Sustainable Beekeeping: A Future without Imports
Tickets On Sale Now
At The Eden Project – Bodelva Cornwall PL24 2SG
This exciting event has been organised in response to the increased interest in native and near-native honey bees.
Many beekeepers now realise the benefits of working with bees that are hardy, productive, healthy and best suit their conditions.
Bee researchers believe that native bees are an important resource that shouldn’t be lost. European studies have shown that locally adapted bees perform better than imported ones, with possible health and survivability benefits.
The event is organised by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA) and B4, in conjunction with BIPCo. The morning will have presentations covering research relevant to native/near-native bees by research scientists Norman Carreck, Mark Barnett, Mairi Knight and Victoria Buswell.
In the afternoon BIBBA President and bee farmer Jo Widdicombe will discuss the principles of practical bee improvement and Roger Patterson will highlight some problems we face. He will suggest ways of helping the wider beekeeping community to achieve a more sustainable culture that avoids importing bees and queens that may be unsuitable.
Attendance for the full day on Saturday will include entry to the Eden Project on Sunday. Tickets will only be issued to conference participants at the end of the day on Saturday.
Saturday 17th February
8.45 – 9.30 Registration
9.30 – 9.45 Opening Address by Sir Tim Smit KBE
Introduction by Mike Maunder, Director of Life Sciences at The Eden Project
9.45 – 10.45 Norman Carreck – “Why we need to conserve the dark European honey bee”
10.45 – 11.15 Break
11.15 – 12.15 Mark Barnett – “Mapping honey bee health and genetic diversity in the UK”
12.15 – 13.00 Mairi Knight/Victoria Buswell – “Local adaptation in UK populations of dark European honey bees”
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch and Tour of the hives with Julie Kendal and Rodger Dewhurst.
14.00 – 15.00 Jo Widdicombe – “Sustainable Bee Improvement”
15.00 – 15.30 Break
15.30 – 16.30 Roger Patterson – “The Journey to Sustainability”
16.30 Questions and close
Sunday programme below
At the end of the Saturday conference, delegates will be issued with tickets for entry to Eden on Sunday
Speaker Profiles and Abstracts
Sir Tim Smit KBE
Sir Tim Smit is best known for his achievements in Cornwall. He ‘discovered’ and then restored “The Lost Gardens of Heligan” with John Nelson, which is now one of the UK’s best loved gardens. Tim is Executive Vice-Chairman and Co-founder of the multi award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall. Since its opening in 2001, 19 million people have come to see a once sterile pit, turned into a cradle of life containing world-class horticulture and startling architecture symbolic of human endeavour. Tim is also Executive Chairman for Eden Project International which aims to have an Eden Project on every habited continent by 2025.
Dr Mike Maunder Director of Life Sciences, a leader in plant conservation and horticulture.
Norman has been a beekeeper for 37 years and a bee research scientist for 26 years. He is a Trustee of the C.B. Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust, a member of the Examinations Board for the National Diploma in Beekeeping, a member of the “Bee Health Advisory Forum” for the Defra “Healthy Bees Plan”, a member of the Technical and Environmental Committee of the British Beekeepers Association, the UK member of the Executive Committee of the international honey bee research network “COLOSS”, and has been Senior Editor of the Journal of Apicultural Research since 2007. Norman is employed as Science Director of the International Bee Research Association and is based at the University of Sussex.
“Why we need to conserve the dark European honey bee”
Norman’s talk will explore the evidence for the historical existence of the dark European honey bee in Britain and Ireland, describe efforts to conserve it throughout Europe, and highlight the results of the COLOSS honey bee Genotype Environment Interactions Experiment which has for the first time provide conclusive evidence of the value of locally adapted bees.
Dr Mark Barnett
Mark is a research scientist and has worked in developmental biology and neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. His current interests at the Roslin Institute include transcriptomics of the cell cycle and macrophage activation. Mark has been keeping honeybees since 2010 and holds the advanced certificate in beekeeping from the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association. He currently manages 19 hives in the Scottish borders, is a tutor on two beginners’ courses and is the vice president of Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers’ Association. Mark’s interest in honeybees has led to a research project at the Roslin Institute that used whole genome sequencing to map the health and genetic diversity of colonies in Scotland and the UK.
“Mapping honey bee health and genetic diversity in the UK”
In order to examine the genetic diversity of UK honey bees, as well as the commensal and parasitic organisms associated with them, we have performed a pilot project using whole genome sequencing of honey bees from hives across Scotland and England. The samples included examples of M-lineage and C-lineage honey bees. DNA was extracted from pools of 16 worker bees from each colony and sequenced using the Illumina HiSeq 2500 with 125bp paired end read sequencing at varying depths of genome coverage (x50, x25 or x17.5). Sequencing reads were aligned to the reference Apis mellifera (A.m.) genome and genetic variants identified. A total of 5,302,201 variants were identified across the 19 samples. These variants have been used to compare the colonies sampled to examples of A.m. mellifera and A.m. carnica. Most non-bee sequences were derived from known honey bee commensal bacteria, however we also detected DNA from plants (food sources), and numerous additional bacterial, protozoan and metazoan organisms. We identified known pathogens such as Varroa (Arthropoda), Nosema (Microsporidia), and Trypanasomatida, but also novel (and potentially pathogenic) cobionts, such as a gregarine (Apicomplexa).
Mairi Knight /Victoria Buswell
Mairi is an academic working at the University of Plymouth, where she is the Head of the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. Her work focuses on the ecological and evolutionary drivers of population and species diversity. In this current project, she is working in partnership with B4, along with other collaborators at UoP, to investigate signatures of local adaptation among UK populations of dark honey bee, with a particular focus on the SW populations. Victoria recently graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University and started her PhD on this UoP/B4 collaborative project in October 2017.
“Local adaptation in UK populations of dark European honey bees”
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about the characteristics of our native dark honey bee being quite distinct and ‘locally adapted’ compared to other imported sub-species. However, we lack hard empirical data to support or refute this. Without this evidence base it is difficult to provide a wholly robust case for conservation of native subspecies and related actions, such as importation regulation.
Our project has only just started but aims to gather data, with the help of beekeepers, on hive characteristics, and examine whether those map coherently to genetic diversity and taxonomic identity.
The project is entirely reliant on a successful working partnership of beekeepers and academic researchers, so at this early stage of the project we would particularly welcome discussion and input from beekeepers themselves.
Jo Widdicombe is a bee farmer currently running 150 hives in Cornwall.
He is the President of BIBBA and author of the book, ‘The Principles of Bee Improvement’.
“Sustainable Bee Improvement”
Jo will explain how a sustainable system of bee improvement can be set up. By refraining from imports and by focusing on near-native bees a local strain can be developed and maintained allowing the quality of bees in the area to be steadily improved. This system avoids the increasing hybridisation of our bee population which makes sustainable improvement in quality of our bees so difficult.
The aim is to produce a hardy population of productive bees with minimal bio-security risk, that is, less chance of introducing exotic pests and diseases.
Roger Patterson started beekeeping in 1963 as a teenager in his native West Sussex, keeping about 130 colonies for several years. A former BBKA Trustee he is currently Vice Chairman and Conference/Workshop Secretary of BIBBA and Vice President of Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd (BDI).
Author and writer of articles for the bee press Roger also owns and manages Dave Cushman’s website, that is considered by many to be the world’s most comprehensive beekeeping website. He travels widely delivering presentations, workshops and courses on practical topics. This has also given him the opportunity to see bees in different conditions.
Roger is passionate about improving the quality of bees on these islands, encouraging all beekeepers to raise their own queens from good colonies that have survived locally for several years. Through simple selection methods his own bees are easy to manage, docile, healthy and suit their environment.
“The Journey to Sustainability”
Ever since honey bees were first imported into the U.K. in the mid 19th century the kind of bees that are favoured has been one of the most argued topics in beekeeping. Opinions vary for a variety of reasons, often eagerly offered by beekeepers without much consideration given to conditions outside their own locality, which can be very different only a short distance away.
The different sub-species evolved with characteristics to suit the environment they inhabited, with variations to suit local conditions. This is not always understood when a beekeeper buys a queen that came from outside their area, resulting in many colonies that are not best suited to the region they have been brought into, often needing excessive intervention just to keep them alive.
This presentation will highlight some of the problems that beekeepers continually face. Routes will be suggested that should develop local bee populations to be sustainable through the generations without continued dependence on large scale importation.
To make progress we need to embrace all beekeepers, which will need education, understanding, tolerance and co-operation.
Sunday 18th February
There are several options on Sunday that are listed below.
Note the first three events run at the same time.
Sunday 18th February. Eden Project.
1pm -3pm. A visit to the bees and a talk/discussion.
This is free to everyone. Those who attend the conference on the Saturday will get free entrance to the Eden Project, otherwise, they will have to pay the normal entrance fee.
Sunday 18th February National Trust Garden in Godolphin House, Helston.
1pm -3pm weather permitting. Free to everyone. A look at the public Apiary and hidden bee breeding areas maintained by Cornish Bees, with a chance to meet some of the interested beekeepers in West Cornwall at the small apiary in the Medieval Garden of Godolphin House.
Bob Black works with the Cornwall groups BipCo, CBIBBG and B4 and welcomes you to the cafe and a visit to the Hives.
Sunday 18th February Lost Gardens of Heligan.
1pm -3pm weather permitting. Free to all. Tour of hives and talk about B4 work (limited to first 20 people)
Sunday 18th February Mount Edgcumbe Black Bee Reserve.
10.00 – 12.00 Starting at the top of the site by the House there will be a talk on the set-up and future development of the reserve at Mt Edgcumbe and Tregantle. A walk down to the apiary with the Head Gardener will give delegates an idea of the types of forage available to the bees.
This is a chance to learn at first hand about the background to this newly established apiary. Those coming from outside the area will also gain some ideas of what they can achieve with some funding and support from a local landowner.
This event is free to all but attendees will have to pay for car parking
There will be a Bee Improvement for All day in South Brent on Sunday