Something About Bees

I promised a number of people that once I had formally started down the path of becoming a beekeeper – aside from the past ten years of reading – I would update this blog with something about bees.

Well here it is.

Thirteen months after being inspired to think about sustainable beekeeping by both Bridget Strawbridge in person and Phil Chandler via his book “The Barefoot Beekeeper” I have handled my first bees.

I have just spent a weekend at Ragmans Lane Farm in the beautiful Forest of Dean with the Bees for Development charity, during which time we have learnt, talked, argued and laughed about bees and beekeeping and best of all had some hands on time with bees.

Along with five other beginners I have had the benefit of the accumulated beekeeping experience of three tutors – and in beekeeping as in so many other things in life, experience counts more than any amount of theoretical knowledge.

What I discovered through all those years of reading is that very few people involved in beekeeping to any level are willing to agree about any one thing. A half-joking half-serious idea put forward early this weekend was that in any given bee related discussion between two beekeepers you would find at least three opinions on how something should be done.

After listening, participating and sharing, I suspect that like me some of the others will also have come away understanding that whatever way we choose to be involved in beekeeping we should do it the style we want and most importantly in the way in which we think we can best benefit the bees.
And to Hell with everyone else.

I can hardly wait to get started.

Particular thanks to Nicola Bradbear, Monica Barlow and Janet Lowore for helping point me in the right direction.

There is a lot of patience required of the beekeeper. Bees do not like to be rushed and the faster you are trying to go the more you will get things wrong or do them badly and likely the angrier the bees will get.

Beekeeping is a seasonal affair, very little happens to Homo Sapiens timetable, nature is in charge here – the weather, be it sun, rain, wind or daily temperature, plus the plants, trees and flowers, the pollen and the nectar – this is all between the bee and the environment. We just have to fit around their schedule and try not to get in their way.

So no, there is no honey this year. There is not even a colony this year. But by February 2013 when the first foragers are hopefully leaving the first hives or wild nests in hollow trees, there will be a hive in my garden and with luck, or more likely the cooperation of a local beekeeper, come April/May there may well be a swarm starting out as a new colony in that hive – even then, unless we have the most amazingly perfect weather next spring, summer and autumn that almost certainly means no honey until 2014.

You’ll just have to learn to Bee* patient.

*sorry couldn’t resist.


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