Starting Out, Time and Commitment?
If you have thought about becoming a beekeeper, or are just interested in bees and beehive products, here are some answers to common questions.
Managing one or two hives requires about two hours of your time every week between April and September. Less time is required in the winter months, which allows for reading about bees, attending association winter meetings, equipment maintenance and enjoying your honey harvest as well as planning for next year.
Where to keep Bees?
Bees will fly up to 3 miles to reach flowers, passing over some gardens when seeking attractive plants to collect the nectar and pollen they require. What is important is not necessarily having a large garden but that you plan screens, fences or hedges around your hives so that the bees will fly above head height to reach the flowers. This helps keep them away from your neighbours. To avoid spoiling your neighbour’s enjoyment of their garden your hives and the bee’s flight paths to and from the hives should be positioned to avoid areas where people congregate e.g. patios, sunbathing spots, children’s playgrounds etc. Before acquiring bees we recommend that you always seek advice from an experienced beekeeper about the siting of hives and then discuss your plans with neighbours!
Honey and products of the beehive.
Honey is the bees’ food store. How much a beekeeper can remove depends on the amount of stores in the hive. Honey production is dependent on the weather, the abundance of local forage (flower, crops etc.) and the strength of the honeybee colony. To survive the winter months, when forage is very limited, the bees must store sufficient honey. The beekeeper has to leave enough honey for the bees to survive into spring allowing the colony to expand and increase the number of bees to provide more honey in the following season. Other hive products include wax which has numerous uses e.g. polish; candles and cosmetics, and propolis used for medicinal purposes.
We all get stung from time to time but this can be minimised by the way the bees are handled. Our courses will show you methods which cause least upset to the bees. Bees are protective of their colony and, if upset, will defend the colony to the point of self sacrifice.
Cost to Start?
When starting the hobby we suggest that you buy only the essentials but ensure that you allow funding for sufficient equipment to cope with colony growth and management. You will need personal protective clothing, smoker, hive tools etc. ‘Getting started’ basic requirements can vary, but including 2 empty hives, experience suggest an outlay of £350-£500. New equipment can be expensive; most beekeepers often use ‘seconds’ quality hive parts bought during sales. Equipment manufacturer’s websites will show the relevant costs and sale events.
Springtime Beekeeping Auctions often include used equipment. Seek advice as different types of hives are not interchangeable and quality varies. DIY hive making requires some skills and advice is included in our courses. Honey extractors can be borrowed from the Beverley Association.
Buying Bees: Prices vary according to availability and the colony size. Bees (preferably locally adapted bees) should be purchased only from known, disease-free sources e.g. our association members.
You should seek advice before acquiring equipment and bees, especially in relation to the equipment quantity that you will need and when considering pre-owned hive parts.
How to Learn about Beekeeping?
Beverley Beekeepers’ Association holds a 6 week evening practical course for beginners during May and June at our apiary located close to Beverley. taster sessions may also be arranged for those who wish to find out if beekeeping is an appropriate hobby for them. Experienced beekeepers are on hand to instruct, advise and answer any questions. You will learn the basics of bee-keeping:
- how to handle bees recognize the different types of bees – workers, drones and the queen
- recognise honeybee eggs and larvae
- most importantly you will find out if you really enjoy being in amongst and handling bees.
In the Autumn and Winter months we run a series of training sessions covering the theory of beekeeping in more detail than time allows on the practical course. The two course complement each other. We meet once a month for a couple of hours to cover various topics such as equipment, swarm management, obtaining a colony of honey bees, record keeping, diseases of honeybees and statutory requirement relating to beekeeping. The course runs between October and April (no meeting in January).
Do I have to go on a course before I start keeping bees?
No, it is entirely up to you; however all Beekeeping Organisations strongly recommend that you learn some practical skills before you obtain your own bees. Some of our members may offer to ‘mentor’ new beekeepers by taking them on as assistants at their own apiaries. This is an excellent way to pick up practical knowledge and will enable you to link up with your beekeeping guru for advice later when you have your own bees.
Before you start on our beginner’s course / mentoring you should read some books on beekeeping. Many are available e.g.
- Haynes Bee Manual. Claire & Adrian Waring
- The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping. Ivor Davis and Roger Cullum-Kenyon
- Keeping Bees. Claire & Adrian Waring
- On The Keeping of Bees. John Whitaker
- Keeping Healthy Honey Bees. David Aston & Sally Bucknell
- Bees and Honey. Ted Hooper.
Our Association has a library of books and CDs available for members to borrow.
Should I join a Beekeepers Association?
The British Beekeepers’ Association, Yorkshire Beekeepers’ Association and its affiliated Beverley District strongly advise that beekeepers and potential beekeepers join a local beekeeping association for the many benefits offered – Beebase Registration, Public Liability Insurance, Newsletters, Winter and Summer meetings, Support and Advice from fellow members, Bulk purchase offers, Reduced magazine subscriptions etc. Annual Membership fees (2020) vary from £5 for those without bees to £27 for those with bees.
Still want to keep bees?
Our Association always welcomes those interested in finding out more about bees, beekeeping, honey and hive products.