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.