At Cotswold Bees Ltd we have had several hundred people on courses. Some of those want to start beekeeping and some are there just for interest.
These are the most frequently asked questions together with the answers we give:
How Much Does It Cost To Start Beekeeping?
This very much depends and it is a great idea to read our blog on how much it costs. Depending on whether you use new or second hand equipment and where you get your bees the cost with vary a great deal.
Nearly all the costs are at the beginning and fortunately the cost of running your hives is very small each year.
If you are looking at buying all new equipment and buying your bees from a reputable source you will probably be looking at around £600 for your hive, suit and bees.
I Only Have A Small Garden – Can I Keep Bees?
Bees don’t mind how big your garden is – they will fly over the fence. The better question is “How Good Is The Area Where I Live For Bees?”
If you live in a city, town or village the chances are that even if you have a small garden you will be surrounded by other gardens and maybe parks as well. This is much better for the bees than certain areas of the countryside where there can be few flowers or the flowering season can be much shorter.
It is important to place the hive sufficiently far from the house that they do not cause problems for you and sufficiently far from your neighbours that they do not annoy them. This is largely a matter of common sense and will also depend upon the attitude of your neighbours to bees. Remember that when they are flying they will generally not be noticed but once a week during the season you will be inspecting your hive and you will have many thousands of bees flying free at that stage. If in doubt ask an experienced beekeeper from your local society to have a look at the site.
How Many Hives Should I Have?
The ideal situation is to have at least two. This means that if you were to lose one colony then you can build up again from the second one. You can also compare how they are doing and this is particularly useful when you first start beekeeping.
However, many people have just one hive. It is advisable to have some spare equipment for when you need to carry out swarm management techniques.
What Sort Of Hive Should I Use?
We always recommend that you use a wooden hive as part of the pleasure of beekeeping is to add to the environment rather than cause problems which plastic and polystyrene hives can – especially when they get to the end of their useful life. Wooden hives are also so much easier to keep clean and sterilize. The best sort of wood is cedar but if you want to spend less a soft wood hive is fine – it will need more maintenance and won’t last as long as a cedar one though.
In terms of hive style then a national hive is very practical but if you want something more attractive then go for a WBC.
Do I Have To Buy New Equipment?
Buying second hand can often save you a lot of money. You should be very careful about the transfer of disease. If someone is selling equipment without the bees then question them as to what happened to the bees. Always scorch the inside of equipment with a blow torch and if there are any second hand frames the do not use them but make sure they are burnt.
How Much Honey Will I Get?
This really is how long is a piece of string?
It depends upon the amount of forage in your area, the weather in a particular year, whether your bees try to swarm and how successful you are at disease management.
Strong hives in really good areas during a good season can produce as much as 200 pounds of honey but this is rare. We always advise new beekeepers to work on an average of about 45 pounds of honey per hive per year. Remember though there may be years when you don’t get any honey. Nature is unpredictable.
Do I need To Register With Anyone?
We always recommend joining your local beekeeping society. You should also register your bees on the central database which you can find at https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/public/register.cfm
What Do I Do About Swarms?
Swarming is a natural part of the life cycle of a bee colony. As a responsible beekeeper it is essential that you learn how to manage swarming and perform an artificial swarm. This is the best thing for both the bees, the beekeeper and everyone around.
What Should I Plant In My Garden To help The Bees?
Have a read of our blog on bee friendly plants but as a general guide old fashioned cottage garden plants are best.
Do I Need To Go On A Course?
In order to be a responsible beekeeper you need to understand about the needs of your bees. We would always recommend that you go on a course before you start beekeeping. make sure that the course enables you to actually handle bees and not just learn the theory.
There are many good courses run by beekeeping organisations. If you want details of our courses then please go to https://www.cotswoldbees.co.uk/courses/
What About Insurance?
If you join your local British Beekeepers Association branch you will be covered by the insurance which you get as part of your membership.
Am I Able To Sell My Honey?
There are rules about selling honey and on a small scale they are not too bad. Details of the rules can be found on the BBKA website https://www.bbka.org.uk/beekeeping-legislation
Many of the beekeeping equipment suppliers will be able to supply you with labels for your jars and you will always find plenty of people happy to buy fresh, local honey.
I hope you have fun and really enjoy your beekeeping.