Is it worth my while starting beekeeping?

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

trevorandfiona 

New Bee
Joined
Nov 15, 2011
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
Bishopton nr Glasgow
Hive Type
none
Hi,

I'm a complete beginner with a keen interest in bees. I would really like to keep a hive or two at the top of my garden. I live in a terraced house and there are other gardens on either side of mine. The area I plan to site the hive is at the very top end of the garden and the neighbours don't go up there often at all.

I have started a bee-keeping course with my local association and, to be honest, came away feeling very dismayed and wondering whether or not to even bother following it up. The chap lecturing was clearly extremely experienced and knowledgeable but I got the impression that he is a commercial keeper (70 hives apparently) and doesn't think much of having bees in a garden. He is probably right, but is it really all that bad?

I want to approach this as a keen gardener and nature lover who would like to keep a colony of bees to study and, if I get some honey out of it, all the better. If they produced no honey at all then I wouldn't be upset!

My questions are these:

Will the bees from one, or perhaps two, hives be a nuisance to my neighbours when I am not actually physically opening the hive (because I can open the hive when they are all at work as I work from home myself).

During the day / evening will the bees be a problem for me (or vice versa) if I am weeding or having my tea 10 ft away from the hive?

I would really appreciate any opinions - if the chap lecturing us was right then that I just something I will have to accept and bee-keeping won't be for me whilst I live where I do. Or maybe it isn't all doom and gloom!
 
Joined
Oct 30, 2010
Messages
12,502
Reaction score
29
Location
South West
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
Miriads
Don't despair!
Keep up with your beekeeping course, you will be surprised at the help you will get from all beekeepers new and old, and even if you garden is not the most suitable for keeping bees there are other ways!
Remember the guy with 40 hives must have started out with one just like you at some time

Keep reading this forum... there is stuff here you will not find in any beekeeping book

and most of all
GOOD LUCK !!
 

Chris B 

Queen Bee
Beekeeping Sponsor
Joined
Dec 9, 2008
Messages
2,203
Reaction score
0
Location
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
300
Plenty of people keep bees okay in gardens, but there are more potential pitfalls, especially unruly bees. Don't be put off though. If your bees are good tempered and you make screens around the hives you should be fine. It would still be sensible to arrange an out-apiary you can move them to quickly if things get out of hand.
 

Poly Hive 

Queen Bee
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
13,854
Reaction score
170
Location
Scottish Borders
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
12 and 18 Nucs
from what you are describing I to would suggest it is a non starter.

what you possibly do not recognize is that if a colony turns nasty and begins to rampage everything for several hundred yards can be stung. Not funny at all I can assure you from experience.

If you are serious about beekeping then I have two suggestions for you.

The first is to find a mentor with in your assoc and spend next year helping out and finding out at the same time whether bees are really for you, theory is of course essential but does not prepare you for the reality of an open hive.

The 2nd is to think about an out apiary which is what I use myself.

There are many ways to keep bees but first and foremost is to bear in mind bees can be lethal to livestock and humans. Just a point to ponder.

The other side of that coin though is that beekeeping can and does open many doors that otherwise you will never encounter.

I can honestly say it has vastly enriched my life.

PH
 

Heather 

Queen Bee
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Messages
4,102
Reaction score
101
Location
Newick, East Sussex
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
15
I have a largish garden- am surrounded by neighbours, and keep 9 hives in my garden split into 2 areas, and they are a joy to watch each day. They rarely cause me any problem when I am working in the garden and only swarmed x3 (in 6 years) and always into the same neighbours tree. She enjoys the honey gifts I offer. ;)
I am going to reduce the numbers this summer but will still keep some here.

If you can place the hive so that the opening faces a hedge they will fly up when foraging and so disperse in a less dense flight path.

BUT as said- accompany someone for a while going through their hive, look and experience - it may not be for you...
 

drex 

Queen Bee
***
Joined
Nov 4, 2009
Messages
3,229
Reaction score
701
Location
N.E. Essex
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
16
Go for it. I have got so much from my 2 years of keeping bees.

get as much expreience as you can, read as much as you can, plan your apiary site carefully ( with an alternative site available - in case they turn nasty - which has happened to me), then get your bees if you are still enchanted. On going mentor ship is always a good idea.

You might choose to mention it to your neighbours beforehand ( pros and cons) - a jar of honey goes a long way.
 

Headnavigator 

Drone Bee
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Messages
1,049
Reaction score
0
Location
Isle of Wight
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
4
Only you know if you're the sort of person who 'does commitment' and will stick with something through thick and thin. If you're a good beginner who gets bored and wanders off track with things, I'd suggest don't do it, either in the garden or elsewhere.
However if you're committed, your neighbours (and postman) are aware and OK with it, I'd say go for it, especially if you can find somewhere you could use as a temporary out-apiary if you did get a difficult colony. The fact that you're asking the question and doing a course are both good signs! I'm happy with mine in the garden, others are happier with theirs in an out-apiary, it's your decision!

;)
 

bobster 

House Bee
Joined
May 29, 2011
Messages
124
Reaction score
0
Location
Surrey,UK
Hive Type
tbh
Number of Hives
3
Trevor and Fiona,

Don't be put off. You've done the right thing by going to your local association. If you can I would sign up now for a beekeeping course you can start next year. I know a number of associations start beekeeing courses that start off with theory in Jan/Feb and then run into a practical course early spring Mar/April. But either way get some practical exposure to handling bees before you buy anything. You will get stung BTW!

As for the garden. This is always debated hotly on this forum. Many beekeepers keep bees in their gardens very successfully, including me. But I'm fortunate that my garden is quite large. I have neighbours either side (about 40m away from hive), I get on well with my neighbours, they like my bees, they comment on the number of bees they see in their garden. However, I'm keenly aware that things can turn nasty (with the bees!). So I have a plan B to resite to a farm if needed. In fact I'm planning to expand out there next year.

You are responsible for the bees in your care. With that responsibility you have to apply some common sense. You need to ask the question "If someone next door gets stung then what would happen, how would my neighbours react?", similarly "if/when my bees swarmed and ended up on next doors roof, how would they react?". If you're happy with your answers then go for it. Otherwise find an out apiary (through the local association or landshare even). Also giving your neighbours some honey works a charm in keeping them sweet.

Either way start keeping bees, you can do it and should do it.

Bobster
 

Poly Hive 

Queen Bee
Joined
Dec 4, 2008
Messages
13,854
Reaction score
170
Location
Scottish Borders
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
12 and 18 Nucs
All, the OP said a terraced house. That to me suggests a pretty small garden.

Heather? I would describe your garden as very large TBH.

There are of course gardens and gardens, and bees in a large garden with no neighbours is one thing, a postage stame surrounded by neighbours is quite another.

By the by the worst I ever saw? Over 40 derelict hives in a garden surrounded by houses, and five swarms that I could count hanging from this than and the other, and not a utensil or bit of kit to be had with out a hole in it.

When asked if he was worried about the neighbours he laughed and said, "Prove that swarm is mine."

Given he had the only bees for miles he was not as bomb proof as he thought!

PH
 

Skyhook 

Queen Bee
Joined
May 19, 2010
Messages
3,053
Reaction score
0
Location
Dorset
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
5
To add my 2d-worth to what people have said-

1) Its a fascinating and very rewarding hobby, I wouldn't be without them.
2) have some hands-on experience before you get your own bees- essential.
3) It's surprising how much kit you need- there are economies, but expect to pay hundreds to start beekeeping (hive, bees, suit etc). You can probably save a lot with a top-bar hive- there are threads on here where they are discussed BUT(and it's a biggy)- you can't move them if theres a problem.
4) You must have a plan b site to take you're bees to- your association may be able to help here. Hopefully you can get good tempered bees from a reputable source, but if they supercede, or even if they are under attack from wasps they can turn nasty, then you need to get them away from people while you sort them out/requeen/wait for the wasps to die out. See point 3.

If all this sounds a bit heavy- well it can be. Mine are currently at an out apiary. When I get a colony calm enough, they can come back home. I tried re-queening my worst hive with a bought-in queen this year, but they rejected her and raised a new one of their own.

If your main interest is the nature watching aspect, certainly a lot simpler to create a lot of bumble-bee sites in your garden, and they are a delight to watch; but if you really really want them, it can be done :)
 

alanf 

Queen Bee
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
2,185
Reaction score
1
Location
Middx
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
2
I have started a bee-keeping course with my local association and, to be honest, came away feeling very dismayed and wondering whether or not to even bother following it up. The chap lecturing was clearly extremely experienced and knowledgeable but I got the impression that he is a commercial keeper (70 hives apparently) and doesn't think much of having bees in a garden.
The BBKA surveys show the median number of hives at 2. That is, anyone with as many as 70 is in a small minority of beekeepers. Most of us keep bees in the gardens and allotments in suburbs, semi urban or semi rural areas where we live. There are some extra precautions and care but it has been how it works since the local associations were founded; around here between the late 1800s and the 1930s. Even those with several sites often do the queen raising at home where they can monitor daily.

Most of your local association will be in a similar position to you, get to know them, they do not all speak with one voice.
 

itma 

Queen Bee
Joined
Jul 26, 2011
Messages
8,017
Reaction score
1
Location
Kent, England
Hive Type
14x12
...
My questions are these:

Will the bees from one, or perhaps two, hives be a nuisance to my neighbours when I am not actually physically opening the hive (because I can open the hive when they are all at work as I work from home myself).

During the day / evening will the bees be a problem for me (or vice versa) if I am weeding or having my tea 10 ft away from the hive?
...
This is a great (ongoing) debate on this forum, not least because -
It depends on the bees.

Different colonies (queens) really do have different temperaments.
And their temperament will change. ± !

Some would completely ignore you.
Others would try and move you away. (Especially if you are in view of -or rather from- the hive entrance.)

You can seek out mild-mannered bees.
But you need to have a 'Plan B', a Gulag to which they can be banished if (while) you sort out a potential problem. Takes up to a few weeks for a nice queen to fully work her transformational magic. Really needs to be three or more miles away. Your local association may be very helpful with that.

The garden. You need hedge, trellis&netting, building walls or high fences essentially all round so that the bees don't fly across 1/ your garden or 2/ the neighbours or 3/ any paths, roads, etc at people-height. They fly fast, and when they are 'on a mission' they don't seem to look where they are going! Force them up about eight feet and they shouldn't bother anyone as they go about their daily business.

To appreciate what I'm on about, you do really need to visit an apiary and see the bees flying. Wrong time of the year for that really, but again local association members would be very welcoming.

Swarms. Apart from apologising to the neighbours in advance, I'd suggest that you consider a relatively large hive. Don't think about a single-brood National. One cause of swarming is not having enough space, so give them plenty. Also, pedigree non-native super-tame bees (if you were thinking of going that route), tend to produce large colonies, so they run out of space faster

My suggestion - join an association (or two) on 'friend' membership (cheap, and as you don't yet have bees, the right way to do things), and find someone locally that you can visit and 'help' until you know whether its for you.
Listen to and watch everything you can, but you don't have to believe everything!

If you want to get any kit (even for Christmas), restrict yourself to personal kit - suit, hive tool, smoker, rubber gloves and washing soda.
And see if you can arrange a 'naughty step' for the future, where your potential bees could go if their behaviour wasn't tolerable at home.

Last point. For 'sustainability' (getting out of the mire), you do need minimum two hives. And some spare bits. And somewhere to keep stuff. And if you should get any honey, dealing with it can get very messy very quickly!
Read the Bad Beekeepers Club. (Get it from a library, its not reference material, or is it? :) ) Just make sure that you, and your relationship, can stand that sort of screw-ups!
 

Brosville 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 29, 2008
Messages
3,131
Reaction score
0
Location
uk
Hive Type
tbh
Number of Hives
4
you most certainly can move top bar hives - don't know where that misconception came from!
(I'm someone who got to 3 colonies, 3 hives and all necessary equipment for under £150 in total going the "top bar" route)
 

Suzi Q 

Field Bee
***
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Messages
781
Reaction score
0
Location
london
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
4
I have seen many small apiarys on allotments/community gardens. The thing they all had in common was that they were surrounded by netting up to 6'. The idea is that the bees fly over people's heads and fly down at 45 degrees to the hive entrance, which if possible should be facing away from paths etc. I've kept bees in this way without any mishaps.
If you have a private garden I would say go for it, as long as the bees are well-behaved and, as other posters have said, there is a plan B if you need to re-site them.
 

MandF 

Drone Bee
Joined
Oct 28, 2009
Messages
1,207
Reaction score
0
Location
London, UK
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
2
All, the OP said a terraced house. That to me suggests a pretty small garden.
And thats a pretty large assumption! :)

Lots of terraced houses have long (if narrow) gardens. They also often either back onto a garden the other side, or an access road/alley.

As other have said, finish the theory course, do their beginners/hands on course, to see if you can deal with them ok and get an idea of the weekly tasks, try and get a mentor (not essential if doing the beginners course), and just be prepared for if the bees do turn nasty.
 

bobster 

House Bee
Joined
May 29, 2011
Messages
124
Reaction score
0
Location
Surrey,UK
Hive Type
tbh
Number of Hives
3
@SkyHook

3) It's surprising how much kit you need- there are economies, but expect to pay hundreds to start beekeeping (hive, bees, suit etc). You can probably save a lot with a top-bar hive- there are threads on here where they are discussed BUT(and it's a biggy)- you can't move them if theres a problem.
Pray tell, why can you not move a TBH? I'd like to learn what the difficulty is?

And TBHs are ideal for beginners, cheap and easy to make, easy to inspect, no heavy lifting, no foundation, good IPM, no facefull of bees when inspecting, fewer (if any) crushed bees when closing up.

I got two nucs of bees a smock+veil and built my own hives for < £200.

I'll put my tin hat on...

Bobster
 

itma 

Queen Bee
Joined
Jul 26, 2011
Messages
8,017
Reaction score
1
Location
Kent, England
Hive Type
14x12
Pray tell, why can you not move a TBH? I'd like to learn what the difficulty is?
Moving TBH's?
Its not that they can't be moved, but they do need a vehicle with much more loadspace than is needed for say a National. And its always going to take at least two people to load one.
These may not be issues for everyone, but they do rule out TBHs for some - even if they hope they will never have to move the thing!
 

enrico 

Queen Bee
Joined
Mar 4, 2011
Messages
9,986
Reaction score
1,082
Location
Somerset levels
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
5
I agree with POLY totally. Bees can be good for 364 days of the year but catch them on bad day and they can have you in tears. Even putting a nose outside the back door will end up in a sting by the little bugger that had been waiting for that opportunity. Keeping bees is rewarding for the keeper but can be hell for the neighbour. No amount of honey will recompense them for not being able to use their garden. All those that say it doesn't happen just haven't had it happen to them yet. It WILL ONE DAY!!!!!
Roof beekeeping is about the only way that urban beekeeping is safe.
Ignore Poly and me at your peril!
E
 

MandF 

Drone Bee
Joined
Oct 28, 2009
Messages
1,207
Reaction score
0
Location
London, UK
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
2
The world WILL END ONE DAY too.

I really fail to understand why some on here are so against people keeping bees in their gardens. Tell me, do wasps sting people? Are there wasps nests in gardens?

At least a beehive is managed, and we can move the hives if needed. For some the sight of honey and bumblebees on their flowers during the summer *is* what they want - lots of non beekeepers buy bee-friendly plants.

If you dont want to do it, fine, but please stop trying to scare potential new beekeepers away.
 

enrico 

Queen Bee
Joined
Mar 4, 2011
Messages
9,986
Reaction score
1,082
Location
Somerset levels
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
5
Wasps rarely sting out of sheer malice. If you have been through a beehive on a bad day then bees will make sure that they sting something...What I am trying to say is that it may not happen for a few years but when it does you may end a good relationship with neighbours! I believe we all have a responsibility as keepers of bees and if there is ANY choice then my answer would be don't do it in a small garden. Sorry! Nothing wrong with a big garden where you can surrounds them with bushes and trees but .... Terrace garden? Not for me
E
 

Latest posts

Top