This is what we are called by the ‘oldbeeks’, I find it quite endearing. My journey started many years ago, so long ago I can’t remember, about wanting to become a beekeeper. For many reasons I just never got round to it until late 2015 when I decided to just get on with it and stop procrastinating. I enrolled on the beginner’s course run by the FDBKA. Sandra Hearn was the tutor and Mike Holloway as the resident authority.
Armed with the course literature, notes from attending the very informative course and a couple of books recommended by Mike I took the plunge. My first stop was locating the apiary. Fortunately I have an underused hardstand in my back garden, which I fenced off so the bees move above head height. I spoke with my neighbours and sought their permission with the prospect of some local honey they were very supportive.
Hive No.1 was a swarm collected from the garden of one of the members of the FDBKA having been on the swarm watch list for about three weeks. With his help it was a simple process following what I learned from the course. I used the standard hiving process involving a ramp and an old bed sheet and watched them slowly move up into the hive, this was a fascinating and exciting time, seeing these creatures move as individuals but also as a whole. We thought this was a primary swarm (the mated queen from the original hive) but it turned out to be a virgin queen. There was a queen excluder placed under the brood box for two weeks to prevent them from re-swarming. This was a mistake, as she needed to leave the hive to go on mating flights, which needed to happen in the first three weeks of her life. Fortunately, this was removed in time and is now a prolific layer.
Hive No.2 is a Nuc purchased from a bee farmer on Hayling Island. This was a process of just transferring the frames from the nuc to their permanent brood box. They have not grown much but seem to be building up nicely in numbers and stores to see them through the winter and to kick on in the spring.
Hive No. 3 was a small cast swarm (virgin queen) I picked up after going onto the swarm list once again. I was doubtful they would expand much and have been feeding them syrup to keep them going. They are now expanding rapidly (having learned not to have a queen excluder in place) so much so I may need to transfer them to a full brood box for the winter. Again I am hopeful they will be perfectly placed to push on in the spring.
All my harvest this year was from Hive No.1. I wasn’t expecting anything the first year but they have been working really hard and are now building up stores for the winter. The honey tasted like heaven, my own first honey crop! Jarred and packaged in the above photos. I am now very popular with my friends for some reason or other.
I have not regretted starting beekeeping and it has been expensive for the first year buying all the kit and hives but I love it. Indeed my boys like beekeeping having tasted the honey so much so they now have their own bee suits, which they do need to grow into! They have not been stung yet so lets see their enthusiasm after their first taste of bee venom!
My two boys trying to bring down the average age of the association.
The Foster Rooms in Stubbington were at standing room only as 54 people crammed in to attend the inaugural lecture of 2016 presented by FDBKA.
Peter Higgs gave a very informative lecture on the removal of problem honeybee colones from buildings covering techniques, legislation and examples.
Although somewhat controversial the membership gained an insight into how a business goes about the removal of bees in difficult places.
Once again the Foster Room were the venue for a packed technical brief by Dr Tak Chin on allergies relating to Honeybee venom including allergies and intolerances.
A fascinating subject there were a number of questions to keep Dr Chin busy after the event and all members left with a new knowledge about what their colonies can do to the human body.
The weather in early September has finally allowed this years trainees to undertake the final practical session of this year’s introduction to bees & beekeeping course. On a very warm sunny afternoon they were able to remove the supers of capped honey, check the hives for winter stores and apply Varroa treatments. The final treat was then getting their hands sticky extracting and bottling the honey!
Ray Powell 13.11.1928 – 19.01.2016
Jean and Ray started beekeeping in 1980 so I rang around the Association members who have known Ray the longest and received a rich response. There is no way that I can cover here the great love that he had for beekeeping, his depth of knowledge, and how he helped individuals and groups locally and county-wide. What comes across from local beekeepers is the way in which he would always offer what help he could, often coming out and sorting the problem with warm encouragement, insights and a ready chuckle. Many in the Association have said that he was their inspiration to start beekeeping. He helped Jo and me on several occasions. However stupid our mistakes, he never treated us as stupid.
We say goodbye to a great beekeeper, but we are all the richer for knowing him, and his knowledge and love of beekeeping will continue with all who knew him.