Sheffield Beekeepers Association


Your story

Sheffield beekeepers work to increase the health of bee populations in Yorkshire and beyond.

Group introduction

The objectives of the association are to promote, support and further the craft of amateur beekeeping. More so, for all its members and to raise awareness to the importance of bees, and beekeeping to the environment.

We achieve these aims, firstly, by helping to train and advise new beekeepers. Our recent, ten session, volunteer-led beginners’ course attracted over forty new students. For existing beekeepers, we have arranged groups for study at a more advanced level, leading to exams in, e.g. bee biology; honeybee management; bee diseases. We educate beekeepers to enable them to keep healthier bees and help research improvements in bee breeding and beekeeping.

We help to educate the public about bees and beekeeping at local events, where experienced members, with an observation hive, often amaze onlookers who have never before seen bees in action. At our apiaries we offer members of the public the opportunity to handle bees and to learn more about beekeeping.

Our recent school visits have brought the excitement of bees and beekeeping to a new generation of potential beekeepers. Pupils enjoy a lively presentation followed by candle-rolling with beeswax. We have a team of swarm collectors, who are available to advise members of the public about bees on their properties - often encouraging them not to destroy bumblebee nests - and who will go out to collect swarms of honeybees.

Sheffield beekeeping association has been active for over 100 years. We are an unincorporated organisation run by its members. Anyone can join and a committee of volunteer members helps run the association on behalf of the members.

How would this funding have an impact on your community?

We would use the funding to buy a full set of microscopy equipment, for Sheffield beekeepers association: this would be one dissecting microscope and one compound microscope.

Bees are of vital importance as pollinators in our environment. In recent years bee populations have been struggling in the face of disease, and other stresses in the environment.

Being able to identity the health problems of honeybees means beekeepers are better able to manage their bees, and improve their health. Knowing why a colony of bees is struggling is the first step in putting in place measures to help their survival. Many of the health problems of bees can only be correctly identified with the help of a microscope. The microscopy equipment will last for many years, with the numbers benefiting from its use increasing year on year.

The equipment would be used to train up to 30 beekeepers per year, to identify different bee parasites and diseases. These beekeepers would not just be our own members from Sheffield, but also from other parts of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and beyond. Each beekeeper trained in microscopy could then use the equipment to identify and treat, not only their own honeybee colonies, but those of up to 20 other beekeepers each year. The benefit of greater numbers of bees pollinating plants in gardens, allotments, parks and in the countryside is essential to the community at large.

Sheffield Beekeeping association has a number of volunteers, who are qualified to teach microscopy skills and we have a successful record of training beekeepers to become qualified honeybee microscopists. However, we currently have to borrow microscopy equipment, which can be expensive and difficult. Having a set of our own microscopes would make a positive contribution to bee health and bee numbers across a wide geographical area for many years to come.

"I began beekeeping in July 2015, having taken the excellent Beginners Beekeeping Course run by the SBKA (Sheffield Beekeepers' Association). I was relieved that my colony survived the winter, but they seemed to be slow to build up when spring finally came. One of the experienced members of SBKA suggested that my colony might be infected with Nosema, a debilitating fungal disease which affects the bees' digestive system. He told me that the only reliable diagnosis of the disease is by microscopic examination of the abdominal contents of a sample of bees, which reveals the Nosema spores under x400 magnification.

Fortunately I own a microscope so was able to undertake this examination and confirm the presence of Nosema spores - see attached photo, taken with an iPhone through the microscope eyepiece. The spores are the many small elongated shapes, looking rather like grains of rice. As a result of further expert advice from SBKA members I am now undertaking a procedure to reduce the severity of the infection which I am confident will restore the colony to a normal level of vitality and productivity.

I am probably unusual in having my own microscope. I'm sure that the majority of beekeepers, especially beginners would not have a microscope to hand, so it would be very useful if SBKA had a number of microscopes which could be lent to members, both for diagnostic and educational purposes.

Graham Jones - Sheffield Beekeeper"

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