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Bumbledown Bees – Chapter 1

Dear Readers

A new Club and website to match a very new bee keeper!

I am probably the newest bee keeper of the South West Hampshire Beekeepers and am happy to admit I need ‘L’ plates on my beekeeping suit! I thought for those of you who may be dabbling with the idea of exploring the wonderful world of bees I would give you my experiences of the first few months of bee keeping.

Having always been tempted to ‘have a go’ for my birthday this year I was proudly presented with a spanking brand new bee hive. In my head I had this quintessential idea of bee keeping especially when it comes to the hive. I had imagined a white hive that was tiered with a pitched roof surrounded by flowers. (Just for the record this type of hive is called a WCB after the chap who invented it Mr William Broughton Carr a London beekeeper and writer who lived from 1837 to 1909). However, those who gave me my hive as a surprise purchased a National with the pitched roof (far more practical and what the man in the shop said would be good for a learner!). It came flat packed in many boxes. Probably like you I don’t do flat pack building, I do however have the art of delegation and as such set my son to work with a screwdriver and hammer! After a few plasters and quite a bit of swearing (by George) the beehive was created. As I have said I had this vision of the hive being in the middle of a flower bed looking like a picture on a box of chocolates. In reality I needed access to the hive and not from the front as you upset the bees but from the side or the back (not going to plan again). I managed, as best I could, to position the hive, so as to ensure that the bees flight path wouldn’t conflict with the dogs and family! All I now needed were a few bees, basic equipment and the Bee Suit. Easy, or so I thought.

For the potential lady bee keepers out there, I would like to point out that no beekeeper’s overalls are made to make you feel special or to look glamourous. I was advised in all the books and the people that I spoke with to ensure that the bee suit was baggy as a tight suite will allow for the bees to easily sting! So I ordered a size (or two) larger than the perfect size I am, on the basis that it would be covering my clothes. For any bee supplier or bee clothing designer out there who may be reading this, I wish to put on record that whilst I may need big and baggy I don’t have an elongated waist! The result, a very droopy crotch (nearly down to the knees). I won’t go into details but movement is restricted.

In my naivety I thought that the bees would come and make their home in my garden seeing a lovely new hive with foundation in it all ready to go (a deluxe proper pucker abode) but it just sat there empty. For weeks I saw bees fly past and just buzz off! Chatting to Mr Bee Bob a ‘bee buddy’ it became apparent that bees just don’t arrive, you either need to buy a swarm (if you are lucky) or to order them (and they cost a lot). Sometimes, someone for some reason needs to sell their beloved bees. In my case I bought deceased bees, unfortunately the bee keeper had died and they needed to be rehomed. So one very, very early morning, Mr Bee Bob arrived with a small hive and placed it where my shiny new hive was meant to be. All I can say is the smell of that hive on that warm summer’s morning was magical, (when you have your own hive you will know what I mean) and to hear my new friends busy at their work made my soul smile. My bees (as they now were) had been through a lot in the last few months, they had lost their original owner, and you could sense their sadness. Soppy it might sound, but I felt their melancholy and I bonded with my bees at once. Apparently is it quite normal for beekeepers to become attached to their bees and to talk to them……honestly!

I have received fantastic support from the members of SWHB they have been kind, helpful and willing to help a complete novice, and at the heart of it all is the love of bees and wanting to learn because apparently you never know it all when it comes to bees.

In the perfect world I would have gone on a course before my bees arrived. My bees have not been placed at disadvantage however, as I have had expert help to look after them during my first year. I am however really looking forward to the Beginners Course at SWHB. I might even see you there!

Next time I will be talking about Steve the Smoker; the benefits of not wearing deodorant whilst working with bees and the disappearing Queen!