Meeting the Beekeeper: Martin Pope

In this exclusive interview, we meet Martin Pope, director of Beeza, a company born out of a deep passion for the environment and a desire to promote sustainable beekeeping. From managing a small farm and holiday complex, Martin and his team ventured into beekeeping, eventually establishing their own apiary in Kingsbridge.

Now, Beeza focuses on expanding bee colonies, collaborating with local farmers, and producing high-quality honey and beeswax products while prioritizing minimal carbon footprint and bee welfare. Join us as we explore Beeza's mission to support honey bees, reverse population decline, and ensure vital pollination for a thriving ecosystem.

Meeting the Beekeeper: Martin Pope

BZZWAX: How did you get into beekeeping? What sparked your interest in this fascinating practice?

Martin: I was very concerned about the environment and wanted to move into something closer to the natural world. Being a bee farmer achieves this but is also proper farming as you need to properly manage your livestock.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as a beekeeper? How have you dealt with them?

For Beeza, the real challenges are: (1) The short season, (2) Establishing a business model (3) Being mindful that bees need to form wax before they can store honey or generate brood. This takes time. (4) The influx of adulterated (fake) honey at ridiculously low prices.

Some of this is just start up, teething troubles & involves realistic expectations. The adulteration of honey is a broader issue, which is having catastrophic consequences for UK bees.

I have written various articles about honey adulteration and also been involved with groups such as HAN UK. BBKA is also now active in this area and the issue has been taken to parliament but must be publicised further.

How do bees actually help the environment? Can you share some cool examples of how they promote biodiversity?

Bees are clearly excellent pollinators and are flower specific, i.e. they will target single plants before moving onto the next. Bees are actually quite clever (or lazy) in that they will aim to obtain the maximum nectar for the minimum effort.

However, in reality bees are really only a barometer, showing us the impact that we as humans are having on the natural world. Seasons are becoming more varied and difficult, with changing weather patterns, prolonged heat or rain. This is creating major issues in bee survival.

Of course, we notice this as we keep bees. However, we don’t notice the impact on other animals. As insects die, we limit our own survival as we are just part of the overall framework of life that starts with basics like sun, water, oxygen, plants etc etc. We need to look after mother earth . . . there is no second planet.

On a cool note, the fact that we breed bees has massively helped the swifts, who now gather annually around our apiaries to feed off our bees. We’re quite happy with this. It is all part of it.

"We need to look after mother earth . . . there is no second planet"

Meeting the Beekeeper: Martin Pope

Why should we care about preserving bees? What are the surprising benefits they bring to our everyday lives?

As a business consultant, I have used the example of how a bee colony functions as a management tool on how a business should function.

Have you noticed any changes in beekeeping practices over the years? Are there any new tools or techniques that have made your job easier?

It would be nice to think so. When I started beekeeping I thought I’d do it the modern way, whatever that is. However, humans have been keeping bees for thousands of years, bees have existed for millions of years, so they have pretty well established what they want to do and how they are going to do it.

We learn a great deal from the old masters at beekeeping. I suppose mechanical extractors for honey, large scale wax renderers are pretty useful though!

Have you ever tried beekeeping in an urban setting? What kind of impact can it have on the local community?

We do keep a few colonies on the outskirts of town. However, this is purely because it helps us to keep an eye on queen rearing. However, generally we keep bees in the countryside. Some people like bees but some are scared of them. We prefer to keep people positive over what we do.

What's the most rewarding part of being a beekeeper? Any heartwarming or funny stories you'd like to share?

For me the most rewarding part of beekeeping is having sufficient understanding of as many of the influences on the colonies as possible & then making the right decisions. Beekeeping is rather like a game of chess, you need to work out the next move of your opponent.

Once, we unknowingly transported a swarm of bees in the back of our truck when bees took shelter in a spare nuc box we were carrying to an apiary.

"Beekeeping is rather like a game of chess, you need to work out the next move of your opponent."

Meeting the Beekeeper: Martin Pope

How can someone start beekeeping on a smaller scale, like in their own backyard? Any tips for beginners?

Those interested in keeping bees should always join their local BBKA group and learn as much as possible. Their group will provide a mentor.

Are there any misconceptions about bees or beekeeping that you'd like to clear up?

Some youtube videos show beekeepers doing things like “cracking” open hives, demonstrating their beekeeping prowess by treating the bees roughly. There is actually zero point in doing this, bee colonies need to be treated with respect. The colony is the "animal", we need to learn to work "with it", not have it working “for us”.

What does the future of beekeeping look like? Are there any exciting developments or trends on the horizon?

We must stop “forcing” inappropriate practices which are aimed purely at short termism. Humans are pretty clever, but also abundantly stupid. We must protect our environment, not exploit it. In doing this we must stop importing bees, stop using aggressive pesticides and use all powers possible to prevent honey fraud. Honey and other products of the hive should be seen as luxuries, we must not be over indulgent.

Meeting the Beekeeper: Martin Pope

Through their dedication to sustainable beekeeping practices and collaboration with farmers and landowners, Beeza is making a significant impact on pollination and the production of natural, high-quality products.

By supporting Beeza, we can all play a part in safeguarding the future of our honey bee population and ensuring the continued abundance of food and plant life. Let us embrace this adventure together and be a force for positive change in the world of beekeeping and environmental conservation.

Visit Beeza's Website
1 of 3