Day in the life of A Bee­keeper

Mary Pol­lock, 60, gave up prac­tis­ing phar­macy to be­come a bee­keeper

No. 1 Magazine - - SCOTLAND’S NO.1 -

I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by bees be­cause I grew up with them. As a child though, I was never re­ally al­lowed to go near them. A few years ago the cu­rios­ity took the bet­ter of me, and I gave up prac­tis­ing phar­macy for climb­ing trees and open­ing bee­hives.

When you start bee­keep­ing, you shadow a se­nior level bee­keeper for around a year.

You do this along­side an ed­u­ca­tional course to learn both about health and safety reg­u­la­tions and the art of bee­keep­ing. Be­fore you be­gin the course how­ever, you visit the Api­ary first be­cause, even though you might think you’d like the idea of hav­ing bees, the thought of them ac­tu­ally fly­ing around you can freak peo­ple out.

Bee­keep­ing is very sea­sonal work, so my du­ties will change depending on the weather.

Dur­ing the spring, the queen bee will start lay­ing eggs to cre­ate a brood. When it’s colder, you won’t see the bees as much be­cause al­though they don’t hi­ber­nate, they cre­ate a clus­ter in the cen­tre of the hive to keep warm. The bees’ main duty is to keep the queen bee safe and alive, and to make honey.

It sounds dis­gust­ing, but as a rule of thumb, you ei­ther don’t shower be­fore you open the hives or don’t use any soap or per­fume.

Bees are very sus­cep­ti­ble to scent, es­pe­cially any­thing cit­rus based, so this can set them off as they think an in­truder is com­ing into their hive. Also, we don’t eat any ba­nanas as the smell is sim­i­lar to the scent that bees re­lease when they’re sting­ing some­thing.

I’ll get up in the morn­ing about 7am to get pre­pared for the day ahead.

Bees don’t like to be dis­turbed be­fore 10am as it is too cold for them. I’m al­ways check­ing my phone to see what the fore­cast and tem­per­a­ture will be for that day. An ideal day would be warm, sunny and dry as this means you can get a thor­ough check of the hive.

I keep hives both in the Api­ary and my gar­den so once I’ve checked the weather, I get my uni­form sorted.

I wear an all in one boiler suit that has a zip up the front, a hood and hat with a veil to cover my face. My style of uni­form is breath­able and less likely for bees to sneak in and try to in­ject their venom into my veins. The last thing you want is a gap be­tween bet your cloth­ing for any bees to get through.

It’s im­por­tant that we check the bees ev­ery day, but we’ll we only open up each hive ev­ery 7 to 10 days.

This makes sure we’re mon­i­tor­ing their progress prog and the brood is grow­ing and mak­ing the cor­rect cor pat­terns. It can be dif­fi­cult to make sure ev­ery bee is do­ing well if you have over ov 40,000 of them so it’s im­por­tant to know your bees well. we Some­times I’ll mark the tho­rax of the queen bee so we can eas­ily see who and where she is.

I re­mem­ber on my sec­ond visit to the Api­ary, I ob­vi­ously hadn’t closed my suit up prop­erly and a bee got in.

First of all, one stung me on my nose and then I dis­cov­ered I had one in be­side me as it had stung my neck. My nose was run­ning, my eyes were wa­ter­ing and I was in pain. When bees sting, they re­lease a pheromone so they can alert other bees that some­thing is dis­rupt­ing their hive and for them to start swarm­ing. It’s a protection thing, bees don’t sting for no rea­son but the more you get stung, the more you get used to it!

Once I’ve checked for the queen bee, I’ll then get my bee-keep­ing box out to check the hive it­self.

This will in­clude equip­ment such as a smoker that is filled with fuel that you can light and it pro­duces smoke. When I get there, I’ll smoke the front of the hive first to en­cour­age the bees to go onto draw­ing up honey be­cause if bees think there is a fire they’ll go and take honey from the hive. The aim is to keep them busy so they’re not com­ing to­wards you. The smoker can also be used to dis­guise any smells that may be on you.

The big­gest worry for me is go­ing out to dis­cover that the bees have swarmed or the queen is dead.

This can hap­pen be­cause bees are very

pro­tec­tive of their honey, and can sense when we’re com­ing in to take it all so that’s prob­a­bly the most likely of times that we’ll get stung.

My fam­ily are very sup­port­ive of me.

My daugh­ter’s boyfriend has ac­tu­ally taken up bee­keep­ing as well! When you buy honey from the shop, peo­ple as­sume that nat­u­ral honey au­to­mat­i­cally looks like that. But when you get proper honey, it looks in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ent and no batch is the same. My fam­ily have been en­joy­ing the fruits of my labour.

Now that I’m more ex­pe­ri­enced, I help men­tor new bee­keep­ers by help­ing them gain ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Scot­tish Bee­keeper As­so­ci­a­tion al­lows all bee­keep­ers to meet up, so it’s not only a com­mu­nity for those in this line of work but is also a so­cial thing.

The Scot­tish Bee­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion sup­ports Scot­tish Bees and Bee­keep­ers. It was founded in 1912 as a na­tional body to ed­u­cate, as­sist, in­form and bring to­gether over 1,500 bee­keep­ers in Scot­land. Read more here: scot­tish­bee­keep­ers.org.uk

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