By Phin Hall
Posted Jan 20, 2013
Bees are all the rage at the moment! It seems as that now they are apparently in danger of getting wiped out, everyone wants to get involved and bring them back from the brink of extinction. However, if you are thinking of keeping bees, one thing needs to be made clear from the outset - bee stings HURT! They always hurt, and they never hurt less. Anyone who tells you different is fibbing, and you need to be ready for this, as no matter how carefully you protect yourself (gloves, bee suits, veils, boots etc.) you will get sting if you keep bees.
Personally I hate getting stung, and it gave me ‘the Fear’ for a good year or so after I got stung in the face twice one summer. However, I love keeping bees - they really are fascinating, and even my children enjoy getting suited and booted and joining in the hive manipulations.
The European dark honey bee is not as prolific a honey producer as the Italian honey bee, but I chose to keep this breed as it much more laid back, and they do not protect their hives quite so aggressively as their lighter-coloured cousins. I am usually happy if a colony produces 30 pounds of honey a year, and with my three hives that is plenty for my family (I don’t like honey, otherwise we might need more!)
If you are seriously considering keeping bees, I recommend you buy Ted Hooper’s book ‘Guide to Bees & Honey’. This is simply THE best book on keeping bees, written by a man with more experience of beekeeping that I have of breathing. This book will let you know all the equipment you need to get hold of, most of which is fairly expensive, so be warned - this is not a low-cost hobby to start!
Beekeeping is not for the faint-hearted, but thankfully, with so many other beekeepers around these days, there are always people willing to help you get started and even collect your first swarm. If you don’t like getting stung and don’t mind getting merely an average honey yield, I definitely recommend the European bark honey bee.