Ok let me start by answering two of the questions I get asked the most.
Do I get stung?
Yes as a beekeeper it is inevitable you will get stung at some point.
Does it hurt?
Yes and I do swear, I just can’t help it. People react differently to stings for me the pain lasts about a minute and it itches the next day, this can be eased with an antihistamine.
John Whitaker wrote a nice article in the July 2013 E-news entitled “Stings”.
I’M STILL INTERESTED, TELL ME MORE
Many years ago you could place a colony of bees in a box or skep and shove them in a hole in the wall and leave them to get on with it, to harvest the honey the comb was destroyed and as long as the Queen was not killed or damaged the bees just started again. These days this is not possible, although bees are wild creatures and always will be they can no longer survive without our intervention just leaving them to get on with it will usually result in the death of the colony within two to three years, this is due to mite infestation and an increased chance of starvation as our weather patterns continue to change.
Today’s beekeepers have to make checks for disease and pests on a regular basis and treat where necessary, weakened colonies not only run the risk of being robbed by stronger colonies and left to starve they can also spread disease to colonies in your area.
Throughout the summer months (April to September) the beekeeper has a commitment to effectively manage his/her bees including swarm prevention or control, failure to do so will result in weakened colonies loss of honey production and the ultimate demise of those swarms that remain feral. Swarms can often take up residence in inconvenient places such as under roof tiles or in walls much to the annoyance of the property owners.
Beekeeping can be quite strenuous a full hive and honey supers are a considerable weight so a reasonable amount of fitness is required and in the summer you must be able to commit a couple of hours each week (depending on the amount of colonies you have).
A beekeeper should be prepared to continue learning and improving their skills for the rest of his/her beekeeping life, for me this is one of the most wonderful aspects of this hobby, I am constantly learning it never gets boring and the bees never cease to amaze me with their collective intelligence and total disregard of the beekeepers wishes.
So are you still interested?
If you’re still reading this then I guess I have not put you off and you feel you have the time and commitment to become a beekeeper. If this hobby is for you I can guarantee you will get no end of pleasure learning the ways of these wonderful creatures not to mention enjoying the crop of honey and the candle making and other products that can be produced.
Attend a course
Firstly i would suggest enroling in a beginners course. These can take place over a weekend in the summer months or over several evenings in the winter. The courses consist of some classroom work where you will be introduced to the basic tasks needed throughout the beekeeping year, culminating in hands on sessions in our training hives at the apiary.
For more information on courses run by Bradford BKA please click here.
For those of you who have allready attended a course elsewhere or have bees and wish to further your skills you can attend our apiary where experienced beekeepers are on hand to guide and mentor you through the association hives.
Knowles Park Apiary is open on Thursday evenings 6.30pm to 8.30pm in the summer months.
This is free to members and requires a small donation from none members.
Click Here for more information on joining BfdBKA
Read a Book
I have placed "read a book" after "attend a course" for good reason. For new beekeepers, books can be quite confusing, they often give differing opinions on how to achieve the same result. When i decided to become a beekeeper i read four different books, each offering up different opinions on several procedures. With hindsight and having assisted in several training courses I have realised it is much easier to learn in the classroom with the oportunity to ask questions, The books make so much more sense afterwards.
Choose up to date books by experienced beekeepers and preferably based in the UK, many authors are from other countries where the seasons, temperatures and forage differ.
Good books are often useful for reference.
The list of books below has been provided by Bill Cadmore (BdBKA Training Officer). The "Bee Manual" closley follows our beginners course.
Understand The Equipment
A guide to the basic equipment you will need can be found in our Introduction To Keeping Bees document.
If you have decided to keep bees, even if you will wait until next year, then your first purchase should be a beesuit. A pair of wellingtons to tuck the trousers into, bees like to climb into dark spaces, and a pair of gloves – washing up gloves with a cuff will do are easy to keep clean and cheap to replace will complete the outfit.