Keeping bees is increasingly popular and I’m getting started this year. Over the next few months, this blog will follow my experience as a novice beekeeper. Beginning with clothes, DIY hive building and smoking, the posts will share the trials and joys of apprentice beekeeping as the year progresses.
Honey bees need a home and these need a location. I’m setting up two hives on my allotment at Gypsyville in Hull. The city council had three conditions.
- Full membership of a local beekeeping association alongside appropriate insurance.
- Hives to be surrounded by 2-metre-high netting so the bees are encouraged to fly up and over, rather than emerging at body height.
- No complaints from fellow plot holders.
So far, so good. Association joined, and debris netting purchased while everyone I’ve spoken to has been interested and enthusiastic at the thought of additional pollination.
As a beginner, I’ve found it useful to follow some online forums, for example Beekeepers for Beginners UK and Stewart’s Beekeeping Basics on Facebook, while there’s a wealth of beekeeping video channels on You Tube. The Beverley Beekeepers website has a page of useful books and also a library where resources can be borrowed free of charge.
Common advice from those with more experience and expertise is before getting too far into the theory and kit acquisition, it’s worth finding out how it feels to stand in the middle of a crowd of buzzing bees. For me, the first time was awesome, but I can see how it could also be terrifying. I have family and friends who’ve already point-blank refused to come anywhere near my allotment when the bees move in.
It’s worth visiting an apiary open day or asking an experienced beekeeper if you can accompany them on an inspection. There’s no substitute for getting suited, booted and experiencing the sight and sound of an open hive.
Other common advice for beginners is to know that colonies do their own thing and bees don’t read the books. You can do everything right (or so it seems) and the bees will behave differently to how you expected. Or make mistakes and the bees will put it right. Either way the bees will have the last word.
Joining an association is recommended, and a necessity if you’re keeping hives in public spaces. Beverley Beekeepers offer winter theory and summer practical courses, alongside open days where you’ll meet lots of lovely people with years of experience. Everyone may give different answers to the same question, but that’s beekeeping for you. Like apiarists themselves, every colony is different, and each queen has her own character. Also the weather can make a huge difference, and the English climate is famous for its unpredictability.
I’m looking forward to the bees moving in. The learning curve will be huge but one thing for sure, beekeeping will never be boring!