We first considered having a MBKA apiary in May 2012. In discussion with the Snowdonia National Park’s Environmental Studies Centre at Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog they agreed to let us use the Old Orchard in the grounds and also provided us with a grant. An Apiary Team (currently 12) was set up from MBKA members and much work was undertaken in Spring 2013 to prepare the site.

The dual aims of the apiary are to provide training to members and promote beekeeping to the wider community.

In late June 2013 two colonies of local bees were housed in the apiary. Since then the number of hives has been increased and we try to go into winter with six thriving colonies. We also try to maintain a mixture of standard and 14×12 national hives – both in wood and polystyrene. This give beginners a good idea what is available and the differences between the hives.

The Apiary is used mainly for beginners’ courses and members’ Apiary afternoons (similar to ‘At Homes’). It has also been used for external courses (e.g. Young Farmers’ Training Course) and a Welsh BKA Improvers’ Course.

During the Spring and early Summer colonies that need splitting to prevent swarming are divided using nucleus hives and are later sold onto beginners or members requiring bees. This and the sale of honey to Plas Tan y Bwlch makes the Apiary self-sufficient.

We try to encourage members who have at least 1 year’s experience of keeping bees to join the Apiary Team. We have a rota which operates from April to September. Two members (usually one an experienced beekeeper and one less experienced) are allocated a two weekly slot which comes around about every 12 weeks – making 3 or 4 slots a year.

The rota is arranged around availability but we try and keep pairs together. During April to June the pairs are asked to attend the bees twice during their slot so they can undertake swarm control as necessary. From July onwards attendance is normally once during their slot. We also have a small team who look after the grounds maintenance. Any member who is interested in joining either team should contact the Apiary Manager Dylan Huges.