Don’t worry, it can be a bit bamboozling. Bee-keeping needs a little bit of forward thinking, an element of planning and a mix of learning and (ideally) hands-on experience before you dive in.
Here, we explain what you may need to think about before buying equipment and getting your first bees.
Don’t be tempted to jump straight in too quickly! Bees are classed as livestock and have a precise life-cycle. They can be prone to disease, infestation and several conditions that can cause severe illness or even death, so do take some advice before starting with bees.
Find your local bee-keeping association (BKA) apiary. There’ll be one near you and it’s an excellent place to start. Apiaries often run taster sessions and short courses which are valuable sources of advice and information. You won’t necessarily need to buy protective clothing as our apiaries have items that you can borrow at each session, but certainly bring it along if you have it. Zoom sessions and webinars are also great places to start.
Attend as many weekly sessions at your local apiary as you can. Bees need regular attention throughout the season which is usually carried out at the weekends. Watching experienced bee-keepers at work is a great way to learn the essentials. Eventually you’ll get hands-on experience in handling bees and equipment.
Once you feel ready and have decided on the type of hive(s) you want, along with any other equipment, then go ahead and get things ready. Your fellow bee-keepers can advise on where to buy equipment from and the internet is often the best place to find a good choice of suppliers.
Buy locally adapted bees and don’t be tempted to buy from the internet unless you’re really struggling to buy locally. Local bees (from the same general region of the UK where you live) can fare much better if they are used to the climate, forage and other local conditions rather than travelling hundreds of miles from where they were raised. We strongly advise that bees are not imported from abroad.
(Local BKA apiaries often have bees for sale, so put your name down if they have a list. You’ll know exactly where they’ve come from and may have even watched them being raised yourself!)
If you have the time, drop in at your local apiary whenever you can. Help out, ask questions and chat with other bee-keepers, apart from continued learning it’s a great social activity too.
While you are waiting for an available course, why not put your feet up with a book to start you on your journey?
This guide, is aimed at beginning beekeepers, and the only one to be endorsed by the BBKA provides an authoritative text, along with clear photographs and illustrations. The book introduces the reader to beekeeping, including such areas as the workings of the colony, the structure of a hive, how to acquire bees and keep them healthy and what happens in each month in a beekeeping year. Each chapter is accompanied by anecdotes, answers to frequently asked questions and fascinating facts about bees and honey. The new edition includes new step-by-step sequences to illustrate procedures such as containing a swarm, identifying the queen, using a smoker and cleaning a hive as well as more information on different kinds of hives, disease management and many other key areas.
Beekeeping For Dummies is a practical, step-by-step beginner's guide to beekeeping. It gives you plain-English guidance on everything you need to know to start your own beehive, from buying the right equipment, sourcing bees, and locating your hive to maintaining a healthy colony and harvesting honey. Plus, you'll get the latest information on the causes and effects of bee disease, colony collapse disorder, and the impact the sudden disappearance of the honeybee has on our environment and economy. Here, you'll get trusted information on beekeeping in the UK, specifically written to address climate, buying equipment, locating hives, the local impact of colony collapse disorder and ways to avoid or minimise the risk to your hive, seasonal beekeeping tasks, local beekeeping associations, and updated content on urban beekeeping.
The Bee Manual: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Keeping Bees (New Ed)
The Bee Manual offers a clear and concise introduction into the fascinating world of the honey bee and the addictive craft of beekeeping. For various reasons, the number of bee colonies has been declining and there is great interest in trying to aid their recovery. Anyone wanting to keep bees first needs to learn about the individuals, how colonies operate and how the beekeeper can work with these insects to help them thrive, carry out their pollination activities and produce a satisfying honey crop. Full of colour photos and clear step-by-step text, this book offers practical advice for anyone planning to take up this absorbing hobby.