Beekeeper urges farmers to join Northumberland course

Keeping bees can increase yields and boost the environment, says Northumberland expert

Beekeeper Brian Ridley
Beekeeper Brian Ridley

One of the leading figures in the beekeeping world is urging farmers in the region to join a course he is running.

Brian Ripley, who is vice chairman of the Alnwick and District Beekeepers’ Association, is running a 10-week course on beekeeping at Ashington High School in Northumberland, and says farmers can increase yields by having bees on their land.

He said: “The objective of beekeeping associations is to train and educate newcomers to the industry. We need young as well as older people to get involved, learn new skills and develop their interest on a personal as well as, business level.

“Importantly, we also want farmers to get more involved or at least have a better understanding of the benefits of maintaining bees on their land. According to one estimate, bees can increase yield in oils seed rape crops by 6%.

“Farms have secure field margins and ideal track verges for establishing colonies and are combined with good access for bee keepers. Our local association has a teaching apiary and interested people can come along and get practically involved and learn about keeping beehives.

“Running the course during the winter months is also beneficial and this also allows more time for people to gear-up, learn and get involved. We want people to learn in order that bees can be well managed and prosper. It is better to learn from practical bee keepers, many with years of experience and who are able to pass on their knowledge.”

An estimated 76% of food production and 84% of plant species are dependent on pollination by bees on a world-wide basis. According to Defra, there are approximately 40,000 UK bee-keepers with more than 200,000 colonies of honeybees.

The UK has some 300 commercial beekeepers who manage the 40,000 colonies and a typical colony of bees consists of 20,000 - 60,000 honeybees and one queen. The worker honey bees are female and do all the work, and usually live for up to six weeks.

A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during each individual collection trip and can cover distances of four to six miles or more per day.

Mr Ripley, a former chairman of the British Beekeeping Association, said: “Bees are responsible for a lot of what we eat such as apples, pears, plums, raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.

“In order to have variety in our diets we need pollinators. This also applies to farm crops that provide essential feeding for bees.

“It remains essential to farmers as well as fruit growers, that we maintain a strong bee population as pollinators are responsible for one out of three mouthfuls of food we eat.”

For further information on the beekeeping course, contact Ashington High School on 01670 852 530. Information on beekeeping can also be found on www.bbka.org.uk .

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