Bee Keeping

Keeping bees can be a fascinating and fulfilling pastime and the Leicestershire and Rutland Bee Keeping Association can help with all the theoretical and practical training needed for aspiring bee keepers. There are very many reasons why people get involved in bee keeping, and the rewards are equally varied.

Bee keeping is a subtle mix of practical skills, experience, science and dark arts; it is enjoyed by men and women, young and old, from all walks of life.

Despite all this, it is not for everyone. Before rushing into acquiring bees of your own, you would be advised to consider carefully if bee keeping is really for you. Many of your questions may be answered in our FAQ:

Will I get lots of honey?

The amount of honey a hive produces depends on many things such as the weather and local geography. In a good year, a bee keeper may expect two harvests; one in late spring and a second in mid-summer but an annual honey crop is not guaranteed.

Can I make money selling honey?

Few people make money from bee keeping especially when the labour time of caring for the hives and extracting the honey is included. Any money made from honey sales will be offset by the financial outlay needed to start bee keeping. Honey does however make excellent gifts for family and friends!

Do I need lots of equipment?

You will need more hardware (hives etc.) than you might imagine, in order that you can perform essential bee keeping tasks. You will also need somewhere dry and vermin-free to store hive parts and other equipment over the winter and personal protective equipment too. Association mentors will be able to recommend the type and quantity of equipment beginners would need.

Can I make my own hives and equipment?

Most bee hive parts may be built from easily-available materials and simple carpentry techniques using hive plans from the Internet and save new bee keepers a lot of money. Bear in mind that hive carpentry requires precision in order to deliver a usable end product of sufficient quality.

Do I need a licence to keep bees in Britain?

No licence or permit is needed to keep bees in Britain.

Do I need insurance to keep bees?

There is no legal requirement to take out any insurance related to beekeeping. However LRBKA subscription includes public and product liability insurance for full members in the event of legal action resulting from activity of their bees or hive products. In the entire history of the Association though no-one has ever made a claim and good tuition and practice will help us keep it that way!

Can I keep my bees in my garden?

Not all places such as gardens are suitable for accommodating hives. There are many inter-related factors to consider, not least the neighbours! Generally the best places tend to be quiet and away from people and buildings. Experienced LRBKA advisors will be more than happy to assess sites for new members.

How much time do I need to keep bees?

Beekeeping is seasonal. Expect to be busy in May and June but there is virtually nothing to do in mid-winter. Note that inspections and tasks often need to be done according to the dictates of the weather and the bees themselves rather than when it suits the beekeeper best. Extracting honey at the season’s end can be time-consuming depending on how much surplus honey the bees produced. Outside of spring and summer things are much quieter and revolve more around kit cleaning, maintenance and preparing for the next season.

Is beekeeping hard work?

Beekeeping can be a very tranquil and restful hobby but there is also a good deal of hot sweaty toil and heavy lifting too! Extracting honey is often hard, sticky work.

Will I get stung?

It is more or less inevitable that at some point a bee keeper will get stung. Most people are not allergic to stings. If you have any concerns about a possible bee sting allergy then please consult your GP.

Can I learn beekeeping from books and the Internet?

Reading books and doing Internet research is very useful for building knowledge of bees and beekeeping but it is not an easy hobby to learn from scratch in this way. It is no substitute for time spent at the hive-side with an experienced mentor with expert eyes who will be able to guide new keepers through their bee keeping career and save them a lot of pain, frustration and wasted effort in the long-term. The LRBKA runs a variety of courses for beginners to get them up and running with bees of their own. However bee keeping is a process of lifelong learning; after fifty years you will still see new things and the Association runs more advanced courses for members wanting to develop their skills further.

Can my children learn to keep bees?

Beekeeping can be a physically demanding hobby in terms of lifting heavy kit etc. However, there are few other restrictions on children taking up the craft and the LRBKA welcomes junior members all of whom are welcome to attend our events and join our courses with adult supervision.

What help is available once I have completed a beginner’s course?

The process of acquiring new bee-keeping skills and experience is lifelong; any veteran beekeeper will agree that each season brings something new. There are always different challenges, and rewards, and the LRBKA offers advanced sessions for more practiced members who wish to develop particular skills. Mentors and advisors are available to all members at any time of the year to answer questions and provide practical help.

Are there any other benefits to keeping bees apart from honey?

For many people, keeping bees opens up all sorts of new doors into hobbies that they may never have explored before such as: candle-making, home-brewing, honey baking/cooking, photography, carpentry, skep making, painting/drawing, gardening…

The purpose of these FAQs is not to discourage anyone from considering bee keeping, but to draw attention to the aspects of the hobby that an aspiring keeper may not have considered. Our advice would be to join a course if one is available, read up-to date books on bee keeping, spend time looking at bee keeping websites, talk to bee keepers and get as much exposure to bees and their management as you can, BEFORE getting bees of your own.

If you would like to become a bee keeper then please Join Us!

If you decide beekeeping is not for you, you haven’t lost anything, you would be more knowledgeable about the topic and, we hope, an enthusiastic advocate for bees.