R. O. B. Manley

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R. O. B. Manley
BornRobert Orlando Beater Manley
Died1978 (aged 89–90)
Pen nameR.O.B. Manley
OccupationBee Keeper, Inventor, author

Robert "Bert" Orlando Beater Manley (1888–1978) was a British beekeeper, an authority on commercial honey farming and developer of the popular Manley moveable frame hives and frame systems.[1]


In 1914 a parasite, Acarapis woodi that originated on the Isle of Wight extended over the UK devastating all the native bees and only the Apis mellifera carnica and Apis mellifera ligustica colonies survived. While Brother Adam travelled to Turkey to find substitutes for the native bees for the first Buckfast strain (a very productive bee resistant to the parasite), Manley began breeding Italian bees and the pair quickly became the most influential bee-keepers in Britain, with Brother Adam concentrating on a breeding programme and Manley developing modern commercial honey farming methods.

In 1948 R.O.B. Manley became the first man to manage 1,000 colonies in England,[2] having kept bees through the fine summers of the 1920s and 1930s.( I believe A W Gale of Marlborough at his height in the 1940s ran 2000+ hives)

As well as inventing the Manley frame system (still in common use today), R. O. B. Manley is the source of the practice of feeding sugar to bees in its modern form, stating that "all hives that have been to the moors should be fed 10lb sugar as a precaution against dysentery caused by long confinement during severe winters". This advice is not found in earlier publications (A. Pettigrew 1870,[3] Rev Thomas WM Cowan 1881[4]). Manley adds that while heather honey was not suitable as winter food during periods of confinement, he 'knew of nothing better to encourage a rapid spring build-up'.


R. O. B Manley propagated the idea of using thymol in syrup intended for winter feeding to prevent fermentation and the growth of mould. Manley's thymol recipe has also proven useful in controlling Varroa mites.[5]

Manley's recipe has become a standard and even if the requirement is for a stronger solution, this is often specified as '3x Manley strength' or '4x Manley strength'.[6] His original recipe was one ounce of thymol crystals dissolved in five fluid ounces of surgical spirit to make the stock solution. Then half a fluid ounce of this mixture was added to 1 Cwt (112 lbs) of sugar, which he dissolved in 7 imperial gallons (8.75 US Gal.) of water for direct use as winter feed.[7]


Despite being one of the most revered commercial beekeepers in Europe, R. O. B. Manley did not actually enjoy the taste of honey.

Faced with the problem of drips of honey running down the sides of jars, the 'production line' featured an ordinary vacuum cleaner to 'suck' the last drops away. Rumour has it that this was the domestic vacuum cleaner from the house and that Mrs Manley was entirely opposed to this, but this rumour appears to have been started by R. O. B. Manley himself, so may lack veracity and is included here rather more to provide an insight into the dry wit of this man.


  • Honey Production in the British Isles (1936)[8]
  • Honey Farming (1946)[9]
  • Bee-Keeping in Britain (1948)[10]
  • The Practical Bee Guide – a Manual of Modern Beekeeping (1949 with J. G Digges)[11]


  1. ^ "Movable frame hives". startbeekeeping.net. 5 April 2009. Archived from the original on 16 November 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  2. ^ Ruttner, Friedrich; Milner, Eric; Dews, John (2004). The Dark European Honey Bee. WritersPrintshop. ISBN 978-1-904623-17-5.
  3. ^ Pettigrew, A (1870). A. Pettigrew's "The Handy Book of Bees: Being A Practical Treatise On Their Profitable Management". William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London. ISBN 1-4326-6497-2.
  4. ^ Cowan, Thomas (1881). 9 vols. Cowan, Thos. Wm.: British Bee-Keepers Guide Book. London, (1881). William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London.
  5. ^ Mark Ward (8 March 2006). "Almond farmers seek healthy bees". BBC News Website.
  6. ^ "Thymol Crystals, Usage in beekeeping". dave-cushman.net. 10 June 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  7. ^ Randy Oliver. "The "Nosema Twins" – Part 5 Alternative Treatments". scientificbeekeeping.com. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  8. ^ Manley, R. O. B. (1936). Honey Production in the British Isles. Bradley and sons. ASIN B00087UMBW.
  9. ^ Manley, R. O. B. (1946). Honey Farming. Faber & Faber Ltd. ASIN B0016JL8Z0 (UK).
  10. ^ Manley, R. O. B. (1948). Bee-Keeping in Britain. Faber & Faber Ltd. ASIN B000XZWEDI.
  11. ^ Digges, J.G.; Manley, R. O. B. (1949). The Practical Bee Guide – a Manual of Modern Beekeeping. Talbot Press; fifteenth edition (1949). ASIN B001NGWVMA (UK).