Menter a Busnes is launching a free ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ to help beekeepers to improve the health and productivity of their hives.
The launch will take place on Saturday, May 20 during the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Smallholding and Countryside Festival at Llanelwedd.
Open to intermediate beekeepers across England and Wales, the new ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ comprises four online modules with a certificate issued on completion.
The ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ is funded by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) as part of the Healthy Bees Plan 2030*. And the course’s content has been devised by experienced beekeeper Lynfa Davies, who holds a National Diploma in Beekeeping - the UK’s highest beekeeping qualification.
Lynfa said: “The Academy is not for beginners; instead, it is aimed at beekeepers with at least three years of experience keeping bees. Multiple-choice questions are included throughout each module to test their learning and progression.”
The information in the modules consists of written material, diagrams, photos, videos and downloadable factsheets. In addition, Lynfa has recorded podcasts with scientists working in the different fields related to bee health and sustainability.
Participants will learn more about four specific topics relating to bee health, namely controlling Varroa (a deadly parasitic mite), brood pests and diseases that affect the bee colony’s health, buying and sourcing bees, and self-sufficiency through queen raising – to help beekeepers increase their own bee stocks rather than relying on imports.
Honey bee colonies face many threats from pests, diseases and even climate change so these modules are designed to support beekeepers to develop the skills necessary to improve the health and resilience of their colonies.
Lynfa explained: “While most beekeepers understand how to treat bees for the varroa mite, they may not fully understand that there are alternative options available to reduce the use of chemicals in our hives. In addition, using locally adapted bees has been scientifically proven to be more successful than importing queens from other countries because local bees are better able to cope with local weather and forage availability.”
The interactive modules can be undertaken by beekeepers in the comfort of their home at a pace that suits them with the aim being to increase their confidence and skills in topics such as disease recognition and queen raising.
Lynfa, who is the Biodiversity Officer for Farming Connect and the ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ project manager, said, “Supporting beekeepers to develop their knowledge and skills is essential to the long term sustainability of beekeeping in England and Wales.
“We really hope that beekeepers will enjoy working their way through these modules and putting the new skills into place in their own apiaries. We have a real opportunity to make a positive impact on the future health and productivity of honey bee colonies, that are so vital to providing diversity in the food supply chains we depend on.”
Carmarthenshire beekeeper and gardener Adam Jones believes the ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ will be an important route to knowledge for Welsh and English beekeepers.
Adam said: “Maintaining the health of our bee colonies is essential. A healthy bee population is crucial for the environment and our hives’ productivity. Being able to easily access free training, through the medium of Welsh or English, that will help us safeguard bees from the threat of parasites and diseases is very welcome indeed.”
Julian Parker, Head of the Animal and Plant Health Agency's (APHA) National Bee Unit, explained: “The four modules created by Menter a Busnes will improve intermediate level beekeepers’ knowledge in important bee health topics including; managing varroa, diseases, disorders and pests, buying and sourcing bees and self-sufficiency through raising queens to ensure healthy bees. The accessibility and flexibility of the online modules will help beekeepers fit learning around today’s increasingly busy lifestyles.”
Llŷr Roberts, Chief Executive of Menter a Busnes, added: “The ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ is yet another example of how the Menter a Busnes team are utilising their skills, experiences and creativity to address a need. I’m very confident that those involved with the Academy will benefit from a wealth of knowledge and enjoy being part of a journey that has been tailored for their needs.”
Taking part in the ‘Healthy Bees Academy’ is free, and registration is via the Menter a Busines website. Each module will take three to four hours, and the E-learning platform is compatible with computers or mobile phones.