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.
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.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BIBBA