SPORADIC warm days and intermittent downpours are a reminder of last year’s predominantly wet summer.

While many of us may be grumbling about washed out galas and the lack of opportunity to stoke up the barbecue, there is a far more important issue troubling the bee-keeping community.

This week the National Bee Unit, based in York, issued a warning that bees are in danger of starving - and it’s all down to the weather.

“Because the weather is cold and wet bees aren’t flying and they are using up their stores,” explains Bill Cadmore, training officer with Bradford Beekeepers Association.

Bill explains the strongest hives are in the most danger. “They use the stores up in their cupboard the quickest and they aren’t flying at the moment.”

And the reason the bees are hive-bound is because of the wet weather which is also affecting the flowers which are another integral part of the pollination process.

Bill says the news is imperative in raising awareness, particularly among new bee-keepers who need to know to feed their bees at a time when they wouldn’t normally have to.

Consciously planting species to create continuous flower is something we can all do in our outdoor spaces so when the bees do get out they have access to their essential fodder.

“It is a timely reminder that you have to look after your bees even in the summer,” says Bill.

Unseasonal changes within our weather system have certainly had a dramatic impact on the plight of Britain’s bee population and its ability to survive at a time when it should thrive.

But, according to Bill, this hasn’t always been the case. “Ten years ago I would not have even thought we would ever do this,” he says, referring to the fact they are feeding bees in the summer months.

Keeping an eye on the weather is an integral part of bee-keeping as Bill explains. “It has changed slowly but certainly I would have said since the mid-90s there has been a deterioration. Really the last six or seven years have been markedly much more difficult to keeping bees going and keeping bees alive.”

Bill believes it is all due to climate change. “Climate change is the thing with all the freak weather we are getting. It is all part of the changing weather pattern,” he says.

Aside from the weather, the blood-sucking varroa mite is a particular threat to the honeybee along with the diseases they can fall victim to which local bee-keepers had the opportunity to learn about from the experts, Ivor Flatman, regional bee inspector, and Dr Giles Budge, research lead bee health (Fera), during the first ever Bee Health Day held at Bradford University on Saturday.

“Over the last two years there have been a fairly big increase in the number of cases of diseases, brood diseases, in honey bees,” says Bill.

“The idea of having a Bee Health Day was to try and help people prevent it with good hygiene and to recognise it so it could be treated quickly.”

He says the increase in incidents of the disease is mainly due to the change in weather patterns.

“We are going forward one step and back one step really,” says Bill.

Now he and his fellow members within the Bradford Beekeepers Association, an organisation set up five years ago to recruit new bee-keepers and encourage urban bee-keeping are busy passing on their knowledge and expertise.

Originally based at Bradford University, renowned for its Eco-versity status, where they still hold their winter meetings, the association transformed a former bowling pavilion near Tong Street into an apiary and specialist training facility.

Conscious of raising awareness of the importance of bees to the next generation, the organisation also runs a schools project.

A £9,713 grant from The Gannett Foundation, run by the parent company of the Telegraph & Argus, has helped the association produce a schools pack containing two DVDs, including a data disc with around 74 individual classroom or outdoor activities for various age groups relating to bees and pollinators which they have been distributing to local schools.

“That is going from strength to strength,” says Bill.

“We have had school groups up there, Scouts and our membership is steadily increasing.”

And the appeal? “I think it is like the rise in the allotment movement. It is a way of people connecting with nature that is accessible to us city dwellers. It is something they can do and get quite a nice product from it.”

For more information about Bradford Beekeepers’ Association, visit bfdbka.org