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Hiving a swarm
I'm not sure why I was persuaded to keep bees, but I took it up four or five years ago and thoroughly enjoy it. People's motivations for doing it seem very different; I enjoy the husbandry side of it, and find the mechanics of working with my colonies very satisfying and therapeutic. Moments like the one pictured, when a swarm I'd taken lined up behind their queen and marched into a new hive, give me enormous pleasure. We make lovely honey too, but that's pretty secondary as far as I'm concerned; we only have up to four hives, so its a nice little earner but nothing more. Honeybees have been this year's endangered species for the Press, so I won't drone on (sorry) about their various travails. However, it's the new interest that the kind of "did you realize we would only have four years to live without bees" commentary has generated that makes me want to talk about them here. There's been a tremendous surge in people keeping bees, which is great as colony mortality rates are over 20% and beekeeper numbers had plummeted over the last twenty years, particularly in areas like ours where fruit growing used to be such a big industry. What's not so great is that many of these folk don't seem to know much about it; although membership of the BBKA and attendance at their courses has risen sharply, it seemingly hasn't nearly matched the growth in numbers of beekeepers. Seemingly sentient types locally have been buying all the kit, shipping in nuclei or swarms, and then doing the oddest things or nothing with them. It's a terrible waste; these colonies will mostly be dead by Spring. Although beekeeping isn't rocket science it is a craft, and one that has to be learnt. Like most crafts, that's difficult to do from a book. I haven't taken any exams - mea culpa - but I have been on a couple of courses and various lectures, have a bee mentor (very importantly), and as a BBKA member get the magazines and even went to the Spring Convention this year. I still have huge amounts to learn, but so far I have avoided doing anything really stupid. Of course old beekeepers didn't bother with all this stuff, but then they didn't have to deal with Varroa destructor, the consequences of climate change, Colony Collapse Disorder, European Foul Brood, etc. etc. If you're thinking about taking up beekeeping my three top tips would be: 1. Whatever anyone says you will get stung (promise). 2. Do it - for selfish and altruistic reasons. 3. Do it properly. Get in touch with your local beekeeping association and go on a course before you think about collecting your bees. After all, they're a precious commodity.