What do you need to be a beekeeper?The fantasy of keeping bees.
- A hive of bees buzzing away at the bottom of your garden.
- In the summer you watch from your deckchair as the workers visit your flowers.
- In late summer you collect the honey and sell most of it at a vast profit.
- You spend the autumn making candles from the bees wax whilst drinking a glass of mead.
- Christmas presents are a variety of bee products you have made.
The reality of keeping bees:
- It involves more time than you might think.
- It is far more interesting than just watching.
- It costs money - possibly a lot of money.
- Few beekeepers make any money from their bees.
So what attributes will a successful beekeeper have - or will develop?
◦An interest in the natural world:
- Does the sight of bees milling around the hive fascinate you?
- Do you want to know about pollination?
- Do you want to know how bees fit into the big nature picture?
◦An enquiring mind:
- Do you want to learn more about bees?
- Do you wonder how bees organise the hive?
- Are you keen to learn more and even take exams to become a master beekeeper?
- Bees will not be hurried.
- Bees will not do what you want when you want.
- Bees have to be inspected regularly.
- For an inspection you have to put on:
- Long trousers
- Long socks
- Wellington boots
- Full bee suit
- And all this on a hot sunny day.
◦A tolerance of setbacks:
- Can you tolerate setbacks?
- When half your bees fly off to another location will you soldier on?
- Are you keen to know why it happened?
- Are you keen to prevent it happening again?
- An empty super is a heavy piece of kit.
- A super full of honey is even heavier - 14 kilograms or so.
- You cannot just tuck a full super under your arm.
- It has to be carried horizontally.
Few hobby beekeepers make any money unless they are very lucky To set up your apiary will cost in excess of £400.
- You need a bee suit - £40 to £140
- You need a smoker - £50
- You need a hive - £300 as a flat pack
- You really should have another hive - £300
- You need a hive tool - £10
- Join a local association - about £40
Later you will need:
- A honey extractor - £300 to £500. This can often be borrowed
- A honey bucket - £40
- Honey jars with labels - £50
Keeping bees takes time:
- Spring,Summer and Autumn:
- One visit a week - possibly more in summer.
- Twenty minutes per hive per visit.
- Inspection has to be when the weather is suitable.
- Hives need to be checked after wind or snow
- Hives have to be checked and more fondant added if required.
- Equipment has to be cleaned and repaired.
- This is time to do more reading about bees.
- You need somewhere to keep your bee hives - the apiary.
- Is it in your garden and it may be somewhere else - but you need somewhere.
- There is a fuller discussion on selecting an apiary site here.
In addition you need space to keep the equipment.
This may be a dedicated garden shed or it may be a corner of the garage.
You do need somewhere to keep spare empty supers, the made up frames, the smoker, the spare queen excluder...
◦And do I get stung?
I am often asked if you get stung? The answer is "Yes - but not often." When I have been stung it was either because:
- I have done something with the bees and not put on my suit.
- "I'll just have a look - but not get too close"
- "They seem quiet I will just live the lid."
- I have trapped a bee in the folds of my bee suit.