Well! It’s the end of another year and, as always, somebody will chime up with ‘and it’s been a strange one’. It now seems that every year defies what we would like to consider as the norm. It was, for most, a poor year for honey harvests with my own crop down by two thirds, but reading an article recently, I realised that honey harvests have been declining for many years, and you don’t have to look far to see why. Ten years ago, the field opposite was alive with dandelions in the springtime, and the adjacent orchard, which also hosted dandelions, was awash with apple blossom in late April. No more. All fields in the vicinity have been sprayed with weedkiller and daren’t produce a single dandelion, and the trees in the orchard have been left to their own devices for so long, that most have fallen over. The sheep take care of the dandelions there, and it is soon to become the site of eight up-market houses.
What good news then? There seems to be an upsurge in beekeeping interest. At the beginning of the year, because of COVID restrictions, I hosted a Zoom course which attracted 100 ‘would be’ beekeepers from far and wide, although originally intended for Somerset residents only. They came from Cornwall, South Wales and even Whitley Bay: not to mention Channel 4 property guru Sarah Beeny. To put the tin lid firmly on that one, during October, I was sitting in a car park in Cape Cornwall, near Land’s End, and I rolled down my car window to ask a passing birdwatcher if he had seen anything interesting. He pointed at me accusingly and said ‘I know you!’ For a moment I was worried. Still pointing, he said ‘You’re the bee man!’. It seems he had been on the course, and although I couldn’t see him, he had been looking at my mug and listening to my voice for six weeks during the previous winter.
Most divisions of Somerset BKA will be holding courses again this winter, but thanks to the Omicron variant, only time and the wisdom of our illustrious leader will decide if these can be held in person, or will be broadcast from ‘lofty garrets’ all over the county. Either way, there is one element of good news. Becky Wright, who is a motivational speaker, specialising in workplace wellbeing, has donated a significant sum of money to Somerset Beekeepers Association to enable someone, or a group, who would otherwise find it financially difficult to take up beekeeping, to be able to do so with a hefty financial subsidy. Nominations (with as much background as possible) should be sent to Maggie Norris – secretary of Somerset Beekeepers Association, as soon as possible. You can nominate yourself, another person or a project, but give as much information as you can. Maggie will give you all the details and conditions of the New Leaf Award.
It only remains for me to wish you all a successful beekeeping new year, and I hope that all other aspects of your lives will bring what you wish for. In the immortal words of most beekeepers ‘It’s got to be better than last year’.
Chair of Somerset BKA