Bee Unique

Posted by ap507 at Aug 01, 2018 12:41 PM |
University of Leicester academic becomes the only Master Beekeeper in the county

Issued by University of Leicester on 1 August 2018

Images of Dr Caroline Beardsmore beekeeping are available here:

Dr Caroline Beardsmore has a unique place in Leicestershire - as the only Master Beekeeper in the county.

She started her journey simply by watching bees visiting flowers in her garden in Gaulby – and the bug bit.

What started as an interest turned into a passion and has led Caroline through years of study and exams to become an accomplished apiarist with six colonies and –at the height of summer - some three hundred thousand (300,000) bees.

And she has transmitted her enthusiasm to her students – a final year undergraduate analytical project in Biological Sciences has seen excellent projects on bee-related topics – from which Caroline herself continues to learn.

Caroline said: “I've always been interested in natural history, and I watched bees in my garden, visiting the flowers and foraging for pollen and nectar, and decided to find out a bit more. I joined Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers Association and did their Beginners Course, and acquired my first bees in 2001. It's a fascinating hobby. It leads to a heightened awareness of what is happening in the natural world - what is in flower, what the weather is doing, as well as what each colony is doing at different times of the year.

“There is a lot to learn when starting beekeeping. As with so many things, the more one learns, the more fascinating it becomes. I find it fulfilling to study and practice different aspects of beekeeping. I think it has made me a better bee keeper. At the University of Leicester we encourage our students to become lifelong learners and I have been putting it into practice!”

In order to become a Master Beekeeper, Caroline had to take the examinations and assessments overseen by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). There were seven written examinations, which she took over a period of several years, and two husbandry assessments: “The first of these involves two examiners testing the candidate on all aspects of beekeeping, honey and wax production, rearing queen bees, etc. and the assessment is done at the candidate's apiary and in their home, so it seems very personal - it took over three hours and was more demanding than my PhD viva,” said Caroline.

“The final assessment - the Advanced Husbandry Assessment - is an all-day event with several components, all of which have to be passed. Not everyone wants to put themselves through examinations and assessments, and of course I fully understand this. It's perfectly possible to be an excellent bee keeper without doing this, but it does add to the challenge,” she added.

Caroline said she felt her work was also important given the threats to the future of bees. 

She said: “Bees face many perils, ranging from pests to pesticides! Many people will have heard of the Varroa Mite, a parasitic mite that came to the UK in 1992 and is endemic. We can't eliminate it but we can control it. Beekeepers aim to keep the mite levels low in their colonies so that the bees can still thrive. The imminent threat is from the Asian Hornet, which arrived in France a few years ago and has spread through all France. The hornets seek out bee hives and feed off the bees, and can wipe out colonies. We've had a couple of incursions into the UK, and if it gets established it has the potential to do a lot of damage to beekeeping, so we must be vigilant.”

Caroline said a Beekeeping Taster Day is being held on Saturday 18 August for people to find out more about the subject. 

She said: “Beekeeping in the UK is very seasonal and our courses for beginners finish in mid-July. Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers Association offer a Taster Day later in the year for anyone who is keen to find out more about beekeeping. We aim to provide participants with some basic information about bees and bee keeping, and we lend them a bee suit and take them outside where we open the bee hives and show them what goes on inside the colony. It is an opportunity for participants to experience what it is like to be working with bees, and decide if it is something they might like to take further. There are always lots of questions, often relating to swarms, or the suitability of gardens for siting bee hives, and we can advise on things of this nature.”

  • For more information, go onto the Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers Association website  or visit the facebook page


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