BIBBA by Stephen Barnes

BIBBA was formed originally as the Village Bee Breeders Association (VBBA) on 27th July 1963 by Beowulf Cooper and a small group of beekeepers. It grew into a national organisation and then changed its name to the British Isles Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA), to reflect its wider base of membership. In 1997 the name was changed again, to Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association, whilst still retaining the acronym BIBBA, to reflect the true activity of the members.

Its charity Objects of the Association are:

  1. The conservation, restoration, study, selection and improvement of native honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and near-native honey bees of the British Isles.
  2. In furtherance of the above aims the Association supports and encourages the education and the raising of awareness of beekeepers, and members of the public, as to the importance of native and near-native honey bee.

I joined BIBBA ten years ago having come to believe that producing queens locally was really the best way forward and really the most sustainable approach in the long term. In 2020 I volunteered to join the board of trustees to act as secretary and was formally elected to the office at the 2021 AGM.

The last two years have been strange to say the least, with the pandemic curtailing the activities of most organisations as well as the daily lives of everyone. As it was not possible to run courses, lectures, or seminars; BIBBA rose to the challenge turning to modern technology to provide a series of webinars (fifty or more and still increasing in number) which were screened live on a weekly basis covering a wide range of topics from genetics to practical methods of queen rearing for small scale commercial and hobby beekeepers. This has led to the creation of a substantial resource which is accessible via YouTube.

During the 2021 season BIBBA also experimented with a series of live sessions at an Apiary titled Live at the Hive. These sessions, although planned are unscripted and like most hive inspections go off on a tangent depending on what is found when the colony is opened. I have found these videos informative and refreshing as they really show it as it is.

BIBBA held a virtual AGM in April which saw the election of a new President, Treasurer and Secretary as well as several new trustees and at the first trustee meeting a new Chair and Vice Chair were elected. Committee meetings are being held using the Zoom platform, which although not as good as face to face does mean that meetings can be held frequently with minimal travel and disruption to life. Being forced into this form of meeting by the pandemic, people are now more comfortable with virtual meetings, and I suspect it might be the future.

BIBBA is now looking forward to 2022 with the hope that in-person training days and courses will be possible. The focus will be on queen rearing particularly for the beekeeper with a small number of hives. There are also plans to develop the National Bee Improvement Programme further, by developing queen rearing groups that will focus initially in producing locally adapted queens as a first step towards increasing the availability of AMM queens in the long term. BIBBA is also exploring the possibility of working with commercial beekeepers and local associations as well as individuals, again to try and increase the availability of locally adapted queens.

BIBBA will also be converting from an unincorporated charity to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation which will give many advantages, such as being able to own copyright to publications and videos as well as equipment.

BIBBA campaigned against the importation of bees via Northern Ireland, but BIBBA recognises that currently the availability of “local” queens does not meet the demand for queens and packages of bees.

BIBBA believes that one of the ways to reduce imports is to establish a sustainable supply of home grown queens from accredited local sources.

BIBBA has recently joined the advisory board of the newly formed SICAMM Foundation (Society International for Conservation of Apis Mellifera Mellifera) an international group dedicated to the conservation of the European Dark Bee.

BIBBA would also like to work with other like-minded organisations in the UK and Ireland to develop locally adapted bees.

I am looking forward to 2022 and to collaborating with like-minded people to boost the availability of “local” queens

Stephen Barnes

Secretary BIBBA