Waveney beekeeper David Martin explains the joy of keeping these busy little creatures!
I have been a beekeeper for about 10 years, and helped my father for several years beforehand, too. He kept bees for almost 30 years.
I don’t think you ever stop learning as there is quite a bit to take in. It’s like learning a new language as, when you open up a hive and look in it, you have to work out what stage the colony is at, look out for any diseases or pests that need treatment, consider if they are getting too crowded, if there is any honey to be taken or if they need to be fed.
I love to watch the bees coming in and out of the hive and just listening to the gentle hum emanating deep within, and I do think you gain a deeper appreciation, awareness and understanding of nature.
Many people are aware that bees are in decline. The destruction of habitat, monoculture, the use of pesticides and of course more unpredictable weather makes it tough for bees to thrive.
So what can you do to help them out just a little bit? Well, if you can have a small patch of your garden turned over to wildflowers this will help, or get or even make a bee hotel, and use fewer pesticides. If everyone did these things you can imagine the effect it would have.
Here are some of the questions I am often asked:
Do the queens hatch out with a coloured spot on their back?
No, as beekeepers if we see the queen we will try and catch her and mark her and there are five colours – each one denotes a different year so you can tell how old she is.
How many bees are in a hive?
This is an easy one. What you need to do is count all the legs and then divide that number by six.
Do bees hibernate in the winter?
No is the answer, but what they do is cluster a bit like penguins. The ones on the outside move to the inside and the ones on the inside go to the outside and that way they can keep warm.
As a beekeeper do we get stung?
As an old beekeeper explained to me, if you go swimming you expect to get wet, if you keep bees expect to get stung now and again.
So why buy local English honey?
You will be supporting local producers so it will have a low carbon footprint, and you will know the provenance and it won’t be blended honey – rather it will be raw honey so will be packed with goodness.
- If you have ever thought about keeping bees, then please contact the Waveney Beekeepers Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.