Wisborough Green Division

West Sussex Beekeepers Association


How Do I Start ?
Before you start

We advise potential beekeepers to come to our teaching apiary and handle a colony on several occasions before purchasing bees or equipment. You need to make sure that beekeeping is for you and that you are comfortable at getting stung, some aren't even after saying they are! Although the majority of stings are accidental, being stung regularly is a part of beekeeping and the wearing of protective clothing won't always prevent it. After a short time a significant number decide against going any further for a number of reasons. We have experienced a lot of people who have bought equipment and bees with great enthusiasm, then quickly given up beekeeping because they don't like getting stung, haven't considered unenthusiastic family or neighbours or didn't realise the amount of commitment involved. This could have easily been avoided by adopting a more cautious approach and using our facilities and experience.

There is a fairly high level of learning and commitment required and you will need to get up to speed quite quickly, because beekeeping is not as easy as it once was. Beekeeping is not about buying a hive of bees, putting it at the bottom of the garden and taking honey at the end of the season. There is much more to it than that. The modern beekeeper needs to be knowledgeable, responsible and considerate to bees.

At our teaching apiary there are plenty of opportunities to handle bees under supervision and we can help you get started if you wish to do so and when you are ready. We usually start by letting beginners handle small colonies on their own and this can be very different from a full colony. The latter you could easily have at home where you are handling it on your own without help. Please speak to us before investing in equipment as the bee appliance catalogues are full of gadgets you don't need and it's easy to buy things such as a hive that is unsuitable. There are several designs available and the drawbacks of some may not be obvious. Many new beekeepers have made expensive mistakes in this area. It is easy for someone with reasonably good woodworking skills to make a beehive, but there are some dimensions that are critical so once again please speak to us first. Don't just copy an existing hive, as it may be wrong.

Even the purchase of something like a book may seem simple, but some are much better than others, and it makes sense to get sound advice first. See "Book Review"

It may sound a good idea to give someone a "starter pack" as a present, but we would advise against that until the recipient is satisfied they are happy to start, and even then please seek guidance, as you could be making a gift of something that will cause subsequent problems to the recipient that may be difficult to overcome. Due to the large influx of potential beekeepers we are arranging special sessions at our teaching apiary called the "Preliminary Group". These are in addition to our scheduled meetings. Please see "Tuition" for details.

Our beginners Days are well attended
Our beginners Days are well attended

Getting started

If you wish to become involved with Wisborough Green please speak to us first before purchasing bees or equipment, as there are a few serious pitfalls and we are here to help you avoid them. Disease is one problem with bees and we have experience of poor service and goods from some sources, some of which may not be obvious to a beginner. Quality and prices vary a lot and not always together and there are more ways than one of getting stung in beekeeping.

We would strongly advise against buying bees or queens that have recently been imported, as they may introduce pests and diseases that we currently haven't got, as well as being unsuitable for our climate. All five national BKAs in the U.K. and RoI have a policy of non importation and there are very good reasons. It may be easy to think all bees are the same but they aren't and we try to get people to understand this. Some bees are much more prolific than others and quickly build up into huge colonies that are very difficult for a beginner to deal with and others are known to swarm regularly. Many imported queens are relatively pure and docile, but in a couple of generations those docile colonies can become vicious. You have been warned!

We provide facilities for people to learn and encourage you to take advantage of them. Our advice is sound and free.

Currently there is a shortage of bees and we ask the budding beekeeper to be patient in order to avoid any problems and source bees locally with queens that are home reared. In beekeeping there is no room for a "Must have, and must have it now" mentality.

Would you like to start?

If so why not come along to one of our open days?

Contact:-

Roger Patterson on 01403 790 637 or Email Roger

Or anybody on the contacts page

Or email this address: honeybee@wgbka.org.uk