Register with us or sign in
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.
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.
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.
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.