Beekeeping is an absorbing hobby. There is so much to learn about this industrious insect, the honeybee.
Most UK beekeepers keep European honeybees (Apis mellifera) in wooden hives for the joy of keeping bees, and to collect products of the hive like honey and beeswax. Hives can be kept at apiaries, in gardens or on rooftops.
Honeybees are social insects that live in colonies led by a queen. The queen lays eggs to produce female workers or male drones. Workers do all the jobs inside the hive from nursing brood and cleaning cells to building wax comb and making honey. They eventually become foragers flying to-and-from the hive to bring nectar, pollen and water for the colony. Drones fulfil their purpose by mating with a queen and dying in the act, or living out their lives eating honey and being cared for by their sisters, until they are evicted from the hive at the end of summer. The world of the honeybee is fascinating.
Honeybees collect nectar from flowers as a source of carbohydrate energy and store it in honeycomb. They collect pollen as a source of protein, and it is this activity that makes them most valuable to the world and to us. Honeybees are a major pollinator of crops – along with pollinators like bumble bees, solitary bees and other insects – in fact, one third of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees.
Join your local beekeeping association and the BBKA
Joining your local beekeeping association has many benefits. All associations have a website and newsletters, summer seasonal meet-ups and events, and winter meetings. They offer advice and training during your first year of beekeeping, and ongoing expertise, experience and support. Some will have their own apiary and can supply members with equipment and bees. UK associations are usually joined to the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) and will organise BBKA membership and colony insurance for you.