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Talkback: Beekeeping

I love the idea too but I am also aware of how big responsibility is to look after them while they are hungry or sick. It is not a cheap hobby either. How big is a colony and how much food they need while active even in winter as I witnessed? Is there enough food for them while sharing it with other wildlife such as bumblebees and butterflies? I love watching the buzz and I try to plant plants so they flower in sequences all the year but I am aware that two-three flowering plants per month are not enough to sustain a beehive colony. Unless I could let some local beekeeper keep his/her hive for a jar or two of honey to get the experience of the pleasure and trouble before trying for real. BBA does not provide such information but it is a good start.


  • My husband took up beekeeping a couple of years ago. He has got very involved and loves it, but there's a lot more to it than just getting a hive or two. You need to choose your bees, learn to check them and treat them for diseases, cope with swarms, feed them when they run out of food, etc etc. The honey is great, but the bees certainly don't pay their way, as there's quite a bit of expense involved (hives, frames, protective clothing, smoker, honey containers, possibly an extracting machine, etc.)

    Honey bees will fly 2 or 3 miles in search of food, so they won't have to rely on your garden. Usually they'll find good sources of nectar, although this summer there was a big "hungry gap" in the cold early summer, and they started eating up their stores. Honey yields are down by perhaps 75% this year. They don't share as much as you might think with other species - other types of bee, for instance, have longer tongues and can reach into different flowers.

    And yes, beekeepers will sometimes put a couple of hives in a large garden and give the owner a few pots of honey in exchange, but they'd want to check it out and make sure they bees could be in a place where they wouldn't cause a nuisance to you or to others. We have two of our hives in a local cider orchard now, and it's produced some very good honey with a nice sharp tang to it. But after the apple blossom season, the bees had to go elsewhere and the later honey is very thick and crystallised - possilby they found some bean-flowers, or oilseed rape.

    It's a fascinating subject and you can do various courses in all aspects of bees and beekeepng.

    The best thing would be to contact your local branch of the British Beekeeping Association and talk to some local members. They will know where you could join a local class where you're taught the basics before you get as far as actually acquiring bees.



  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,007

    I thought about beekeeping but was put off by the investment needed just for protective gear and a decent hive.  We don't eat much honey either so I'd have the bother of selling it.   I do, however, have  several species of wild bee in the garden and that'll do for me.

    I do like to have honey for cooking and occasional crumpets though.   Chestnut honey bought on hols a couple of years ago was really tasty.   This year I bought a pot of local Charente spring honey - really pale and delicate from all the wild flowers - and a pot of sunflower honey which is so yellow I thought it was lemon curd.  Haven't tried it yet.


    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I suffer terribly from hay fever, but after hearing that eating local honey can help you to build up resistance against it I've not looked back - it's amazing what those busy bees can do.

    I have noticed the bees are loving my lavendar plant this year, despite all of the rain. Although it sounds like it's more than just rain that's causing problems - I read an article about a bee virus ( that has been threatening bee colonies throughout the world.
  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    I think this must be a fascinating hobby, but too ambitious for me to want to undertake.

    I have loads of nectar plants, throughout the season, and lots of bees, and I sometimes wonder where they come from, especially the honey bees. I wonder whether there is a beekeeper not too far away, who has the hives.

    A few weeks ago I had some flowers inside the greenhouse. I was keeping them there out of the bad weather. Honey bees were finding their way into the greenhouse, collecting the nectar, and quite easily finding the door out, and back home, whereever that is.

  • took up beekeeping years ago, never more than 3 hives ,almost all 2nd hand equiptment(ok if you are really clean and tidy) top and trousers(ex mod) white. only need a hat with veil attached new.washing up gloves fine. Bees from swarms,AND lots of start up help from local beekeepers assoc.on line, EVERY county has one,even London.Joining is vital, you get insurance with your membership,monthly mag. county news.and the inspiration from members,so many of whome are newcomers,you can take beekeepers exams..even for basics its an can even buy polystyrene beehives now,how cool is that! as for varoa,there are fairly effective natural protections for bees ,never fear..and as for all that expensive stuff bee groups usually have it to hire to members.GO FOR IT..NOW
  • Hi All, in June this year I started a FREE classified Ads website and Forum called The aim is to try and bring down the high start up costs of beekeeping, something that has been mentioned many times in the previous posts.

    I am running a competition in association with Paynes Bee Farm to give away 2 Poly National Hives with Frames so please check out the website its free to enter and could give you the chance to start up for Free..


    [email protected]
  • EuniEuni Posts: 6
    I think that you are on the right track when you say that you should go on a course for bee keeping.

    My sister helps train new people in Durham. People new to bee keeping, some I gather, place the bees in an area where there is NO food for the bees and they begin to starve, needing a top up with prepared food by the bee keeper.

    Seemingly, you have to RUB OUT the Queen cells or the bees will swarm if another Queen is in the hive. A common problem to new bee keepers as they do not recognise the new queen cells.

    A cousce is recommended and on-going support from the bee keepers society.

    Good luck.

    I have made a hive in my garden for Bumble Bees, got the plan from the Internet.
  • EuniEuni Posts: 6
    Polystyrene hives, hmmmm, how do you clean them? All hives need cleaning.
  • Please only keep bees if you are prepared to look after them properly. We had a very irresponsible bee keeer in an adjacent field who let his bees swarm four times due to lack of care and they took residence in our chimneys. Not only did we have to call in a pest control man to kill the bees as they could not be saved which upset us but it cost us hundreds of pounds to do so not to mention the mess that the bees made with their soot laden legs on our furnishings and walls when some came down the chimney. We have a very responsible bee keeper that we know and he told us recently that he has lost several hives which had to be burnt due to someone keeping dirty hives that had been infected with the bee virus that is now so common.  

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