today I took another step into the beekeeping world – I went out into the field (no pun intended) with a new beekeeper to meet the bees that we’ll be taking through the next season together.
The difference I suppose between this and all of my other beekeeping experiences is that I felt more on show today. Partly, this is because J and I had never met before, so he was not only showing me the ropes, but trying to get to grips with what I knew and what I could reliably be trusted to make decisions on. Of course, he was a total gentleman, and asked lots of questions while listening to my silly questions too, but there was a little moment when I realised that I was out in the ‘real world’ of beekeeping.
Training a beekeeper
I should probably take a step back, given that this is the first post on this blog, and knowing my blogging habits I’m very unlikely to post an update if I don’t write it at this very moment.
I started learning how to keep bees back in January 2015, when I noticed that the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeeping Association that I walked/drove past fairly regularly was running a 10-week course in beekeeping over the winter.
Winter is a quiet time for beekeepers, in the sense that the bees are asleep, shut up in the hives keeping warm and eating their honey stores, although I’m pretty sure beekeepers will keep busy talking about bees or honey or mead or candlewax or gods know what else even when there are no bees to be seen. So during the off-season, this is the ideal time to get beginners involved. We had a 10-week theory course with the offer to come back in April once the hives were opened up again to get on a suit and get started putting the theory into practice.
Come April, we got going and I totally fell in love. I’m not sure exactly when I decided I’d like to keep bees, but I can tell you that it fast became one of my favourite activities, and I really looked forward to my Friday evenings at the apiary. There’s something really calming about beekeeping – once you get the hive open you can’t really make any sudden movements or the 20,000+ bees will have something to say about it, so it really forces you to calm down at the end of the working week. I can also tell you that watching honey being decanted and bottled is one of the most serene and lovely things ever.
This delightful experience carried on for a year, and I learned a lot about bees, honey, getting stung, and beekeepers. One day I’ll do a beekeeper appreciation post on here, because I’m telling you, they bloody well deserve one.
Around this time last year, I decided I was definitely getting bees. Then I decided I was definitely getting a new job. Said new job took me into central London 5 days a week, and so my time to spend thinking about bees was taken up by considering what I did for a living and did I do the right thing and where did all the time go etc etc. So things slipped. But I’ve been very lucky that my conversations with the Head Gardener at a popular South-East National Trust property meant that one of the beekeepers already on site knew that I was interested, and this is the lovely chap that I met today. He’s a member of Reigate Beekeepers Association, and although I was slightly nervous to meet him, we had a really great morning chatting about bees and making plans.
I’m looking forward to working with someone through the next season, and also – as boring as it sounds – closing up the hive for the year and getting myself mentally ready for the next season. As well as see these bees through, and maybe get a hive of my own when I feel comfortable, I’d really like to take the Basic Beekeeping Exam in the next year.
So anyway, I feel this post is drawing to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you have questions please comment below. I’m looking to use this online space to document my own beekeeping experience and also share interesting things that I learn, and I’m open to ideas for posts so ask and comment away!