The very beginning
Having had and interest in beekeeping for many years I was finally ready to make the leap of faith into the unknown
This is my story.
(above) Here I am installing my first 'nuc' of bees. terrifying but strangely exciting. It gave me quite a buzz... Get it?
I have always been interested in beekeeping. I suppose it's something to do with taming something infinitely fierce, I don't quite know, but it definitely wasn't anything to do with Honey, because I never really liked it.
Sometime at the end of summer 2015 my desire to keep bees had come up a couple of times in conversation and every time it did I got the same
response- "Why don't you give it a go?"
To which I finally replied, "Do you know what? I think I will"
It started with "The BBKA guide to Beekeeping" by Igor Davis and Roger Cullum-Kenyon. The book made it seem accessible to me as a hobby, but by no
means did it make it out to be something taken lightly.
Not like a puppy for Christmas for example. They are way easier to palm off on someone else and cheaper. have you ever tried to give someone 20,000 viscious flying insects?! Given the choice, it's Andrex puppy every time.
Anyway, I knew it was something I could do and the more I ventured into the rabbit hole, the more I wanted to do it.
After that followed more research into equipment and cost and over the winter period I began assembling everything I would need for my first colony.
These things all came at a high price although once on the inside of the BBKA circle there are more cost effective ways of starting out with beekeeping,
members often sell used equipment or are willing to help beginners get started. They can even get you bees by either a captured swarm or a starter nuc (a 'nuc' is short
for 'nucleus', which is a box, with 5-6 standard brood frames containing eggs, larvae, pollen, honey, are completely covered in bees and of course the all important Queen. The
basic premise being that you have all stages of development covered so that there are no gaps in the life cycle, therego you have a fully functioning mini colony) These retail
at about £170 (for the nuc of bees) so it's well worth joining the BBKA. There are of course many other benefits that I myself never took advantage of either, like free beginner's courses,
to give you a feel for handling bees and of course the information for a confident start.
Like I said, I didn't, but you probably should.
So, by Christmas time I have a garage FULL of stuff.
I have a beautiful full cedar National hive with gable roof, I have filled the boxes with frames that You-Tube showed me how to assemble, protective equipment, smoker + cartridges and hive tools, now all I needed were bees...
More research, more reading. My wonderful partner now hated the mere mention of any winged insect and was about ready to pack her bags and leave. I didn't even have any bees and she already felt like she was
playing second fiddle to tens of thousands of 'my girls'. Time for a holiday to restore her faith in me/us! I order a nuc of bees which I secure with a £50 deposit.
No more mention of bees...
June 2016 rolls around and We turn our sights to our holiday instead.
I'm eagerly awaiting the call from the beefarm (yes, of course there is such a thing, and yes, they do send bees by post! Dogs aren't the only worry for posties!!)
Lo and behold the call comes. "Are you available to collect your nuc this weekend?"
"Hmmm, this weekend? I cant do this weekend. I'm away on holiday for two weeks, could we re-arrange?"
Luckily I can, but I'm gutted I won't have my bees in sooner... Another two weeks to wait! Had the spring weather been fairer I could've had them in May, but no such luck.
My holiday read?
"Guide to bees and honey" by Ted Hooper MBE.
Time for some last minute cramming before I arrive home and collect and install the nucleus.
It seems that every book that you read about beekeeping there is always something new no matter what. So keep reading!
I feel ready. I have studied the installation, I know exactly where I will site my hive. I am ready!
The holiday comes to an end, but instead of the usual back-to-work blues I am excited by the prospect of being a fully fledged beekeeper.
The day after we land i'm up at the crack of dawn to drive up to Coventry to collect my bees... It is recommended that you collect and transport either early morning or evening, this way it will cause them less stress because it's cooler and the bees are less inclined to go about their business, which is flying around and defending their home. Handy when you're stuck in a car with them.
So with a boot full of gear I arrive in the middle of nowhere at Honeyfields Bee Farm. I tell them who I am, pay the balance and let them know I am a newbie, I had planned to put the frames 'the warm way' for a nice brood pattern... I am recommended against this by the man that's kept bees for a lifetime. So much for best laid plans!
'Cold way' it is then. Better ventilation apparently.
"Do you have any bee feed and bee feeders?" comes next.
"Will I need it?"
"Yeah, you should feed for probably the first 2 weeks at least"
"OK, I'll need some of that then..."
Anyway, after gingerly driving to the apiary filled with excitement I arrive and realise the site isn't even ready yet!
The groundwork begins in haste, weed mat down, stakes in the ground and chicken wire rapidly stapled around them.
The site is ready.
Pallet down, Hive assembled and bees rested after their long, stress inducing journey, full suit on and lamb skin gloves I am well protected. The nucleus has been located on top of the hive and I am ready to open the entrance so the bees can explore their new home. Which they do. I back away and watch as they begin to come out and take flight to map the area.
I light the smoker cartridge and give a few puffs of the bellows into the mesh side of the transit nucleus, buzzing ensues and the first of many beads of sweat rolls off my forehead and into my eye.
I pull the tape off that's securing the lid closed; Which is not easy in thick gloves. Finally the lid is open.
I get my first view of the thronging mass of bees. Terrified I lift the first frame out and look for the Queen. It's not essential but I really want to see her. First frame slots nicely into the brood box of the hive followed in quick succession by frames 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Still no Queen, but by this point im sweating so much that I'm willing to take my chances that she's OK and I'll find out later by the bees' behaviour if she's alive and well. With all the frames transferred I look into the box to find a lot of loose bees so I turn the box upside down and shake them onto the frames, crown board back on, feeders in position and filled with syrup, roof located my work here is done!
Great success, a few crushed bees, possibly a dead Queen, no stings!