Interview with a Beekeeper: Beginner Beekeepers
Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Emma Besanson and Adam Boyce are members of our association and are new beekeepers, based in County Wexford. This is their second year keeping bees.
Why did you decide to start keeping bees?
I’m passionate about wildlife and nature and I’ve always loved the idea of keeping bees and having our own honey. We’re also trying to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. We have hens and we grow our own vegetables I dragged Adam along to the beekeeping course, but then, he started to love it, so we decided to get bees. To be honest, I went into it quite naively thinking that all we had to do was get a beehive and put it at the end of the garden and then just harvest the honey. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
The Beginners Beekeeping course
The beginners beekeepers’ course was very useful for basic knowledge and coming to terms with all the terminology used in beekeeping. But it wasn’t until we actually went out on a practical with one of the beekeepers, to an apiary and opened up a hive, that was when we realised that we absolutely loved this. Going to the practical was the deciding factor for us. We came away from the lessons thinking that maybe it was very complicated and wondering would we be able for it, but when we went out on the practical, everything fell into place and we could understand it. When we came away from the practical we realised that we really liked it and we got our first bees then.
We got our first bees from Pat O‘ Toole, a local beekeeper and a member of our association. Pat has been brilliant, he’s been a great support. He came out every week and showed us what to do. He went through the stuff that we did on the course, but hands on, so you really understand it. It’s very useful to buddy up with an experienced beekeeper, especially because we’re very much beginner beekeepers.
We’d definitely like to expand and get some more hives. For example, today (13 May 2018) we were doing the artificial swarm, so that means that we’re automatically increasing our stock. There’s no harm in having more hives, just in case you lose some over the winter. We just produce honey for personal use and for friends and family. It’s lovely to be able to give a couple of jars of honey as a present. I find the honey we produce ourselves is good for my hay fever.
Being organised is very important, having enough equipment, having everything to hand. Small things like keeping the smoker lit can be tricky till you get the hang of them. Also, beekeeping can be quite time consuming. You have to make sure that you have enough time for it. For example, we don’t go anywhere on Saturdays because we work with the bees then. Really, from May to August you can’t go on holidays because there’s stuff to be done with the bees. You’re tied down a bit with them. Like with any animal, you have to look after them.
Plus, it can be quite expensive to get started up once you count in everything, from the bees to the hive to the beesuits, equipment, frames, foundation, everything. The way I look at it is, it’s a hobby for us, and like any hobby it costs money to get started in it. And at least with the bees, you’ll hopefully get something back when you get the honey.
Advice to Prospective Beekeepers
Definitely attend a beginners beekeeping course first and be sure to go on the practical. In fact, go for a few years if you’re still undecided. Don’t rush into it as you are investing time and money into it. First, make sure that it’s what you want before you get into it.
Also, when you’re working with the bees, it’s very important not to panic. Talk through what you’re going to do beforehand and what you’re going to do next. Take your time. Don’t rush. Think back to what you’d planned to do before you even open the hive. But go for it. It’s great to be out in the fresh air working with your bees. We absolutely love it. If anything, it’s kind of addictive.
We love being part of the association and the social aspect of it, on top of everything else. We’ve met so many people locally through beekeeping and gotten to know other people around the area. Also, I watch the Norfolk Honey Company on youtube. I think they’re fantastic, very practical. Seeing something on a video helps you to remember the information more.