A sting in the tale as 200,000 bees go under the hammer

Robert Smith of Richardson and Smith will be conducting the bee auction'w141426a'Picture by Scott Wicking
Robert Smith of Richardson and Smith will be conducting the bee auction'w141426a'Picture by Scott Wicking

Ellerby is set to become a hive of activity as one Whitby family hosts an unusual sale, with 200,000 bees up for grabs.

Tony Jefferson, 52, is secretary of Whitby and District Beekeepers’ Association and said the sale follows a strong year for the region’s bee population.

Tony has been keeping bees his entire life and his family own around 60 colonies, dotted in four sites around Staithes.

He said: “Our beekeeping has got a tad out of control. But I find the whole life cycle of a bee fascinating.

“Of course honey is the one thing, the magic ingredient.”

Following last year’s long summer and a relatively mild winter, bee populations in the Whitby area are extremely strong and the members of the local beekeeping group have found themselves with a surplus of colonies.

As a result, a sale is set to take place in Ellerby on April 26, where 20 hives are set to be auctioned off.

Robert Smith of Richardson and Smith auction house will conduct the sale. In doing so he will be returning to his own roots as the first sale he ever conducted on his own, in the early 1990s, was of a number of beehives. “I was quite nervous,” said Robert. “Although it’s not a large grossing sale, it’s an interesting one.”

Each hive will come complete with around 10,000 bees and the apiaries are expected to fetch around £200 each - a relatively low price.

“It’s ideal for people wanting to start out,” explained Tony. “They will be able to start without paying huge amounts.”

Beekeeping has a long tradition dating back 5,000 years. In the Whitby area there has been an organised group since the 1920s. In recent years it has grown in popularity and now comprises over a 100 members.

From a single thriving hive, up to 30 jars of honey can be harvested each year and Tony explained that beekeeping is a safe hobby for anyone who is thinking of getting involved.

Whitby Community College has even joined the beekeeping appreciation trend and owns hives - known as apiaries - which students can tend to.

Among the colonies and equipment for sale will be native black honeybees.

These sought-after insects are ideally-suited for the British climate as they forage in lower temperatures and spend long periods within the hive.

Honeybee populations have been under threat in recent years due to infection by the varroa mite. During the most difficult period the Whitby beekeepers were helped by a grant from the North York Moors National Park which allowed the group to purchase 30 hives.

Since then the association has steadily grown, and following last year’s warm summer and mild winter, bee populations are booming.

Tony was introduced to the hobby by his father, Allen. Aged 79, Allan continues to keep bees today and supplies honey to Botham’s in Whitby.

Allan has kept bees since he was 12 years old and now helps out other new beekeepers.

Tony said: “Working together is the main thing. Some people will want to get involved early on. There are lots of beekeepers in the area who would love to share their knowledge.”

For more details about the auction contact www.bbka.org.uk/local/whitby