Bill Turnbull is probably best known as one of the presenters of BBC Breakfast, the morning news and current affairs programme on BBC1. However, Bill is much more than that as far as I and many others are concerned. Bill is an ambassador. He is someone who willingly and enthusiastically promotes a hobby and craft that he took up in 2002 - beekeeping.

Fascinated by a swarm It is always interesting to hear how people began keeping bees. Very often it is because their parents or grandparents have been beekeepers. For others it was a visit by a beekeeper to their school, possibly with an observation hive where the queen, drones and workers could be seen going about their daily business. For me, looking back, it was the fact that our geography master kept bees at the school and I can remember them swarming in the playground. Yet others want to produce some of their own honey to give to friends and relatives or to spread on their toast in the morning. Some are just fascinated by these social insects, the interactions between them, their behaviour as superorganisms and their important role in pollination.

For Bill it was something that fascinates beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike - the act of swarming. In 2001, Bill found a swarm in his garden in Buckinghamshire. He called a local beekeeper and stood mesmerised as the bees were collected and taken away. The seed had been sown.

Early the next year, Bill had to take one of his five chickens to the vet and, while he waited, he saw a notice advertising a local beekeeping beginners' course. Taking this as a sign, he signed up for the course and is now well and truly hooked.

Supporting Bees for Development As well as the chickens and two black Labradors, Bill and his wife Sesi have three children, Henry, William and Flora. William is the one who has also caught the bee bug although Sesi also gets involved. Bill thinks it is unlikely that his colleagues on BBC Breakfast will become beekeepers but they are always interested in what has been happening in the apiary and the topic of bees and honey has a habit of cropping up on the programme when Bill is on duty. Those at work are, however, very keen to buy his honey and demand outstrips supply. By purchasing a jar, they are doing more than just that as all the money Bill receives goes to the charity Bees for Development ( which supports beekeepers in developing countries. With little or no capital outlay and some training, a family can start keeping bees and the income gained from just one hive can be sufficient to pay for a child to go to primary school for a year. In 2005, Bill ran the London marathon for Bees for Development. He trained hard, completed the course and raised a grand total of £3200. Bill was the fastest and best-dressed beekeeper in the race. He ran in a bee suit especially made for him by the bee equipment supplier, EH Thorne. With BILL in large letters across the front, he was easy to spot but then, how many beekeepers are crazy enough to run 26.2 miles in a bee veil?

Strictly Come Dancing Another of Bill's adventures was taking part in the third series of Strictly Come Dancing with his partner, professional Latin American dancer, Karen Hardy. During the show he received messages of support, including one from members of his local beekeeping association, Pinner and Ruislip. In spite of the support of many beekeepers, Bill and Karen were voted out in week seven. He said they really did rehearse every minute they could find and he has the distinction of being the first celebrity to clock up over 200 hours in training. Unfortunately, this left little time for beekeeping but his colonies survived and he is planning to spend more time with them this year. Beekeeping actually fits in very well with Bill's job. He is up at 3.00 am in order to be in the studio in time to go on air at 6.00 am. However, once the programme is over three hours later he can return home, arriving by about 10.30 am. After catching up on some sleep, he has the afternoons free and can tend to his colonies.

Opening the new BBKA Apiary The headquarters, bee garden and apiary of the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA; have been located on the Royal Agricultural Society of England's (RASE) showground in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, for many years. In 2000, it was necessary to relocate the headquarters to its present site in the old Post Office building. Unfortunately, there is no area around the building for either a bee garden or an apiary, but the RASE promised to find a suitable location for an apiary not too far away. For a number of reasons, this took a while but on Sunday 2 July, Bill and Sesi came to the Royal Show where he officially opened the new facility.

The grassed area runs down to the river at the edge of the showground. The entire apiary is surrounded by an 'old English hedge' including shrubs and trees that are useful to bees as sources of nectar or pollen. Two-thirds has been turfed and the remainder will be planted with a wild flower mix, providing an attractive area and a variety of bee forage. Against the hedge in the middle of the site is the Bee Shed. This is a rather splendid pavilion with a balcony running around two sides - rather posher than most bee sheds but in keeping with the whole area.

Just inside the gates at the top end are the brick bee boles built by Mr H Joyce, a Master Craftsman of Kenilworth and donated to the BBKA in May 1985. Mr Joyce is the father of the present apiarist, Clive Joyce. Bee boles are shelters in which colonies of bees in straw skeps were kept, sheltered from the elements. The bee boles were successfully moved from the old bee garden and, fittingly, during the Royal Show they housed a skep which contained a recently collected swarm of bees.

After Bill had pulled the ribbon on the wrought iron gates, he was given a tour and then took the opportunity to interview Dr Ivor Davis, President of the BBKA, about the current situation and future of beekeeping in the UK. The whole proceedings were filmed for the new internet television news and feature channel,

Turning the tables However, the tables were then turned when Bill was invited to give one of the regular 'live bee' demonstrations back at the beekeeping feature in the new Smallholder area of the Show. A good crowd gathered to watch him open one of the two bee colonies and explain how they work. The queen caused a flurry of excitement when she decided to go fly-about. Fortunately, she eventually decided to return home and all was well.

Bill is a great ambassador for beekeeping and is very keen to persuade more people to take up this fascinating hobby. Maybe some of those watching his demonstration will catch the bug!