Local BBKA Group?

I recently joined my local BBKA group in the hope that they might be able to provide me with a swarm. However, now I have one from a natural beekeeper I am wondering whether to keep up my association with them.

I feel in a quandary about this as I am a newbie to beekeeping and really want to promote a more natural approach. If I get involved with them there is a chance of me picking up bad habits (e.g. from their recent newsletter – “After an unusually inclement April extending into May, some colonies have unmated or drone laying queens, in this case, insert a frame from another hive containing eggs, preferably with brood in all stages. Remove any drone laying queen and wait for fourteen days. Should there be no eggs or evidence of queen cells at this stage, remove the queen and insert another frame containing eggs.“)

However, maybe there is also some really useful experience that I could get from them as well.

Any thoughts on the matter?


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6 Responses to Local BBKA Group?

  1. FollowMeChaps says:

    You’ll get mixed views on this and it will reflect your local association. The two local to me are, in my opinion, barbaric and I am sure that more doubt & problems are got from membership than benefit. This is a real shame as most of the rank & file members are decent folk with open minds and interested in bees. It’s their ‘establishment’ and leadership that continues with the high intervention, one size fits all approach.
    Don’t forget that by being a member of the BBKA you are supporting their blinkered pesticide support.

  2. Ali Twigg says:


    Your quote really says it all. If a natural Beek has been kind enough to pass on a swarm, why not keep it natural and keep up your association with him/her? You will meet members of your local BBKA, especially if you talk to people about your bees. You can talk to them but it doesn’t mean you have to support them ethically (or not, as the case may be) and financially. Perhaps best not to get into bed with them. Find out where your nearest Natural Bee Group is; they’ll be happy to help and advise. Also, you’ve got SimpleBees to bounce any queries, thoughts and observations off. What more could you want?

  3. Paul says:

    Join the local BBKA branch. Whether they have unsound views or not, you will meet experienced beekeepers; they will have local lore; you will learn a lot. You must then use your own wisdom to filter fact from fable, which will be easier as you accumulate experience, but in my experience much of what they say is true, and there are a lot more of them than there are natural beekeepers so loads of tips to pick up. Side comments at apiary visits will illuminate you about bee behaviour.

    They send out monthly magazines full of facts, and give you insurance as part of the bundle.

    From what I’ve seen of the Oxfordshire branch of BBKA, there is a spectrum of views amongst the several hundred members and many of the experienced ones are openminded. You have to bear in mind that this was the ONLY organisation / tradition for beekeepers around so it has a wide spread of personalities in it. My impression is that many new BBKA members are uncertain and looking for a formula to follow – assuming there must be a One True Way – whilst the more freethinking types are migrating towards experiments with natural beekeeping, now they’re aware of it. And the more experienced ones like to tinker with new ways of doing things, they are quite competitive.

    Don’t be led into thinking there’s an “us” and “them”. That’s the kind of Aunt Sally the tabloids like to set up – a self fulfilling prediction. True they do like using clouds of unecessary smoke though! And ignore anything said with enormous conviction by professional beekeepers, they’re the ones who just throw chemicals at problems and stress their bees (overcrowding etc) to maximise honey yields.

  4. Lynne says:

    As Paul says, the Oxfordshire BKA has proved reasonably open-minded, in fact they recently made an apiary visit to our TBHs as they wanted to show new members there is more than one way of doing things, and they are currently seeking a Warre apiary visit for the same reason. They may still put out information on the ‘traditional’ ways of regular inspections and manipulation of brood, etc., but that is force of habit, and easily ignored.

    I’d say be a member, but take things with a pinch of salt, discern fact from mere tradition, and bear in mind natural beekeeping principles at all times. But you can benefit from discussion with anyone with years of experience in keeping bees, however they do it, just don’t adopt practices you disagree with. And by joining your local group you will help them to understand that there is a different path that can be followed. Accept that some of them will never change, especially those keeping bees on a commercial basis, but some will, and that is to everyone’s benefit.

  5. simplebees says:


    As Robin says, a range of responses. It does indeed depend on the attitude of your local BKA. My experience is that conventional beekeepers vary in their approach to natural beekeeping. Some are relatively open and inquisitive, and others regard it with suspicion. These differences are reflected in the attitude of local BKA’s – neutral to supportive if the movers and shakers are that way, or antipathetic if the movers and shakers are antipathetic.

    If you go to a meeting and find like minded folk, you may be inclined to join your local association. Bear in mind, however, that even in those BKA’s that are not against the natural approach, the general attitude will be one of forcing the bees to the will of man rather than allowing the bees to be bees and learning from them. As a result, I know of natural beekeepers who describe the approach of their local BKA as repugnant (their words, not mine). So you could find yourself in a minority in terms of approach, even if the other members are disposed to be supportive.

    Conventional beekeeping is taught in a way that is very operationally based – do this when you see that. The fact that beekeeping is often described as a craft perhaps reflects this doing-based attitude. Moreover, there will almost certainly be commercial beekeepers in the mix and they will have their way of doing things which, in some cases, will be portrayed as the only way.

    By contrast, natural beekeeping seeks to understand what bees do in nature, in the absence of man, and tries to replicate that as far as possible in the way in which bees are cared for. This understanding-based approach is often at odds with the doing-based approach, and old hands may not take kindly to a newcomer challenging their (as they see it) time-tested ways.

    The latter will be very skilled at the manipulation and handling of bees and they will be keen to pass this on. It really depends on whether that is what you want; natural beekeeping generally seeks to minimise manipulation and handling.

    You might gather from this that I personally am not an enthusiast for the general approach of BKA’s. I am a member of my local one, Oxfordshire, only because it has a natural beekeeping support group, of which Paul is the coordinator. I have no desire to get into constant discussions of dogma with traditionalists.

    Of course, if you are strong minded and diplomatic, you could always do as Lynne suggests and take a salt cellar.


  6. walthambees says:

    Hi Graham
    I have had similar worries about my local bee keeping association but decided to join, mainly because it offered a way to find a swarm. I explained how I was wanting to keep bees and didn’t feel any antagonism to that – they have found me 3 lots of bees (the 3rd group arrived last night) and each time the more experienced bee keeper was supportive and keen to help whilst being interested in what I was planning to do. Last night I heard that there are 2 other topbar hive keepers in the group – one a novice who has not had success and the other a more experienced person who decided to give it a try. BUT both ‘managed’ their top bar hives in the conventional way. I was pleased to hear my bee-provider wondering if the lack of success they had had was to do with their management techniques rather than the hive. maybe natural bee keepers can be more than diplomats – perhaps we can encourage thoughtful debate about different ideas and open minds.
    Having said all of this, I did have a rather bruising experience in the local branch of Thorns about my ‘irresponsibility’. I’m afraid I just smiled and shrugged but didn’t enter a debate – I don’t have the experience or enough knowledge to tackle frank prejudice.

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