10 years of pretending to be a beekeeper

The bees at our apiary playing, 'pretend the beeks keep us'.

While I have only pretended to be a beekeeper for two years, some people have been pretending for much longer than that. A group of beekeepers from Ealing and District Beekeepers Association met last Thursday evening to celebrate Pat’s 10-year anniversary of being a beekeeper.

The average life span of a beekeeper is said to be the same as the queen, which is about three years. One year to find out what you have to do, another year to understand why you have to do it, and a third year for things to go wrong. This is why Pat’s 10 years of beekeeping is a real achievement and worth celebrating! This will be my third year.

With the bees on their winter break, beekeepers congregate like drones at the local pub.

We met at the Duke of Kent pub in Ealing and it wasn’t long before talk turned to our favourite topic – bees. Alan was telling us how he marks his queens with a ring, while John, who is an expert queen catcher, preferred the queen marking pen. Don commented ‘I would like to put a bell on mine so that I can find her’ and I joined in with ‘maybe a crown and a little dress’.

Knowing our bees I suspect orders would swiftly come from the top to remove any paraphernalia used to dress the queen. They quickly dispatched Emily’s queen cage last year.

Towards the end of the evening, after a pint or three, resolutions were made, ‘I am going to be ready for the shook swarm this year’ and promises given, ‘I am going to bring sausage rolls to the apiary on Saturday afternoons’. Beekeepers are, by nature, quite cautious so this was followed by, ‘Let’s not let the sausage rolls get out of hand’.

Emily wearing a very stylish bee hat for winter hive inspections. It saves time putting on a full suit, but protects from the odd bee flying and getting caught in long hair!

The following Sunday morning Emily and me checked our hives. February is a perilous month for bees, because it is the time of year when colonies are most likely to perish. The bees will have almost depleted their winter stores, the queen will begin to lay again, and they await good fortune in both weather and plants to forage. They are at their most vulnerable and more susceptible to pests and disease.

Sunday morning at the apiary, Emily comes across a purple crocus that is waiting for a bee to find it. If you look closely at the middle flower with petals starting to part, you can see a glimpse of the luminous orange pollen inside.

Emily found our bees flying into the hive dusted with yellow pollen. We hefted both hives to check the weight of honey stores and opened the roof to see how much fondant had been eaten. All was well and there was no sign of dead bees or disease at the entrances, so we took a stroll around the apiary to check the other hives.

Spring is coming. Snowdrops budding at the apiary.

Having not done a bad job of pretending to be beekeepers, there was little to do but go home for a cup of tea and cupcake, and dream of months of bees and honey to come.

A cake fit for a fairly good beekeeper, sugar sprinkled by the bees.

Emily took a great video of our bees returning home with pollen on her post ‘More signs of spring‘.

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12 thoughts on “10 years of pretending to be a beekeeper

    • I am a real beekeeper, not a pretend one πŸ˜‰

      You are right, bees are rich in mythology, like the folklore that you must tell the bees everything or they get offended and swarm. I always talk to our bees!

    • Our queens would look very pretty in your dresses. Although Rosemary is a bit flighty and Lavender can be elusive, a dress fitting might be tricky! πŸ™‚ Rosemary flew off in a right royal huff when I marked her last year, luckily she came back. I’ll look out for queen bee dresses on your blog! πŸ˜‰

  1. I think every beekeeper is just a ‘pretend’ beekeeper as bees are so unpredictable and erratic. I have been keeping bees for over 10 years now and I feel that I know less than when I started. That is the nature of the beast!

      • I started about five years ago at a farm where I worked. I wanted to have my own, but was in an apartment so I talked my mom into hosting the bees at her house (on 3/4acres). We have shared the beekeeping for the first three years, and finally just the past year, I got hives of my own. I’m looking to add two more though my first two still aren’t through the winter yet. We recruited another friend last year so hope to have three keepers and 9 hives this year!

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