Myself and three colleagues recently attended a two day course: ‘Introduction to Beekeeping’ at Heaton Park. The course was a whistle stop tour of the world of bees and looking after them. Along with a healthy dose of theory we also covered the fun stuff: woodwork, extraction and meeting the bees!
Over the last few years bees have been struggling; battling with a mite called Varroa which has wiped out large numbers of bee colonies. The mite causes the bees to get infections and weakens them considerably. Without bees to pollinate our crops we are looking at serious food shortages in the future so we need to help our yellow and black friends now!
The first day of the course was an introduction to bees and the equipment needed to look after them. In the afternoon I got to go out and meet the bees, I was very nervous (but excited). I got to wear the suit and go and look in a hive. The hive my group picked was a very small colony which I think was a good introduction as it was only half full! Less bees to fly out and scare me! We also got to lift out the frames (where the bees live) and inspect them for the queen, brood (the eggs that become the young bees) and drones (male bees). We were also looking for varroa and the honey stores.
Straight after meeting the bees I moved onto woodwork…which I was rubbish at! You have to study woodwork as a lot of beekeeping is putting together the hive and frames. Knowing how to knock in a nail is essential! I’m sure I’ll improve though the more I do…well that’s what the teacher told me anyway!
Day two was more theory in the morning. This time; swarming and diseases. Swarming was very confusing so more revision will definitely be needed and diseases was just a bit unpleasant! The afternoon was spent in the extraction room spinning the honey out of the frames and putting it in jars. Definitely one of the most fun parts of beekeeping! The final part of the day, and probably not the best way to end the two day course was a whole section on varroa, not exciting but definitely essential.
Finally I’ve added some links to interesting bee information and more blog posts will follow.
The British Beekeeers Association:http://www.bbka.org.uk/
Manchester & District Beekeepers’ Association: http://www.mdbka.com/home.html
Vanishing of the Bees film: http://vanishingbees.co.uk/
A World Without Bees book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Without-Bees-Alison-Benjamin/dp/0852650922