To Bee or Not To Bee!!
I think my garden would be large enough, with plenty of bee-friendly plants growing in it. In late Spring my Cotoneaster are alive with bees and then later into the summer my Buddleia, lavender, heather and poppies are continuously buzzing. We are also surrounded by bee-friendly wild plants; dog-rose, bramble, heather, gorse and dandelion, all within three miles, which is, apparently, the maximum distance bees fly to find food.
The following photos are of Bumble Bees and other non-honey bees, as it’s still a bit early in the year and the honey bees haven’t woken up yet 😉
I love honey and use it to cook on a regular basis, as well as drizzling it onto my porridge in the mornings. So keeping bees has always seemed like a good idea. And then there’s the wax; I had the idea of making great homemade products with it – lip balms, skin moisturizer, my own candles.
At the end of last Summer, I decided that I would get some bees, so started to look into the prospect more seriously. The first thing I found out was that it is best to get bees in the Spring, so you don’t have to worry about the whole colony being killed by harsh weather in your first year. Good advice, as that would be a catastrophe!!
So, I put the Autumn and Winter to good use and began gather the relevant information. My first port of call was a visit to the National Beekeeping Center for Wales. They have volunteer beekeepers on hand to give advice and answer any questions. They also have a webcam fitted to one of their hives, so you can watch the bees coming and going (I visited in September, so the bees were still very busy). They also sell equipment and books , so I came away with a little light reading for the Winter months!!
The beekeepers advised joining a local a local Beekeeper Association and enrolling on a beginner’s course, which are usually run in the Spring. They also hold monthly meetings with talks from experts and invited guests.
I also visited a brilliant local secondhand book shop and picked up a few more bee-books for a few pounds each.
The books cover a range of topics, from types of hives, the life cycle of a bee, the flowers they prefer and how to care for your hive.
Before I set out on this journey, I thought, somewhat naviely, that bees judt pretty much got on with it – collected nectar, turned it into honey and then, in the Summer, you collected the honey…
…well, I was wrong, you need to open your hives regularly to check the bees are all OK, but not too often so as to upset them. You need to add more food during a cold Winter/Spring, when the weather is bad and the bees can’t fly.
All well and good, the introduction to bee-keeping course covers all of these aspects and you learn by experience.
However….my main concern – apart from the disease that can wipe out your hive – is the SWARMING!
I have learned that bees start to swarm once the colony gets to a certain size. A new Queen is created and some of your bees divide up and swarm off to find somewhere else to form a new hive. The beekeeper has to then locate the swarm, round-up it up, bring it back and provide it with a new hive.
The thought of having to get a swarm of my bees from a neighbour’s garden, or a local tree, is a daunting prospect to say the least. What if they decide to swarm off while we are away on holiday?!!
I have given the matter a great deal of thought over the last few months and have finally come to the decision that two pets are enough at Hellie’s Corner and I shall continue to buy local honey from the WI market. Any beeswax products will have to be purchased as well, so I shall pop along to the Annual Honey Fair and stock up.
Better to ‘bee’ safe than sorry!!
The books I bought are:
Collins Beekeeper’s Bible
Haynes Bee Manual
Keeping Bees by John Vivian
Keeping Bees by Vivian Head
Keeping Bees and Making Honey by AlisonBenjamin and Brian Callum
Bees at the bottom of my garden by Alan Campion