, to start to become adept at this relatively straightforward test; the statistics of testing will be covered as well.

The presence of Nosema apis and/or N. ceranae is fairly common in colonies in the SE and is essentially symptomless; the only reliable test for these microsporidians, which seem to impact adversely on winter survival, is to test a sample of bees microscopically. Amoeba infection is far less common but is required by the BBKA microscopy examination, we will cover that too.

Microscopy 3 – Brood Diseases

We hope to have a morning session will be led by a Bee Inspector, who will be talking about and displaying combs affected by AFB, EFB and other brood disorders. This course is bookable separately. In the afternoon, a smaller number of people may book on the microscopy course, looking at the diagnosis of these conditions using high magnification on the compound microscope. The use of x100 objectives involves immersion oil and the theory and practice of this will be examined. Samples of the causative agents of AFB (Paenibacillus larvae) and EFB (Melissococcus plutonius) will be prepared and examined microscopically, noting the differences in their appearance. The causative agent of Chalkbrood, Ascophaera apis, will also be examined, looking at the fruiting bodies, spore balls and the tiny individual spores.

Microscopy 4 & 5

Not yet scheduled but the intention is to provide two further courses, one focussing on the anatomy and dissection of the honey bee, the last one looking in some detail at the analysis of pollen, from flowers, pollen loads and from honey. Watch this space!