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Keeping Bees as a Hobby

There is an increasing awareness of the importance of beekeeping and the vital part that the honey bees play in the pollination of our food crops as well as our native flora. This has led to a resurgence of the hobby beekeeper.


 Feeding in the garden

Many people in the country would often keep a couple of hives at the bottom of the garden and take a bit of honey off for their own use and the bees would largely look after themselves. However with the onset of imported diseases and pests, in particular the varroa mite originally from Asia, there is a need for a little better husbandry than the beekeeper might have practiced in the past.
I am often approached by people who tell me that they would like to keep bees and ask me how do you get started, where can they get bees from etc. and fortunately there is a easy answer to those questions -" join your local beekeeping association" which can easily be found with the help of this website.


What are the benefits of joining your local association?

Firstly it will help you decide if beekeeping is for you. Being a beekeeper might sound very appealing but it is less so when you open up a hive to find 20-30,000 angry bees! How will you react to getting stung, will your life style allow you to give the time required for beekeeping, do you have a suitable location?


Coming and going at the hive entrance

As with any livestock husbandry there is always a lot to learn and this process never seems to stop but an association will help you gain the basics required and is always a source local knowledge which has been amassed over many years. Beekeeping cannot be learnt by reading books alone, you need to get your hands dirty.

As with many hobbies it can be expensive. A basic complete hive can cost £2-400, a colony of bees £150 and clothing and ancillary equipment £100. Then if you are lucky enough to harvest honey, you will need equipment for extracting the honey, bottles, and so on, which adds to the cost but on the plus side if you join your local association there are people who may sell or even give old equipment and some one may have a swarm that they will give you. When I started I was given on old hive which after a bit of refurbishment was fine and subsequently given a small colony of bees. That original hive although perhaps not the prettiest has served me well and has consistently yielded the most honey but the time has now come to get rid of it and I will pass it on to a hobbyist who is just starting out.


 A Beginners' Meeting

So if you want to keep bees do it the right way, join your local association first and learn about bees, learn to handle them, know what to look for when you open a hive and then you will be ready to get bees of your own.

Written by Stuart Smyth of Dingwall & District Beekeepers Association