The Chronicles of B’eed the Obscure
The Diary of a Novice Beekeeper.
Read this riveting account of one man’s struggles against the vagaries of Nature, the Weather and the sheer cussedness of objects both animate and inanimate. Marvel at his patience, stoicism (especially in the face of Beejuice pain) and his determination to arrive at the end of the season with Honey — even if he did have to buy it at the supermarket.
If there is one ‘must read’ book you should buy this year, this is not it. Read the ArgosThe Daily Hive
catalogue, the Phone Book anything but this…”
When you finally get fed up with watching paint dry and life seems utterly, utterly pointless you should pick up this book and let it demonstrate to you how right you are…”The Honey Express
I picked up this book and could not put it down, one of the children had super-glued the back…”The Stinger
Part the first
“The world needs more trees” I said, through a mouthful of toast.
“And more bees” she muttered.
“What?” I couldn’t hear her for the crunching of toast and marmalade.
“I said, THE WORLD NEEDS MORE BEES!”
“Oh!” I thought about it for two more mouthfuls, “You’re right and actually I would find it easier to plant bees than trees with only an ordinary garden at my disposal. A tropical rainforest is not on”
“Well” She said “I’m off to work, you think about it and don’t forget to put the washing out”
So I sat and thought about it. It was October 2007. I was more or less retired, and a happily inept but enthusiastic gardener which was my main interest. When we had first moved to the wilds of Gloucestershire in the early nineties, there had been a number of bee hives planted in the dip in the field opposite us. We picked blackberries around the periphery, always careful to avoid getting too close to the hives because as everybody knows BEES STING! Thankfully we always managed to avoid that fate and so the bees and we lived in peaceful coexistence. I did notice that the bees were always in the garden happily crawling over the flowers and they seemed oblivious to my presence so that was alright too. When the old boy who owned the hives popped his clogs, his hives disappeared as well and I never gave it more than a passing thought. But, thinking on, I had noticed a drop in productivity in the garden over the years and when I had discussed it with my Queen Bee we had concluded it was the soil, the weather, lack of nutrients but never, ever lack of bees. Anyway, it was time to put the washing out.
“Well, I wouldn’t know where to start” I said, spearing another potato.
“Talk to Leslie” The QB said.
“Who is Leslie?” I asked through a mouthful of dinner.
“Leslie took over the old boy’s hives from the field and I think she has five or six now, and don’t talk with your mouth full” said the QB.
So I emailed Leslie who gave me a lot of information about where she had trained and what she had done. Lots of food for thought, but that can easily turn to procrastination. And it did. So, I did nothing.
2008 turned and the course was full. Well, never mind I will go back to my garden. Of course it isn’t that easy, once an idea takes hold it can be very difficult to ignore and especially when everywhere one turns it is to be confronted with media stories about the plight of the bee. Plus, the only bees I could see were Bumbles and lovely though they are, I felt I needed more.
Back to Leslie “Try the local association, they run a course, it is inexpensive and I attended it as well as the Hartpury College course and, to be honest, I learnt more and had fantastic ongoing support from them”.
So, I contacted the association by email and was astonished to find that firstly, they charged less than a quarter of the college charge, that the course was over ten weeks (night classes for six weeks followed by hands on at the Apiary) and secondly it was just down the road, well only eight miles away anyway. That would do for me so I sent them my ten bob and duly received all sorts of tantalising bits of information. This is great, I do like new knowledge and even if I decide not to keep bees I will learn some good new stuff. A recommended list of reading arrived but it is no good giving me a list with lots of different priced books, my natural meanness kicks in and I dither a lot. I called the Bee Guru (henceforth called BG) who actually suggested the cheapest
as being the best. A book called ‘teach your self beekeeping’ by someone called Adrian and Clare Waring. And he was right. What a find! Accepting that I am a sad old man who should get out more I read it three times in December and I think at a pinch if left to my own devices on a desert island (fervently to be wished for by the Queen Bee) I could have kept bees just on the knowledge in the book. Or so I fondly imagined.
January 2009 arrived, time for my education but along with the rest of Britain we were much preoccupied with snow and associated panics, resulting in the course being put back a couple of weeks to allow access to the car park at the village hall. Finally the day arrived and I presented myself together with some twenty odd others muffled in swaddling clothes or some such to be met by the BG and Mrs BG. We were a mixed bunch, old, young, fat, thin. handsome, ugly – but you get the picture, a typical cross section of British society.
The Bee Guru is a dapper, elegant man who obviously has an understanding wife because HE IS ALLOWED A BEARD and I AM NOT! Nor am I allowed to keep my hair in a pony tail like Francis Rossi of the Quo. Life is so unfair …. But I digress. I must just go back to my working life for a moment, my last gainfully employed occupation was as a lecturer and trainer and as a consequence I have an acute appreciation of good technique in lecturing. The BG is a master. He held me and the rest of the students spellbound for two and a half hours and I think at that moment any one of us would happily have placed our head in the bee’s mouth, there being no lions in Gloucestershire.
We were hooked and over the next six weeks we battled with queen cells, Varroa, frames and supers. We learnt about AFB, EFB, Nosema, wax moth and other horrors until we were thoroughly spooked, but all the time the BG was nearing the BIG SECRET – BEES are FANTASTIC, FASCINATING FUN!
Sunday 5th April arrived and it was a glorious sunny day, our first day on the bees! Eleven o’clock and I present myself with all the other aliens in our bee suits to START WORK ON THE BEES! Ah, but first there is the little matter of the smoker, cough, cough, sputter, splutter. How come it starts so easily for the BG when I, a fully trained and paid up beekeeper can’t get it to even flame properly?
Eventually we get going after first washing our brand new hive tools in a magic solution of washing soda and washing up liquid. Washing Soda? I didn’t know it still existed, having not heard of it since probably 1955. The BG patiently explained to me the magic properties of washing soda on propolis and latex gloves and suitably educated I happily splashed around with everyone else in the stuff.
Now to the bees. I have to make a small confession here. No, not fear or concern. It is about my eyesight. I haven’t got any. Well not much anyway. And, as to seeing an egg one sixteenth of an inch, forget it! So I cheerfully lied my way through the morning whilst everyone else was billing and cooing over the cells. BUT I DID SEE THE QUEEN! Thankfully she had a spot on her back the size of a dustbin lid so even I couldn’t miss her. I returned home to the QB ecstatic and walking on air. What a fantastic experience! I could not stop talking about bees and I am happy to say that over the next four weeks I managed to educate half the population of Gloucestershire about beekeeping whether they wanted to know or not!