Keeping honey bees is not simply a case of getting a hive, some bees and then leaving them to get on with it. Although honey bees are, and will remain, wild creatures, leaving them alone will almost certainly mean the colony will die out within two years because of a mite now endemic in the UK bee population or starvation in our unpredictable climate or other disease. It is generally accepted that most wild bee colonies have died out in recent years. Without checking the health of your bees regularly and taking action other pests and diseases with the potential to destroy not just your own bees but also other bees in the area as a result of other local bees robbing from your weakened colony and carrying the problems back to their own nests. Effective management also means controlling the swarming behavior which, while a natural process, means your bee colony is weakened by the departure of bees. A swarm may be carrying pests or disease and can also take up home in the roof of a house, cavity of a wall or other inconvenient, as far as the property owner is concerned, location.
You should also be reasonably fit and be prepared to be available for the bees when they need you, which is at least once a week from April to September, and keen to learn and carry on learning for the remainder of your beekeeping life.
And yes, you will get stung!
I’M STILL INTERESTED, TELL ME MORE
But, if it is for you, there is a pleasure in beekeeping from working with these wild creatures, learning their behavior and of course enjoying and selling your own honey. There is always something to be learned with beekeeping you will not learn it from one course, one book, or talking to one beekeeper.
If you wish to take this further read on.
Attend a course
The following are available for you to begin your beekeeping experience or if you have obtained a hive and some bees and need to learn more:
These generally run between January and March each year and provide an introduction to the basics of beekeeping and the tasks needed through the year. For details of the next beginners course contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who have attended a classroom course or beekeeping ‘taster’ session and have or will be joining Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ Association, practical beekeeping training sessions are provided from April to September. Please contact email@example.com for details.
Click here to find out how to join the Association.
Reading a book can be for the complete beginner be confusing, and it is important to read a book that is up to date, written by an experienced beekeeper and describes beekeeping in the British Isles. A list of titles and brief reviews can be found on our Reading List document.
What about equipment?
A guide to the basic equipment you will need can be found in our Introduction To Keeping Bees document.
If you have decided to keep bees, even if you will wait until next year, then your first purchase should be a beesuit. A pair of wellingtons to tuck the trousers into, bees like to climb into dark spaces, and a pair of gloves – washing up gloves with a cuff will do are easy to keep clean and cheap to replace will complete the outfit.