Fascinating weekend at the show. The weather was perfect - enough sun to persuade people to get out doors but not enough warmth to lie on the beach. We had a bigger marquee than in previous years and it allowed us to put on a more comprehensive display and speak to more people.
For pictures look here.
There were many questions asked and some required more explanation than we were able to give at the time. So here are a few of the questions asked and hopefully some suitable answers. This page was put on the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers site but was so well received I have decided to put it here as well to give it a wider audience.
What do I have to do to keep bees?
Firstly you have to be keen. It is at times a frustrating hobby when you have done everything right and things still go wrong. But it is also a rewarding hobby when you have done everything right and your bees are healthy and there is honey in the cupboard. It is also a surprising hobby when you know you have missed out something or done something that was not in any of the books - and still you have healthy bees and a load of honey.
You need to go on a course before you do anything else. I have known a couple of cases - and only a couple- where being close to so many insects was just too much and they realised that bee keeping was not for them. But most people I have met on bee courses were interested to start with and once they had seen inside the hive they were fascinated and could not wait to get started.
How much time does it take?
Well the first thing to appreciate is that keeping bees is not just a matter of putting a hive at the bottom of your garden and popping down for a spoonful of honey at breakfast time. There is a lot more to it than that. Your hive will have to be visited approximately once a week from spring to autumn. It will have to be checked during the winter especially after gales or heavy snow. For the summer visits if you allow about 20 minutes per hive plus the time to change in to and out of a bee suit then that is about right. Some days it will take longer but other visits will take a less time. It depends how much of the hive you wish to check.
But having said that I probably spend more time with my dog than I do with my bees.
How much does it cost?
It is not a cheap hobby to start with.
You need a bee suit - £140
You need a smoker -£50
You need a hive - £300 as a flat pack but complete with all the hive needs.
You really should have another hive -£300
You need a hive tool - £10
One well known supplier does a complete beginner's kit for £564 including one hive, gloves, a mouse guard and a manual.
Join a local association - about £40 but varies
Later you will need
A honey extractor - £300 to £500 though often can be borrowed from your local association.
A honey bucket - £40
Honey jars with labels - £50
Many of these items can be obtained second hand - though it is best to take advice from an experienced bee keeper.
There are many other things I use but they are items I have around the house. For example I use blowtorch to light my smoker, a small hammer to build my frames and so on but the above items are the specialist equipment.
Probably the most important part of the advice is to join a local association. Most local associations offer courses and in addition you will get advice, you will also get insurance which covers you for third party claims as well as certain issues with bee diseases.
Altogether it is not cheap but my total expenditure on equipment so far is probably less than the vets bills for my dog and you may sell some honey.
Do you get stung?
Yes - but not often. On the odd occasion when I have been stung it was either because I had done something with the bees and not put my suit on or when I have trapped a bee in the folds of my bee suit. Take simple precautions and you will not get stung - well not much and not often.
Can I keep them in my garden?
It depends where you are and how big is your garden.
As a first stage I would check with the neighbours as to whether they mind - and more importantly whether they are allergic to bees. The offer of some jars of honey may help.
Is there somewhere you can site your hives away from the the neighbours or public paths?
One solution is to place your hives in a shed with no roof. That way they come out of the hive and immediately fly up above the heads of people.
Perhaps you have a flat roof which could be used.
There is also the possibility of an out apiary where you keep them somewhere else such as the garden of someone with an orchard which needs pollinating.
Why do it?
It is a fascinating hobby and one I am so glad I took up. I have met many interesting people, helped the environment, learned a lot about bees and I can have honey every day on my breakfast.