What they don’t tell you about beekeeping

My venture into beekeeping started some years ago and has, to be frank, been a bit of a bumpy road – mostly (it has to be said) as a result of my own incompetence.

…a dangerously addictive activity!

I was seduced into acquiring my first colony by fascination in learning about the bees themselves (if bees were running the world we wouldn’t be in this mess), and by assurances from my seducers at the very beginning that there’s really not that much to be done or time spent. Well, we all know that for at least half the year that’s just not true, and, worse, that it’s a dangerously addictive activity!

There’s loads to do and for the unfortunates who are working full time at the same time (I was one of those), the problem is that everything that needs to be done has to be done RIGHT THEN – probably because it’s the right time of year, or the right weather, or the right temperature, or the suns shining. Those of us who have to wait till the weekend will find that:

  • it’s pouring with rain or;
  • the temperature has plummeted or;
  • the bees have all absconded because it was such a lovely day yesterday and the brood box is practically empty apart from a few unfortunate souls who didn’t get the memo!

Fortunately I’ve had some amazing mentors. I won’t embarrass them by naming names but they know who they are. I’m really grateful. One I will mention is the late great Tim Foden. I’ve squashed a lot of innocent workers in my time – a guilty record confessed sorrowfully to Tim. He put a comforting hand on my shoulder saying ‘never mind, there are an awful LOT of them’. So true, I felt a lot better.

I’ve retired from work now – which is a great help – and one of my retirement resolutions was to give more time to my beekeeping and get better at it. I’m 50% there so far. I’ve had honey this year, a whole new venture into borrowing the hand operated extractor (muscles required) and the frame boiler, a magnificent gadget into which ideally I would empty the entire contents of the house. That experience has brought home to me how important and valuable the support of my local association is and how important it is that the group keeps going from strength to strength. Training, taster days and courses and advice are key for encouraging new beekeepers, and bulk buying, taster days, equipment loans and sharing facilities make things so much easier – and cheaper.

…I am beginning to understand the enormous amount of work undertaken to provide the services we enjoy as a group…

And this all doesn’t happen by magic. Having joined the management committee, I am beginning to understand the enormous amount of work undertaken to provide the services we enjoy as a group, and the efforts undertaken to engage the general public in topics such as bee/honey/ecology. I’m a newbie so I’m keeping my head down for now, but I’m gradually understanding who does what, and it’s clear that the work involved is huge. The more people there are to help, the easier it should be and new young people are welcome – some of us aren’t spring chickens any more!

Join and take part! The bees need you..

Gill Donaldson