Synopsis : Some finish of season ideas on the intangible advantages of beekeeping. What does it present apart from honey and wax?
Central and Jap Scotland had been bathed in heat sunshine as I drove to Fife final Sunday. It was near-perfect climate for including clearers to the hives in preparation for eradicating the final of the honey supers for extraction. Heat, however not too scorching, breezy sufficient to maintain any midges at bay however not so windy the bees could be flustered.
Lifting the supers was arduous work, but it surely was beautiful to be within the apiary, the bees had been actually mellow, there weren’t many wasps and it was a really fulfilling afternoon.
Doubly so as a result of there have been extra weighty supers than anticipated and by the second apiary it was clear 2022 was wanting like a bumper season.
After all, I ran out of clearers … 🙁 .
The place do they go?
I checked the TARDIS-like shed however couldn’t discover any spares so needed to go away the final couple of hives to be cleared ‘manually’ i.e. shaking the bees off each body.
Not the top of the world and – in good climate – one thing that doesn’t agitate the bees an excessive amount of.
Nevertheless, Monday dawned with leaden skies and nearly no wind. No matter climate was right here was going to be staying.
By the point I received to the primary apiary it was raining gently … however steadily.
By the point I had suited up, lit the smoker and organized the Correx roofs to stack the supers in and below, it was nonetheless raining steadily … however a lot more durable.
And by the point I’d retrieved and stacked the supers from the primary few hives I used to be soaked.
It continued raining for a number of hours.
Have you ever seen how heavy a beesuit will get when it’s all soggy?
And the way slowly a sodden beesuit dries?
Actual and intangible advantages
It was a very robust day.
I completed within the final apiary at about 4 pm, became the one dry issues I had and set off on the 5 hour return journey again dwelling.
As I used to be consuming up the miles (and my belated lunch) on the A9 I received to consider why I maintain bees.
It may well’t simply be as a result of I like honey. There are wonderful native honey’s offered in fancy natural cafe’s or up-market farm retailers, or kilograms of mass-produced candy stuff (labelled as honey) accessible from any grocery store you select .
I estimate it prices effectively over £500 to begin beekeeping. And by the point you’ve purchased just a few extra hives, an extractor, a creamer, and a bottling machine you may need spent 40-times that quantity.
You should buy numerous beautiful ‘artisan’ honey for £20,000.
So there must be one thing different than simply ‘liking honey’.
There’s the pleasure of manufacturing one thing top quality and fascinating. It provides me an actual sense of feat. There are only a few beekeepers who neglect their first ever honey crop.
As a biologist, I discover bees fascinating. And, as a virologist learning honey bee pathogens, I’m capable of combine enterprise and pleasure.
However I used to be beekeeping lengthy earlier than I began learning their illnesses. The honey and the ‘beekeeping at work’ are tangible advantages.
Because the miles piled up behind me I started to suppose as an alternative of the intangible advantages of beekeeping.
What else have I gained from this engrossing pastime?
Apart from the honey and smelling a bit foisty?
Does my bum look huge on this?
As a callow youth I used to be in all probability much less fashion-conscious than lots of my contemporaries. I didn’t have the platform sneakers, flares or a double-breasted frock coat . Nevertheless, I used to be nonetheless acutely conscious once I didn’t slot in, once I appeared incongruous or once I was carrying one thing I assumed others would ridicule.
After all, being (a bit) older and (just a little bit) wiser I realise now that it doesn’t actually matter what others suppose. What’s extra, apart from the callow (or the shallow), most different individuals not often discover, and positively don’t care, what I put on.
Which, when you concentrate on the period of time I spend in a beesuit, might be lucky.
Saggy and saggy
It’s doubly-fortunate when you think about how profoundly unflattering a beesuit is. Shapeless and voluminous. They aren’t form-fitting for apparent causes … a sting would possibly penetrate the cotton weave when stretched over the underlying comfortable tissue, however does no hurt if there’s a billowing extra of fabric in the way in which.
I’ve simply had my ‘finest’ beesuit repaired. I purchased it secondhand and it’s had effectively over a decade’s arduous use. The veil had bee-sized holes in it, two of the pockets had been torn, one zip pull was damaged and all of the cuff and ankle elastics had been perished. For about £70 it’s now pretty much as good as new.
’Nearly as good as new’ however nonetheless profoundly unflattering 😉 .
However I merely don’t care.
I put on it when driving between apiaries, once I nip into a store for a takeaway espresso or once I fill the automobile with petrol.
Sadly, on Monday my beesuit was soaked, so I drove dwelling in my pyjamas. Sure, there have been some odd appears on the filling station, however I’m a beekeeper … wanting odd goes with the territory and I’ve discovered to not care.
The physique of a Greek God
As I segue effortlessly from callow youth to early center age I’m conscious that I’m just a little bit much less like Charles Atlas and just a little bit extra like Charles Hawtrey.
Beekeeping is tough bodily work.
I eliminated about 30 supers on Monday. When you assume that the common weight of an excellent is about 18 kg the lifting, sorting, stacking and packing the automobile in all probability concerned shifting a cumulative two metric tonnes of packing containers.
That’s numerous lifting.
Lots of the particular person frames nonetheless contained just a few stragglers which needed to be shaken off. I merely maintain one lug and bash the highest bar sharply with the opposite hand. This requires an inexpensive quantity of finger power … and leaves the heel of my hand reasonably bruised and battered after a protracted day of clearing supers.
As an apart, it’s all the time value ready for many of the honey to be capped (see the put up final week), as frames of capped honey retain far fewer stragglers than frames of uncapped shops. As beforehand famous, a queenless hive’s supers hadn’t cleared in a single day.
Beekeeper’s again is a really actual downside and one that’s effectively value avoiding. I tripped carrying three full supers a few seasons in the past and was in appreciable ache for a lot of weeks.
Good lifting approach, coupled with cheap higher physique power from common lifting, helps lots.
So doesn’t leaving stuff mendacity across the apiary to journey over 🙁 .
Naturally, my beesuit is so ill-fitting and shapeless you can’t inform that I’ve the physique of a Greek God, however I can guarantee you that that is one other of these intangible advantages of being an apiarist.
On a extra severe word, the bodily nature of beekeeping – sparsely and with applicable approach – should be good for you. I’d a lot favor to take care of or enhance my again, arm and hand power with weekly colony inspections than by going to the gymnasium.
Not least as a result of the Lycra outfits I’d should put on to “slot in” on the gymnasium would make my ‘Charles Hawtrey not Charles Atlas’ physique all too obvious 😉 .
Although, being a beekeeper, I in all probability wouldn’t care – see above.
As a beekeeper dwelling in Scotland I’ve change into just a little bit obsessive about local weather and climate.
The local weather has a elementary impression on beekeeping. It influences the provision of pure forage and the time when it yields nectar. It determines when the season begins, how briskly the colonies increase and when – like now – it’s successfully ’throughout bar the shouting’.
The day-to-day climate influences when and if my queens get mated, how scorching it can get within the bee shed and the way moist I’ll get eradicating supers stuffed with the ‘summer time’ honey 🙁 .
Local weather varies with latitude and longitude.
Climate generally is a lot extra localised.
By looking out Climate Underground and comparable websites for knowledge uploaded from hobbyist climate stations it’s often doable to discover a very native climate report.
I’m all in favour of circumstances wanted for queen mating within the generally iffy Scottish summers. By checking the climate information as soon as queens begin laying it’s very clear that the – often quoted – ’sunny, over 20°C and light-weight winds’ is a load of nonsense.
I at present dwell so remotely that I put in my very own climate station to get a file of the particular native circumstances. This near the Atlantic they’ll differ wildly in just some hours – we had heavy rain this morning , however beautiful ‘softy Southern queen mating’ climate all afternoon 😉 .
Getting out and about
A few of these peripheral pursuits can have tangible advantages for my beekeeping. Nevertheless, and of extra relevance to this put up, I’m consequently much more in tune with what the climate is prone to do over the subsequent 12-24 hours.
The BBC would possibly declare it’s going to be ‘moist with robust westerlies all day’ in north west Scotland (a area that stretches at the least 200 miles from Durness to Oban), however I now know it can in all probability blow by means of by late morning and be effective within the afternoon.
I may open some hives, however I would as an alternative go strolling or biking.
Inevitably, dwelling someplace that will get 1-2 metres of rain a 12 months, we see numerous clouds. My more-than-passing curiosity within the climate has expanded into an appreciation of clouds and cloud formations. As I drove west alongside Glen Tarbert at the start of the month, in a automobile laden down with squeaking poly supers , the clouds merged and folded into each other above me.
Not less than, that’s what it appeared like.
Beekeeping, apart from in a bee shed I suppose, is of necessity an out of doors exercise. By attempting to grasp how the local weather and climate helps or hinders my bees I’ve learnt methods to make the most of surprising – or at the least not forecasted – good climate for different pursuits.
After all, I don’t all the time get it proper … I spent an hour in a distant bus shelter throughout a violent thunderstorm final week. It could have been spectacular had I not been so involved that the bus shelter was largely product of metallic …
I’ve mentioned phenology – ‘the timing of periodic organic phenomena in relation to weather conditions’ – not too long ago. That is rather more fascinating than the climate per se.
There are tangible advantages for beekeeping. When you realise the migrant birds are late to reach you shouldn’t be stunned if the colonies are much less effectively developed whenever you conduct the early spring inspections.
However the intangible advantages outweigh these.
Simply having an appreciation of how the 12 months builds, the flowering of the crops and bushes, the arrival of animals and the onset of the breeding season, is extremely rewarding. I count on the sand martins by late March, however am upset if I’ve not seen a swift by the eighth of Could. I stay up for their arrival. The siskins will disappear for a few months on the finish of the 12 months to feed on pine cones within the forests … however they’ll be again in January.
I spent one of the best a part of three many years sitting in cramped places of work, studying or writing papers and grant functions. Lengthy weeks and weekends of labor typically left me remoted from the pure surroundings.
Though I used to be all the time all in favour of pure historical past, beekeeping has raised my consciousness of the cyclical annual occasions within the ’rhythm of the seasons’.
That’s sufficient cod-philosophy … nearly time to maneuver on.
Be observant as a result of it can assist your beekeeping, however be observant as a result of it can reward you in many different methods as effectively.
Organisation and persistence
After I first began fascinated with the subject of intangible advantages I thought-about together with a commentary on how ready for queens to get mated has instilled a Zen-like persistence to the remainder of my life.
Likewise, I deliberate to debate how the organisation wanted to handle the roofs, packing containers, boards, frames, meals, miticides and many others for 30 colonies – many on the opposite aspect of the nation – had introduced order to my shambolic logistical abilities.
Nevertheless, doing both of those would have made this put up a piece of fiction 🙁 .
I dare say my organisational abilities have improved, however I nonetheless ran out of clearers final week. I additionally used a clearer on a suspected queenless colony. Had I thought of this – and been just a little extra organised – I’d haven’t bothered with a clearer on that colony because it wasn’t going to clear anyway.
So, my beekeeping-related organisational abilities nonetheless want honing, and there’s little-to-no proof of any enchancment in the remainder of my life.
Though I am lots higher at patiently ready for queens to mate and begin laying, there’s sadly been no noticeable enchancment (I’m recurrently reminded) in the rest.
Everyone seems to be all in favour of bees
When you stroll round for lengthy sufficient carrying a beesuit you’ll get requested about bees and honey.
This will result in all types of fascinating or surreal conversations about honey bees vs. bumble bees. There’s numerous confusion on the market. I’ve been requested about waspkeeping, and candle making and plenty about tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum – very fascinating … these arrived within the UK in 2001 and have now unfold as far north as southern Scotland).
After all, few have an interest within the arrival and unfold of tree bumblebees, however they do wish to know why there’s a ‘swarm’ of bees round their hen field (these are males ready for the virgin queens to emerge).
Though a number of the conversations would possibly begin from an ill-informed place, there may be actual curiosity in bees. It’s a superb alternative to emphasize that, though honey bees aren’t threatened with extinction, some bees are.
Plant native wild flowers, cease utilizing pesticides within the backyard, don’t imagine all of the ’beewash’ you learn within the grocery store … and don’t ‘sponsor a hive’.
After all, a few of these conversations result in honey gross sales 🙂 .
A 15 minute dialog would possibly solely outcome within the sale of a single jar of honey. The intangible advantages are the dialog, the individuals I meet and the brand new issues I study.
Otherwise you would possibly hit the jackpot and promote an entire bucket. That after all is an actual monetary profit … and consider all that jarring and labelling you don’t have to do 😉 .
In all probability half the conversations I’ve about bees and honey contain a dialogue of the advantages of native honey for hay fever victims. Though I try to appropriate this pseudo-science I don’t accomplish that with adequate power to impression honey gross sales.
And a last trace for the uninitiated about promoting honey … carry a jar or two of honey within the automobile. An off-the-cuff request for one jar would possibly result in a daily month-to-month order for a gross.
Simply sayin’ 😉 .
Not everybody likes honey, however everybody is aware of somebody who likes honey.
I believe that is the explanation why honey makes such an incredible reward. When you’re saying thanks for the invitation to dinner, or for taking care of the canine, or for that giant bag of runner beans, there may be nothing to beat a jar or two of honey.
It’s a home made reward, it’s fantastically offered, it’s exceptionally top quality and – apart from the jars that got here from the identical bucket – completely distinctive.
In these regards it’s a significantly better current than a bottle of wine … although wine and honey can also be a profitable mixture.
The reward of a jar of honey is extra private, extra considerate and more likely result in a dialog … ”Wow, thanks, is that this honey from your personal bees?”.
What number of instances have you ever been requested whether or not the bottle of merlot got here from your personal winery? In actual fact, what number of instances is the bottle of wine accepted with out remark after which instantly put apart?
It doesn’t should be honey after all – it may very well be candles (in the event that they’re higher than mine) or beeswax wraps or propolis tincture.
It’s the truth that it’s do-it-yourself, distinctive and top quality that counts.
I believe this was the primary of the intangible advantages I turned conscious of once I began beekeeping. Managing the colonies, rearing the queens and harvesting the honey could be very rewarding … but it surely’s nice that the honey brings pleasure to just about everybody.