When I was growing up, there was a kind of fear when a bee came buzzing around. This irrational fear usually ended up with the poor creature being swatted with a newspaper or similar. Thankfully, these days we are all better educated when it comes to the importance of bees and their pollination habits, and through the better spread of information we no longer see them as the scary little enemy.
It’s becoming more and more common in the UK to see people keeping bees. Even in urban areas, it is not such a rare thing as it once was, and keeping bees in your garden can be a rewarding hobby, not to mention all that delicious, natural, honey to eat and share with friends and family.
If you’ve been considering taking this up as a hobby, and are wondering “can I keep bees in my garden?’ Here is a guide that will hopefully answer all of your questions on the subject.
Will keeping bees help save them?
With all the news about the dwindling bee populations around the world, and how that will affect our food supplies, you might be thinking that keeping bees will help save them. While it won’t harm them, I can’t say it will have any dramatic effect for the positive either and there are better ways to lend our striped little pollinators a helping hand.
Making sure your garden has been planted with the flowers and plants that bees love is an easier, and some would say more effective, way to help save the bees. Some plants like cilantro, thyme, and sage, have the double benefit of attracting bees and sprucing up your cooking.
Do I need a lot of space to keep bees in my garden?
Needing a big area is an all too common misconception, and you don’t really need that much space at all to keep bees in your garden. You don’t need a sprawling country estate; in fact, you really only need a few square feet to house the actual beehive. Having said that, many experts will tell you that it is harder to keep one colony going than having multiple ones, so you’d need a bit more space.
If you have neighbours living close by, you should really talk to them first about your plans to keep bees in your garden. It’s a good time to educate them about bees, and to listen to any worries that they might have.
Bees aren’t usually aggressive, so the chances of them being stung is low, but at times when you are physically interacting with the hive, the bees might become defensive, so it’d be good to give the neighbours the heads up before you do this so they can stay in doors if they are worried.
How much time does it take to keep bees in my garden and How To Make Your Garden Bee Friendly?
One of the pros to keeping bees in your garden is that they are very self sufficient and don’t really need your help at all. You only need to spend half an hour a few times a week to check on them, work with the hive, and of course harvest that delicious honey.
If you’re going away on holiday for a few days, your bees will be just fine, but if you are going for a longer trip, especially in spring and summer when the bees tend to swarm, you should have someone to keep an eye on your hives.
Is it expensive to keep bees in your garden?
The main expenses when keeping bees in your garden come at the start, with the initial set up costs. After that, there isn’t too much to pay for apart from honey jars, and to replace any equipment that gets worn. Most reputable suppliers of bees and the associated equipment will be able to offer you everything you need to get started for £400-£600. You’ll also need to buy a bee suit, and take a course that teaches you how to handle and take care of the bees, but these aren’t that expensive.
All-in-all, I would say £600-£800 for your initial set up and running costs for the first year. This is to get good equipment and quality bees with the right temperament, but you might find cheaper deals around.
What equipment is needed to keep bees in my garden?
Apart from your hive, and bees, you’re definitely going to need a bee suit consisting of a suit, mask, gloves and boots. The price of these can range from 30-200 quid, but I would advise paying more towards the higher end of that scale for quality.
On top of this, you need a smoker. This can be something as simple as a piece of cardboard, and is used to stop the bees becoming too alarmed when you open up the hive.
Finally, you’ll need a proper hive tool which is used for a variety of bee keeping tasks.
How much honey will I get from keeping bees in my garden?
You can harvest the honey from your bee hives from late May to August, and a single hive should produce around 18 kilograms worth in that period.
The honey you harvest will not always be the same though, and will actually vary in colour and taste each time. The area you live in will also affect the colour and flavour, and this is one of the great things about keeping bees in your garden, and the excitement of tasting the new batch is quite addictive.
How does a bee hive actually work?
We all know that bees live in hives and that they produce honey, but how many of us actually know the inner workings of a bee hive? The hive is made up of a bottom layer, known as the ‘brood box’, and multiple higher layers, known as ‘supers’. The brood box is where the queen lays her eggs, hence the name, and the supers are made up of sheets of wax comb. These supers are filled with honey by the bees, and these are what are removed by you: the beekeeper.
If you are interested in keeping bees in your garden, then please contact the British BeeKeepers Association on 02476 696679 to enquire about taking the necessary course. Trying to keep bees without being armed with the proper knowledge is very irresponsible.
The course is not that expensive, and you will learn all you need to know about caring for your own bees and getting the most out of keeping them in your garden.