Saturday 11 February 2012

Changes for 2012

It is now just a month away from the start of the 2012  Yatton Area Bee Project (YABeePmonthly meetings.

Pete enjoying his bees
Last year we agreed to make changes to way we run YABeeP. I am now in a position to publish these changes and would ask that members read the following. I'll quickly run through these at our first meeting but as we meet to 'talk bees' I want to keep this 'business' element very brief - the chapter and verse is below:

1. Covering our costs
YABeeP's success can, in part, be attributed to the informal nature of the group – it runs without a committee, formal constitution, the need for 'business meetings' and we don't even need to charge a membership fee - all of which means we can just concentrate on talking about bees bees. We wish to continue in this spirit.

Last year we had to start charging a £1 door fee when larger numbers meant we needed to meet in the Library to help cover the costs of room hire, it's required insurance and supplied tea/coffees. Unfortunately on occasions this entry contribution did not always cover the charge and left me out of pocket.

For 2012 therefore, when members renew their membership, they will be invited to make a voluntary donation to club funds of £5 per person. This will not be a requirement - members can opt out of this contribution if they cannot afford it or disagree. The fee will be used to help fund room hire plus pay for refreshments both at these meetings and the informal networks held afterwards in members gardens.

Gentle swarm
nothing to be frightened of
This annual donation will be in addition to the £1 door fee which we shall continue to charge at venues we have to hire.

As we don't have a formal Treasurer Ali Twigg has kindly offered to voluntarily act as in this capacity. In order to impose a degree of transparency we will ask that all contributions be  paid to me. I will log them and then pass the funds on to Ali. This way 2 people are independently aware of the funds received to increase accountability. Ali will maintain a simple account of income -v- outgoings which she will report back on at the end of the year when we can review the success of this method and agree donation levels for the following year.

2. Mentor support for members
We will also start a voluntary mentor support programme to help new and inexperienced members. This will assign someone with more experience to those seeking support on a one-to-one, or small group basis. These mentors will act as a first point of contact for queries, questions and general support. We will attempt to match people based on hive type and locality. Again Ali has kindly volunteered to 'match' those wishing to take advantage of this.

Emma, walking her swarm in
In order to take this forward we need to identify who wants to take part; both those seeking support and those prepared to act as mentors A section has been added to the 2012 Membership Form to facilitate this.

Mentors will not be 'experts'. Rather they are volunteers with some, albeit limited, experience of natural beekeeping offering a first line of support to those starting on their beekeeping journey. Our more experienced members will still be available for advice, views and opinions, but it is hoped that the mentor scheme will prevent our experts from being constantly troubled with more basic questions. Acting as a mentor is a great way of expanding your own beekeeping knowledge as helping others understand this craft is the best way to learn.

3. 2012 hive building day
We wish to continue with this event as it always proves valuable and enjoyable to new and experienced members alike. However, given the increasing numbers taking part each year it requires a huge amount of behind the scenes planning, scheduling work, sourcing materials, organising equipment, etc.
The boys - hive building day prep'

We are therefore seeking to change the format for 2012. Rather than attempt to both cut and assemble hives on the workshop day, we are hoping to supply pre-cut hive kits which participants will assemble on the day under  YABeeP guidance. This should be far more achievable in the 5 hours or so available at the workshop. 

Of course getting the hives pre-cut ready to assemble will involve additional cost. That said I am estimating that this should add no more than £20 to the cost of each hive. Whilst this increase is regretted we feel it is the only way to practically continue running the workshops. Using last year's costs as a guide it should mean members getting a 3 box Warré hive for around £50 to £60 - in my view a real bargain.

4. Other volunteer roles to be filled
and it's not just honeybees - a member
offers a pitstop to a Red Tailed bumble
There are still some roles that it would be great to have volunteers fill but won't stop YABeeP functioning if unfilled. If you feel that you can help with any of these please let me know:
  • Meetings door fee coordinator – arranging for someone to greet arrivals and collect the door fee to pass to Ali at booked venues
  • Publicity person – to send emails to the local free paper/mag &, get posters up in the Parish notice boards 2 weeks before each meeting
  • Special projects coordinator - coordinating anyone keen to run one-off projects, eg school nest building, etc.
  • Social organiser – arranging/coordinating BBQ, Christmas lunch, outings to other bee events/groups? etc.

5. YABeeP - a change of name?
When I started YABeeP in 2009 I had no concept of who would want to join. As it has transpired we now have regular members from as far away as South Wales, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Devon. Our core membership covers the whole of North Somerset, and Somerset county and Bristol. The question therefore arose should we change our name?

Following discussions this winter we have decided that our name, particularly our acronym  YABeeP, is well established and we should therefore not change it.

6. Natural beekeeping, our raison d'être 
As all members will already be very aware, we are firmly a “natural beekeeping” group and wish to remain so.

This winter our aim has been refined to emphasise this and now reads "to provide peer support to individuals and families who want to encourage both wild and honey bees and maybe keep bees themselves. We advocate using bee-friendly natural beekeeping methods. Where our members keep honeybees they do so primarily for the benefit of the bees themselves, not in order to exploit them for forced honey production or personal profit".

Roy feels a swarm's  temperature
We shall continue to accept into membership all beekeepers seeking to move to a more natural way of keeping bees whatever their background or beekeeping experience.  It's the desire to put the needs of the bees first that really marks our difference.

Incidentally, several of us have struggled over which is the correct label to apply to our beekeeping beliefs. Terms such as natural, sustainable, free range, alternative, top bar, holistic, complimentary, apicentric, etc. are often used and all have their place. People like me have been wary of the 'natural' label as it gives ammunition to those against our bee-friendly cause to argue that even many natural beekeeping styles are quite unnatural.

We have to accept however that 'natural' is far and away the most widely accepted term and generally conveys what we stand for to the general public. We have agreed therefore that this is the most appropriate label and would encourage members to feel free to use it to describe our bee-friendly beekeeping style. If anyone challenges your use of the natural label refer them to this.

Robin Morris
February 2012

Natural beekeeping at its best!
One of Lou & Simon's hives in their beautiful garden