With guest contributor Keith Arnold from Bees Wales
We’re concerned about bees! In fact, it was our concern for bee and pollinator populations that led us to set up Seedball in the first place, and it seems we are not the only ones. Interest in the plight of bees has risen sharply in recent years, and with it has come a rise in beekeeping, particularly urban beekeeping.
We wanted to find out more about how to get involved so we spoke to Keith from The National Beekeeping Centre Wales, known as Bees Wales, and he gave us ten top beginner tips for getting into beekeeping!
1. Find your local beekeeping branch:
Your local beekeeping association is the best place to start. They will have all the information that you need for what is going on in your area. Take a look at British Beekeeping Association website for help and to find your local branch!
2. Attend a course:
Attend a course for beginner beekeepers. Keith recommends a course that is at least 16-20 hours long, any less and you will want more! Your local beekeeping association will know more about what is happening in your area, or, alternatively, you can look for quality course providers.
3. Find somewhere to keep your bees:
- In your garden,
- On a roof,
- On unused farmland,
- At a nearby apiary (a place where a number of beehives are kept) – you can find information about apiaries from your local beekeeping association.
4. Get your equipment:
- A hive!
- Hive frames with a wax foundation,
- A one-piece bee suit, gloves and wellington boots for basic personal protection,
- A smoker, used to calm honey bees,
- A hive tool, which helps in the inspection of the hive,
- A nucleus or “nuc” of bees – this is a small honey bee colony, usually obtained in June/July, that friendly bee keeping association will help you find some!
- A feeder – to give the bees a little extra nourishment!
5. Work out how much you need to spend:
- Hive and frames = ~£300 (although this depends on the quality and type of hive that you buy)
- Protective clothing = ~£140
- Basic tools = ~£50
- Your first bee nucleus = ~£180
- A feeder = ~£10
6. Work out if you have enough time to keep bees:
Looking after a single hive requires about half an hour a week between April and October – if you have two hives this will double to an hour a week. In the winter, you will occasionally need to inspect the hive externally – that’s it!
Of course, you can spend a lot of time watching the bees coming and going, and you will learn a lot about the hive in this way!
7. Obtain your bees:
You will learn on the Beekeeping course that you need more than just a queen to get a hive started. Your local beekeeping association can provide a list of association members who can supply you with your first starter “nuc” of bees!
8. Think about health and safety:
Most beekeepers get stung occasionally and become immune to stings over time! A few people suffer severe reactions to bee stings – this includes some beekeepers who always carry an epipen in case they are stung.
If you keep your bees at home you should carefully consider your neighbours. You might want to discuss your plans with them, they might object so it’s good to check before spending all your harned earned cash, however, they might be interested in becoming a beekeeper too!
9. Think about why you want to keep bees:
- You can produce your own honey and beeswax! A single 1 lb jar of honey can be worth up to £6!
- You help the environment and biodiversity – but remember that your bees will need care and attention.
- It is fascinating hobby that will keep you entertained for years and you’ll meet lots of people by doing it.
10. What to do if you need more help:
Your local Beekeeping association will likely offer a mentor who will help you get through your first year of beekeeping!
The National Beekeeping Centre Wales known as Bees Wales runs beekeeping courses and sells local honey and beeswax products at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. Bees Wales aims to develop a vigorous, healthy and environmentally responsible beekeeping industry across Wales! You can find them online at beeswales.co.uk and on Twitter and Facebook!