Founded in 1974, the British Beekeepers Association has two broad-reaching aims, which are to further and promote the craft of beekeeping whilst advancing the education of the public in the importance of bees in the environment.
So how does it do this?
At the most basic level BBKA is a nationwide beekeeping club run by a few volunteers and some permanent staff who work out of Stoneleigh Campus near Warwick. BBKA provides outlines for training, offers both written and practical beekeeping assessments, sends a monthly magazine to each of its registered members, organises public liability and bee disease insurance, holds a National Honey Show in the autumn and a Spring Convention (conference), as well as advising government and funding essential research.
With around 25,000 BBKA-registered beekeepers in Britain there are bound to be one or two beekeepers close to your home address, same with your workplace, but you won’t know they’re there because they’re generally as quiet about beekeeping as their colonies of bees – until you ask them a question about bees.
Most people only discover a friendly local beekeeper when they see a sign offering ‘local honey for sale’ – but you have to be quick because it’ll be sold out in no time at all because our crop is measured in kilos or pounds, not tonnes or tons.
Sometimes people discover they need a beekeeper when a swarm lands in their garden in May or June. It’s quite a rare and magical thing to see, so be sure to take plenty of photos if it happens to you – and maybe make a cup of coffee for the beekeeper who drops what they’re doing to turn out to rescue that huge swarm from your apple tree and talk to them too, to learn exactly what they’re doing, and why. (See our swarm pages for more information.)
BBKA does all this, but on a much bigger scale, although it’s unlikely that somebody from the office will go and collect a swarm they will have collated the swarm map on the website. Another team will have put together the monthly magazine that’s packed full of articles from professionals, scientists, and well-informed and innovative local beekeepers.
Another corner of the BBKA network organised the training framework, starting with the Beginners Course that most associations adapt to suit local needs and resources. (Find out about ours here.) Then there’s further training and both practical and theory assessments through from the Basic, which can be taken after a full year of looking after your own bees, to Master Beekeeper – there aren’t many of those in Britain.
Juniors aren’t left behind either, because there’s a Junior Certificate that’s suitable for schools, Scout or Guide groups, or any individual young beekeeper. Local associations offer the training and mentoring.888
In Spring there’s a weekend Convention near Telford, with visiting speakers from around the world who help make sure that beekeepers can be truly up to date with research and current beekeeping practices. In the autumn there’s the National Honey Show weekend, where wonderful prizes are hard-earned.
The BBKA also advises government on environmental issues that affect honey bees, the pollinator strategy, and funds research projects and, generally, champions bees. Being a part of the BBKA network of clubs and associations SWHB champion bees too, on a much more local scale and can talk about all things honey bees – often at some length.
If you’d like to know how we at SWHB can help, support, or ‘inform’ you, your club, or your school, or help with a display at a local event then please take a look at our SWHB in the Community page and then drop us a line.