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8 : Bee Farmers’ Association Apprenticeship Scheme BEE FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION (BFA)

Apprenticeship Scheme

Margaret Ginman (Secretary, Bee Farmers’ Association)

20 years. This amounts to an average loss of 10,000 hives a year.

H The British love honey. We

are the fourth largest importer of honey in the world, yet this country only produces 14% of the honey it consumes. Compare this to the rest of Europe which is 60% self- sufficient in honey production. Pollination by honey bees and other insects is vital to food production in the UK. It has been valued at more than £400 million to British agriculture and our bees are crucial in being able to target specific crops and to be available early in the season. The Bee Farmers’ Association (BFA)

ive numbers in the UK have fallen by 54% over the past

wants to take measures to build the number of hives to meet pollination needs to sustain increased food production.

UK Self-sufficiency in Honey Production

We would also like to see the UK move closer to self- sufficiency in honey production. There are fewer than 400

professional bee farmers in this country managing around 45,000 hives – probably 40% of the total number of hives in the UK. Most professionals belong to the Bee Farmers’ Association – but half its members are over 65 years of age. The BFA believes we need a

The BFA launches an exciting new scheme for aspiring bee farmers

real strategy to bring youngsters into the craft. ‘We need properly trained youngsters who can manage large numbers of hives,’ says John Mellis, a bee farmer from Dumfries. He had the vision some years ago to call for a proper apprenticeship scheme for professional beekeepers. That vision is nearing reality. By the time you read this article our first eight recruits could have their heads buried in a beehive! ‘We could achieve greater hive numbers by the expansion of existing bee farms. We could also do this by making it easier

for people to enter the industry and to set up new bee farming businesses,’ John says.

Skills Shortage

‘There is a skills shortage and an ageing profile in the industry. The knowledge exists in our industry and we must tap into it before it is too late. This apprenticeship scheme is designed to do just that.’ The BFA believes the best way

to recruit and train new entrants into the industry is through the development of an ‘in-house’ apprenticeship scheme. So, with the support of Defra and the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, it is setting up its scheme to attract 30 apprentices over the next three years. ‘We really need 300 new

Taking colonies to the heather

professional beekeepers,’ John Mellis says, ‘but 30 is a start’. So what will BFA apprentices study? Training plans have been

carefully worked out to take into account study opportunities at a high level within beekeeping or business. Students who complete the three years successfully will have a sound basis of skills and knowledge. Topics covered in the training include: • introduction to beekeeping • anatomy and dissection • microscopy • diseases

John Mellis, a bee farmer from Dumfries, at the heather

August 2013 Vol 95 No 8

Photos supplied by John Mellis

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