Beekeeping officially starts for me next month. I’ve been contemplating it for years, but its only now that I have plucked up the courage to go for it. I have ordered a ‘nuc’ and collect it sometime in April.
A nuc is the nucleus of a new bee colony. It includes a queen bee, a few males drones and around 10,000 female workers. The plan is to coax them into a beehive at the end of the garden and then to help the colony grow into healthy 50 odd thousand bees.
When I say help the colony to grow, nature will play a far greater part in their destiny than I ever will. This is not just because of my novice status, it is also due to the fact that I am trying the non-interventionist top-bar approach which takes the view that the bees know best, so they should be largely left to their own devices. The idea is to interfere as little as possible After all, bees seem to have got on rather well without us for several thousand years. And they are basically wild animals not domesticated pets.
Despite leaving nature in charge, I’m still pretty nervous. I’m nervous about being stung (I can’t remember being stung since I was a child), I’m nervous about other people being stung (which is clearly much worse) and I’m nervous about the bees dying or vanishing due to my incompetence.
But with nerves comes excitement. When you know so little about something, everything is new and astonishing. This weekend I had my first experience of peering into a hive wearing a bee suit and it was truly extraordinary. The bees buzzed but didn’t bite, or sting or rage. They were the perfect hosts. Maybe they sensed I was a novice and wanted to give me a soft start. Or maybe they didn’t have much honey to defend, so they knew better than to waste energy attacking me.
So instead of harassing us the bees focussed intently on the job in hand, which seemed to be collecting pollen. Every second a bee arrived with sacks of little yellow pollen like planes landing on a busy runway. Every bee knew what to do and where to go, like a well run factory after a winter break. No nonsense. No dawdling. No need for any human’s to help them. Long may it continue.