New Beekeepers FAQs
Tiverton & District Beekeepers'. (A Branch of Devon Beekeepers’ Association)
The Tiverton & District Beekeepers' has around 100 members, these members range from people just starting out and have no bees, to members who have been keeping bees for decades.
If you are interested in keeping bees we would advise you make contact with your local beekeeping association, you will find them to be very encouraging and helpful in planning the best way forward to suit your own circumstances.
Experienced members will be able to share their wide variety of experience to the less-experienced novice beekeepers and help them to develop the skills required in handling bees. The Tiverton & District Beekeepers’ covers the Mid Devon area. We work with adjacent beekeeping associations to preserve and promote honey bees in our area.
Undecided About Keeping Bees?
If you have got as far as thinking about keeping bees or are just interested in the craft and it's products, there are questions you may want answers to, below are a few answers to some FAQs.
How much Time and Commitment?
As a starting point it is best to have one or maybe two hives, this will require a couple of hours a week during the months of April through to September. In the winter months less time is required, this will allow time for reading up on bee books and attending winter meetings at your local Beekeeping Association Branch, equipment maintenance and enjoying the fruits (and honey) of your labour!!
Bees have a range of 3 miles or so to reach the plants and flowers they require for nectar and pollen gathering. Having a large garden is not important, but positioning the hive within that garden is, plan to put the hive facing a hedge or fence that will force the bees upwards when they exit the hive this will ensure that they are above head height when they are over the neighbouring garden until they reach the flowers, it is important not to spoil your neighbours enjoyment of their garden. Avoid putting the hive where people may congregate, e.g. patios, children's play areas, public rights of way, sunbathing spots etc. If in any doubt or just to be sure ask an experienced beekeeper. Always keep your neighbours in the loop with your plans!
The Honey Harvest?
Beekeeping is not all about the honey harvest, in fact there are beekeepers who look upon the product and it's harvest as a chore, but for most it is the culmination of a job well done! We must remember as beekeepers that the honey is the bees winter stores and this will sustain the health and success of the colony throughout the winter months when little or no other food source is available, the amount of honey product we can harvest is dependent on the abundance of available nectar sources and the weather during the summer. To prevent your bees from starving and to ensure a good healthy colony next springtime we must leave them with sufficient honey*, it is always best practice to never take any honey from the brood chamber stores. To ensure maximum honey production some beekeepers move their hives during the season to where the abundant source of food is e.g. oilseed rape, heather etc.
* “A careful beekeeper will not take more than the colony can afford to miss. Putting the bees in danger for a few frames of honey after a cold, wet summer is counter-productive.”
- Paul Peacock- author of Keeping Bees - A Complete Practical Guide
Will I Get Stung?
The simple answer to this – yes. All beekeepers get stung from time to time, in fact some beekeepers purposely allow themselves to get stung as they claim it builds up an immunity to effects of the sting and also has other medicinal benefits in the prevention of arthritis etc (although nothing is medically proven about this, probably a beekeepers myth!). Bees sting because they are trying to defend their colony and because it is the ultimate self sacrifice they do not readily sting as a matter of course, attending a beginners course will cover the best ways of dealing with stings
What is it going to cost me?
Hobbies can be expensive when starting out and beekeeping is no exception, new beekeepers have to start somewhere however as they gain more experience a make do and mend approach is adopted by many to keep costs down. It is recommended that new beekeepers buy only the essentials such as protective clothing, smoker, hive tools etc, that along with a couple of complete hives with 2 supers on each will cost somewhere in the region of £400–600. The costs can vary when getting the bees to put in the hive, but it must be remembered if buying bees to get them from a reputable seller and that they can be verified as disease free, if in doubt seek advice from an experienced beekeeper, alternatively you local beekeeping association may be able to put you on a list of people who could accept a swarm if one becomes available. If you go down the route of buying pre-owned/used equipment then ask an experienced beekeeper to take a look at it before purchasing as he/she may be able to give you some pointers as to its condition and if it is economically viable.
Is it necessary to go on a course before I start keeping bees?
In a word – no. It is an individual's choice, however all beekeeping associations and organisations strongly recommend that people embarking on the craft obtain some practical skills before actually acquiring some bees. You may find that your beekeeping association run a mentoring or buddy scheme as we do at Tiverton Beekeepers, this takes the form of you accompanying an experienced beekeeper through a season to learn first hand what to look for and what action to take if there is a problem. Whether you choose to go on a course (recommended), mentoring or neither you should always read some books on beekeeping, at Tiverton we have a branch library from which members can borrow books to study free of any charge.
Should I join a Beekeepers Association ?
The British Beekeepers’ Association, Devon Beekeepers’ Association and its affiliated Tiverton District would strongly advise both anyone thinking of keeping bees and established beekeepers to join a local beekeeping association for the many benefits offered – public liability insurance, newsletters, winter and summer meetings, support and advice from fellow members, bulk purchase discounts, reduced magazine subscriptions etc.
The Tiverton & District Beekeepers always welcomes those interested in finding out more about bees and their associated products. Please visit our website at www.tivertonbeekeepers.org.uk and follow the links, or download the membership application form from here. If you are interested in taking a beginners course over the next few months then simply click on the following link where you will find a Beginners Course Application Form to print off* and return with your payment. *Select Landscape orientation on your printer.
Last updated December 2nd 2018.