Beekeeping – getting started
Can I keep bees?
Beekeeping is a great hobby. Interesting, relaxing and addictive! Bees produce honey (and also beeswax). A strong colony of bees will produce more than 20lbs of honey in a season. And your bees will produce more bees – once you gain experience you can sell queens or nuclei (small colonies), if you wish to!
When is the best time to start?
The best time to start beekeeping is April to June when colonies of bees are building up in numbers. They will then have time to build new comb, produce more bees and store sufficient food for the following winter.
Becoming a beekeeper
Anyone can become a beekeeper but you must have –
* Somewhere to place your hives
* Time to attend to your bees
* No allergy to bee stings
* Enough money to buy equipment – and the bees
Somewhere to place your hives.
You can keep bees in your garden, as long as it is big enough!. (hives should be no less than 20m from the house), or you could use a friend’s garden or you can find an out apiary site on a local farmer’s land.
In your garden –
Think about where you place your hives.
The hive should face east or south east. A sunny, dry position but with some shade for hot days! Not too open to cold winds. Not under a tree (bees don’t like dripping rainwater!) and not in a frost pocket.
VERY IMPORTANT! – Consider your neighbours! Do not point the hive entrance towards a neighbour’s property or a public path.
Farmers are often happy to let you use a corner of one of their fields. Remember the Country Code if you do use their property!
It is also advisable to have your hives in sight – vandalism or theft can be a problem in some areas.
It may be worth contacting nearby stately homes, garden centres or your local council who may be able to suggest out apiary sites that could be used by a careful, conscientious beekeeper!
Time to attend to your bees
It varies, depending on the season.
In winter there is very little to do, in Spring and
early summer, quite a lot!
Here is a rough guide on how much time per week you need:
|January & February||0.5 hour|
|May, June, July, August||2 hours|
|October, November, December||0.5 hour|
Holidays should, ideally be taken outside the swarming period (May June, and July).
No allergy to bee stings
This must be checked before you begin beekeeping not only for you but also for your immediate family if your apiary is to be at home!
Be aware of other people too, though bees will generally only sting those who disturb them.
Enough money to buy equipment
To begin beekeeping, you will need :
A hive – a self assembly hive costs from around £150. Assembled – up to £450. See the page “Hive Talking” to compare types of hive.
A hive stand – from £18
Frames with wax foundation – from £3.00 each (22 minimum, usually more needed).
Bee brush and hive tool from around £10
Smoker – from £20
Bee suit and gloves – from £55
Honey extractor – from £100 (you can often borrow one from your local BKA).
You can buy a complete beginners’ kit which includes most of the above from around £250.
Make sure you know which hive style you are buying – you cannot mix and match different hive style parts!
And the bees!
A nucleus (small colony) of bees – from £100 to £200.
Make sure you join your local Beekeeping Association, they will be invaluable for advice and help and some members will have bees for sale at reasonable prices. They will also run beginners’ beekeeping courses.
If you have read this far, you already have lots of enthusiasm! The rewards are loads of honey if your bees have a good season. Your bees will also do a great service for the flowers and trees around your area.
Got any questions? Melissa Bee at Bee Craft is always ready to answer your questions!