Ken started his beekeeping on an allotment in 1956 when he was livng in Goole, East Yorkshire, with bees from Mountain Grey Apiaries, which gave him early experience in effective siting of bees. His work took him south to Wiltshire, where he joined Melksham BKA and was minuting Secretary of Wiltshire BKA.  In 1970 he visited the honey tent at the Somerset Agricultural Show at Glastonbury and met Beowolf Cooper, who was in the process of forming a group of beekeepers nationally, under the heading Village Beekeepers Association which later became the British Isles Bee Breeders' Association, (BIBBA). After attending the first conference at Rogate Agricultural College in West Sussex, Ken became dedicated to the improvement of honey bees in the British Isles. In the mid-1970s, his work took him north to County Durham, where he quickly joined an active group of beekeepers who were restarting the dormant Durham BKA, where he was welcomed and shortly became Chairman. In the 1970s and 1980s he ran beekeeping courses for the Durham Education Department, which later became integral to the association's work. He became DBKA representative to the BBKA Annual Delegate Meeting for a number of years, attending in London and later Stoneleigh in Warwickshire.

Ken was elected for a term of six years to the BBKA Executive, where he was on the Technical Committee and initiated the Education Committee, which ran alongside the well-established Examinations Board.  In 1986 he was a member of the BBKA Constitution Review Committee

In the late 1980s Ken became secretary of Council of National Beekeeping Associations (CONBA), which was made up of representatives of the four national beekeeping associations of the UK; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, plus a representative from Ireland. He organised a video through CONBA for general distribution amongst beekeepers on how to deal with varroa and other associated diseases. In the late 1980s Ken was able to arrange for groups of beekeepers to visit Germany to attend seminars on the detection, prevention and treatment of varroa. He arranged a group of CONBA representatives to support a mass rally of European beekeepers at the EU Ministers of Agriculture conference in Brussels and to meet the British Minister of Agriculture at the CONBA stand.

In the early 1990s, following the early death of Beowolf Cooper, Ken became the Director of BIBBA. 

Although in his nineties, Ken Ibbotson continued to regularly attend and contribute to the meetings of Durham BKA and he will be sadly missed.