Welcome to The Apiarist.

This site is about beekeeping,

More specifically, it is about "the science, art and practice of sustainable beekeeping ... so much more than honey."

Science, because I'm a scientist, and we know a lot about the biology of the honey bee, have lots more to learn and because this knowledge informs our beekeeping.

Art, because of the considerable skill involved in properly managing bees, some of which results from this knowledge.

Practice, because beekeeping is, of necessity, a practical hobby, pastime, career ... or obsession.

Beekeeping, so much more than honey

Many people start beekeeping because they like honey and, with care and reasonable weather, you cannot fail to produce at least some honey.

Local honey

However, it’s not as simple as just leaving a hive at the bottom of the garden and taking the honey in late summer. To be successful, you must learn how to ‘read’ the colony, to determine if it is flourishing. It’s only strong, healthy colonies that produce a surplus of honey.

Is there a queen present? Do the bees need more space? Are there signs of disease? Is the colony preparing to swarm?

And if you are successful at this, you will definitely produce honey, and you will do so by working with one of the most fascinating of insects.

But it doesn’t stop at honey. You can produce wax to make candles, furniture polish, soaps, cosmetics or food wraps, propolis to make tinctures, or mead and metheglin for drinking.

Save the bees, save humanity

Others start beekeeping because they want to 'save the bees' or help pollinate local crops or flowers, or increase biodiversity.

Although these are commendable goals, they are very poor reasons to start beekeeping.

Honey bees do not need saving.

There are more honey bees now than there have ever been. In fact, there are so many that they might be outcompeting and threatening some of the other 270 species of bees present in the UK, all of which are fascinating and some of which are probably better at pollination.

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. This will also benefit honey bees.

Sustainable beekeeping

If you do start beekeeping, as well as producing honey and wax, you will also produce bees. Successful beekeeping involves splitting and replacing your colonies.

Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds, or can be as difficult as you want. For some beekeepers, it is one of the most interesting aspects of keeping bees.

And it is this practical colony management, together with minimising the impact on other pollinators sharing the environment, that makes for sustainable beekeeping. Repeatedly purchasing bees - whether local or imported - and swamping the area with more colonies than the environment can support is unsustainable.

Getting about

If you're not a beekeeper and want advice on a swarm you have found, you've probably come to the wrong place.

Long-time readers of The Apiarist should check out how to navigate the new site. The site archives provide access to every post published since 2013. All posts carry tags, a full list of which are provided separately. Please bear in mind the important caveats about location, climate, allowed treatments and best practice. Things change.

Use of images and text is outlined in the copyright statement - basically don't without prior approval.

Subscribers can contact me via this form, but I'm unlikely to be able to offer timely beekeeping advice due to other commitments. If you want to book me to talk to your association, please look at my separate talks pages, which include a diary of my availability. I do not use Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, BlueSky or Facebook for communication. By all means leave comments there, but I probably will not see them.

I do not reply to DM's, whatever they are ...

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The Apiarist has always been free, and the majority of the legacy content will remain so. In the past my time, server and software costs have been partly underwritten by generous readers 'buying me a coffee'. That option remains - after all, I drink enough while writing late into the night to meet my self-imposed Friday deadlines - and I will continue to be grateful for the support. Some posts carry a button like this ...

... and, for those reading online, there should be a coffee widget in the bottom left-hand corner.

However, from late Spring 2024 I am also introducing a paid subscription tier (let's call them 'sponsors'). Some future posts will be for sponsors only. These will include some specifically aimed at beginners, some more discursive posts on particular topics, pre-publication drafts of book chapters (eventually) and a few shorter, focused and more topical posts on particular aspects of 'the science, art and practice of sustainable beekeeping'. Paid subscriptions are handled by Stripe.

Why the paywall?

There's no advertising on the site and I sell no merch (T-shirts, baseball hats, personalised hive tools or embroidery patches for your beesuit). There are no affiliate links, no sponsored posts, and I do not accept equipment in return for favourable reviews (or anything else). Any books or equipment reviewed have been purchased using the meagre profits from my honey sales and talks.

However, there are costs - in time and money - in researching, writing and hosting the site, and in sending 15-20,000 emails a month to readers. An average length post (~3,000 words) takes many hours to write, edit and illustrate.

Paying sponsors will have unrestricted access to an archive containing a million words on a wide-variety of beekeeping topics, all new weekly posts and that warm, fuzzy, satisfied feeling from supporting independent writing about beekeeping ... together with my everlasting gratitude.

These sponsors will essentially ensure the sustainability of the site.

Inactive 'free' subscribers who opt not to receive emails, or who do not open the newsletter or visit the site, will periodically be removed from the mailing list. My monthly running costs are related to the volume of email sent. All newsletters carry an unsubscribe button.

Thanks for reading ... enjoy the posts and Happy Beekeeping!