This January I started a new journey in food production. I enlisted in a beginners beekeepers course with my local beekeeping association. Regular visitors to our site will know of how important a self sufficient life is to us here at Married with Cauldron and having covered so much of this lifestyle already on the blog it wasnt going to be long before we got involved with bees. It goes without saying that the real value in bees is the pollination service they provide but with this service we get a fantastic by-product, Honey. Beekeeping is an essential husbandry skill needed to really complete the cycle of a self-sufficient lifestyle. Pollination is the life blood of crop growth from allotments to acres of rapeseed. Either way you can increase your yield by having an active hive of vigorous honey bees close by.
A bee will travel as far as 3 miles to forage for pollen and nectar. During this trip they will visit between 100 and 1000 flowers with an average flight time of 30-60 minutes, 10 times a day. Now you know where the term busy as a bee comes from.
I highly recommend getting in touch with your local association when getting started with bees because without the knowledge from experienced beekeepers you are setting yourself up for failure. By getting involved and sitting a course with the association you will receive membership, insurance and access to lectures from the best in the field. You will be taught how to recognise diseases and pests and how to treat them. This is so important in managing a healthy life for your bees. You will also become part of a vast network of passionate people who are only more than willing to help you get started, and one will eventually become your mentor or bee sensei. For me, Jim Agnew has been a fountain of information. His patience with my many questions has helped in keeping me from getting discouraged in this new hobbie. He has even supplied me with my first bees. He once told me that when he first got started with beekeeping there was someone who was very generous with their knowledge in beekeeping and time that he wanted to be able to give back what he had now learned. Jim gave the majority of our lectures during my course and was popular with many of the students. He is an asset to the association. Jim also advised me that I was getting involved with a hobbie that was going to eventually cost me a lot of money. He wasn’t wrong. As with all new hobbies the initial set-up cost can run into the hundreds. Over the years I have taken up many past-times from motocross, kayaking, rock climbing and shooting. You will spend up to €1000 getting started in many of these. You will pay more for brand names and higher quality products so it pays to shop around. I will leave a list of the suppliers I have used so far below:
Although the initial cost of set up will run into the hundreds of euros don’t be deterred.
Essential start-up kit :
- Hive ( polystyrene or wooden )
- Hive tool
This kit will get you started alright but you always find a reason to add to it. Here in lies the crux. I am in the process of taking on my third hive, all in a matter of months. Something nobody tells though is just how much time you will spend thinking about your bees. For me it’s like every waking minute. Are they OK? Are they flying? Is it warm enough outside? Do they have enough stores? Are wasps attacking them? Is the Queen laying?……………
Our kitchen table two days ago
This what happens when you are responsible for these beautiful social insects. One healthy hive can have up to 40000 workers (female), 1000 drones (male) and 1 Queen. These days in our house it’s not unusual to hear Davinia ask where I’m going to and for me to reply “Oh, I’m just going to check on my girls. All 40000 of them.” This response usually gets a sceptical hippo eyes look. I am grateful to have a very understanding wife, after all she is going to get a sweet reward at the end of all of this. In all seriousness when you have a hive it requires a once weekly visit from April to September. From late September to March you will rarely make a visit at all as they will boxed up for winter.
Stay tuned to the blog as we post our progress and new honey recipes. If you are new to the site feel free to read any of our previous posts and follow one of the recipes. This an exiting time to be involved with food as more and more people educate themselves of the benefits of this locally sourced edible product. For example Irish heather honey is said to be as beneficial as Manuka honey in it’s medicinal properties. All at a fraction of the cost and with minimal food miles. As I’m sure with many beekeepers people often say to me that they could never work with bees because they are terrified of them. Fear has no place near a hive. Caution does. Believe it or not but working with bees brings a certain peaceful feeling and mindfulness because you have to remain calm and calculated with every move. A panicked slip of a frame can result in a squished Queen. It can sometimes feel like you are diffusing a bomb and making sure that you don’t snip the red wire as the timer runs out but if you take your time, be prepared and stay calm your bees will thank you for it.
Thanks for reading.
Try The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association for a list of local associations.
My happy place.