Burnley man buzzing to be town's first beekeeping apprentice

11 September 2015

A Burnley man is buzzing at the prospect of becoming one of the UK’s youngest professional beekeepers.

Seb Leaver (23) of Hufling Lane will complete the Bee a Beefarmer apprenticeship funded by Rowse Honey after volunteering at the Offshoots Permaculture Project, which is part of the social enterprise, Newground.


Seb Leaver is Burnley's first beekeeping apprentice.

He will receive on-the-job training while studying a range of subjects, from queen bee-rearing and stock improvement, through to marketing and finance, and will ultimately help to swell the numbers of a dwindling profession.

Seb first became interested in working with wildlife in general, and beefarming in particular while earning a degree in Zoology with Conservation at Bangor University.

“The first paper I did at university was on colony collapse, so I have always had an interest in it,” Seb explained.

“I always knew I wanted to work in conservation and with wildlife and around nature. I was quite indiscriminate with that. I found it really interesting, and of all the places I volunteered, beekeeping was the most fun. When something is fun and is relevant to what you are interested in, something really clicks.”

Seb’s days as an apprentice generally begin around 8-15 as he prepares tools ahead of inspecting the bees in their hives.

Inspections can help farmers check for and prevent disease and analyse pollen counts.

Working toward the conservation of bees is something that Seb thoroughly enjoys and feels is worthwhile, making the apprenticeship feel less like a job than a full-time hobby.

“Each day I wake up with a smile on my face,” he said.

“If you have a job that you love you do not have to work a day in your life.”

It is hoped that the scheme will help address a national shortage of beekeepers - a deficit that could have dire and far-reaching consequences for us all.

There are currently just 638 commercial bee farmers operating in the UK.

And experts estimate the country needs to increase its beefarmer count to at least 848 in order to farm bees responsible for pollinating much of what we eat.

“It is kind of worrying,” Seb admitted.

“But it is also a great motivation for everyone to be talking to each other and sharing their knowledge. As there are only just over 600 beefarmers in the country, it is a close knit network. 

"If you want to know something you phone up all the other beekeepers. There is always someone to talk to. We do not see ourselves in competition with one another."

“The apprenticeship has opened up a lot of networks.”

Seb will be working on the current project at Offshoots, Bees Beyond the Borough. This project aims to preseve the conservation of the British black honey bee and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If you would like to know more about the Offshoots Permaculture Project, click here.


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