I’m All Covered in Bees!

Rich and I have been thinking about getting ourselves some bees. Well, why not? Our Smallest Smallholding is now void of hens, and we were thinking it would be good to get into something that would take us a little step further towards the good life. Bees seemed a good answer.

Although they do need regular check-ups, they do, for all intents and purposes, look after themselves. And the reward – oh, the reward! Honey! I love honey. And to imagine being able to procure our own fresh, local honey…

And then there’s the other perspective – the fact that our humble British bees are under threat. If you want to know more, take a look at this rather swanky, yet informative website: www.helpsavebees.com

Having at least a couple of beehives would go a small but significant way to help keeping these guys going. Imagine if beekeeping became as commonplace as keeping cats and dogs…

Our family friend has a field where she’s growing vegetables and has a rather impressively large wildlife pond too. We ran into her a couple of days ago and put to her the idea of keeping some hives on her field, and she was more than happy for us to do it. We were thinking of putting a couple of hives on there at first and planting up a big ‘nectar bar’ nearby. Of course, the bees would go much further afield too, and our friend’s field is surrounded by open countryside, so more than suitable. She also knows a guy that has around 40 of his own colonies, so we have an expert in our midst too.

So what we need to do now is have a good, long, hard think about whether we think we can commit to the responsibility of looking after these hives. Rich has done a little beekeeping in the past, but we’d have to brush up our knowledge before even thinking about the financial aspects too. So that would mean either doing an awful lot of reading, or going on a course next spring.

What about you? Have you ever done any beekeeping? Know any beekeepers? Got any interesting stories to tell or advice to give? I’d love to know!


  1. I’ve put my name down for Beekeeping for Beginners course run by the Cambridge Beekeepers Association (have a look on their web site). I know two people who did the course this year – they built a hive, have a mentor to ‘hold their hand’ and who supplied them with a colony of bees for starters. I think this sounds like a great scheme, I’m really looking forward to learning more and having my own hive. We know bees like our garden – a colony moved into the old blocked off chimney above our kitchen early inthe summer πŸ™‚

    Good luck with your plans – I think it is possible to end up outlaying a fair amount of money, so getting in touch with your local beekeepers association might be a good starting point.


  2. I think your plans sound wonderful, I’ll look forward to following your progress with this. We too are thinking about bees but are slightly apprehensive as to whether we’re up to it! Have you visited http://www.biobees.com? That’s a really interesting site about sustainable methods of beekeeping.

  3. My mums friend has bees and produces lots of honey which she sells. apparently you shouldn’t try to go near them if you have been drinking alcohol as they smell it on your skin and sting you!

    I think it’s a fab idea, have fun!

  4. Manor Stables Veg Plot says

    Our next door neightbours have now got about 8 hens, 2 sebrights and 4 ducks, so I’m having the time of my life as I am hen sitting for the week. Paxo (named after the little bugger escaped from the pen – there until they know when to go in and out and where to go and then they’re free range) is now my bezzy mate and was eating out my hand this morning! SO loving it!

    trying to persuade them that they need bees – she works part time, so has plenty of time to do stuff like that – I can help at a weekend!!! YEY!!!

  5. I have just been on the ‘Omlet’ website (home of the Eglu hen house) and noticed that they now sell a beehive (The Beehaus). It is very functional but rather expensive…a starter kit that basically has everything cost Β£495. They are running some taster days though and also have books and other beekeeping information.

  6. At last! Something I actually KNOW about…!

    My mother kept bees. As a child I spent ages ‘doing’ bees with her. She had five hives in a small town garden (on a flat roof), plus some more out of town.

    We weren’t too popular locally. The bees stung the neighbours (and us) regularly, and there were some tense moments.

    When the bees swarmed, as they do from time to time, there was always a drama trying to a) find/follow the swarm, and b) get it back inside a hive. One year they did it at the top of the church tower (height: 120ft). A memorable evening involving the fire brigade, half the town spectating and a red-faced, furious vicar trying (and failing) to be Christian and Understanding.

    Some key points about bee-keeping:

    β€’ The Protective Clothing… isn’t
    β€’ Bee stings hurt. Multiple stings hurt a LOT
    β€’ There is more aggro involved than books/reports suggest
    β€’Β It’s more expensive than you may imagine. My mother once calculated that each jar of her honey cost about 3 times as much as she could buy it in the shops

    … but apart from that, it’s great. Er, mostly.

    Email me for more specifics!

  7. I have a vague wish to have bees, probably just for the romantic make your own honey thing but Soilman has just killed it dead. Ah well maybe I’ll just plant a few more lavender bushes…

  8. My friend has kept bees for two summers now, it has been very very hard work (and pretty expensive too I think.)It is definitely something you need to feel passionate about. Could you invite a beekeeper to place one of their hives on your land?

    re ‘Omlet’ I always think that is where Nigella Lawson would buy her hen house from πŸ™‚

  9. What a shame you think it is too much trouble, bees need our help too and are VERY important to wildlife and crops. I got my first colony this year and they are great, no stings yet, I look at them once a week and it is brilliant and satisfying to see the honey being capped off and knowing its our unique honey. Please don’t be put off, my husbands had a few stings, but nothing dramatic, non of our neighbours have noticed or complained, no stings there then. Start with one hive. If they swarm you don’t have to chase them, let them go if you are not sure how to catch them (or they end up a steeple!) There are always some left with a queen. The bee keeping community are very willing to help newcomers, i haven’t bought very much equipment at all, it will all be borrowed. Go on give it a go!

  10. gardenlover says

    I am totally pro the smallholder who wishes to enjoy bees and chickens. Our neighbours have pursued both interests for the last two years with our blessing. Unfortunately the chickens have regularly scratched up the soil in our small, but much loved garden, and the bees have stung me twice, within one week, and pursued ourselves and friends. We have now asked that the bees be moved further away, and the chickens contained within their smallholding. The sadness is that our neighbours have taken umbridge at our continued polite requests to contain their ‘livestock’. Half a dozen eggs, a jar of honey and a small apology might have made the difference to neighbourly relations but now we are the enemy for challenging their way of life although, given some care, we would be happy to applaud their endeavours and reap some of the reward!

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