“I have been a beekeeper for almost 40 years. Originally from Somerset, I had gone to London to study, and when I came back bought a house with some land. I embraced self-sufficiency and along with keeping animals and growing veg, a couple of beehives seemed a natural addition. From a hobby with a couple of hives in the garden, it has now grown into a business that supplies honey and candles to shops, farmers markets and holiday businesses.
Bee keeping depends on the weather and the seasons. During the winter the bees are clustered together in the hive, and don’t normally go out. Apart from checking periodically that they have enough food to keep them going all winter - and if needed managing any varroa mite problem - they don’t need regular attention. This is the time for repairing equipment, extracting honey, and preparing for the next season. Once the season starts in April, regular inspections of the bees start. On sunny warm days I will be checking colonies to make sure the queen is present and laying, checking the health of a colony, and making sure they aren’t making preparations for swarming. I may be rearing new queens or moving the bees to new places so that they can work on a particular crop. This means moving them in the evening or early morning when the bees aren’t flying. On cold or rainy days there are always other jobs to do like preparing, bottling and labelling honey, or making deliveries.
Last year I lost over half of my bees to pesticide poisoning which was absolutely devastating so this year I am building up the number of colonies I have again. Bees are under threat at the moment – not only from pesticides and viruses, but also exotic pests from abroad like Asian hornets or Small Hive Beetle.
I usually work the bees on my own, and find the quiet focus of being with the bees a really meditative experience.
Bees are totally amazing creatures, and I can’t help but be fascinated by them. Each colony is an efficient super-organism where every bee works for the good of the whole colony. They are really important for our world – let’s not lose them.”