Thinking of Starting Beekeeping - Read on 

 

Why keep bees?

Beekeeping can be a very rewarding craft. Many take up beekeeping to support our pollinating insects, many others for the honey, some for the great social aspects it brings, and others for the joy it brings in getting back in touch with mother nature.  Whatever your reasons you should carefully consider if you have both the time and budget to dedicate to this craft. We also highly recommend you attend a beekeeping course before making any purchases and join your local beekeeping association.

Time required

Beekeeping is not just about having a hive at the bottom of the garden and collecting some honey once or twice a year. When you have honey bees, you become an owner of livestock, with the responsibilities it brings – to the bees and to your neighbours. To keep the bees healthy you must practice good animal husbandry and, to prevent annoyance to neighbours, you must try to stop the bees from swarming.

Like any other livestock, honeybees are subject to attacks from pests in the form of mites and may suffer diseases.   Being a beekeeper requires a commitment to give time to the bees, especially between April and July inclusive when regular inspections need to be carried out.

Throughout the summer the bees will collect and store nectar and periodically additional space has to be provided and the processed nectar removed as honey. In the early autumn, the bees are likely to need to be fed to make sure there is enough food for the colony to survive the winter to the end of the following March.

To be a beekeeper there is a financial commitment. You should join your local Beekeepers Association as soon as possible and be mindful of the initial set up cost (likely in the region of £400 (excluding beekeeping course and bees) with further costs of up to a further £400 in the first few years depending on the form of beekeeping you adopt)

Before any of this is undertaken, it is vital to find a site on which to keep the hives. A site that is safe, free from the risk of vandalism and that will not allow the bees to annoy neighbours or the general public. If you are going to keep bees in your garden it will need to be big enough so they are not flying out/in at head height over neighbouring gardens. You will need to site them facing SE – SW and so that you are not crossing immediately in front of the bees’ flight path.

Once set up, one has to procure some bees. Purchasing a “nucleus” of bees on their frames (i.e. a small colony) is a popular way to start but at a cost of around £200.

Beekeeping books

The Bee Manual – Haynes by Claire & Adrian Waring. This is an excellent manual for beginners.  It provides a complete and easy-to-follow reference book with clear instruction and plenty of excellent illustrations. Many find it the book they turn to again and again in their first years of beekeeping.

Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper. A good reference book with useful technical content that will serve beekeepers for many years.

Practical Beekeeping by Clive de Bruyn. This well-written book is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of bees and their management. Good summaries for each chapter. Useful tips for both beginners and more experienced beekeepers. Good photographs and drawings but is likely to be more expensive than the other books.

More details on other books and leaflets will be given during the course.


Equipment List

The below represents the basic equipment required.  Some beekeeping suppliers have been named based on past positive experience, however, do search around as bargains can be had. However do remember not all equipment is built the same, it is highly recommended to spend a bit more on a quality bee suit, hive tool and smoker as these items are used at each inspection.  A good suit will give confidence 


Item Quantity
National Floor 1
National brood box 1
Frames for National brood box (DN4) 11
Foundation for National brood box  (wired worker foundation) 11
National Brood box Dummy board (BS Deep from Thorne) 1
National Queen excluder (Framed and wired) 1
National Supers 3
Frames for National Super (SN1 if super has castellations or SN4 if runners) - 10 or 11 per super depending on super type 30
Small hammer and box of challenge 19mm gimp pins  for frames 1
Foundation for National brood box  (wired worker foundation) 11
5 or 6 Frame Nucleus of Bees on National Frames 1
Full-length bee suit (BBwear or Sheriff are best) 1
Long-cuff nitrile Gloves
Hive Tool - Jerro from Park Beekeeping 1
Jet Lighter 1
Smoker (Dadant from Thornes or National Bee supplies, Lega from Park Beekeeping is also good) 1
Smoker Fuel (can buy or use dry punk wood, etc) 1
Bucket for Wax scrapping (fishing boxes are good for this) 1
Bucket for Washing Soda (fishing boxes are good for this) 1
Soda Crystals (for cleaning suits and for washing hive tools) 1
Nucleus Box for swarm control (BS Honey Bees) 1
Frames and foundation for BS Nucleus Box 6
Ansell Touch n` Tuff Long Cuff Nitrile Gloves (www.justgloves.co.uk) 1
Feeder (English Feeder from Thorne) 1
English Feeder Eke (from Thorne) 1
Apiguard Varroa Treatment (for Autumn Treatment) - 2 trays per treatment 2

Resources

Item Firm Web Site
Equipment supplier Park Beekeeping https://www.parkbeekeeping.com/
Equipment supplier Thorne https://www.thorne.co.uk/
Nucleus Box BS Honey Bees https://www.bshoneybees.co.uk/polynuc
Beekeeping Suite BBWear https://www.bbwear.co.uk/
Beekeeping Suite Sheriff https://www.bjsherriff.co.uk/
Foundation Kemble https://www.kemble-bees.com/foundation
Gloves Just Gloves https://www.justgloves.co.uk/Nitrile-Gloves/Ansell-Touch-n-Tuff-Long-Cuff-Nitrile-Gloves
Nucleus of Bees Bushwood Bees https://bushwoodbees.co.uk/local-london-honey-bees
Bee Manual The Haynes Bee Manual Amazon , Booksetc, etc...
Bee Blog The Apiarist https://theapiarist.org/
Videos Norfolk Honey Co. https://www.youtube.com/user/TheNorfolkHoneyCo