Out of the blue I got an email from Norman Walsh MBE of the Dromore BKA in Norn Iron, a member of the Ulster BKA.  He was seeking advice regarding a risk assessment for an association apiary. I am utterly unqualified to give such advice as I haven’t run an association apiary since about 1984, when phrases like ‘elfin safety’ were unheard of!

Nevertheless I have allowed my brain to tick over for a few hours with the following results.  I would divide the risks between people, property and bees and will deal with them in that order.

PEOPLE Check the Association’s insurance policy.  If Dromore is part of the BBKA, their policy is a good one giving about £5 million worth of cover. I think, however, that they may be part of FIBKA which will have a different insurance policy and this needs to be checked. Next, consider the apiary site’s neighbours. Probably they won’t themselves be beekeepers and won’t appreciate hives hard up against their boundary. If they are beekeepers, the last thing they will want will be another apiary on their doorstep. There should be a single manager for the apiary, acting within policy guidelines laid down by the Association which will have to decide whether the project is to be run primarily for education, breeding, honey production, nucleus production or whatever they decide.  There are as many ways of keeping bees as there are beekeepers and their ways may not blend too well. If, for example, one person is in the habit of culling all queen cells on sight whereas another welcomes and harvests them, look out for trouble!  It may be hive tools at dawn! Remember that a camel is a horse designed by a committee!

PROPERTY  There are thieves around who will nick hives, all the more easily if it is an isolated site rather than somebody’s back garden. I’ve had 2 hives stolen which is why I am gradually engraving my initials on my woodwork and why the site from where the National hives were taken now has a not-very-portable and uniquely designed top bar hive.  So I suggest that the Association invests in a branding iron and uses it on all woodwork.  If it is a training apiary they will probably have a shed for spare equipment and bee-suits for beginners. Maybe one of the lady members could embroider the BKA logo on the clothing.

BEES  Will they be BIBBA approved black bees or mongrels or imports?  I would counsel against imports as, apart from the risk of importing pests and diseases with them, very often the next generation is bad tempered as hybrid vigour manifests itself in that way, and, of course, the drones are busy contaminating everybody else’s stock within a large range.  Let hive tools and other equipment be dedicated to that apiary to reduce the risk of disease. Demonstrate the use of washing soda to clean equipment.

That’s all I can think of for the moment but I expect some of you reading this will have more experience than me. Please chip in with your ideas.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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4 Responses to WHY ME?

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Our association has a committee who makes most of the decisions about the association apiary and a apiary manager who keeps an eye out for the hives. However individuals look after their own hives and make their own decisions about what to do with queen cells. Most of the time things tick along nicely – there was once a problem when one member started cutting down trees without telling anyone or taking any safety precautions!

    We have a lock on the apiary gate, the number code to open it is only given to members with hives in the apiary. Every so often the committee changes the code.

    Norman may find investing in a kettle a very good idea.

  2. Margaret E Johnson says:

    When I was asked to do a risk assessment at work I looked at the environment and its possible hazards(Natural and man made). Then the work undertaken, the materials and tools handled and their possible hazards. The next task was to look at ways of reducing the hazards and the possibility of an accident(risk reduction).
    The greatest tool in risk reduction is good training with methodical work practices, followed by good housekeeping and maintenance routines. In bee keeping terms this could translate to. enough room around hives to work comfortably, this would increase with the number of people that could be expected to be around the hive at any one time. Choice of apiary site should consider possible hazards such as badger routes, look for small pathways with flattened grass at the side or cattle horses etc. Fencing around the apiary to prevent accidental hive disturbance( this will not stop badgers). Lifting wieght is a major cause of back injury. so good lifting techniques should be taught to anyone using the apiary.
    And just in case of someone having an accident it would be wise to have a couple of members who are active in the apiary take a first aid course.

    The theft issue is security, quite different, never the less some important points have been raised. Though some of us lady members might think it a little sexist to be nominated for embroidery duties. There are firms that do machine embroidery and can produce logos from a drawing. The local association logo would be a good identifier of equipment that would not be obvious to a non bee keeper thief.

  3. Norman Walsh says:

    Thanks to all who have commented. I was delighted to hear from Margaret, a voice from the past! Norman.

  4. vanessa drew says:

    Yes – a kettle is an absolute must ! We have a camping cooker (gas), kettles, cups, etc. We have had BBQs, lunches, morning coffees, scones, buns… meeting at the apiary is a brilliant social occasion. Sometimes we also open beehives !!!

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