A Memorable Year

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2012

This has been my first year as a beekeeper, I am a complete novice who knows a little bit more now than a year ago!

The bees arrived in a plastic brood box last September 2011. A new colony from David Wainwright, the first of his Queen Breeding Project to try and create bees that are compatible with our lovely welsh climate and that are also calm. My queen was the daughter of a queen called Ana, and she had a good number of bees with her. I welcomed them with open arms and great excitement. My friend and fellow beekeeper, Rainbow, also had a colony from David and we set them both up on my land near Commins Coch.

We had helped David to clear an area of ground and plant an orchard of apple trees and he gave us the bees in exchange. I really like this way of doing things and enjoyed helping to set up the orchard.

Autumn was soon upon us and we checked the hives in early October and settled them down for the winter, with fingers crossed.

In mid October I had a brain haemorrage, completely out of the blue. I was rushed to hospital and subsequently had brain surgery in Cardiff at The Heath Hospital. The bees were always with me during this very very difficult time. I could hear their gentle hum when the Intensive Care Unit was quiet at night. I could feel them protecting me and holding me safe as if I was in the centre of the hive. When I came round from the operation I came back in a swirling vortex of bees! They made a circular gateway for me to re-enter my body. I found out later that I had died on the operating table and come back to life two hours later. Bees are amazing creatures. They were looking after me!

My recovery was very slow to start with and I longed to be able to go to my bees and thank them for their help. This I managed to finally do in early December. People say you can talk to your bees, I do do this but feel it is also very important to listen, because they have alot to tell us and teach us.

In the late winter we gave the bees their oxalic treatment and shut the hive again, but at least I had seen them, and they looked well and were very calm.

In the spring Rainbow and I attended one of the open days at Gregynog to learn about what to check for in the spring. There was quite a few of us there and not enough smokers so the group I was with had to share a smoker with the group next door. After the top was taken off the hive we all stood around for quite a while and I felt the bees were getting restless as there was a lot of talking over them but not much action going on. Suddenly a bee stung me on the leg which made me shout out loud. I stayed for a bit longer but felt unhappy, the approach to the bees seemed a bit 'gung ho' to me, but what do I know, I am just a novice. So I excused myself and left. I have since discussed this situation with a more experienced beekeeper who told me he felt the same way.

PropolisSince then Rainbow and I have worked with our bees. Rainbow has been to other open days but I have decided to learn from his experience. However we both attended Tom Browns open day at his apiary and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially the tea and cake and chat afterwards. I learned lots from talking to other beekeepers and listening to conversations going on around me.

It has been a fast learning curve this year, in more ways than one. We have had a queenless colony, a swarm, bad weather and had to feed sugar water quite alot, but the bees have come through and we have all survived our first year together, for which I am very grateful.

There isn't any honey for me and Rainbow this year but the bees have got some to take them through the winter.

I wonder what next year will bring?

Anne Hooper