From A to Bee: My First Year as a Beginner Beekeeper
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Taken from his popular blog, the Surrey Beekeeper, James Dearsley presents the first personal, accessible account of the experience of learning how to harvest bees
Beekeeping . . . oh my . . . what have I done? I am 30 years old, I have been married for three years and am a new father to a fantastic little boy. Surely there are things that I should be doing at this age which do not involve little yellow and black insects that can hurt you if you are remotely clumsy (which at 6ft 5, I have an amazing ability to be).
James Dearsley's wife thought he had lost his mind when he announced his intention to become a beekeeper. But like many interested in the self-sufficient lifestyle, he loved gardening and growing vegetables in his garden and the old romantic in him had idealistic notions of teaching his little boy where honey came from, so he set himself what seemed a reasonable goal: to get, in a year's time, just one jar of honey.
gently off the hive. This should have been a thirty-second job but it must have taken fifteen agonising and frustrating minutes. Anyway, it enabled me to get the bright green feeder onto the hive and I let out a small sigh of relief knowing that the bees would be fed at least. Then all that was left was the small matter of undoing the front mesh, which was, to be honest, the nicest bit of the process as it was relatively easy. As soon as the mesh revealed the small entrance, a little bee
been using it as a scratching post for the last year. Therefore I went to paint it; but it was about 10 feet from the hive I had inspected only an hour earlier. I thought an hour would be plenty of time for the bees to have calmed down but as I started painting, I got attacked; they must have remembered me. The thing about bee attacks (that does sound a little extreme, but at the time that is what it feels like) is they are rather sudden, you never know it is about to happen. Therefore, in
realised the long history of beekeeping. At the last session, it was evident that we still use equipment that was introduced back in the 1850s. But man was dependent on the honeybee well before that. Back in Egyptian times, the Pharaoh himself was the god of honey and honeybees were seen as teardrops from the sun. Honey was also used as currency by the people of ancient Egypt in payment for land rents, and detailed reports were kept of production and payment: the first evidence of organised
one on the wrist. Then, as Andrew was checking some of the frames (we all took it in turns) he was stung again on the thumb but this time it must have hurt – I think I learned some new words! It was mid inspection, a frame of bees in Andrew's hand, and as he started an unrepeatable diatribe, the whole world went into slow motion when his hand that was stung instinctively left the frame. The entire frame of bees began to swing wildly and was being held by one hand. The hive tool flew through the
covering about nine of the frames and have eggs on at least five of them so all seems to be cooking nicely in there. I spotted Queenie and she seems to be laying well and so I closed the hive up feeling pretty happy. There was no sign of EFB anywhere, which is a relief. As I looked over to my feisty National hive while inspecting the Beehaus I could only wonder at the activity around the hive entrance. I can only describe it as thousands of bees gathering at the entrance clambering to either