One who keeps an apiary; a bee-keeper, a bee-master 1.
Beekeeping, so much more than honey
Many people start beekeeping because they like honey and, with care and reasonable weather, you really cannot fail to produce at least some honey if you keep bees. However, it’s not as simple as just leaving a hive at the bottom of the garden and removing honey in late summer.
To be a successful beekeeper you will need to learn how to ‘read’ the colony, to determine whether they are flourishing. It’s only strong, healthy colonies that produce a surplus of honey.
Is there a queen present? Do they need more space? Are there signs of disease?
And if you learn the answers to these questions you will definitely produce honey, and you will do so by working with one of the most fascinating insects.
But it doesn’t stop at honey. You can produce wax 2 to make candles, furniture polish, soaps, cosmetics or food wraps, and propolis to make antibiotic tinctures.
And you will also produce bees … because successful beekeeping will involve expanding and replacing your colonies. Don’t worry … this is easier than it sounds, but can be as difficult as you want.
Save the bees, save humanity
Others start beekeeping because they want to save the bees or help pollinate local crops or flowers. While these might seem commendable goals they are not good reasons to become a beekeeper.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) do not need saving 3.
There are more honey bees now than there have ever been. In fact, there are so many that they might be outcompeting some of the other 270 species of bees 4 that are present in the UK, some of which are probably more efficient at pollinating flowers and crops as well.
So, if you want to save the bees build a ‘bee hotel’ for native pollinators and plant lots of pollinator-friendly flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the season.
Where and why?
I keep bees in Scotland. Although the timing of events during the season may differ, honey bees are the same the world over. The methods I use – and those I discuss here – are applicable to any temperate regions, in the Northern or Southern Hemispheres.
I keep bees because I like honey. I give talks on beekeeping between September and March and sell surplus honey and bees. I also write about bees and beekeeping throughout the year.
I enjoy beekeeping because it is an engrossing pastime that allows me to work outdoors, to be a tiny bit self-sufficient, to indulge my interest in photography and to spend long hours making things from bits of wood during the winter.
I’m particularly interested in improving the quality of my bees by queen rearing from my best stock. Other beekeepers get passionate about pollen identification, honeybee anatomy or wax production … so explaining “Beekeeping, so much more than honey“.
If you have found a swarm of bees and want someone to remove them from your apple tree, I’m unlikely to be able to help. Contact your local beekeeping association. Simply search online for the name of your town/village/region/county and ‘BKA’. They will have a swarm collection phone number and/or email address.
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- Oxford English Dictionary, with usage dating back to about 1816 “… certain idlers of their own species , called by apiarists corsair-bees, which plunder the hives of the industrious …”
- Or, more accurately, the bees will and you can harvest it.
- And anyone who suggests they do is probably trying to make money doing so.
- 250 of these are solitary bees and many of the remainder are bumble bees.