To Bee or Not to Bee
So you think you want to be a beekeeper? Well, whilst it isn't the easiest hobby in the world, it certainly isn't the most time consuming or laborious. You would expect to be looking in on your bees about once every 9 days or so during the spring and summer, and then the odd time during the rest of the year just to keep tabs on them.
Depending on your motivation, you will also spend some time researching bee keeping methods, applying chemicals or herbs to treat pest problems and perhaps even extracting honey. On occasion
they may also need to be fed a sugar solution to supplement what they can forage – we don’t have the most forgiving climate in mid-Wales.
My personal recommendation is to join a local Beekeeping Association. Find your nearest through the WBKA - http://www.wbka.com/ - if you live outside Wales, go to WBKA anyway and follow their links further afield. I've had dealings with three BKAs so far, and found all very helpful and very encouraging to new beekeepers.
For a more natural approach to beekeeping, you must visit the barefoot beekeeper's website www.biobees.com and also the friends of the bees http://fotb.drogon.org/ who are closely associated. The Barefoot Beekeeper is, in my opinion, closer to Permaculture principles than conventional beekeeping. There are a handful of people within MBKA who are also showing an interest in this approach, so fingers crossed ... For yet more links, go the MBKA web-site www.montybees.org.uk
And then there is the cost. Joining a BKA will give you access to cheaper second hand equipment – be careful to ensure it is disease free, or sterilise it if in doubt. You could ask to be notified of swarms and get some bees for free! Also insurance against loss of bees to disease is included in the membership. But if you go for a conventional hive, you are looking at £125 or so, then some protective clothing for £30 to £90, depending on how much you want to look like an astronaut (I use a smock with veil and a pair of marigolds at the £30 end of the deal!). A nucleus of bees will probably be in the range £60 to £150 depending on source. Plans to make a top bar hive (a la barefoot beekeeper) are free on-line, and the cost of materials is a few rather than many pounds.
Montgomeryshire beekeepers are currently trying to get an apiary set up by next Easter, which will have a few hives (hopefully 6 to 12) and some nucleus boxes (nukes) to start bee colonies for new members. Members will be able to get some serious hands on learning before having to commit to the hobby.
Any questions? Use the contacts page at the montybees web site – even if you're out of our area, we'll do our best to help.