Having reduced my working hours to part time, With a young child starting school and a one year old puppy, I thought now was the perfect time to start bee keeping.
I've had a long interest in bees but didn't want to go into it blindly so I booked myself on to the beginners course and boy i'm glad I did!
How people are able to keep bees successfully without going on a course that runs throughout the season like this one does, is to my mind, irresponsible.
A lot of commitment is required for keeping bees. There is so much to learn and the course seems to fly by so DON'T miss any sessions and make sure you listen to every word that Malcolm, Our tutor, has to say. The man is a genius, His knowledge is exceptional, He's highly entertaining, incredibly helpful and no, He did not pay or ask me to write any of that! I can't thank Malcolm enough and his energy levels....Well, I'll let you find that out for yourself!
Being on the course with like minded people, always ready to support one another was lovely.
I was extremely lucky to even have a bee buddy as I live one hour's drive away from the area. Malcolm forwarded me contact details for Brian Hopper, A bee keeper with over thirty years experience, happened to move to my neighbouring village and to my surprise, very kindly, took me under his wing.
Brian's support and advice has been invaluable, He has so much patient, He is The Bee Whisperer, always so calm and to whom I now consider a dear friend.
I didn't get my bees until late in the season due to a couple of failures.
Firstly, I had a colony for a few weeks but they never went out foraging, The Queen never laid, They were not interested in feeding the sugar syrup I'd prepared for them, It was most bizarre. Brian and I opened up the Hive one day only to find them all dead, An awful sight. I was heart broken and in floods of tears, You really do end up falling in love with your bees! Brian came to the conclusion that I had a duff Queen. She was bought cheap online, She may of been old or not fully mated, that we'll never know, She didn't seem to be giving off the pheromones to help regulate the unity of the colony. I can't stress enough to you that you should only ever buy your Queen from a reputable source, ideally a homegrown British queen from the association.
Secondly, I was given a swarm, I felt so smug, to then only find that six days latter they decided to swarm off!...I was not amused.
It was on the bee safari when luck would have it, A fellow student found she was over supplied with bees and had nowhere to put them.
Everyone decided it would be a great idea that I take them off her hands. A Nucleus was swiftly made up for me with two Queen cells.
It was very late in the day and getting dark. Shell shocked and tired, I nervously took the long journey back home with this Nuc strapped up on the front passenger seat and the bees buzzing continuously, I kept reassuring my new girls, and myself, that everything was going to be okay and that I knew what I was doing.
It was pitch black by the time I got home, I fumbled around in the car for a torch, balanced it on top of the Nuc whilst managing to avoid all the rabbit holes that plague our field and swearing profusely. Finally placing the Nuc successfully on site.
Since then, I have a very placid Colony who seem to be doing rather well. It has now doubled in size.
During the month of September I have fed them sugar syrup every other day so hopefully they have enough stores for Winter.
I shall be giving them a Christmas day present of some fondant.
Third time lucky? Will they survive the Winter?? I wait with bated breath.