When I joined the ActivGardens Team in April little did I know that I would become a beekeeper as part of my role. What an amazing past six months it has been. To say that I have been totally inspired is an understatement. The fascination and feeling of responsibility towards our colonies is phenomenal and they have become a real part of my world.
I feel very privileged to be working alongside our bees and even more so that I am able to share our wonderful apiary with people from all walks of life from our local community and witness the benefits that it brings.
A huge thank you must go to my wonderful mentor Betsy Reid (I&ES BKA) whose passion for bees just shone through. Betsy’s calm nature, knowledge and delivery style has given me the confidence to really enjoy our bees and hopefully put them in good stead for the coming winter.
So the past six months, where do I start… A steep learning curve comes to mind. I vividly remember being extremely excited to be going to visit our bees for the first time back in April, donning the bee suit, armed with the
smoker, and feeling the bees knees (excuse the pun). I don’t quite know what I was expecting; however, once the lid was lifted and the bees took flight around us, I couldn’t believe the hum and the constant thoughts of whether the bees were flying past my visor, or were they inside. At the end of that session, I remember thinking, how on earth do you remember everything -the things you have to look out for, the things you have to do and record, planning for the next visit and how brave to be holding the frames.
As the weeks went by, it gradually became routine, although still as invigorating; I began to understand bee terminology/jargon and identify what it was I was looking for, it began to make sense, my confidence and knowledge grew, and my mentor never faulted.
It certainly wasn’t plain sailing as we had verroa, wax moth and a multiple swarming hive identified in my first visit followed by laying workers/drone-laying queen, which unfortunately had to come to a sorry end. I also remember the multiple stings I received whilst delivering a session at our Big Garden Party.
Highlights? There are lots: holding a frame covered in bees for the first time, spotting the elusive queen bee, harvesting and sampling the glorious honey, observing people’s reactions whilst offloading wonderful facts about our honey bees, seeing first-hand how our bees have built confidence in so many of our visitors and being successful in placing a queen cell into a nuclei, taking it home to my garden for 6 weeks and forming a new colony.
We have had schools, both primary and secondary, colleges, pupil referral units, prisoners, community groups, corporate groups, individuals from the community, as well as our regular volunteers, visit our apiary, amounting to in excess of 400 visits. Hopefully our apiary will go from strength to strength, and we have some great ideas to further develop our apiary as a ‘CommuniBee’ educational and wellbeing resource.
Other visitors have included David Barnes (DEFRA, National Bee Unit) in June , who reassured us that our bees were in good health and our housekeeping was in order; David also commented on our wonderful setting. Joyce Boorman (Director of Phoenix2 Network CIC) also recently visited us and I am very pleased to say that we now have a copy of the 2 BeePlus Resource CD 2017 that Joyce and her team developed, which we look forward to sharing with our next generation of young beekeepers.
Thanks must go to Betsy Reid and Chris Stevens for their very kind donations of two queen ready colonies to replenish our apiary, which I must say have settled in very well. Also thank you to I&ES BKA for their kind donation of sugar for our bees.
I am quite disappointed that our four hives need to settle down for the winter and that it won’t be quite so hands on (purely very selfish of me as our bees really deserve a rest). However, there is plenty to do behind the scenes, including creating a new shallow pond within the apiary, and work is already under way in creating a wonderful wild flower meadow bordered by a hedge adjacent to our apiary. We also hope to source/develop and share valuable resources for our visitors to engage and enjoy in the New Year, and I can’t wait to attend some local courses to increase my knowledge and hopefully squeeze in a visit to Buzzworks, Hitchin’s Bee Discovery Centre in Hertfordshire.
The future of our apiary is looking very promising and we are now planning our introductory course in Bee-Keeping, led by Betsy Reid, beginning in January. We are also very excited to have just launched our “ActivGardens CommuniBee Hive Sponsorship” aimed at involving local businesses and organisations.
I hope this has given you a brief overview of what our bees are doing for our community and that it is a hive of activity. If you would like further information or believe you could help us in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Give me a BUZZ: