Jo Groom’s 2019 Beginners Course

Jo Groom
In May 2018 I decided I wanted to keep bees. Before that time it hadn’t even crossed my mind.
However, I was adament it was something I was going to do and I was determined to do it right.
The sudden decision came about due to my father suddenly passing away in April 2018. He had been on a bee tasting session and wanted to take it up but unfortunately never got the chance. I was now going to do it in his memory on the family farm.
I emailed HWBKA to see if I could get onto their beginners course but unfortunately I was too late as the course had already started. I replied asking if there was anyone I could help out or shadow as I was desperate to learn and determined to get bees that year. I was very fortunate that the reply was a yes. Not only was it a yes but it was with Samantha Bowles who was looking for someone to help her. Sam’s knowledge along with her calm and exceptional bee handling was more than I could have ever wished for. I spent the summer helping Sam with her bees and learnt more than I could have ever hoped.
Before helping Sam I knew I would keep bees as I was determined to in memory of Dad, however I didn’t appreciate quite how much I would fall in love with them. I’ll remember the first time we opened the hive for the rest of my life. The sounds, the smell, the behaviour. That moment right there was incredible and every time I open my hives now I feel the same. This had become a passion and I wanted to talk to anyone that would listen about the fascinating life of the honey bee.
I was fortunate enough that by September Sam felt I was ready to have one of her colony’s which she kindly sold me. Sam kept her bees in Beehaus hives and a National hive and having spent the summer working with both I decided I would continue with the Beehaus. I excitedly took them home to the family farm one evening with the help of my husband. The next morning I was in awe watching them on their orientation flights. The air was full of bees. An amazing sight. I spent the winter watching them, listening to them and reading a lot!
That winter I signed up to the HWBKA beginners course to further my knowledge and at the beginning of this year began that journey.
Without knowing at the time, signing up to this course would be mine and my bees life line.
Unfortunately I was poorly in April which clashed with the amazing start to the bee season and swarming season had begun! My colony was prolific and I knew it would need splitting early. The position of the hive meant the colony grew at an incredible speed. It was sheltered from the wind, had full sun from early morning until late afternoon and whilst recovering at home I had a gut feeling that queen cells would be being made. I managed to do a hive inspection finding queen cells, and not being well enough to do an artificial swarm I was blessed to have Malcolm, Peter and Sam at the end of the phone.
I will forever be grateful to Malcolm, Peter and Sam for that weekend when I wasn’t able to look after my bees. Malcolm was amazing for helping me that evening with the artificial swarm. Within an hour of sending him a text we were driving to the hive. Even though the split didn’t quite go to plan (but what does with livestock!) and caused a bit of stress and worry for 24 hours, it made me realise that it’s not the end of the world and things can be rectified. I spoke to Peter on the phone the following day, who then drove over and reassured me I wasn’t going mad and that the original queen had in fact disappeared. Peter’s calming attitude towards bee keeping is profound and his bee handling is lovely to watch. Sam - she was my rock over the phone. The support from HWBKA was incredible and shows the true love towards the welfare of the bees. The disaster of losing a huge amount of bees was averted and instead I now had two large colonies.
Fortunately, shortly after the exciting artificial swarm I bounced back and 2 weeks later 2 swarms decided to land at my apiary. An amazing experience and one I was very lucky to have as it doubled my colonies. I invested in another 2 Beehaus hives and a deep national for variety. The deep national is perfect for my 2 daughters (who are 3 and 6) to learn with as it is lower than the Beehaus. They have loved coming to check the bees with me and being hands on.
The bee keeping course itself has been incredibly informative and fascinating and the group of people were amazing. We learned a lot but also laughed just as much. Every session was informal, amazing fun and I came away buzzing and inspired from every single one. The best session though has to be the Bee Safari. This is a session not to be missed as you learn such a lot from looking in so many hives in one day. It’s a long day but absolutely invaluable.
Malcolm is incredibly passionate about bee keeping and is a fantastic teacher and very approachable with a great sense of humour. Listening to Malcolm, Steve and Keith talk about bee keeping is always incredible and I could listen all day.
A WhatsApp group was started and this has lead to constant contact with the others in our group, bouncing off ideas and helping each other.
I hadn’t appreciated at first quite how much time bee keeping requires. Every colony is different and at different stages. It keeps you thinking and learning every time you open up. It also gives you a lot to think about when you're not at the apiary!
I now have 4 very strong prolific colonies going into the winter and can’t wait to see what next years bee keeping has in store!