The inaugural meeting of the Weardale Beekeepers was held in November 1994. The catalyst for setting up the group, was the then, new threat to honey bee colonies of the varroa destructor mite. The group has never had a formal constitution, but it did hold an AGM to decide policy. At that time, it was decided not to pursue affiliation to the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) as it was thought most members would not be prepared to pay the extra cost. To this day the Weardale Beekeepers remains independent from the BBKA. Membership of the BBKA offers insurance for beekeepers, and if members wish to take this up, they also join an affiliated association.
The gentleman responsible for setting up the Weardale Beekeepers was a Mr Frank Collingwood. He farmed at Stewart Shields Meadows to the north of Stanhope in Weardale. He kept his bees there, as had his father before him. Frank believed that if all beekeepers treat their hives for varroa at the same time it would be a more effective control than leaving it to each individual. At that time Bayvoral was the only approved treatment.
The early meetings were held in the Town Hall Stanhope, with Frank as chairman, and outdoor meetings at various members apiaries took place in the summer months. Frank made a corner of one of his fields available to beekeepers who wished to take their hives to the heather. June Crosby was the first secretary and refreshment provider, and Dorothy Hodgson acted as Treasurer. Membership fees were, Ordinary Members £5, Junior Members £2.50, and Affiliated members £2.00.
Sadly, Frank died around 1998 and Dick Graham took over as Chair. As time moved on Margaret Graham took on the role of refreshment provider and Ros Nichol assumed the role of treasurer. Dick and Margaret also produced a monthly newsletter and acted as conduits for information and contacts. Sadly after a short illness Dick Graham died in early 2021. At time of writing the role of Chair is open.
From 2003 the Weardale Beekeepers have had a presence at the Wolsingham Show on the first weekend of September. They also attend the Weardale Show at St. John’s Chapel at the end of August. At each show there is a display stand and members promote beekeeping and the betterment of pollinators as a whole.
The ethos of the Weardale Beekeepers remains as it did from its inaugural meeting. We promote responsible beekeeping, using the evidence available from trusted sources. We recommend regular inspections to reducing swarming, monitor disease and promote the practice of integrated pest management.
The membership is around 40 people, not all are active beekeepers, but all have an interest in honey bees and the wider ecology attached to their management.
If you would like to join the Weardale Beekeepers please contact the secretary, details in Contacts.
If you would like to get started in beekeeping please see the ‘Starting beekeeping’ section under the Resources tab.
If you would like advice about a swarm of bees please see ‘Swarms’ under the Resources tab.
If you would like to contact someone in the Weardale Beekeepers please see Contacts.