About a year ago, I took a 12 week course at the British Beekeepers Association in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, to learn about keeping your own bees.
We have a declining bee population in the UK, and I believe it’s up to everybody to do their bit to help. And to be honest, I’d always fancied the idea of keeping bees. And finally, I’ve got a hive full of bees in my garden!
Among the blossom
I decided to situate the bees in the corner of my garden where I had recently planted a little micro orchard of mini fruit. It includes apple, pear, cherry and almond trees, and makes the perfect home for my new bees.
My first step was to get a little a beehive. I had it made by a local hive maker out of beautiful red cedar wood.
The hive surrounded by orchard blossom
Now I just needed some bees. My friend Brian, who’s been a beekeeper for 50 years and is mentoring me, helped my find somebody who was selling a nucleus. This is a little bee colony with a queen and her brood which needs a new home.
I actually have two beehives: one with the nucleus and another empty one. Rather than buying bees to fill it, I’m leaving it available to a swarm of bees that naturally finds itself looking for new home.
Here come the bees
The bees arrive!
I was beside myself with anticipation, and the bees finally arrived this week in a little box. In fact, the owner had driven over with the box on his front seat. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see my bees! It was just like being a kid again.
The guys who came to help me settle the bees in took the box over to the hive and opened it. They used a little smoke from a canister to calm the bees down.
Smoke from the canister stops them getting agitated
Then they took out the individual frames and slotted them into the beehive.
A frame on the way to its new home
It was a marvellous feeling to see the bees settling into their new home. The best thing was seeing some of the bees immediately set off to explore the orchard and heading straight for the fruiting cherry blossoms!
Once all the frames were in, the beehive lid went back on the top. Then we put a little green mat down as a ramp to help some of the stragglers crawl up and into their new home. They seemed very happy with it!
The stragglers catch up!
There is that initial trepidation, if you’ve never been so close to a beehive before, of suddenly getting caught in a swarm of bees. And the sound of them flying about is as alarming as it is fascinating!
The swarm of bees suddenly appears all around you, and you really have to trust in your suit and gloves and just keep calm.
Trying out my new beekeeper’s suit
I’m still trying to get used to these bee suits – they look a bit cumbersome but they’re very easy to use.
It helped that I’m a scuba diver, and have taken part in hundreds of dives, so I’m comfortable in the suit and trust that it will keep me safe.
Exploring the orchard
The bees wasted no time finding tasty pollen!
It was an amazing experience to see the bees settling into their new home and getting used to the area. And now that corner of the garden, full of bees and blossom and fruit trees, just has so much more personality. It’s really come alive.
They are just getting used to the neighbourhood, and we could have our own honey by this time next year!
I’m officially a beekeeper. And I can’t tell you how excited I am! I’m looking forward to writing more blogs to keep you updated on how the bees are getting on!
Get your own bees
Keeping bees isn’t as difficult as you think! For those of you interested in having a go, try the British Beekeepers Association – they do a very good comprehensive training session. For more information, check out their website.
If you want to help the bee population but don’t want a hive, check out how to create a bumblebee house or solitary bee nest here, and find plants to attract bees and pollinators here.