Bees and the Community

Following the offer by North Herts District Council of some land to be used for beekeeping, the North Herts division are making a proposal for a public Educational Bee Centre and wish to consult with other HBKA members for comments. Below are some extracts from the proposal. If you have any comments please send them to Robin Dartington.
It is proposed to establish a fully-equipped public Educational Bee Centre (EBC) at which beekeeping can be developed and demonstrated to visitors (families and groups). Hitchin EBC (HEBC) would consist of: 8-16 hives within a netted safety area plus storage shed; a toddler-proof picnic/amenity area; study/workroom to hold 20-30 visitors plus honey/food processing room, toilets and first-aid. Equipment would include: workshop tools; video camera/microscopes and projection facilities; publications.

HEBC would be a not-for-profit organisation constituted as a self-governing branch of HBKA or NHBKA and be eligible for financial support from charities and local/government. Staff would be volunteers able to sell produce and recover expenses. Nationally HEBC would act as a satellite of the new BBKA Demonstration Apiary at the National Beekeeping Centre, Stoneleigh Park.

HEBC would seek grants and donations for buildings, site works and equipment. The value to be insured on completion would be approximately £10,000.
Current provision for beekeeping

Beekeeping is suited to all ages and all levels of strength and skills provided proper instruction is available and suitable equipment is selected. Beekeepers generally work alone or with a partner and are self-reliant. The downside is that opportunities to share experience are limited and technical standards generally remain low.

In North Herts, beekeepers can join NHBKA (30 members) which also confers membership of HBKA (270 members) and BBKA (10,000 members). NHBKA arranges 4 winter indoor meetings and six summer visits to member’s private apiaries. Whilst interesting, this provision is inadequate as a structured programme for improvement of individual beekeeping.

BBKA acts for beekeepers nationally and provides a day of high level lectures at an annual Spring Convention. BBKA runs a graded examination scheme but there is no requirement on beekeepers to develop competence through study for any of the BBKA certificates

Beekeeping instruction is delivered locally through the network of county and branch associations affiliated to BBKA. However, in 2006 BBKA reopened its demonstration apiary at the National Beekeeping Centre in the grounds of the Royal Show in Stoneleigh Park. It can be hoped the central demonstration site will act as a national focus for developing training aids and publications and where demonstrators can themselves be offered training to raise the standard of local beginners’ courses.

There is currently no site or facilities within North Herts where a formal training programme could be based but courses are run by St Albans BKA, East Herts BKA and Barnet BKA using on-site meeting rooms. St Albans and Barnet BKA have both recently obtained Lottery grants for improving their equipment (hives, microscopes).

NHBKA manages an association apiary at Nortonbury where members currently rent space for 28 hives at £1 per hive. The site is not suitable for adding a meeting room. Further hives in North Herts (estimated 200) are placed on private land where opportunities exist. There is no public right of entry to those sites.
Hitchin educational bee centre (HEBC): outline proposal

Aims: HEBC would provide publicly accessible facilities for:
  • providing a public face and information/advice centre on bees and beekeeping
  • developing and demonstrating beekeeping of a high standard to visitors (families and groups in particular school children)
  • promoting beekeeping as a recreation
  • providing facilities for delivery of structured training courses for beginners and improvers (as a satellite of the National Bee Centre).
  • Organisation: HEBC would be a charitable or not-for-profit organisation staffed by volunteers, affiliated as appropriate to BBKA, HBKA, NHBKA.
  • open-topped area enclosed by 8 ft high netting for up to 16 hives
  • store shed for spare hive boxes
  • strip of sample plots each 1 m sq for a collection of bee plants
  • amenity area with picnic table and toddler-proof fencing
  • open-sided loggia for protection of visitors when viewing demonstrations
  • linked to: Meeting Room for 30 plus demonstrator with ancillary toilets/baby change / wash basin / first-aid / coffee maker and kitchen store cupboard – electrical services via petrol generator for lighting / heating / demonstration equipment. (Room constructed of 28mm interlocking planks).
  • Honey Room with extraction and bottling equipment, sink and wash-down floor.
  • secure equipment store for: video camera and projection screen plus computer/microscopes.
  • Beekeeping using 6 hives owned by HEBC plus 10 owned privately by Centre volunteers – processing of honey, beeswax, pollen & propolis for sale
  • ‘Introduction to Beekeeping’ – demonstrations for visitors and groups during advertised ‘open hours’ using opened hives and video link for close-ups – advice and leaflets – sale of honey
  • Beginners Courses (theory and practice)
  • Improvers Courses – weekly demonstrations of seasonal tasks throughout the year.
  • Annual Lecture Programme – audiences of 30 – visiting lecturers and DVD’s followed by hosted discussions.
  • Local studies – bees and local plants using sample plots
Comments are welcome. Maybe other divisions could follow the lead of North Herts?

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