Anita Rani buzzes about
TV Times joins Anita Rani in Wiltshire, where she’s buzzing about a contest for young beekeepers
Here’s a scene you don’t see every day – 60 of the world’s finest junior beekeeepers, a swarm of experts scribbling on clipboards – and TV presenter Anita Rani in a beekeeping suit.
We’re at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, Kate Middleton’s former school, for the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers 2017. Think of it as a sort of Junior Masterchef meets bees, where young apiarists compete in beekeeping tasks.
It’s also the first time the contest has been held on British soil – which is why Countryfile has just arrived, to cover the action for this Sunday’s programme. ‘It’s an absolute hive of activity!’ laughs Anita, 39, as the sound of thrumming insects fills the air. We asked her to tell us more...
Why is Countryfile all abuzz about this event?
It’s a beekeeping contest for young people from all over the world, with 19 countries being represented, from Israel and India to Germany and Poland. And it’s perfect for the show because it’s all about bees. Marvellous, remarkable bees!
What on earth do people do to compete at beekeeping? They’re given different tasks, and somebody observes and marks
them for each one. You can see who are the stronger contenders. Some are very adept and natural.
What kinds of tasks do they get? This morning we opened a hive and they had to spot the queen. They all looked like bees to me. They also had to pick out a three-day-old egg and mark a drone [a male bee].
Are there any differences in global beekeeping techniques? In other parts of Europe keepers don’t have to wear suits, because the bees are docile. Apparently ours are more likely to attack, so having to kit-up is very new for some of them.
Who are the bright young things of the bee world? England’s May Smith is a star.
She went into anaphylactic shock after a bee sting when she was 11. It devastated her, but she had immunotherapy – injections to boost the immune system, and now she hasn’t got a problem. Also on Team England is Younis Bashir: loves keeping bees, hates honey. A beekeeper who hates honey?
I used to hate it as a kid, actually.
Couldn’t stand the taste.
But now I absolutely adore it. I’ll often have a spoonful if I have a sore throat or a cough.
So, how are our bees faring? They’re having a hard time. Their natural habitat is disappearing. We’ve lost 98% of our wildflower meadows since the 1940s, and three species of bumblebee, yet one in three mouthfuls of everything we eat is due to pollination. We need to show them some love.
Can anyone keep bees?
I asked someone today if I could keep bees in my small garden in London and apparently I can. Last year, I met a beekeeper who kept them on top of one of the tallest hotels in New York. So virtually anyone can keep bees.
Do you think you’ll take up beekeeping, then? Who knows? Now that I’ve tried it, I can see the therapy element. There’s something very peaceful about being in a bee suit. Maybe I’ll produce my own honey. Rani means queen, so Rani Bee Honey sort of makes sense.
Talking of wordplay, have the bee puns been flying around today? Of course. It’s Countryfile! Wait until you see the finished product. I can guarantee there will be at least five million bee puns.
Dressed to impress: John craven in his bird suit Honey matters: