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Mar 19

To Bee or Not To Bee!!

Field of dandelions | Hellie's CornerFor many years, I have thought about, cogitated, seriously considered and researched becoming a beekeeper.

I think my garden would be large enough, with plenty of bee-friendly plants growing in it. In late Spring my Cotoneaster are alive with bees and then later into the summer my Buddleia, lavender, heather and poppies are continuously buzzing. We are also surrounded by bee-friendly wild plants; dog-rose, bramble, heather, gorse and dandelion, all within three miles, which is, apparently, the maximum distance bees fly to find food.

The following photos are of Bumble Bees and other non-honey bees, as it’s still a bit early in the year and the honey bees haven’t woken up yet ;-)

Bee on buddleia flowers | Hellie's Corner

Buddleia taken last Summer

bumble-bee on grape hyacinth | Hellie's Corner

Grape Hyacinth, just started to flower

bumble bee on heather | Hellie's Corner

Bell Heather

I love honey and use it to cook on a regular basis, as well as drizzling it onto my porridge in the mornings. So keeping bees has always seemed like a good idea. And then there’s the wax; I had the idea of making great homemade products with it – lip balms, skin moisturizer, my own candles.

At the end of last Summer, I decided that I would get some bees, so started to look into the prospect more seriously. The first thing I found out was that it is best to get bees in the Spring, so you don’t have to worry about the whole colony being killed by harsh weather in your first year. Good advice, as that would be a catastrophe!!

So, I put the Autumn and Winter to good use and began gather the relevant information. My first port of call was a visit to the National Beekeeping Center for Wales. They have volunteer beekeepers on hand to give advice and answer any questions. They also have a webcam fitted to one of their hives, so you can watch the bees coming and going (I visited in September, so the bees were still very busy). They also sell equipment and books , so I came away with a little light reading for the Winter months!!

Beekeeping Books | Hellie's CornerThe beekeepers advised joining a local a local Beekeeper Association and enrolling on a beginner’s course, which are usually run in the Spring. They also hold monthly meetings with talks from experts and invited guests.

I also visited a brilliant local secondhand book shop and picked up a few more bee-books for a few pounds each.

Beekeeping Books | Hellie's CornerArmed with all of this exciting information and with the nights drawing in, I set about reading.

The books cover a range of topics, from types of hives, the life cycle of a bee, the flowers they prefer and how to care for your hive.

Before I set out on this journey, I thought, somewhat naviely, that bees judt pretty much got on with it – collected nectar, turned it into honey and then, in the Summer, you collected the honey…

…well, I was wrong, you need to open your hives regularly to check the bees are all OK, but not too often so as to upset them. You need to add more food during a cold Winter/Spring, when the weather is bad and the bees can’t fly.

All well and good, the introduction to bee-keeping course covers all of these aspects and you learn by experience.

However….my main concern – apart from the disease that can wipe out your hive – is the SWARMING!

I have learned that bees start to swarm once the colony gets to a certain size. A new Queen is created and some of your bees divide up and swarm off to find somewhere else to form a new hive. The beekeeper has to then locate the swarm, round-up it up, bring it back and provide it with a new hive.

The thought of having to get a swarm of my bees from a neighbour’s garden, or a local tree, is a daunting prospect to say the least. What if they decide to swarm off while we are away on holiday?!!

I have given the matter a great deal of thought over the last few months and have finally come to the decision that two pets are enough at Hellie’s Corner and I shall continue to buy local honey from the WI market. Any beeswax products will have to be purchased as well, so I shall pop along to the Annual Honey Fair and stock up.

Better to ‘bee’ safe than sorry!!

The books I bought are:

Collins Beekeeper’s Bible

Haynes Bee Manual

Keeping Bees by John Vivian

Keeping Bees by Vivian Head

Keeping Bees and Making Honey by AlisonBenjamin and Brian Callum

Bees at the bottom of my garden by Alan Campion

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22 comments

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  1. Debbie

    I went to fab primary school with lots of focus on nature. We had bee hives and the Head Master was so keen to get us all involved as we progressed through juniors (this was over 25 years ago so before ‘those’ H&S regs became keen.
    I definitely think get involved in local associations would provide so much insight.

  2. Mammasaurus

    I’ve always thought how great it would be to keep bees, but again like you it’s the neighbours factor that puts me off. I LOVE the look of the Beekeepers Bible!

    We hall had so much love last Summer for the bees in HDYGG, everyone managed to get at least one bee in their post each week – little bundles of honey making fuzz that they are!

    Thank you for joining in again! xxx (or should that be zzzz)

    1. Hellies Corner

      :-D

  3. The Reading Residence

    The swarming would bother me, too! Interested to read about your research, though, and your enthusiasm for honey and products shines through. Enjoyed reading :)

  4. Charmaine

    I didn’t realise quite so much work was involved actually, I kind of figured they just got on with it too! x

  5. Honey

    Lovely close up shots! x

  6. Annie

    What an inspiring and informative post you have written! I agree, however, that the swarming could be a downside x

  7. Claudia

    great shots. i think in a way you already are a bee keeper ;)

    1. Hellies Corner

      Very true, without the trouble :-)

  8. Helen The good life mum

    oh wow im so jealous i really wanted to keep bees so i will say TOO BEE cant wait to see this adventure unfold #HDYGG

  9. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Hmm, I want to say that I’d love to have bees, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t… Although it’s wasps that I have a real phobia of and I know that bees are a good thing, I don’t think I could cope with a lot of them in my garden :) I love how your enthusiasm shines through this post though xx #HDYGG

    1. Hellies Corner

      Thank you.

  10. Amanda

    Lovely bee photos, and your enthusiasm is rather infectious, I want bees!

  11. Leanne @suggys.co.uk/Leanne

    Oh Bee Keeping is Great!… My mums friend has been one for many years and she’s often giving us Real Honey and oh its divine!!! I had Lavender in my garden Last year and the Bees absolutely loved it… They never bothered us bless them, there would just go from branch to branch and then go :) Lovely little things x #HDYGG

  12. Sam @happyhomebird

    I love that you really looked into this and were sensible. I rush, rush, rush into everything. We have a local community garden that has bees and people go and learn how to be a beekeeper and also they share the honey with the volunteers. I think that is a lovely idea.

    1. Hellies Corner

      That sound like a really great idea.

  13. Mummy to boyz

    I love that you we’re brave enough to consider keeping bees – I wouldn’t be able too even though they are great

  14. Kelly

    We also thought about keeping bees. One of our friends does it and it’s the most gorgeous fresh honey.

    But after seeing how much effort goes into maintaining them we decided against it for the time being.

    Lovely piccies :) x

  15. agatapokutycka

    I am scared of bees… really scared
    Mark is always reminding me that they would not attack first but still … I feel so uneasy when I see them :-(

  16. Jenni

    Wow this is so fascinating, I never knew the full ins and outs of things and I’ve loved reading about it. My dad used to go on about the fact he has been on a bee keeping course when he was younger. We actually had a few of his friends hives on our farm when I was younger as well.

    I love bees but my husband is terrified of them so I don’t think I’ll be able to convince him of the merits of a bee hive. I don’t blame you for sticking with just the two pets, you can always reconsider in a few years :)

  17. Charly Dove

    What a wonderful post, fascinating too. After photographing so many I do have a renewed fondness for bees and will often put my face a little too close just to get that shot! They’re amazing creatures. As you say, better to bee safe than sorry! Lovely post. Sorry late commenting x

  18. Ellen

    Wow! I’ve learnt a lot from this post! I’d be worried about the swarming but think its great that you have Bee friendly plants!!!!

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