12 Jun 2010

Hestia considers bees

I made it to the bee keeping introductory course with about a minute and a half to spare - so it was a rather sweaty and disheveled Hestia that burst into the local church hall this afternoon.

Of course, this being the island, the standing around and blethering went on for another 20 minutes, so I entertained myself by scooping a cup of tea and a home-made Empire biscuit from the attending WI ladies.  One should always keep in with the WI ladies - you never know when you will need an emergency home-knitted matinee jacket gift or a crocheted jam jar cover.  I'm deadly serious.

The little hall fairly buzzed with animated conversation.  As I ploughed through to the obligatory leaflet table, I spotted the usual suspects: the guy in charge of recycling, some lovely posh ladies with large gardens, nut-faced wee gardeners, new agey big chunky necklace wearing types, the professional Grant Getters* and a smattering of normal types, like m'self.

I hoovered up the free leaflets and, ever mindful that it was a totally free event, shelled out £6 for a booklet on Beekeeping for Beginners.  Duly laden with stuff, I procured myself a comfy seat.

Oh, I did try to break into some conversations, but I'm absolutely shit at small talk with strangers, so I gave up and sat down. Hestia is not in a 'gang' on the island.  In fact, I think I shall start a gang for those not in a gang; for those who go to these events and sit alone, smiling at people, hoping that someone will graciously grant them access to their gang for the duration of the small-talk time.  Hesetia's cakecrumb-smeared mouth and desperate clutch of leaflets must have marked her out as Someone Not To Talk To.

It's that or my reputation is getting around....

Anyway, the white-overall clad bee keeper started his talk. It seemed straightforward enough - tip up at the Church Hall, sign up for a proper bee-keeping course, get bees, save the world.

Turns out it's not quite as easy as that.

First of all, you need expert tuition.  Of which there is none on the island.  So we'd need the guy from Ayr to come up every Saturday for 6 weeks.  That's going to be at least £600 for starters, I'd say.  That's not a problem - it was a big group, charging £60 per person for a 6-week course should cover costs and net them a little cash to go towards their Verroa Mite Strips.

The BIG problem is that, although the media is telling us that We Should Keep Bees, there's damned few of the little buggers for sale.  And your starter bag of bees is £150.  That's without a hive or the fancy white NASA suit or anything.  Start up costs for equipment are, I reckon, about £600.

The lady from the Co-op was there and she said that they might be able to help out a communal bee group with some core funding.  I slid a glance at the Grant Getters, they were smiling.  My heart sank. They are nice people, but....oh, don't get me started.....

We learned lots of fascinating facts about bees, which I will not trip out here - other than to say, did you know that honey is actually bee sick?  Me neither.

I got a taste of the most divine sick known to man - Lemon Honey.  My pancreas went into meltdown as the tea-spoonful of daffodil-yellow honey burst into sweet lemons and hot summer days on my tongue.  I really must see if I can procure some on the intertubes....

As I got ready to buzz off, the Grant Getters were deep in conversation with the lady from the Co-op.  I wonder whether my offer of a free website for the group will be taken up, or whether the Grant Getters will charge some faceless grant-giving body £500 for one?

I shall not hold my breath.

*you know the ones....the people who know how to syphon off access funding for lots of lovely little projects that are supposed to Get People Fit For Work but really just provide glitter and silk painting classes for mums while the kids are at school, while the people that SHOULD benefit from the courses sit outside the hall and drink themselves into a coma on Buckfast.  I speak from experience - I was one of those bored mums.


  1. The local beekeepers were at the fete I was working at today. I wandered over and they had 3 or 4 jars of honey from each of 3 or 4 local sources, but much as I love ral honey I was not inclined to part with £4-£5 per jar without a taste of the product, particularly since the colour and consistency varied hugely. They were very apologetic and said that there simply wasn't much around, so no tasters. I wandered off again - it wasn't local enough to me to feel guilty.

  2. We had teeny jars of honey (not the lemon honey) being given out as tasters FOC.

    I didn't appreciate the massive amount of sugar that one needs to provide for a hive when you steal the bees honey. I considered for a moment just making jam instead.

    But the last time I made jam, you could cut it with a knife and fork.

    Daft people - Opening one jar as a taster wouldn't have killed them and might have netted them some sales. #honeymarketingfail

    They are really marvellous little creatures, bees. I am quite smitten and am determined to get a hive of my own - but only after I am properly trained.

    Ali x

  3. The husband's parents, who have decided to be self sufficient after his dad retires, are going to keep bees. So far, father-in-law has his bee suit and a hive, and he is about to do his beekeeper exam!

    They will get the bees when they move house i think!

  4. Well, as I said, there were 3 or 4 varieties, so they'd have had to open the same number of jars. However, if they were planning to sell it, they could have filled some smaller jars for use as testers.

  5. Darn it. We had a spare swarm (but, ahem, last year)... My neighbour keeps bees and the honey is fabulous (also apparently local honey v good for staving off hayfever, or so they say).


    PS - I really REALLY want to see War Horse

  6. Hmmm...there's more to this than meets the eye. My hubby was talking about keeping bees - I bought him a book on the subject for Christmas and he hasn't talked about it since.
    I know what you mean about being in a "gang"....haha. X

  7. Lori - maybe he just needs a bit of encouragement? It is quite daunting, but other than checking for mites, giving them sugar and generally getting in their way, bees do their own thing.

    Jane - I'd love to have seen the postie's face if you'd posted me up a bag of bees lol!

    LM - I think more people are considering it these days. We'll all be Tom and Barbara Goode :-)

    Ania - yep - it wasn't an unsurmountable problem and WOULD have netted them some sales if people could even taste a tea-spoonful before shelling out for, um, bee sick.

  8. You don't have to feed them sugar if you aren't greedy! We get all the honey we can eat and supply our children with, for a year, from three hives, which leaves the bees with mega amounts of honey to winter on. Feeding them sugar is what the commercial bee keepers do and the honey you buy in the supermarket is very often just converted sugar. Not a very healthy option for either bees or humans. We lost all our bees about three years ago. They just disappeared. So two years ago we bought enough bees for three hives and supplied them with brand new hives for E500. thats euro. They seem happy and productive (even through such a wet summer).


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