Our Beekeeping Journey
Our beekeeping journey began in September 2014. I'd wanted to keep bees for a while and Andrew and I had done a one day taster course with the Sheffield Honey Company a couple of years previously, which we'd both loved. So for my birthday that year, Andrew bought me my first hive! I was so excited. It was a while before we had any bees come to stay with us, as we wanted to make sure we prepared fully for the forthcoming foray into the life of the honeybee. We read books, did a ten week introductory course, read more books, spoke to beekeepers, read even more books, had some hands-on practical experience at a local apiary, read SO MANY BOOKS, and finally we felt ready to welcome our first bees to our hive, in June 2015. In fact to our TWO hives, as we were given not one but two nucs of bees (a nuc is a starter colony, complete with a queen bee and a few thousand worker bees).
The girls soon settled in. Our hives are nestled in a small wooded area in Golden Valley, Derbyshire and they are surrounded by woods, fields, meadows of wildflowers & are within flying distance of plenty of gardens, providing them with lots of perfect foraging opportunities! Their numbers soon built up, but we decided we wouldn't even think about honey that summer as we wanted to make sure they were happy, healthy, and had enough to see them through their first winter. To be honest, honey was the last thing on our mind when we started beekeeping - we were doing it purely for the pleasure of seeing the bees come & go, and doing our bit for the bee population.
Autumn then winter came and went, unusually mild. Our girls were still flying and bringing in pollen on Boxing Day! We had a peek inside the hives in early March and they were in full brood rearing mode with numbers already well beyond what we were expecting for that time of year, and we were simply delighted that they'd come through their first winter unscathed. They continued to go from strength to strength and by the middle of this summer, had amassed a huge amount of honey, more than they needed for the coming months, and with more nectar still to collect and process. So we felt able to take a little honey from the hives without feeling worried that our girls would be left with too little. There is still plenty of forage for them and the ivy will be in bloom soon which they always get excited about, and the nectar and pollen from that will boost their stores for the coming colder months.
We get so much pleasure from having our girls nearby, and it really is an absolute treat to taste the honey that they have worked so hard to produce - thank you ladies!
Honeybee Facts & Figures
Honey is made from nectar which the bees collect from flowers. They pass the nectar from bee to bee, and finally deposit it in the honeycomb in the hive and reduce its water content by fanning their wings to speed up the evaporation process. Once the nectar's water content is below 20%, it is technically honey and the bees seal the honey with a layer of wax, allowing it to be stored indefinitely
A worker honeybee makes about 1 twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
Foraging bees have to fly about 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey, visiting around 2 million flowers
As well as nectar, bees collect up to 66 lbs (30 kgs) of protein-rich pollen per year, per hive, which they feed to developing bees
The honey bee is the only insect that produces a food eaten by humans