MY HOBBY - BEE KEEPING
by Alison Deering
Bees have always played an important part in my life. My childhood was spent in the Chilterns - high up in the beech woods and our nearest neighbour kept bees. In those hot summer days of the 30's the bees always seemed to be swarming and we children could often earn 6d by marking where they hung - "bee spotting" was a popular pastime! Summer holidays were often spent in my Uncle's Rectory in Lincolnshire and he also kept bees. No sixpences for swarm spotting, but beautiful fat honeycombs for tea!
So when I came to live in Haversham ten years ago, it was natural that I should want to keep bees myself in my cottage garden. A friend introduced me to the local branch of the Bee Keepers Association and from September-March I attended Beginners Classes. Here I learnt to identify Brood Boxes, Lifts, Soupers, Crown Boards and all the other components of a desirable Bee Habitation. I learnt about "Spring Management", "Autumn Feeding" and even "Swarm Control". It all sounded so simple with demonstrations on an empty bee hive in the Village Hall - I just couldn't wait to get a hive myself! Blissful ignorance -
When my hive finally arrived however I felt as unprepared as any new 'Mum'. How did I cope with all those little mouths to feed because fed they must be with sugar syrup until the first natural 'honey flow' began. I literally couldn't sleep for thinking of the hungry and unhappy bees waiting for me to get their feed correct.
I soon discovered however that bees, like babies, are very resilient and quite able to cope with the minimum of assistance from their keepers. Mine survived, produced honey, swarmed, produced more honey and finally settled down for their winter rest to emerge next Spring with the first snowdrops, eager to begin the cycle all over again.
Now six eventful years later I have five hives from my original one. I've made many mistakes, learnt even more and made many friends in the beekeeping world. The kindness and help I have received from experienced Bee Keepers has quite overwhelmed me and I should like to record the debt I owe them.
My bees are part of the village. Kind friends help to move hives, extract honey and save their old honey jars for me. The bees in their turn produce honey for the Summer Fete, Christmas Sale and for two years raised money for the church by doing a Sponsored "Honeymake". But the climax of the year comes when the honey is all bottled, the bees are resting and we beekeepers join with the rest of the village in bringing our Harvest of Honey to church and singing again the well loved hymns as we thank the Lord for all the good gifts He has given us.