No Bees, No Honey, No Work, No Money
Have you ever considered donning a stylish yet practical beekeeping suit, lighting up a smoker and harvesting honey? Well, you should!
Wimborne based surveyors Tessa Tidman and Nick Rymer enjoy the buzz of beekeeping.
There is nothing more satisfying than keeping your own bees, but to a novice it can seem daunting. Panic not! There is a wealth of information and help out there. Across the UK, there is a network of beekeeping associations ready to help you kick start your hobby. In Dorset alone there are five associations – Dorchester and Weymouth, Blandford and Sturminster Newton, East Dorset, Sherborne and West Dorset – and they are all happy to help.
Location, location, location If you’ve decided beekeeping is something you’d like to try, then first you must determine where to locate your hive. Bee hives can be found in all sorts of locations, from fields to rooftops, but there are a few key considerations to ensure your bees are happy and productive – giving them enough clearance to exit and enter the hive, keeping them in dappled sunlight to avoid overheating in summer, and of course ensuring you can easily access it to harvest your honey.
All the gear Once you have found the perfect spot, you will need to kit yourself out with the necessary tools for the job. This can be expensive, but you can pick up some second hand bargains at local auctions or online. The essentials include:
- Suit – don’t forget gloves
- Hive and frames
- A hive tool
Once you have all the kit, you’ll need some bees. It is possible to set up a bait hive during the spring, but a safer option would be to order a nucleus from a reputable supplier. Bees from Buckfast Abbey in Devon are known for being happy and docile. An alternative and cheaper option is to add your name to your local beekeeping association’s swarm list. During the swarming season (May to July), they will receive numerous calls from members of the public asking them to remove rogue swarms. At this point, they will call those members who have registered for a swarm and deliver it to your door. A word of caution – a colony that has swarmed can be more aggressive and difficult to handle for a beginner.
Harvest your honey Once you have your bees, you will have to wait a little before you can reap the rewards. As such, you shouldn’t take any honey in the first year as the colony will need food for the coming winter. Bees will cover a wide area to gather pollen – up to three miles. So, your surroundings will have a direct impact on flavour, texture and colour.
Now, for the most exciting part – harvesting that honey. A word of advice: your kitchen might get sticky. If you’re lucky enough to have runny honey, you can pop the frames into the honey extractor and voila! The honey can be easily decanted into jars ready to eat. If, however, your bees have a taste for heather, you may have to eat the honey straight off the comb as it will be too thick to remove from your frames. Breakfast will never be the same again!
This article is taken from Symonds & Sampson's award-winning lifestyle magazine 'Country Matters'. Why not take a read?