I’ve just completed the beginner’s bee keeping course 2018 and I have to say where have the last 5 months gone! Having started the year with no bees I now have 3 colonies, whether that stays the same in spring next year remains to be seen.
I’m so glad I did the course and I would recommend that anyone wishing to keep bees does this course or one similar, I’ve learnt so much and there were so many aspects of beekeeping that I had no idea about before the course and I felt I’d done a fair amount of research.
My highlight of the course had to be actually getting my bees which sounds strange but at one point about the 4th session in I thought that keeping bees wasn’t going to be possible for me as I had nowhere to keep them, as it turned out that my 3rd or and acre garden was not suitable for bees (something the course taught me ……just because you have the space it doesn’t mean is necessarily suitable). It was on the session where we were allocated a mentor that I told Malcolm not to worry about allocating me a one as I didn’t think I’d be able to keeps bees due to my unexpected space issue. Straight away Malcolm said “that’s not a problem I have just the mentor for you” slightly confused I met my new bee buddy, a lovely lady that keeps bees on a local council owned apiary site who gave me all the information I needed to secure a space on the same site, she helped me enormously and along with Malcolm has built my confidence greatly.
My first (and best) colony of bees was purchased from Malcolm on the 17th May. They are going strong (having had plenty of hiccups courtesy of me on the way) I made one big mistake with this colony, a mistake that had I listened to Malcolm more carefully I would not have made (note to self “just do as Malcolm said in the first place”!!) He kept telling me the bees will want to swarm so make sure you’ve made provision ……………………….and had I? No absolutely not so all of a sudden I had a massive box of bees that wanted to swarm so I had to take action quick before I lost half my bees ! I took advice from Malcolm and my mentor and performed a split. To cut a long story short I put far too many bees in to a nuc with my original queen and in effect gave her less space than she had before so she swarmed any way but at least I only lost a small portion of bees instead of half the colony. The few bees that were left turned into laying workers but therein lies another story.
If I could give only one piece of advice it would be please please please get your bees from a reputable source if you’re not buying from someone connected to high weald bee keepers i.e. another member please make sure you know what you’re buying and if possible view with an experienced bee keeper first. With my second colony I didn’t and its caused a whole heap of problems as I was sold a very poor quality nuc that shouldn’t never have been sold and in hindsight the warning signs were there. Knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have touched them with a barge pole. I still have those bees but I’ve had to work extremely hard to get them where they are now and they still may not make it through the winter.
There have been several problems along the way but I can honestly say that I’m glad they happened as I have learnt from each and every one while also still having the support of Malcolm and other experienced beekeepers that have helped with the course, next year other than my mentor I’ll be on my own. One problem I can’t fix is that I have a severe allergy to bee stings so it’s really important that I avoid being stung, which means picking my times for inspections very carefully making sure I have decent equipment and that I know when to walk away before I need to run J !
People will tell you that bees don’t need much time commitment which again in my opinion the course has taught me differently and if you neglect your bees at the wrong time of year you’ll lose them. Bees aren’t pets and don’t need as much time as other livestock but they do need time and commitment that varies throughout the year though I’ve found that’s there’s always some job or other that needs to be done if it’s not directly with the bees its keeping the apiary mowed and tidy and if it’s not that its cleaning and preparing equipment at home. Though having said all that I have plenty of time for my bees and I work full time, am a mum to 3 year old twins and I have several other animals to look after and we are renovating the house!
Malcolm asked what I found to be the most difficult aspects of bee keeping, well for me personally I have found that beekeeper is not black and white there are so many grey areas. If you ask 10 bee keepers how to do something you’re more than likely to get 10 different answers and it doesn’t mean any of them are wrong! There are many ways of doing something and achieving the same outcome, though some ways may be better than others.
I’d just like finish by saying a very big thank you to Malcolm for all he’s taught me and the support he’s given. And a word to others use Malcolm and ask his advice while you can the course goes very quickly and I wished that I asked him more however it’s now too late as he’ll have a whole load of new recruits to deal with so use him while you can!!