Beemused part 3

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Sometimes I wonder if beekeeping was the hobby for me. I never really meant for it to be anything other than a hive in the garden but we all know what a pie in the sky hope that is! I am lucky to live in the countryside and have been able to give a large part of my garden over to my collection of hives that I try and keep under ten in number. They cause little inconvenience to anyone other than me but I am still on tenterhooks when walking round the garden with family or friends.

There is so much about beekeeping that you wish you had known when you started. The simple fact that putting the hives one end of the garden and a major water source like a pond at the other end means that the flight path on a hot sunny day can be more congested than the M25. I remember saying to my father when he was alive, if a bee pings off your head then please don’t try and swat it. He learnt the hard way that bees are nothing like wasps. Wasps are babies in comparison. One swat and they tend to leave you alone but bees? It’s like a red rag to a bull. They don’t just fly off and forget you, they come back for more and if they can’t manage on their own they go and get their mates. Of course all this could have been avoided by simply not walking in the flight path, or not putting the water source so far away from the hives, if only someone had mentioned it!

I am not a great believer in keeping bees in urban gardens and for that I make no apologies. I have done it in the past and would never do it again. They can change overnight from being perfect companions to being little devils. In the end I had to move my bees to an out apiary at an orchard. The sense of relief that I wasn’t going to have to apologise for the brown spots on peoples cars and white washing and the knowledge that if they did get bees in their roof it definitely wasn’t mine was immense. If only someone had mentioned it!

Not that country apiaries are perfect. Why does the mole pick the two left hand legs of your hive stand to tunnel under? Another thing no one tells you, hive stands are fine for a brood box but add four supers of honey and anything over a 10 degree list and you are in trouble. Big trouble if that hive has another one within falling distance. Once you have had the ‘pack of cards’ disaster you will never put hives so close together again! I long ago learnt to put any hive stands, however sturdy, on slabs or something similar that will not sink. If only someone had mentioned it!

And then there are animals, I have never had a badger turn a hive over, I haven't even had woodpecker damage. In fact the worst thing I get is pigeon muck on the roof, an invasion of woodlice or slugs and the odd hibernating queen wasp, but I know people that have had problems so I try to prevent them before they happen or at least keep an eye out for tell tail signs. Everything seems stacked against the beekeeper, but I suppose my gardening exploits tend to meet with similar problems but that's another story!

I try so hard to enter the beekeeping year in an organised way with clean hives and nicely prepared frames but the bees seem determined to upset the equilibrium and to be fair I tend to reach the end of the year with the feeling that they have won again.

So, why do I keep bees? I guess I am never happier than going through a quiet hive on a warm spring day watching everything that is happening, new bees emerging from cells and the queen easily spotted in the growing hive. I talk away to them as though we have been friends for years and ask them politely to start bringing in lots of nectar. My second burst of joy comes in the autumn when extraction time arrives. I know some people loath the sticky couple of weeks that are needed for a crop but over the years I feel I have got on top of it. A sealed room with one window for letting the odd bee out, every surface easy to wipe down, water and electricity on hand, all the equipment clean and now I use a hot air gun instead of a hot knife for removing the cappings the ‘sticky mess’ has reduced considerably. When the honey begins to flow I can sometimes be heard singing to myself, a rare pleasure that is probably best kept for the seclusion of my bee room!

Beekeeping isn’t so much an art as a passion. It lends itself to a grumpy old man like me. I can moan and curse with the best of them and I have enough after dinner stories to keep the family amused for a few years yet, but deep down I wouldn't change it for the world. I am a hobby beekeeper and I shall stay that way for as long as possible.
Dear Enrico
That last post of yours brought back the same memories - intense moments of happiness and more or less painful learnings of the last 25 years. The only moment I'd add is watching a small grandchild watching a new bee chew her lid off and struggle out of her cell in her new furry jacket.

Latest posts