Beekeeping is the most addictive of pastimes. We all suffer from “bee fever”, a strong desire to be with or talk about our bees. There is no cure. The active beekeeping season is only from April to September, and we spend the winter looking forward to next year with the bees, which we know will be the best year ever. Enjoy your beekeeping!
What do I need to get started?
- Protective clothing. We recommend BBWear’s Basic all in one bee suit; gloves with attached gauntlets, with Marigold or similar gloves on top, and clean Wellington boots. Cheap imported bee suits are sold online, but they may not be good value for money. The zips may be poor quality, and the suppliers may not offer a repair service. Ask them before you buy. BBWear make long lasting suits, they offer a full repair service, and they provide all the bee suits for the National Bee Unit bee inspectors. Total approx £120.
- A beehive. The National hive is by far the most popular beehive in the UK. Thorne’s second quality cedar National hives are good value. Order from C. Wynne Jones, Ruthin. Say £180, including frames and beeswax foundation. We sometimes have renovated beehives for sale.
Other types of hive include Warre, top-bar and various polystyrene hives. We suggest you start with a cedar National hive and consider the others later.
- 5-frame nucleus of bees, £180. We can put you in touch with suppliers of locally-raised nucs.
- Smoker, hive tool and feeder. £35.
- Later… Honey extractor; honey settling tank and a second hive. No need to buy an extractor straight away. Conwy BK has two communal honey extractors and settling tanks, which we hire out to members. Don’t waste your money on junk second-hand galvanized or tin-plated extractors from auction websites, and certainly avoid secondhand beehives from auction websites. You could be buying foul brood diseases
- Course fee £150
- £500 should get you started.
£500? That sounds a lot.
Yes, the start-up costs are quite high, but the running costs after the first year or two are low. Remember that you will be producing honey which you can sell at £6 per pound!
Where do I get my bees?
Conwy BK operates a nucleus matching service, to put bee buyers in touch with sellers. Local bees for local beekeepers.
We do not recommend buying bees from outside our area or from unknown suppliers. Moving bees or old equipment around is a surefire way of spreading diseases. We have very few cases of foul brood in North Wales, compared to other parts of the UK.
See BeeBase for statistics on bee health in the UK, and information on bee diseases. We recommend you register on BeeBase.
When should I get my bees?
Swarms may be available in May and June, and nucs at the end of June, or early July.
You may get some honey from your bees in the first year. You will never taste better honey!
Don’t buy your first bees at the end of the summer, or you will be responsible for getting them through the winter alive, with no experience.
Supplies of equipment often run short in the summer, especially frames and foundation, beehives and feeders. Buy in the winter and avoid the summer shortages.
- The UK’s largest supplier is E.H.Thorne Lincoln. Their best prices are during the winter sale, especially for second quality frames and hive parts.
- Our local Thorne’s agent is C. Wynne Jones near Ruthin.
- National Beekeeping Centre Wales at Bodnant Welsh Food in the Conwy Valley sells frames and foundation, varroa treatments and other consumables, and a wide variety of local honey. They can also offer full advice to potential new beekeepers. Well recommended.
Where can I learn how to keep bees?
- Taster Days. You can see if bees are for you, before committing to a full course. They do not provide enough information to start with bees straight away.
- National Beekeeping Centre Wales winter evening course. The course begins and ends with an apiary session at Tal y Cafn apiary, plus Tuesday evening sessions every month at Henfaes near Bangor, September to May. This course has trained hundreds of new beekeepers. The BeeCentre also offers popular intensive weekend courses.
You should be ready to start with your own bees at the end of the course, but you will need help for at least your first year.
- Hands-on informal training sessions with our bees at Tal y Cafn, April to August, Saturday afternoon, every three or four weeks, led by experienced members of Conwy BK. Protective clothing available for newcomers.
- Conwy BK evening meetings with guest speakers, at Craig y Don Community Centre, September to April, on the last Tuesday of the month. No meeting in December.
- Visit the National Beekeeping Centre Wales at Bodnant Welsh Food in the Conwy Valley.
Support for new beekeepers
- Evening courses or weekend courses are just the first step to becoming a beekeeper. We urge new members to attend the apiary meetings at Tal y Cafn, until they are confident working with bees. We do not want you to struggle alone with your bees, and then to lose interest.
- Mentoring. We have over 150 members, and we can put you in touch with your nearest beekeeper.
- Local libraries, especially Colwyn Bay, have a good selection of bee books, classification 638.1.
- Amazon has a large range of beekeeping books. We recommend Keeping bees by Pam Gregory and others, and Guide to Bees and Honey by Ted Hooper.
- AbeBooks Very large stock of secondhand books on all subjects. Beekeeping book prices are often less than on eBay.
- Dave Cushman’s website is full of useful information.
- The Beekeeping Forum is a popular and lively site.
- BeeCraft monthly. Ask for a free copy.
- Welsh Beekeeper quarterly magazine, included in Conwy BK membership.
We attend local shows and we are always keen to meet potential new beekeepers:
- Conwy Seed Fair, every 26th March
- Conwy Honey Fair, every 13th September
- Eglwysbach Show 2nd Saturday in August
- Llanrwst Show 3rd Saturday in August
- Gwledd Conwy Feast late October
Updated November 2017