Keeping bees

We decided in 2022 to start keeping honey bees. Our motives for doing so were threefold:

  1. to bring pollinators to our garden to help our fruit and vegetable crops
  2. to have a supply of honey as an alternative to less healthy sweeteners
  3. to be able to observe these beautiful creatures up close and personal

It was only after we got the bees that we were able to add a fourth motive to our list. We discovered that the vibrational energy of bees has been recognised for millenia as a powerful healing remedy and that beekeepers are apparently healthier and live longer than any other profession. So what’s not to like about keeping bees?

When we first moved to our small, weather-beaten island, a neighbour who had previously tried her hand at beekeeping warned us of the difficulties of this endeavour in this location, firstly, due to the restricted number of summer months in which pollen is available, and secondly because of the rain and strong winds.

However, on contacting a reputable apiary near Inverness, Highland Bee Supplies, we were informed that, with the right level of care and attention throughout the winter months, it should be possible for us to create the conditions for a colony to thrive and even provide us with honey from the second year.

So in May 2022, Helen went to the mainland to take part in a beekeeping course and to collect the hive and other equipment to start our venture into keeping bees. We assembled the hive and positioned it in a sheltered place at the bottom of the garden and by mid-June we were beginning to see the buds of the ‘bee-friendly’ flowers we’d sown earlier.

At the beginning of July the bees arrived. Highland Bee Supplies sent us a nucleus of around 15,000 workers and drones plus one queen. The package was delivered to a depot in Inverness and transported by ferry to Stornoway, where we were waiting to collect them and bring them to their new home.

The bees had been in transit for around six hours and were rather angry when we opened the box, one of them deciding to plant a sting just below Rudi’s left eye, which swelled up into a ball and was somewhat painful for a few days. Fortunately, Helen was decked head to toe in protective gear and managed to escape their fury.

It's a good idea to wear protective clothing around angry bees

Two weeks after the bees arrived, half of the colony swarmed and formed a large egg-shaped cluster in a nearby bush. We gathered them up and put them back in the hive. Two days later they swarmed again. This was when we realised there must be two queens.

Borrowing a spare hive from a neighbour, we collected the cluster of bees a second time and put them in their new home, praying that both colonies would make it through the winter. Alas, the smaller colony (the one that swarmed) perished but the larger hive survived. We left them in peace during the winter months, not touching their honey, and that seems to have sustained them.

It’s been a steep learning curve for us so far; we’re learning as we go along and we’re looking forward to sampling some of their produce in 2023!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top