Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ page will hopefully answer all of your questions, but if you do require more information, then please feel free to contact us directly. We promise you that we are friendly and won't bite ... and we'll never laugh at silly questions either - well, most of the time anyway :-)

 

When can I start keeping bees?

Most people like to start with a colony in the spring or summer because in the winter the bees are hibernating. It is possible to start keeping bees in winter however we do not open the hive to inspect them because the cold will kill them.

If you would like honey by the end of the summer (harvest time) it is best we get your hive sited, installed and up and running by April/May. The second year, should see a higher level of honey production but, weather permitting, the end of your first summer should provide some honey for you.


Where would you put the beehive?

An ideal spot is against a hedge or fence, ideally facing south-east. This will protect flying bees from the wind and rain. You should position the hive entrance so that the bees can fly in and out in a straight line. A spot away from frequently used paths is best, it’s best to keep at least 3 metres from the beehive so that your shadow does not threaten the bees.

Bees can fly up to 1 mile high, so you can also keep bees on flat rooftops or balconies. If you have a sheltered spot on the roof that would be ideal because it's better that they don't have to battle with a cross wind in order to land.


How often will you check the beehive?

In the spring and summer we will check your bees approximately once a fortnight to make sure they have enough food, the queen is laying and they are healthy.

This is more important in May, June and July when we try to avoid your bees swarming and may need to act if we see the signs. Later on you can leave them for longer weeks without inspecting them. In the winter we don't have to do anything because the bees are hibernating.


How much honey will I get from a hive?

This is an impossible question to answer precisely. The bees honey production depends hugely on the summer weather.

If the summer is long and hot, the chances are we will harvest a larger crop than if we have a wet, short and cold summer. Bees need heat to evaporate the water from the hive and the honey cells. The warmer the summer the better chance you have of a good crop.

From our personal experience, one hive averages between 28 to 42 pounds of honey in an average British summer. This can vary wildly depending on many factors.


How much effort goes into making honey?

On average bees have to fly 100 miles and visit 5000 blossoms to produce just 1g of honey, that's about 50,000 miles visiting over 2 million blossoms to make one pound!


Will we be stung regularly if I keep a beehive in my garden?

If you leave the bees alone and let them get on with their work, the chances of being stung are slim. To our knowledge none of our neighbours have ever been stung.

A bee sting does hurt but usually only for about 10 minutes, after that the area may swell and this swelling can last around 24 hours. In a very small number of people a bee sting can cause a more severe reaction and this will have to be dealt with by the medical services.

Honeybees only sting as a last line of defence. They die once they have stung something so they are not too keen to sting in the first place!


Should I tell the neighbours?

This is ultimately your decision. You alone know how good your relationship is with your neighbours. However we are more than aware that due to ignorance and fear the reception may not always be positive.

Diplomacy is the key.

Most neighbours will be curious as to why there is a beekeeper in your garden so we do not suggest we do this under the cover of dark or in disguise. At some stage one of your neighbours will ask and on that basis we would suggest that honesty is the best policy. The offer of a jar of honey at harvest time is always a good sweetener!


Do I need to go on a beekeeping course?

Not at all, we do all the work for you. That said if you wish to go on a course after experiencing the joys of keeping your own bees then that’s great.

We will gladly offer advice on this if you wish.


Where do the bees come from?

Currently the bees come from local breeders but it is our intention to be able to breed and supply our own bees once we have a ‘critical mass’ of hives.


Will my pets be affected by the hive?

Your hive is sturdy and secure. Most domestic pets and urban wildlife leave well alone. Cats and dogs will smell the sweetness of the ripe honey towards the late summer months and may be curious but, in our experience, they leave well alone and appear to be as wary as people.

Rogue bears may be more inquisitive!


Do I need to plant bee friendly plants in my garden?

No, honeybees are very resourceful creatures. They can fly up to 3 miles away for their source of pollen or nectar and will find their supplies from whatever the local flora and fauna provides.

That said it is in the best interests of wildlife as a whole if you can make your garden attractive to native fauna by planting attractive flowering plants. Some plants, such as raspberries, are good medicine food for bees – plus they taste wonderful!


How many bees are in a hive?

A beehive is at its busiest during the summer when it can contain more than 50,000 adult workers. They are all female and are the daughters of the queen whose task is to lay about 1,500 eggs a day, more than a million in her lifetime.

Male bees (drones) are only produced during the summer and do no work at all in the hive. Their sole purpose is to fly in search of other queens and mate with them, immediately after which they die!

The population can eventually reach a point when the colony splits. The old queen leaves with many followers in a swarm to start a new colony elsewhere and a new queen is produced to start again with the other bees left behind.


Do I have enough room to keep more than one hive?

This will depend on certain factors. We will go through the possibilities of keeping more than one hive during our consultation with you.


Does the honey have to be pasteurised?

The honey doesn't have to be pasteurised, it's sterile and completely safe.


Will my natural unpasturised honey help with my hayfever?

We believe that based on the process of immunisation, a daily intake of the possible substance (pollen) that causes hayfever can only be beneficial. We believe that it must help in some way as the healing and medicinal qualities of natural honey are well documented.

The only natural antibiotic known to man is Propolis, which is a substance the bees make from various natural ingredients and use as a type of cement in their hives. There are traces of Propolis in most natural raw unpasturised honey.


What are the nutritional values of my natural honey?

It is a delicious source of natural sugars (glucose and fructose), high in antioxidants, and naturally sterile and antibiotic.


Why is some honey liquid and some solid?

The type of honey made by the bees is dependent on the types of foliage and flowers available to the bees.

Crops such as oil seed rape (the bright yellow fields in the spring) produce large quantities of honey that sets very hard, so hard even the bees cannot use it in the winter. Garden flowers tend to give a clear liquid honey.

If the beekeeper wants to produce a mono honey i.e. clover, orange blossom etc. the beehive is put out of range from other sources.

This can be difficult for the small hobbyist and our honey is blend of the season’s flora.

Solid honey can easily be restored to its liquid state by gentle warming in hot water.


Will the bees be okay in high temperatures?

Bees require warm temperatures in order that moisture can evaporate from the hive. Essex currently doesn’t have temperatures that are too high to cause them any distress.


Is it safe to keep bees at school?

Bees can be incorporated into many types of teaching including art, mathematics and science.
Keeping bees at your school will not substantially increase the number bees flying in your school buildings.

This is because bees normally fly up to 3 miles from the hive. The only area that you need to control is directly in front of the hive where the bees are flying in and out. Once they have left the hive they quickly disperse.

Obviously in this day and age it is best to consult with Governors and parents to ensure that they fully ‘buy-in’ to keeping bees and the benefits to the children, whilst checking your own liabilities.

Bees only sting if they feel they are being attacked. By putting the hive inside a fenced off area, such as a wildlife garden, and educating the children not to throw things at it or standing too close will negate this.


What do I do if I see a swarm in my garden?

Firstly don’t panic. Bees in a swarm are universally in a good mood. They cannot easily sting even if antagonised as they have gorged themselves with honey and cannot get their bodies into the best position to sting.

If the swarm is not causing a nuisance then leave it, gradually the bees will cluster in a bush or tree and remain there for up to three days. During that time scouts will be sent out to look for a new home.

If the swarm is a nuisance then contact us or the police, who usually keep a list of other local beekeepers that can help.


What do I do if my bees swarm?

Unfortunately there is little you can do. Even if they coincidentally swarm while we are there, we too would not be able to stop them actually swarming.

We will take preventative measures to stop them from swarming, but even the most experienced beekeepers lose bees to swarming.

Swarming is a natural phenomenon, bees naturally divide to increase their numbers and cannot always be stopped by a single method.


Can I sell my honey?

You can sell your honey commercially, but the extracting and labeling process are more rigid due to EEC regulations.

We carry out both of these processes as part of our operation, so is something we can discuss with you during the consultation stage.

We would always be interested in purchasing from you any honey surplus to your requirements.


What is propolis?

Propolis consists of resins gathered by bees from trees and leaf buds that produce it to protect against bacterial and fungal infection.

The bees line the inside of their hive with it, giving them protection too. It has been used for thousands of years for its naturally antifungal, antibiotic properties.


I Still Have Questions!

Then please feel free to contact us.

We're very friendly and will help in any way that we can.