Thursday, 11 June 2009
For the first time in nearly four years I have had the time to read my Beekeeping Magazines. They have piled up in a corner, many of them still in their plastic wrappers, unopened and unread. My hives, once full of busy bees, are now empty and unloved. The Varroa Mite has now reached 95% of British Colonies and without intervention even a previously health colony can be wiped out in three to four years. Beekeeping in Britain is largely a hobby and a very interesting, relaxing, and rewarding hobby it is. You never stop learning, and providing you grasp the basics you can stop where you want to. There is an opportunity to involve other People, as there are many things connected with beekeeping that don’t involve getting too close to a beehive.
Many beekeepers are keen gardeners and every year I decide to plant up my veggie patch, pick my soft fruit and use my honey crop to become a little more self sufficient. Unfortunately there always seems to be a by-election or some other crisis and I end up saying "next year"
A crop of 40-60lb of honey on average per year is not exceptional and once you have a good supply of honey it is surprising what uses you will find for it. Honey can be used to replace sugar in many recipes, and fermented into mead which is one of the simplest drinks to make. Beeswax can be used for making candles, polish, soap, cosmetics, etc. All these things can be made with equipment that is available in most households.
Many gardens will accommodate a couple of hives providing they are sited sensibly. Beekeeping is seasonal and the amount of time needed varies. During the summer expect to spend, say, an hour on one colony, and 20-30 minutes on subsequent colonies per week for an inexperienced beekeeper, and half that for those who have been keeping bees for a year or so. A reasonably experienced beekeeper will only make fortnightly inspections, which further reduces the time needed. Swarming is the main problem during the summer and there are times when colonies must be inspected, and it is no good putting inspections off until tomorrow, otherwise your swarm could be causing a nuisance to someone else, and possibly sour relations, as well as causing a possible loss of honey. Winter work is generally maintenance of equipment which takes up little time, and there are no short deadlines.
Anyone who wants to know more about bee keeping should click here for the British Beekeepers Association Website