From A to Bee: My First Year as a Beginner Beekeeper
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Taken from his popular blog, the Surrey Beekeeper, James Dearsley presents the first personal, accessible account of the experience of learning how to harvest bees
Beekeeping . . . oh my . . . what have I done? I am 30 years old, I have been married for three years and am a new father to a fantastic little boy. Surely there are things that I should be doing at this age which do not involve little yellow and black insects that can hurt you if you are remotely clumsy (which at 6ft 5, I have an amazing ability to be).
James Dearsley's wife thought he had lost his mind when he announced his intention to become a beekeeper. But like many interested in the self-sufficient lifestyle, he loved gardening and growing vegetables in his garden and the old romantic in him had idealistic notions of teaching his little boy where honey came from, so he set himself what seemed a reasonable goal: to get, in a year's time, just one jar of honey.
boxes which knock off pollen from the backs of the bees' legs as they fly into the hive. I have images of little boxing gloves attached to springs which come out and punch the legs of bees as they walk through the trap. Apparently some beekeepers sell local pollen for people to eat. 'A teaspoon a day keeps the hay fever away', to take a popular phrase and change it around a little bit. Then you have royal jelly, which really sounds special. Apparently royal jelly is fed to eggs and larvae to
impress a girl. Here I was, as an adult, staring cross-eyed at a completely different female form and feeling equally stupid in the process. The twenty minutes or so we spent inside the apiary, although uncomfortable at times, were utterly compelling and really captivated me. A lot of what I had learned on the course fell into place at that point. Suddenly I could understand the differences between the hives; we went through a WBC, a National and a polystyrene one – apparently these always get
again, which hasn't made it a particularly comfortable time, especially with my stings having been covered with sweaty socks all day. My ankle became very itchy today for the first time and was a little bit inflamed and swollen. On a separate note, I had my first spuds this weekend. I dug up some of the swift earlies which I had planted several months ago. A little bit of mint while cooking followed by 'accidentally' too much butter, salt and pepper and all was delicious. I will also say that,
standing behind the hive, I measured that as well. There were literally millimetres in it – too close to risk doing it early tomorrow morning and failing to get the hive into the car. I decided I needed to do a dummy run on getting the hive into the car just in case. I went back to the house, drove the car up to the allotment and reversed rather gingerly until I was about 10 feet from the hive. I tried to secure gauze around the hive entrance before securing the hive using the ratchet. I
of the toast back down on the breakfast table. With his chin covered in honey and butter he looked at both Jo and I and simply said 'More' or rather 'Mowa' in his slight baby-like tone. Jo and I just looked at each other and smiled. All the hard work to get that single jar had just paid off and I was a very happy man. Only the honey-tasting in the cafe to go now… SEPTEMBER 27 Looking back now, had I not gone to the cafe that day, had my usual discussions with Joe and Gareth about the