FUNDING has been secured to employ a new bee farming apprentice to join a team of beekeepers.

Northumberland Honey Co. has gained funding from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), for a second bee farming apprentice to join its team of beekeepers at Haltwhistle.

Anna Robson (18) from Hexham, has joined the team, which has the ability to raise in excess of 1,000 queen bees a year who are each capable of laying 2,000 new bees a day.

Company director and bee farmer, Luke Hutchinson, said: “Finding skilled workers to help manage our 150 colonies of bees is hard.

“There are only 40 commercial beekeepers in the UK with more than 100 hives of bees, and the average age of a bee farmer in the UK is 66.

“We need to address this skills shortage and quickly.”

Anna has helped to drive forward plans to increase bee numbers further and help keep up with production of Sparkling Mead, which is the company’s flagship product.

Per bottle it helps to increase bee numbers in Northumberland by 3,000.

The bee farmers apprenticeship is part of a national scheme and is gathering momentum, with 12 young apprentices recently graduating from the scheme in the nationally with a diploma in excellence in bee farming.

Luke said there has been a new wave of savvy youngsters seeing bee farming as a career option.

Benefits are that they learn on the job for three years, gaining experience, a wage and developing an alternative career pathway.

To date Northumberland Honey Co has brought one new apprentice on board for each year it has been running, and Luke said the team is set to continue with that as they seek out another apprentice to join the team in 2020.

The company said keeping bees commercially was of huge importance to the environment. Without commercial beekeepers, who on average keep around 12 million bees each, it said there wouldn’t be the force of bees needed to undertake vital crop pollination work.

For more information on the company and apprenticeship scheme, visit online.