A beginner’s guide to beekeeping

A beginner’s guide to beekeeping

Awareness among the general population about the plight of the bees is growing every day, which is a good thing. However, taking action to help the bees, especially honeybees, which we can all easily keep in our back garden can be improved.  Anecdotal evidence from people I have spoken to about keeping bees suggests that most people would like to help the bees, by having a hive or two in their back garden. 

Two of the barriers people who would like to help the bees by becoming a beekeeper ,tend to cite as a stumbling block is not knowing how to start and the cost of beekeeping equipment and the cost of acquiring a swarm of bees. This article; a beginner’s guide to beekeeping takes you on a step-by-step journey into getting started with keeping bees.  

The article covers  how to acquire beekeeping equipment at very low cost, how to acquire a swarm of bees, free of charge 

  1. First thing first, are you allergic to bee sting?

The right beekeeping wear, coupled with treating bees with respect you should not get stung by your own bees.. However in an unguarded moment, you may get stug. Find out if you are allergic to bee sting. Being allergic does not mean you cannot be a beekeeper, it just means you need to take extra precautions, perhaps including having an epipen in your beekeeping toolbox.

  1. Speak to one or more local beekeepers

Beekeepers are some of the most friendly bunch of people you will ever come across. They particularly like encouraging newbies to take up beekeeping. If there is a local beekeeper near you, speak with him or her. You will find valuable local beekeeping information that way.

  1. What type of beekeeper do you want to be: natural or conventional?

There are different types of beekeepers. The two main types are the conventional and the natural beekeepers. They both love bees, joining either camp will help you to help the bee. The main differences between them is their approaches to keeping bees. The type of beekeeper you decide to be will influence the type of equipment you buy.  The author of this article is a natural beekeeper, so he encourages others to become a natural beekeeper. There are pros and cons to both methods. If your principal reason for becoming a beekeeper is to help the bees rather than to produce honey, then natural beekeeping is the best choice for you.

  1. Attend a beekeeping workshop in person or online

A beekeeping workshop with hand-on demonstrations

The best way to acquire beekeeping skills quickly is to attend an introduction to beekeeping course. The best type of courses are those with a hands-on component in the course. This gives you the opportunity to actually handle beekeeping equipment and the bees.  Because of the COVID pandemic, there are currently limited opportunities for in person beekeeping courses. An online beekeeping course is an adequate substitute. 

  1. Acquire you beekeeping equipment

A Warré  Hive, easier to work with than other hives

You now need to acquire some beekeeping equipment. Beekeeping equipment is relatively inexpensive. A hive is the single most expensive equipment you will buy. Here are the most important equipment you need to become a beekeeper:

Hive – A warre hive starts from about    £250

Clothing & gloves                                £40

Hive tools                                              £20

Water spray                                           £1.00 (A smoker is unnecessary

Bees                                                      £0.00

You will find out why purchasing bees is not included in the expenditure as I hope you will be able to acquire your bees free of charge. Keep reading to find out how to acquire bees for free.

  1. Join your local chapter of British Beekeeping Association

Be sure to  join your local British Beekeeping Association and NOT the national  association. The reason for this is that you are automatically a member of the national association, once you join a local association.  It does not work the other way around. If you join the national association by paying an annual subscription and want to join your local chapter, you have to pay another subscription fee, to join the local association. 

  1.  Sitting your hive 

You have your equipment, you have the basic knowledge required to be a beekeeper, now it’s  time to site your hive.  Find a level ground for your hive. Place it so that the hive entrance is facing south-east/east, so that the bees have that warming morning sun to start their day. 

8. Acquiring your first swarm of bees

This is one of the differences between conventional and natural beekeepers. Natural beekeepers do not believe in or like buying bees.  At this stage of your beekeeping adventure, conventional beekeepers will suggest you buy bees.  You can simply ask a natural beekeeper near you for a swarm of bees (It is easier to give you a swarm in spring).  You can also set up a bait hive to attract a swarm of bees yourself. Read more about how to set up a bait hive online. 

9. Looking after and enjoying your bees

Now that you have a hive and there are bees in your hive, you are a beekeeper! The next step is to start looking after you bees.  One of the best things about beekeeping is the fact that you do not need to do much. They bees will look after themselves. You can just look out for them by ensuring they are not attacked by wasps in the summer and not cold in the winter. There is a free book called at the hive entrance which you should read. It trains you on how to see how your bees are doing by observing their going in and out. 

10.  Winter is the time you bees need you most

When autumn starts giving way to winter, that is when your bees  need you the most. You need to ensure they have adequate honey to see them through winter.  In winter, you need to check on them at regular intervals to ensure their store of honey is not depleted. If it is, you may need to feed them some fondant. 

11.  Growing in confidence as a beekeeper

It takes a lot of time and experimenting to become a confident beekeeper. There are a lot of resources out there to help you become a better beekeeper including groups and sites such as The Hive UK. We are always happy to share our knowledge and experience with new and experienced beekeepers alike. Feel free to contact us via our contact page. 

Tags: Natural beekeeping, beekeeping courses, beginner’s beekeeping course, anaphylactic shock, bee sting, beekeeping training,  free bees, swarm, smoker. BBKA, British beekeeping association,

Beekeeping and hi-tech : 10 techie gadgets coming into beekeeping

Beekeeping and hi-tech : 10 techie gadgets coming into beekeeping

Beekeeping is one of the oldest human endeavours, dating back thousands of years. It is quite a simple proposition between humans and bees; humans provide a space that mimics the hollow of a tree, we call it  a beehive.  It must have a  volume of about 40 litres, and other stuff such as an entrance that is not too big or too small, well insulated etc. If the bees are happy with the hive, they stay. If they are not happy, they swarm.

As with every area of our lives and industry, hi-tech is moving in, supposedly making our lives easier.  Beekeeping is no exception.  Recently, I came across some hi-tech gadgets and processes that are said to help with beekeeping. While trying to keep an open mind about these hi-tech beekeeping gadgets, here are some of the beekeeping gadgets i came across so far:

1. The Beehome 

The Beehomes is a solar powered device created by Israeli technology company, Beewise. The Beehomes can house 24 hives and it contains a robot within which takes care of the bees in real time.

Beehomes use A.I to identify and automatically prevent the event of swarms by the colony by adjusting conditions. The climate and humidity control optimise the climate and control the elements within the hive so that the beekeeper needs not to worry about the hive being too cold or too hot. Beehomes autonomously and automatically handle issues associated with the general condition of the colonies and they alert the beekeeper to intervene when problems arise. 

2. Bee Hive Monitoring System

ApisProtect Bee Hive Monitoring System helps beekeepers keep an eye on the colonies with the use of sensor technology. This device gives beekeepers an opportunity to check on their hives anywhere and anytime, and most importantly manage their precious time and resources. When the hive needs attention, the Bee Hive Monitoring System can send an alert to the beekeeper to intervene. This device also helps  to evaluate the condition of each colony as well as identify the weak colonies for beekeeper’s intervention. 

3. Hive Weight Scales

This particular  beehive scales reports the weight of the hive every 6 hours as well as the temperature under the hives on the site the hive is located. The Hive Weight System supports 300kg maximum weight and a weight above 1000kg can cause damage. The collection and reporting of data by this device requires a satellite hub per site, though scales can operate as stand-alone scales by telling you the hive weight at a  push of a button. This device is designed to be placed and fit underneath stand-alone hives or into some certain pallet systems. 

4. Artificial Flowers

Created by Dutch designer Matilde Boelhouwer is this Bee-Sustaining Artificial Flowers  which are designed to address the urban sustainability issues by saving the bees within the perimeter of the metropolitan city. The “big five of pollination – bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths” are attracted by the five different kinds of these artificial flowers. The creative’s artificial flowers, dubbed “Food for Buzz” have the ability to turn rain into sugar. Made with screen-printed polyester, the flower is a cluster of laser-cut petals and a small 3D-printed container that collects the water.

5. Honey Refractometer

One of the cool and very useful beekeeping gadgets is the Honey Refractometer. It measures honey’s moisture content by measuring the degree that the light passing through honey is bent. This process is called refraction. The concentration of honey can be determined by this process and it is important to have the proper moisture in honey, the one below 18%.  Because if honey whose moisture content is above 18% is  harvested, it will ferment. So using the honey refractometer is important to determine the moisture content of honey and to ensure it is below 18%. 

6. Thermal Camera

This is a very useful beekeeping gadget for beekeepers that live in cold climates. Inspecting your hive is very important to keep tabs on what is going on in there. However, you really don’t want to open up the hive much during the winter as this will let out the warmth in the hive. This is where a thermal camera comes in handy. Monitoring where the colony is, no matter its size, is quite easy with the thermal camera. A beekeeper also gets to know when rodents have entered the hive, and depending on the size and location of the winter cluster, the beekeeper can determine whether the colony has run out of food.   You can see if any rodents have entered the hive with the help of a thermal camera. They also detect heats and help the beekeeper determine exactly where the  cluster is by taking photos of the hives from various angles. 

7. Robotic Bee Attractors 

This innovative robotic flower was developed by an Australian artist, Michael Candy. The flower is designed to attract real bees. The activation and control of this amazing innovation is done with an array of actuators and servos which attach nectar and pollen to the attracted bee. This invention is an amazing development in the field of biomimicry and a manifestation of ways technology has integrated with the natural world, even though the invention may look to some folk as impractical. The importance of bees in the ecosystem can not be overemphasised and it is the significance of these amazing creatures that inspired Michael Candy to create this robotic flower. The robotic flower is designed to allow for the reproduction of natural flora and to also ensure that honeybees remain an integral part of the ecosystem. 

8. Solitary Bee Shelter

Solitary Bee-Accommodating Objects is another ecological initiative to address the ecological crises. It is conceptualized to help bees in urban environments. Designed by a Mexican-based creative studio, MaliArts, the solitary bee home would provide food, shelter and water to bees that found themselves in cities. The role of water is self-explanatory while the shelter would perform a dual function of nesting and resting. Altogether, forming a safe haven for the bees and ultimately curb the alarming decline in the population of these honey-producing insects.

9. Bee-Keeping Box 

Designed by an Italian company  is this cute bee-keeping box which is  an absolute innovative compare to traditional hive.  Beeing’s B-Box is designed to monitor the  bees’ health and environment. The B-Box is simple and  has a harvesting system which allows the beekeeper to separate the environment where the bees live from where they deposit honey. Also, the process of extracting honey does not require wearing protective clothing and the box is small enough to keep on the balcony.


10. Bee Survival Aid Devices  

This ecological initiative was created by  Shau Design and the creation was inspired by the serious concern for the decline in the bee population. Titled ‘Bee Hospital’, the Bee Survival Aid Devices is a  set of smart devices which include a mite guard dispenser, a supplement center, as well as a bee-detecting device. The Bee Hospital provides the necessary nutrients for the survival of the bee in urban environments, the supplement center offers nutritious treatment that ensures the adaptation of the bees to urban environments. While the mite guard helps the bees to kill mites. 

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay

A swarm in May is worth a tonne of hay

The popular rhyme that indicated the value of a swarm of bees as the season progresses goes:

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.

A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.

A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.

If we apply a literal translation to the rhyme, I owe Andres Collinson, an awesome natural beekeeper in Little Birch two tonnes of hay. He has given me two swarms in May 2021 so far.

Spring lamb at the Hive – Boo and Biscuit

Spring lamb at the Hive – Boo and Biscuit

Boo and Biscuit

The first lamb to be born at the hive is the ever so cute biscuit, Biscuit was born on the 8th of March 2021, followed a few days later by  two more lambs, from two different ewe. 

Biscuit and the other two lamb love hanging out by a tree stump on the field. Here is Biscuit and Boo just chilling and looking so cute.