Beekeeping is the most addictive of pastimes. We all suffer for “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 very 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 £150, including frames and beeswax foundation. We use National and WBC hives from Yorkshire Beehives at the Conwy BKA apiary, very well made. 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, £130.
- 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 BKA 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 tinplated extractors from auction websites.
- Course fee £75
- £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 worth £5 per pound!
Where do I get my bees?
Conwy BKA 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 some 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.
- Conwy BKA sells frames and foundation and Varroa treatments to members.
Where can I learn how to keep bees?
- Conwy BKA Taster Days. You can see if bees are for you, before committing to a full course. The local bee inspector leads our taster days, and they attract people from far and wide. They do not provide enough information to start with bees straight away.
- Conwy BKA / National Beekeeping Centre Wales winter evening course. Our course begins and ends with an apiary session at Tal y Cafn apiary, plus eight Tuesday evening sessions every month at Henfaes near Bangor, September to May. Very popular.
You should be ready to start with your own bees at the end of the course. Our 7th course starts in September 2012.
- Hands-on informal training sessions with our bees at Tal y Cafn, April to August, usually every third Saturday afternoon, led by experienced members of Conwy BKA. Protective clothing available for newcomers.
- Conwy BKA evening meetings with guest speakers, at Craig y Don Community Centre, September to April, usually second Tuesday of the month.
- Visit the new National Beekeeping Centre Wales at Bodnant Welsh Food in the Conwy Valley, opening in May 2012.
Support for new beekeepers
- We encourage new beekeepers to attend the apiary meetings at Tal y Cafn, until they are confident working with bees. We do not want new beekeepers to struggle alone with their bees, and then to lose interest.
- Mentoring. We have over 140 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 BKA 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