Interest has grown enormously in this country in recent years in the welfare of the honey bee, and many people have recently started, or are interesting in starting, to keep bees.
This is our advice to an aspiring beekeeper.
- Join an Association. There are beekeeping organisations throughout the country, including three in Northumberland. These associations provide a valuable resource to the new beekeeper in terms of advice, training, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. Take a look at our Membership Page for details on how to join ADBKA.
- Arrange with a local beekeeper or association to visit a hive. Theory is all well and good, but you need to see how you react to a hive full of bees. Don’t forget it’s supposed to be fun!
- Enrol on a Beekeeping course. Many associations, including ours, run courses for beginners. Keep an eye on our Training page and look at www.bbka.org.uk
- Buy a book. You can’t learn to keep bees by buying a book, but nevertheless we would recommend you do. At the very least it gives you something to do in the winter. There are scores of books on the topic; some good, some bad. See Below for some recommendations.
- Buy the essential gear before you buy the bees. This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people do it the wrong way round. The bare essentials are
- A Hive
- A protective suit with veil
- Gloves (many experienced beekeepers use Marigolds, or no gloves at all, but we would recommend beginners use Marigolds – other makes are available).
- A Smoker
- A Hive Tool
- And finally, buy your bees. We recommend buying bees as locally as you can and never buy imported bees. The international movement of bees can prove an effective vector for diseases. Buying local bees will help to ensure that you have bees that are comfortable with the local environment and climate. Many members in our association will help you source bees and advise on their suitability.
We would recommend that you spend at least one season working with an experienced beekeeper as a mentor, or working in our apiary, before you buy bees.
Books. Here are some we can recommend
Beekeeping-A Novice’s Guide by David Wootton. It does what it says on the tin
Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper MBE. Regarded by many as absolutely indispensable, probably the best selling beekeeping book ever
A Practical Manual of Beekeeping by David Cramp. Logical and well written
Haynes Bee Manual by Claire and Adrian Waring. Written by a highly regarded beekeeping couple. Very thorough. The photographs and illustrations make this typical Haynes manual easy to read and understand.
Of course there are many, many more.