Wharfedale beekeepers aim to create buzz around craft

Wharfedale Observer: Beekeepers at work in Wharfedale Beekeepers at work in Wharfedale

Beekeepers in Wharfedale are keen to create a buzz around their craft following a poor honey crop in last year’s wet summer.

Wharfedale Beekeepers Association is holding a series of beginners classes in Skipton in March, to introduce more people to the craft – and explain the benefits of beekeeping to local gardeners and wildlife.

Near-continuous wet weather in 2012 made life particularly difficult for pollinating insects which are reliant on nectar for energy, says the association. In the case of several types of bee, pollen from flowers is also needed to feed larvae.

“Keepers of honeybees in the Wharfedale area had a particularly poor time of it last season,” said Jill Campbell, of Wharfedale Beekeepers Association.

“Wild flowers had the nectar continuously washed out of them and there was little or no honey crop. However, by intervention feeding, we managed to keep our hives going.

“Hopefully, most colonies should survive the winter. Honeybees are, of course, major pollinators and, given enough coverage over the land, could fill the gaps left by diminished numbers of other bees and butterflies. It follows that the environment needs more beekeepers in more places if gardeners are to maximise their fruit crops and the birds are to have berries to winter on.”

She added that beekeeping is a fascinating and rewarding craft, yielding honey for most years and giving “an untold benefit” to the world at large by offering a free pollination service.

The hibernating bees, such as the bumblebee, rely on late nectar to build up their fat body so that the queens can survive the winter in isolation.

Last year they had little chance to forage and there is concern for the wellbeing of those which survived the summer and mated.

Local beekeepers fear the small population will take years of good summers to build up to the numbers needed to pollinate all wild flowers, shrubs and trees that provide winter food for wild birds.

The series of beginners’ classes will take place in early March. Six evening classes condensed into a three-week period – plus some practical tuition in the summer – will provide students with sufficient information for them, with the help of more experienced members, to keep a small (nucleus) hive in late summer which will build up and multiply in subsequent years.

Contact Jill Campbell on (01274) 569238 or e-mail smithchristopher41@sky.com for further details.

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