As a school boy I was always interested in the Honey Bee
(Apis mellifera) and promised myself that one day I would keep bees. Near to my home was a market garden where I had a weekend job side-shooting/watering tomatoes (Summer) and chrysanthemums (Winter) and on a rubbish heap at these premises I discovered a pile of timber scrap which I recognised as the components of a beehive. The owner was more than willing to let me take away the rubbish which I cleaned up and painted not knowing what to do with the finished product!
Fate then lent a hand; a beekeeper, who was a seasonal bee inspector for the Ministry (MAFF later to be DEFRA), moved into the village and he supplied some bees to populate my empty hive and shortly afterwards he arrived with information that a beekeeper he visited (in Sutton on Sea, Lincolnshire) had died and his widow wanted to sell the bees and equipment. A price was agreed, my father hired a lorry and with the neighbour’s assistance we hauled the entire contents of the apiary half way across Lincolnshire to where we were living. About the time I commenced tertiary education my parents relocated to a smaller property which meant we had to re-site the bees and were fortunate enough to find a co-operative
farmer who had a patch of waste ground which he made available for the hives. One of the crops on this farm was field beans and the bees loved it to such an extent that after the first Summer the farmer announced that he had just harvested his biggest crop of beans of all time. This was fortunate for me as it was impossible to manage the bees while I was away at College in Sunderland and the farmer was only too happy to buy them off me. I don’t think he really understood how much attention they needed but he seemed very happy with his acquisition.
Fast forward 23 years and the opportunity arose to re-enter the world of beekeeping. I started out with one hive and quickly built up to 6 and had almost reached the point where sales of surplus honey cancelled out my capital outlay when sadly I (or rather the bees) became another statistic in the advance of the Varroa parasite and they all perished.
After a “fallow” year I started up again in 2001 and although I have had ups and downs I am now able to devote more of my time to the management of the bees and the outlook is rosier.
Rather than line the pockets of bee equipment suppliers I now combine the bee keeping with my other hobby of woodworking and manufacture my own hives. In my “first life” as a beekeeper I used National and W.B.C. hives but on the second time round I chose to use Modified Commercial design as these offer a larger brood area without the extra weight associated with other choice of Langstroth hives.

Click here to view pictures of my bees.

If you are thinking about keeping bees then I will be happy to assist you in your decision - just contact me via the link at the foot of the page and even if I don’t know the answer I can point you in the direction of someone who does!

Note: It is said that if you ask a question of twelve beekeepers you will get thirteen different answers!!

Useful links : British Beekeepers’ Association - the title says it all!

The Honey Pot - shop in Derby for beekeeping supplies, prize winning honey and advice from beekeeper Tony Maggs. Also Tony’s website gives a lot of bee information which can’t fail to interest you.

Derbyshire Beekeepers’ Association - my local association.

Beekeeping and Bee Breeding - a mine of information for beekeepers at all levels by David Cushman. (Sadly Dave died in 2011; it would be nice to see his website maintained as a memorial.)

Bee Videos

Here are a number of videos which may interest you.

The first one is American made and illustrates the life cycle of the honey bee. (click on Skip Ad to bypass the advert)
My only criticism of this video is that the narrator doesn’t understand that the plurals of larva, pupa, and antenna are larvae, pupae and antennae but then perhaps he never experienced the delights of a Latin education!