Hive of activity

Whether it proves to be a success or a failure, the neonicotinoid insecticide ban has brought the plight of the honeybee firmly into the public bar domain. Many who never before thought twice about the health of the little buzzers can be relied on to share their opinion over a pint or two at the least prompting.

All seem to agree ‘something has to be done’ to protect the future of our chief pollinators, and the sooner the better. My dearest beloved is among them, and has long had a bee in her bonnet about wishing to become an apiarist.

I, partly for the sake of the bees, but more to keep my honey sweet, have gone along with it.

So it was that a beehive kit arrived and was carefully put together, then installed in the next-door orchard. Bee suits, veils and rubber gloves soon followed, which were happily tried on. I felt like I was dressing up to go to work at a nuclear power station. The suits were then put away to await the arrival of some bees.

I was enjoying nearly being a beekeeper, and browsing through copies of the British Beekeepers Association magazine. Once or twice we were alerted to potential swarms and buzzed off with a local expert to collect them, only to find they were wasps, or had flown away, or were the wrong kind of bees. We’d return, empty-handed – and I’d relax again.

Until last weekend, when a neighbour found a swarm in her pony paddock, clinging to an electric fence. Our bee-keeping friend was duly summoned mid-pint from the pub and we finally succeeded in collecting a swarm.

Now the tricky bit begins: actually keeping bees. My bluff’s been called and there’s no escape from getting up close and personal to about 20,000 armed insects. I just hope the next chapter doesn’t have too many stings in the tale.

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