Beekeepers come swarming to the Sustainability days

BIBBA hosted nine events across the country (presented by Roger Patterson) called “Sustainability – Bees and Queens for Everybody using low cost, simple techniques”. Over 1,300 beekeepers at all stages of their beekeeping careers attended the sellout event.

The day’s presentation was created by Roger after a Defra survey last year where 4,763 beekeepers fed back to a range of topical beekeeping questions around queen rearing.

Some typical feedback included:

  1. Why purchase your own queens rather than rear your own?
    Not enough experience (41%), not enough time (17%), to improve colony temperament (35%) and to improve colony productivity (25%)
  2. What form of assistance would help you to raise more queens in the future?
    Mentoring (28%), training courses (47%)
  3. Would attending a course improve your queen rearing skills?
    Yes (60%), No (22%)
  4. Are you part of a bee breeding/improvement programme?
    No (95%)
  5. What do you think of mixing imported and native bee strains?
    Positive (12%), negative (46%), don’t know (42%)
  6. Would you support a national breeding programme for AMM in the UK?
    Yes (79%), No (8%)

Bee imports are increasing (up fourfold since 2011 from the EU to UK) but the number of beekeepers has stayed broadly the same. The different genetics coming into the UK could possibly upset the existing bees with cross-breeding causing a range of issues such as change in temperament, less able to cope with the vagaries of the UK climate as well as a risk of disease importation.

There will be a video available soon for those that missed the events. A whole range of topics were discussed on the day including:

  • Roger’s system of keeping bees, having non-prolific bees and still getting plenty of honey.
  • Simple factors to consider for bee improvement
  • Getting queen cells and two framed nucs set up
  • How to get up to 11 colonies in one season

Roger frequently signposted attendees to the Dave Cushman website ( for more detail or information on the subject areas he was talking through.

Overall, a fantastic attendance across the country and, hopefully, plenty of individuals, groups, BKA’s and teaching apiary managers who will be enthused to breed bees and queens for everybody.