Many of us quite fancy the idea of keeping bees but because it appears so daunting, very few of us actually do anything about it. So join us, learn the basic skills and get help at every step on the road to self sufficiency in this rewarding craft.
In the beginning you have to decide where you might keep your bees, what hives you will use and how you will acquire the bees themselves.
It is much more convenient to keep bees at your home because it is easier to look after them, but is your home a suitable place for 1 hive or more? If you are in doubt, we can help you. If not, then we might be able to help you to find somewhere else to keep them, but remember, you will have to be prepared to visit your hives regularly, particularly over the summer months, to look after your bees.
There are several types of hive, each of which has its adherents. Almost all local beekeepers use the National hive, so that compatible second hand equipment is more likely to be available. A new hive will cost you approximately £300 but few of us have spent that much. Second hand equipment can cost as little as £100-
Auctions are a good source of second hand equipment and there are often local beekeepers wanting to give up the craft for health or strength reasons -
1.3. Obtaining Bees
Here you have to rely on local beekeepers. There are 3 possible options: purchase a complete colony, purchase a nucleus, or obtain a swarm. Commercially, a nucleus will cost about £150, or you may be lucky enough to buy a colony from a fellow member for about the same price, but a swarm is free. The first 2 should be in good health and settled but the swarm may have attendant dangers, being an unknown quantity.
A nucleus produced by an experienced beekeeper is by far the safest route, providing the best chance of success whilst giving the novice a chance to manage a small colony before he or she
is confronted with a fully developed one.
Finally you will need need protection. There are a host of specialist bee equipment suppliers who offer protective clothing to suit every pocket, but if your budget is tight, the key elements you need are a jacket with veil and boiler suit/trousers. The former will cost around £40 and you can pick up the latter in the market or work wear shop for £20. You will need wellies, which you probably have already, and suitable gloves. Household rubber gloves are a good compromise between protection and the sense of touch.
You will also need a smoker (around £30 new) and a hive tool (£9).
2. WORKING THE BEES
Beekeeping is mainly a summer occupation, since the bees spend the winter quietly in their hives.
2.1. Preparing for winter
Bees do not hibernate but maintain a more or less constant temperature throughout the year. In the winter they cluster and burn up their stores to maintain that temperature. So your last activity is to ensure that they have sufficient stores to see them through the winter. This is usually supplemented by feeding sugar syrup or fondant, so you have to buy a few bags of sugar and or fondant. There are different feeders on the market for £3-
You will also need some medication at £3-
Your bees have come through your first winter and need another treatment (£3-
You have to check their condition and development. Hopefully they are doing well. You now need to check them every week. This is most important as the swarming season approaches and you do not want to lose half your stock.
is confronted with a fully developed one.
In your first year, you will probably not have much honey – unless you started early with a full colony – so you will perhaps take a little honey for yourself and leave the rest for the bees.
However, in later years you will have to extract the honey and you can hire the association extractor for just £5. You will need some storage tubs and your local deli will probably throw away several each week and be only too glad to give them away. Then comes the bottling. Honey jars with metal lids cost about £27 per gross, say 19p each. Standard labels with your own details will cost about £5 per 100.
Each jar of honey sells for at least £4.50, more if you sell privately. So, once you have bought your equipment, you can start to build up savings to expand your apiary!
So if you have not been overwhelmed by the above, why not give it a go and complete an application form now or drop the secretary an email to obtain more information.
Contact: Dianne Gill firstname.lastname@example.org