I have wanted to keep bees for as long as I can remember but the time was never right. As a horticulturist I know how important pollinators are not just for the gardeners amongst us but for the farmers and the environment as a whole.
As each year passed, I keep hearing the old adage If not now? When? floating around in my head and together with my husband, we decided we just needed to do it! We spent a good while researching and getting used to the idea and then enrolled on a beginner’s course that started in the depths of the winter at the Waveney Beekeepers Group just outside Beccles.
To start with it’s class room work, leaning about the types of bees you will see in a hive, how long they take to develop and when they emerge what each one does and for how long! The course moves on to hive types, tools you need, clothing. Pests and diseases, problems you may face…. There was and is so much to learn.
"There is a swarm of bees on the 16th Green of the Golf Club. Do you want them?"
Then as the season progressed the teaching moved outside, and we got to meet the bees face to face for the first time. Now this is the make or break time as really until you are actually surrounded by a few thousand flying bees all buzzing about your head and you pick up your first frame of bees I think anyone thinks they could be a bee keeper.
If you make it through this and don’t run a mile and you don’t swell up and go into anaphylactic shock after your first sting or two, then chances are you may be on the way to becoming a bee keeper…. Fortunately, my husband and I both got keener and keener the more time we spent with the bees.
Our first bees came via a call from a friend: "There is a swarm of bees on the 16th Green of the Golf Club. Do you want them?" and that as they say is where and how it all really started.
From that one tiny swarm, we have expanded. We have bought in strong new breeding lines, collected other local swarms, split hives, breed new queens and generally done more than I thought possible in such a short period of time. We over wintered three hives with no problems our first winter and this year we are looking to over winter eight.
This year we applied to take the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) basic bee keeping examination. While a slightly scary experience, it was interesting to have a qualified Bee-inspector not only check all our hives and give them a clean bill of health but evaluate us as bee keepers too! We both passed with credit.