George Staniforth reflects on his experiences as an apprentice on our Bee a Bee Farmer apprenticeship scheme in partnership with the Bee Farmers association.

I am in my third and final year of the Rowse Bee a Bee Farmer Apprenticeship scheme in partnership with the BFA and I am currently working in Devon. The first half of the apprenticeship was spent in Hampshire before I moved here. Moving between placements during my apprenticeship has provided an insight into different approaches to bee farming at different scales.

Here at the site in Devon, the focus for the beekeeping team is efficient honey production. Hives are moved between nectar flows to target the rich variety of forage available in Devon. In the spring, we move the hives to oilseed rape (OSR), followed by hawthorn and dandelion. As this honey is taken off in the summer, the hives are levelled off and preparedfor either moving to Scotland or Exmoor. Once these hives are all back and the honey has been extracted, preparation starts for the following season.

a beehive filled with bees and a honeycomb .

The apprenticeship combines practical experience with online coursework, which I can work towards completing during the quieter winter months. The apprenticeship scheme has been an invaluable experience for me.

Just being able to talk to other apprentices at other bee farms has been so interesting, hearing how their operations differ. The teaching weeks provided by David and Celia Rudland (East Surrey Bees) are great opportunities to learn and discuss methods and techniques used in bee farming. This is information I can bring back to my place of work and discuss with the team to see if any aspects can be improved. In this way, the apprenticeship scheme becomes a very useful network and channel for the business.

a white truck with a trailer full of bees is parked in a grassy field .

The apprenticeship has also taken me to areas of the country that I had never been to before. North Devon, where I am currently, has beautiful scenery and coastlines. There is a huge amount of wildlife here, including red deer, which we often run into when visiting apiaries (not literally!). The diverse flora and fauna of the area really makes beekeeping here incredibly enjoyable.

My apprenticeship is now coming to an end, but I am staying on at Quince while I build up my own stocks of bees to hopefully start my own operation.

a group of people are standing in a field of purple flowers .

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