Keeping bees - our story
My partner and I keep two bee hives on our allotment, with the proper permissions from the Council obviously! I always wanted to keep bees, not as much as a money making concern from the sale of the honey but rather, because they are so fascinating. We purchased our first nucleus colony from a bee keeper in Waterlooville in Hampshire in May 2009, the queen bee being of Hawaiian origin and she has been an absolute star! She has lain prolifically and has bred a lovely docile, easy going colony of bees which have been brilliant to work with as novice bee keepers.
It would be fair to say that our first season involved a steep learning curve, lots of reading, lots of hive inspections and scratching of our heads as to whether, or not, we were doing ok with our new bees. I think we did do very well actually and even managed to harvest 39lbs of honey in the September; so all in all, not a bad start!
After we had harvested the honey in September, we treated the hive for the Varroa mite (a truly horrible pest which poses a threat to every bee colony), gave the bees a good feed of sugar solution (to replace the honey we had taken) and put them to bed for the winter, with our fingers crossed that they would survive. Of course, winter 2009/10 proved to be a cold, hard one but, on opening the hive up in February, our bees had come through in fine form, much to our relief. Such was our joy and enthusiasm, we set about reading how we could take a second colony off the first and, hence, we set up the second colony last spring.
Despite our vigilance, our second colony swarmed taking our new queen with them and, so as not to cause too much disturbance to the first colony by trying to manipulate the breeding of another new queen from that colony, we decided to buy in a new queen for the second colony. So, off I went to Haywards Heath where I purchased a new queen who, compared to the Hawaiian Queen, has raised an altogether different temperament of bee. They’re more aggressive and a bit more challenging for us novices!
We took honey again in September from the first colony, a pretty good yield on top of the spring honey we took in May, and repeated the process of treating for Varroa, feeding the bees up and putting both colonies to bed for the winter. Our fingers are firmly crossed that, in the next few weeks or so, we will be able to open up both hives on a warm sunny day and discover that both colonies have made it through the winter. Watch this space and I’ll keep you updated in the e-newsletters as to our progress through our third season!