Starting with bees

Getting ready to meet the bees, at BeeFest at Bodnant Garden 2019.

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 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; or from Thorne’s Winter Sale.  Say £180, including frames and beeswax foundation.
    Other types of hive include Warre, top-bar, various polystyrene hives and Flow hive.   Other sizes, eg. Langstroth are not widely used in our area.
    We recommend you start with a cedar National hive and consider the others later, after you have spoken to people using them.
  • 5 or 6-frame nucleus of bees, £180 plus. We can put you in touch with suppliers of locally-raised nucs.  We recommend over-wintered nucs, headed with a queen from the previous years, although these soon sell out.  See our website page Buying and selling nucs of bees  and The price of 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
  • Membership of Conwy Beekeepers £22 or your local beekeepers’ association
  • £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 easily sell at £8 per 454g jar!
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?
We recommend you to buy local raised bees from a trusted beekeeper. We do not recommend buying bees online or from outside our area.
Swarms may be available in May and June; overwintered nucs in April and May  and current year’s nucs in 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.
Equipment suppliers
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. 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.
  •  BeesWales / National Beekeeping Centre Wales offers popular intensive weekend courses, and one-day taster sessions.
    You should be ready to start with your own bees at the end of the two-day course, but you will need help for at least your first year.
    See Beekeeping Courses in North Wales for details of other courses.
  • Hands-on informal training sessions with our bees at Tal y Cafn, April to August, Sunday afternoon, every three or four weeks, led by experienced members of Conwy BK. Protective clothing available for newcomers.

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 Conwy Beekeepers’ 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.  Why be a stay at home beekeeper?
  • Mentoring. We have about 150 members, and we can put you in touch with your nearest beekeeper.

Beekeeping books

  • 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 The Bee Manual by Adrian and Clare Waring.
  • AbeBooks Very large stock of secondhand books on all subjects. Beekeeping book prices are often less than on eBay.

Online resources


  • Welsh Beekeeper quarterly magazine, included in Conwy BK membership.

Local events
We attend local shows and we are always keen to meet potential new beekeepers.

  • Conwy Seed Fair, Tuesday 26th March 202.
  • Conwy Honey Fair, Friday 13th September 2024.

Peter McFadden, Secretary, Conwy Beekeepers
Updated February 2024

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