400 Teachers for amateur beekeepers

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Britain’s backyard beekeepers are to be helped to avoid the problem of winter bee deaths by 400 Government-backed volunteer teachers.

Soaring numbers of people are taking up the hobby amid concern over honey bee decline. But due to challenges from pests and diseases, inexperienced beekeepers are losing more colonies over winter, so better skills are needed.

400 experts across England and Wales are to be trained to teach beekeepers good husbandry as part of a new project under the Government’s Healthy Bees Plan. It will be run in partnership by the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) and National Diploma of Beekeeping Board (NDBB), and jointly funded by Defra.

The partnership’s new “Course in a Case”, full of training materials, will be delivered through local beekeeping associations. Beekeepers will be trained in groups by the new teachers alongside government bee inspectors, who already offer advice to beekeepers on pests and diseases.

Environment Minister Lord Henley said:

“Bees are essential to putting food on our table and worth £200m to Britain every year through pollinating our crops. This training will help the many new beekeepers keep their hives healthy and bees buzzing.”

BBKA President Martin Smith said:

“We are delighted to be joining forces with the Government to improve the education of the dramatically increasing numbers of new beekeepers.

'We look forward to working with the National Bee Unit to ensure that the band of new trainers have the high quality teaching materials they need to be a viable support to our local associations whose teaching and mentoring resources have become strained to breaking point.”

The National Bee Unit (NBU), where Government inspectors are based, has found that in 2008/9 14 per cent of colonies died over winter and in 2009/10 16 per cent died.

The NBU has issued top tips on often-overlooked key autumn jobs. These include checking hives for disease, treating mites and leaving enough honey for food during the cold months.

Head of the NBU, Mike Brown, said:

“More and more people are starting beekeeping, which is brilliant – it is a release from the pressures of modern life and helps the environment. But it should not be taken lightly, and it’s best to find a mentor with practical experience as well as getting advice from us.

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