The BBKA was saddened to hear about the death of a former past President Karl Showler who passed away at the age of 89 in a Brecon Care Home.

Karl was a renowned seller of antiquarian bee books in later life and his god-daughter Christiane took this lovely photo of him in his study where she spent a lot of time talking to him about the articles he was writing. He and his wife, Betty, ran B&K books from their home in Hay-on-Wye.

Karl was a Quaker and took great interest in other religions and churches. He was President of the BBKA for two years from 1989-1990 and kept bees for at least 62 years. Former President Tim Lovett said "Karl was one of the beekeeping Greats and will be missed". 

Karl entered The Kent Farm Institute in Tunbridge Wells in 1954, which later became Hadlow College, after his army service in the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment 1951-53. 

After his study he worked from 1956-1970 for East Malling Research Station in Kent, the UK's largest horticultural research and development place, where he specialised in plant physiology. He lived on a smallholding with his new wife Betty. 

From 1970-1986 He was an administrator and technical officer for IBRA the International Bee Research Association and traveled widely over Europe, Ireland and America talking about bees. In 1986 he was appointed to the IBRA Council. 

Also that year he bought a bee book business from another past President Martin Tovey and moved to Hay-on-Wye a renowned centre for book businesses. Karl and his wife Betty ran their book business, B&K Books, from home dealing in both antiquated and new bee books. Martin remembers an auction he attended in Bloomsbury, London where a rare first edition of the Irish Bee Guide written in the early part of the 20th Century by the Reverend J.G. Digges was available in a bundle of several other books that Martin was bidding for. Suddenly, Karl was on the phone pleading "Just leave me the Irish Bee Guide" and Martin, of course, obliged. 

Karl kept his hives in a wood near Hay-on-Wye and this picture shows him standing by the river there with what look like hives on the far bank.

Martin says on several visits to his home in Hawkshead in the Lake District both Karl and Betty would attend local Quaker meetings. 

Karl wrote an impressive list of books on bees and other matters: 

  • The observation hive. Bee Books New & Old, Steventon, 1978. ISBN 0905652037
  • Some hints on the art and mystery of skep making. Northern Bee Books, 1990.
  • Swarming: Its control & prevention. Bee Books Old & New, Burrowbridge, 1995. ISBN 9780905652283
  • Tales from the Wye. 2000. (Illustrated by Ben McKee) ISBN 0953878805
  • Essays in beekeeping history. BeeCraft, Warwickshire, 2011. ISBN 9780900147128
  • Honey bee drone congregations. Central Association of Bee-Keepers, Upminster, 2012. ISBN 9781904379218
  • James Atlay. Hereford's forgotten bishop a private study. 1868-1894. Karl Showler, 2012.

Christiane, Karl's god-daughter, remembers deep discussions about his writing and that he often asked her to read through what he had written and comment. 

He was a member of Brecknock and Radnor Beekeeping Association and became Mayor of Hay-on-Wye. Even after his time of service ended he dressed up every year as a very convincing Father Christmas for the town's celebrations. 

Both Karl & Betty were deeply involved in setting up the BBKA's Spring Convention which has become a must attend event. In 2010 their services to beekeeping were recognised with a special dinner at our headquarters in Stoneleigh.  In the picture above you can see Betty receiving her commendation from BBKA President David Charles with Karl behind her.