BRADFORD Beekeepers' Association is buzzing.

The organisation is now the third largest in Yorkshire and is continuing to grow with increasing demand, as more than 30 potential beekeepers sign up for its latest courses.

And it all began with a throwaway remark, as the organisation's training officer recalled.

"The whole thing about starting the Bradford Beekeepers was somebody said to us 'nobody in Bradford would want to do that' and that is where it started," said Bill Cadmore.

Bradford's cityscape might not appear to offer the same appealing landscape for bees as its countryside counterparts, yet urban beekeeping is increasing in popularity and, particularly in Bradford, it is booming.

"Certainly in the beekeeping world it is now known quite well as an area of expertise," said Mr Cadmore.

In the five years since the association set up membership has more than doubled. It anticipated maintaining 50 members - now it has 126.

"We knew there was a demand there but we didn't think anything like it is. We have got some real enthusiasts," Mr Cadmore said.

Aside from the courses, members are also busy sharing their passion and passing on their expertise to beekeepers of the future by visiting several schools giving talks and demonstrating bees in observation hives.

They have also carried out several school visits to the specially-equipped apiary set up in an old cricket pavilion in Tong Street.

And they are busy educating and assisting in the community too, collecting swarms and advising people about the bumblebees in their gardens which will help to protect and preserve the honey bee whose future is threatened predominantly by the varroa mite, an external parasite which attacks honey bees.

Locally, beekeepers are faced with other threats too, one they can tackle and the other is beyond their control.

Mr Cadmore said: "This year has been a difficult one for Bradford beekeepers for two reasons - the poor weather has meant slow colony build-up and poor queen mating so colonies have not been as strong as they should be and because there has been an outbreak of a disease called European Foul Brood which has meant that some beekeepers have had to destroy colonies by burning the bees in order to stop the disease spreading.

"Because we spotted the disease early and were able to check all colonies of our members we have been able to stop the disease from spreading - this demonstrates how useful it is to attend training - so you can spot trouble and take action quickly."

In Bradford there have been about 12 incidents of the disease. "We caught it very early so it didn't spread very far. It could have been a lot, lot worse," Mr Cadmore said.

As well as disease, the weather is also a threat to the survival of the bees.

"It is life and death for bees. The weather really makes the difference," he said.

According to Mr Cadmore, who makes his livelihood from the sale of his honey, the weather has caused a dramatic drop in honey yields.

He said while the sunny days have enabled bees to make sufficient fodder for themselves, beekeepers are having to feed their colonies as the bees have not been able to store enough to see them through the winter.

He estimates the honey stocks are down by about 50 per cent for those beekeepers, like him, who sell to retailers.

"It has been a very poor year for honey in this area but Devon, Cornwall and down South have done much better but in Yorkshire it has been a very poor year.

Mr Cadmore said: "You need a reasonable period of decent weather to make enough honey.

"Most people are amateurs with one or two hives and they want enough for family and friends but if you are trying to make a living it is bad news."

But while the weather might have been dire for bees, it certainly hasn't dampen the spirits of those passionate about keeping them.

Mr Cadmore said the appeal is the creatures themselves.

"There is the honey, of course, but it is something they can get involved with nature," he said.

"Most of us are fairly divorced from things - we go to the supermarket and get our food and things but to be working with another living thing - you see new beekeepers and they are transfixed by bees getting on with their business."

He said they are also proving popular with schools as more are getting involved - some are even looking at setting up beekeeping clubs next year.

The association is also inviting the public to consider giving the gift of a beekeeping course in time for Christmas.

The winter course starts on January 14 and involves five two hour theory sessions followed by weekly hands-on work with bees allowing participants to learn the basics, including bees' life cycles and habits, how the beekeeper works with the bees along with honey and beeswax production.

As well as theory sessions at Bradford University, the course also involves practical sessions at the Bradford BKA Apiary off Tong Street, Bradford allowing them to put the skills they have learned into practice.

To find out more about courses and for more information visit Bradford Keepers' Association visit or email