We get many emails daily regarding Beekeeping - courses available, joining our association or just finding out how to go about keeping bees. Please read through this first as it might answer some of your questions.
Without wishing to depress your enthusiasm, here are some things to think about...
It's often reckoned that your first jar of honey could cost £600! That's a rough indication of cost to get set up and then there are (much lower) ongoing costs and various possible additions. And for the first year, the new colony you start with is unlikely to produce any excess honey for you!
Sites near livestock, public footpaths, bridleways or other public places such as playing fields, schools etc, should be avoided. It is wise to discuss with neighbours as inevitably they will over-fly other gardens, usually without even being noticed, but if there is a problem, the likely outcome is that you'll need to find a new site. Bees are happy with a certain amount of shade - they are essentially woodland creatures - and hives can take some full sun. However, once you have positioned a hive, you can't just decide to move it somewhere else nearby. Besides hives being very heavy and ackward to handle, the bees locate very accurately to their home, even when it's not there!
Spring and summer is their active season. Like all living animals, they need looking after - and at a time to suit them! A simple explanation is that you need to look through the hive boxes and check the brood nest, which they keep ar over 30C. This means that your weekly check can't just be every Wednesday evening as it may be wet or too cold, so they would have to be checked soon after instead, You are doing this to examine them for health, wealth and happiness but also to try to avoid them swarming - if you don't do it every week you may lose a swarm and your honey crop too.
We recommend two books in particular, The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping (2/e) and The Haynes Bee Manual (no really!), but there are masses of others you may prefer. But some basic training is highly recommended so you're fully aware what you're getting into. FBKA runs a beginners' theory course in the winter with an associated practical course in spring.
Also bees are unlike other livestock in that it is not a simple matter to relocate them if you decide you should have put them somewhere else. And if you change your mind and want to get out of beekeeping, finding a new home for upwards of 60,000 bees is not like selling a puppy.
Equipment comes and goes out to the hive so you need a bee proof place to store it. You may think that your garage is for the car, but you may soon find it taken over with bee stuff!
A honey super can weigh 14kg (30lb) when really full - and hopefully you will have many of those! A brood box is even heavier when full of stores, eg 23kg (50lb), and you often have two of those and need to lift one out of the way to look in the other. So if you have a back problem, this needs serious thought.
This shouldn't be a surprise(!), but if the bees are handled well should be fairly rare. However, you will most likely be wearing a bee suit for protection - your family, friends and neighbours will not and you need to consider them too.
Finally, the effect of a sting ranges from a pin-prick through painful to potentially life-threatening. So it's best if you know what you're doing!
We run two complementary courses for beginners:
Our membership year starts on 1st October, but there is a reduced rate if you join mid-season. We also have an associate membership, which would keep you in touch with Farnham beekeepers and what is going on.
The full membership is around £50 and includes:
If you have any further queries or would like to join, please contact Margaret Lennard via email: email@example.com