Middlesbrough's buzzing as the first wave of its new army of beekeepers graduates with flying colours.
Their Level 2 Beekeeping qualification from the Open College Network will help to ensure overflowing hives and a bumper honey harvest.
The academic apiarists are the result of a groundbreaking project between Middlesbrough Environment City (MEC) and the Middlesbrough Community Learning Service.
Middlesbrough Environment City, which promotes healthy and sustainable lifestyles, got the ball rolling with the creation of the Big Lottery Local Food grant-funded Bee Friend project, run in partnership with the Cleveland Beekeepers’ Association and Middlesbrough Council.
The project has seen training delivered to 92 new beekeepers and the installation of five community apiaries at sites including Stewart Park, Saltersgill Community Allotment and Hemlington Hall Primary School.
To meet resurgent local interest, MEC worked with the MCLS and the Open College Network to develop the new Level 2 Beekeeping qualification which covers the more theoretical aspects of the craft.
The partnership with MCLS has secured free training places for new beekeepers in Middlesbrough, with the OCN-accredited qualification building on the initial success of the Bee Friend project.
Catherine Boyle of MEC, who manages the Bee Friend project, said: “Bee populations have been falling worldwide, so I’m delighted to be working with MCLS to help reverse that trend.
“Local beekeeping is going from strength to strength and the new partnership means that we can reach even more people, many of whom would find access to training otherwise beyond their means or reach.
“It also gives us new avenues to explore in providing progression routes so that people can further their learning in other subjects.
“Nationally, the course is pretty unique and I’m really pleased that it’s Middlesbrough that’s leading the way.”
Chris Kemp, of MCLS, said: “Supporting the beekeepers is an excellent way of ensuring that the town is full of colour in the future.
“The links to other skill areas such as woodworking for the hives, food hygiene for the honey and business entrepreneurship are very strong.”
For more information about beekeeping courses or the Bee Friend project, contact Catherine at Middlesbrough Environment City on 01642 243183.