Project Bee Keeping

I’m a novice beekeeper even though I have had a lose association with bees since about 2004/5

I took a beekeeping course with my local  BBK Association and passed with flying colours and was hooked, I loved it; and at that time we had a small ‘smallholding’ so no problem siting a hive of my own – the question was finding one – with bees.

Luck was on my side it seemed – my tutor, who had been a quest lecturer and was leaving the area was down sizing his apiary and offered me 2 hives at a bargain knock down price, so the deal was done. We collected the hives at the end of the season and situated them in a lovely spot to over winter and I was left to kick my heels waiting for the new season to start the following year.

My hives flourished, they were in a great spot and had the most attentive keeper of bees, but I wasn’t a bee keeper, and I didn’t flourish- alone now with no ready support around me for my first season – I thought I was being silly thinking my hives were a vicious bunch, who actually frightened me and were nothing like the placid creatures I had studied in the Association apiary. I started to dread going near them, and worse was inspecting them, never had I faced such aggression en masse

I happened as very good luck would have it,  to come across quite by chance, a senior chap from the National Bee Centre who said he would come over and check out my set up and see if I truly had the ‘bees from hell’ as I claimed. 5 minutes into his visit and the buggers were dive bombing him like it was Pearl Harbour and he agreed, one of my hives at least was a complete menace – so we discussed options, and he decided to locate and kill the queen from my problem hive and begin a process of queen rearing from the other, slightly more placid hive.

This was pretty full on for me in my first season, and it was an unmitigated failure – although I could see their attempts to raise the queen, she  never actually materialised and as the summer marched on I ended up watching the slow extinction of the entire hive.

Nevertheless, I still had one hive and I decided I would make the most of it; I cleaned out the extinct hive in the hope of  using it again , growing my single hive to a point where I could divide it, in the fullness of time as my experience grew.

I had managed to go through a profitable first season with that 2nd hive – it produced a good yield of honey and I even made mead with the less quality honey dregs from the bottom of my hired extractor. Seeing my honey crop looking and tasting so beautiful I was fired up for the next season and hoped for a happier year.

Sadly, this didn’t come to pass – my field abutted that of a dairy farmer, whose herd one frosty morning broke through the fencing separating us and smashed my hive to bits.

One full season under my belt and it had been ignominious to say the least. And then we moved house.

I brought the hive remnants with me and stored them in in our car port while we unpacked and settled into our house – only an eagle eyed neighbour came to see me shortly after to say there were an alarming amount of wasps coming in and out my carport. On investigation, sure enough a nest of bloody wasps had set up home where once my bees had  lived – not one to hang about, they were hot foot to the environmental officer  to have the  nest quite rightly poisoned off – the wasps were dead sure enough but my hive parts were now an infected mess.

More importantly however, I learned loud and clear that my neighbour’s made it their business –  in the tiniest detail -to know exactly went off in the village- and in doing so made it pretty clear that to their mind there wasn’t much difference between wasps and bees and it would be hoped I wasn’t about to try setting the thing up in the village.

Neighbours are a funny thing, keeping the peace, living amicably and realising that village life isn’t always as  pleasant as one might imagine – I suspected then, and I know now – neighbours were something to hold at arms length.

Too many years have gone by – and with each year has been a promise that one day I would start up again – and every year I have let it slide by.

The beekeeping year starts earlier than people might imagine, and it isn’t too soon now to begin putting plans in place if I am going to make it happen this year. Of course I have no bees, so this year, this first year would be quite stunted in terms of out put, but you have to start somewhere.

But my first thought, even before I considered hive re-building and bee sourcing was the actual siting of the hive – a place they would be safe, accessible but hidden from interested but not necessarily benign parties………

to be continued

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