I don’t remember when I first decided that I’d like to keep bees, but it’s pretty high on the list of things I’d like to do – not least as it appeared at number 3 on my 30before30 list, well above buying a house, or a dog, for example.
I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I think that beekeeping is a fascinating tradition, and bees are fascinating creatures. It’s not that I’m desperate to make and sell my own honey, although I’m more than happy to eat it until I fall over, so perhaps it’s some kind of romantic ideal that I’ll be relaxing in my garden surrounded by my bees.
So point number 4 on the list of 5 ‘essentials’ of beekeeping, as I learned on last night’s beginner’s course was ‘You will get stung’. Now, that doesn’t sound too relaxing, does it?
I have started attended a Beginner’s Beekeeping course/lecture series at the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association, or rather I started last night. Huddled into a lovely, warm and friendly shed with a low roof and full of bee-themed items and an intriguing case of books on one side of the room, around 40 of us listened for 2 hours to the first lecture: Introduction to beekeeping in Britain. We learned the 5 ‘essentials’, including ‘Don’t try to out-aggress the hive, they will always win’, and ‘bees are not pets’; watched a video on the hive itself, complete with futuristic, computer-keyboard style music every time a bee moved; asked stupid questions; learned about the evolution of bees (wasps learning to socialise apparently); and numbers in the hive.
A fact I found fascinating: a beehive can be considered a single organism, and each bee a cell within in – this is referred to as a superorganism and one of the books on our reading list (yes, there’s a reading list) deals with this topic. I’ll probably end up reading it, although I might need a biology degree to understand it all.
Next week is The Community of the Bees, and covers the hive and all the roles within it. I’m very excited!
On a boring personal note; I can’t tell you how nice it is to be doing something I have wanted to do for what feels like ages! This feels like I’m now free of formal education and can choose to educate myself as I see fit – I can become the kind of human who keeps bees.
Hooray to that.
Image credit: Beekeeping in Romania by Charles Roffrey CC BY-NC-ND. Flickr.