Taking BIBBA into the 2020s
Sustainable Bees – Sustainable Beekeeping
By Selwyn Runnett (Chair of the BIBBA Committee of Trustees)
BIBBA has embarked on an exciting journey of change which will equip it to address the challenges of beekeeping in the 2020s. The new direction will address the sustainability agenda, locally adapted bees, and the needs of both amateur and commercial beekeepers. We will, of course, remain true to the original purpose for which BIBBA was set up: “the conservation, restoration, study, selection and improvement of the native honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and near-native honey bees of the British Isles”.
The new direction for BIBBA will revolve around what we have called “the Four Sustainabilities”:
- A sustainable environment
- Sustainable bees
- Sustainable beekeeping
- Sustainable honey markets
A Sustainable Environment
Honey bees need sufficient forage – both quality and quantity. We all recognise that there has been a huge loss of habitat for all pollinators. This needs to be reversed and the damage to eco-systems repaired. BIBBA has already committed itself to the rapid phasing-out of pesticides and an immediate ban on the use of the most dangerous, such as neonicotinoids.
Our flagship National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP) recognises that the situation beekeepers find themselves in now is different from the 1960s. That is why it starts from a position of promoting locally adapted bees as a pathway towards native and near-native bees. That is in addition to our long-standing commitment to the conservation of existing native bee populations. We are putting in place plans to provide readily available sources of locally bred queens, and also nucs, through the next stage in the development of NatBIP. Special Apiary Projects are being developed to protect and support existing populations of Amm.
As we all know, there are different ways to keep bees and different methods of bee husbandry. BIBBA is looking to use applied research to evaluate these different methods with an emphasis on bee-centred bee husbandry. We will also aim to improve overall knowledge of bee husbandry within the wider beekeeping community. We are also looking at the key issues in honey bee population resilience and honey bee health.
Sustainable Honey Markets
This is of most concern to those BIBBA Members who are commercial beekeepers but affects all beekeepers. The issue of honey adulteration was highlighted at Apimondia 2019. This showed the need for ethical honey markets. We need to ensure that honey produced from locally adapted and Amm bees can attract and sustain a premium price which means it becomes economic for commercial producers to adopt beekeeping based on sustainable bees and sustainable beekeeping.
Moving Forward into the 2020s
This new agenda will take us into the 2020s. BIBBA was set up originally by a small group of beekeepers, including Beowulf Cooper. They were committed to beekeeping based on native or near-native strains of bee based on local adaptation. Although they did not use the word ‘sustainable’ at the time, that was, in essence what they saw as the best future for beekeeping in the UK and Ireland. BIBBA’s new direction for the 2020s remains true to the vision of its founders and its task in the 2020s is to realise that vision of changing beekeeping for the better.
I was elected by the Trustees in March of this year as the new Chair of BIBBA. All the Trustees work together as team of committed volunteers (some of whom are experienced Trustees and some who are new to the role). I would like to thank them for all the work they do and for helping me personally in my new role. If you would like to help BIBBA to develop in the 2020s, we will be advertising shortly for additional volunteers to help in a number of tasks. If you can spare some time to help, we will be delighted to hear from you and to welcome you to an active role in BIBBA.
We will shortly be launching a Book Review Section on our Website with detailed reviews of books that will of interest to BIBBA Members. The first of our ’must buy’ books is featured below:
Silent Earth Averting the Insect Apocalypse Dave Goulson
Dave Goulson is familiar to most of us. He is Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex andthis is his sixth title, others included the Sunday Times bestsellers The Garden Jungle and A Sting in the Tale. The main theme of Silent Earth is that human beings need to live as part of nature, not separate from it. It is a sobering read covering why insects matter, highlighting insect declines and their causes, the dire future that could overtake us if the declines continue, and what we can all do about it. It covers all the contemporary issues relating to pollinators and is a definite ‘must read’ for all beekeepers.reviewed by Selwyn Runnett
Dave Goulson is one of the people setting the agenda of debate relating to pollinators in the 2020s. This a key debate with which all beekeepers and beekeeping organisations will need to engage. BIBBA certainly intends to be at the centre of this debate. If you have not already seen it, it is well worthwhile reading Dave Goulson’s recent interview with Sarah Wyndham Lewis (of Bermondsey Street Bees) in the August 2021 edition of BeeCraft magazine.
Published by Jonathan Cape, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-7873-3334-5 (Hardback)
Guildford Beekeepers Event: 1st December 2021
For those members in the South-East of England, Guildford Beekeepers are holding a special evening event on the 1st of December at the new RHS Wisley Hilltop Science Centre with Professor Dave Goulson. He will be drawing on the
latest research and presenting a lecture about the current environmental issues facing our bees and insect populations. He will discuss what is needed to support them and the environment they live in.
Also see our Summary Review of Dave Goulson’s book Silent Earth. A signed copy will be available to purchase through the ticketing process and can be collected on the night.
Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology at Sussex University and has published more than 300 articles on ecology and the conservation of bees, butterflies and other insects. He founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2006 and is the recipient of multiple conservation awards. Dave is also the author of eight books bringing the subject of ecology.
This is an extended invitation to nearby Beekeeping Associations and Conservation Organisations that are concerned about pollinators and the ecology of our environment. This is an opportunity not to be missed, we are extremely fortunate to engage such an inspirational speaker. To avoid disappointment, it is recommended that you book as soon as possible, as places are limited. Click HERE for tickets.
SICAMM On-Line Conference 2021
Just a reminder to everyone that the 2021 SICAMM Conference starts soon. The Conference will take place On-line, so this gives a fantastic opportunity to participate and hear some of the best speakers in the field of Apis mellifera mellifera (including BIBBA Trustee, Jo Widdicombe, who is speaking on 9th March 2022). For those who are new BIBBA Members, SICAMM is the International Association for the Protection of the European Dark Honey Bee. BIBBA is a Member Organisation and we are represented on the Committee.
The Opening Day of the Conference is Saturday 23rd October and it continues over a period of 20 weeks. Click onto the SICAMM Website (link above) for the Conference Programme and to register.
OUR NEW BREEDING APIARY
Dr Fred J Ayres, Chair of Trustees,
Lune Valley Community Beekeepers
Lune Valley Community Beekeepers was founded in June 2016 by a small group of beekeepers who wanted to engage in more bee-centric rather than beekeeper-centric approaches to beekeeping, and adopt a focus on improving the environment for bees rather than producing honey.
These approaches included:
- only inspecting colonies three or four times a year unless really necessary
- letting the bees swarm naturally and collecting the swarms rather than inspecting regularly to try to prevent swarming
- not treating with chemicals
- letting the bees draw out their own comb rather than using foundation
- only taking off honey in the spring if there is a genuine surplus
- avoiding artificial feeding unless really necessary
- using well insulated hives with eco-floors
- only acquiring bees from reliable, local sources
- encouraging the creation of pollinator patches.
Not finding the local conventional beekeeping club amenable to these approaches, it was decided to form a new club and create a new apiary.
We were fortunate to find a 2.7 acre site within the 19 acre grounds of a large nursing home run by the religious order, the Sisters of Nazareth, within the city of Lancaster.
Over the next 12 months we worked hard at utilising traditional beekeeping skills such as using chainsaws to fell large trees and driving large earth-moving machines to clear ground not maintained for many years! The outcome was the creation of a training apiary with 7 strong colonies, a newly created, 900 square metre wildflower meadow and a car park that will hold around 30 cars when we can persuade people to park tidily.
Another of our objectives was to make beekeeping as accessible as possible for disabled people in wheelchairs. To this end we raised sufficient funds to ensure that our training apiary was set up on a solid base which provided all-weather access for wheelchair users. We also developed an innovative hive, the Lune Valley Long Hive, which is based on the Layens Hive, is well insulated, incorporated an eco-floor and takes 20, 14×12 frames. This means that there are no other boxes involved and that the heaviest thing anyone has to lift is one frame. The height of the hive can easily be adjusted to suit the height of different wheelchairs or the beekeeper.
Since the Club was formed, membership has grown steadily to almost 50, mainly with newcomers to beekeeping.
One of our objectives has always been to be able to supply our new members with a healthy, docile, darker strain of bee, well suited to our local conditions.
Earlier this year (2021) spurred on by the ban on the importation of all but queens, we set about building a breeding apiary.
With most of our members being new or relatively new to beekeeping, our initial intention is to focus on producing splits. We may move on to queen rearing at a later stage.
As the season comes to a close, we have a new, wheelchair accessible, all-weather base for our breeding apiary, six colonies of fairly pure Amm, all housed in Lune Valley Long Hives and six solid stands, each of which will hold up to 3, reasonably spaced nucleus boxes. All we now need to do to complete the project is to acquire the nucleus boxes, which we shall do before the start of next season.
At the start of the project we calculated that the total cost would be around £7500. To date we have received £5500 in grants and the balance has been raised through various fund-raising activities such as our Annual Open Day and sales of Lune Valley Long Hives.