A Newtownabbey schoolgirl has received a special award in recognition of her dedication to the conservation of the native honey bee.
Ten-year-old Lorna Ashcroft, from Mossley, was named Young Beekeeper of the Year 2015 by the Belfast and District Beekeepers Association.
The Mossley Primary School P6 pupil was presented with the Duncan Saunders Memorial Trophy in recognition of her hard work for the conservation of the native Irish black honey bee.
Lorna first took an interest in beekeeping at the age of five after attending a beekeeping forum with her dad Andrew, who is passionate about the welfare of the native honey bee. A year later she got her own queen bee and began to cultivate her own honey bee colony in her pink painted bee hive, located at her dad’s apiary near Larne.
A regular at meetings of the Belfast and District Beekeepers Association from an early age, Lorna quickly gained the necessary experience and knowledge to successfully grow her colony and keep them healthy.
With her dad having successfully completed the Preliminary Beekeeping Course, Lorna was also keen to attain the qualification.
Normally the age requirement for undertaking the 14-week study programme is 16, but after being accepted onto the course in 2014, Lorna sat the exams in June 2015 at the age of nine, completing both the written and practical examinations.
And when the results came through the letterbox, Lorna was delighted to learn she’d aced the course with an amazing pass rate of 94 per cent.
“All her family and friends are so proud of her and she was very proud to have become the youngest beekeeper to have obtained the qualification in 2015,” said mum Lesley.
“The examiners marking the papers were not aware of Lorna’s age and therefore she was marked to the same level as any other student. Ironically the first time she was ever stung by a bee was during her practical exam when an inquisitive bee stung her right on the lip. She determinedly completed her practical exam before agreeing to receive treatment for a very painful swollen lip.”
This year Lorna was able to produce some of her own honey - with a little help from her lovely bees! She has named it ‘Pink Hive Honey’ in recognition of the first hive she started with all those years ago.
Andrew visits Lorna’s school each year to deliver information sessions to P3 children during their ‘Mini Beast’ studies. He and his daughter love beekeeping and would recommend the hobby to anyone who’s interested.
For information about beekeeping or obtaining beekeeping qualifications log on to the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise website - www.cafre.ac.uk