Barnsley Beekeepers

Getting Started

There are many reasons why we may want to keep bees. Some of the more obvious reasons include: producing your own honey, an interest in social insects, flower pollination, business reasons, the challenge of doing it or to help protect the environment. Whatever your reason, there are a number of important things you need to consider before you get any bees.

It is safe to say that beekeepers have their ups and downs. Keeping bees is normally very rewarding - nothing beats the satisfaction of bottling and tasting your own honey. Going through the frames of a bee colony that gently buzzes around on a sunny afternoon can be relaxing. But sometimes things don’t quite go to plan with bees turning aggressive or swarming, stings, disease and bad weather - all frustrating the most experienced of beekeepers from time to time.


So what should anyone thinking of keeping bees consider?


Keeping bees requires your time and commitment. There are times in the year when you will only need to visit your bees occasionally (e.g. during the winter to check they have enough food and that they haven’t blown over), while at other times you may have to visit your bees weekly (to prevent or manage swarming). Doing things at the right time makes a good beekeeper.


The equipment needed to start up in beekeeping can be expensive. You will need bees, a hive, frames, foundation, protective clothing, tools (see equipment) and ultimately, honey production equipment. Brand new, these all cost quite a lot but you can pick up used equipment at Association sales, second quality equipment from Thornes or even from Ebay. For those with wood working skills, costs can be kept down by making hive parts. The Association will provide support and advice on buying bees and equipment and other members may have equipment to sell or share. Once you have built up a critical mass of equipment, you will have overcome that initial investment and can keep things ticking over.


Can you find an appropriate location for the number of hives you wish to keep? You will always need to be prepared to locate more hives than you originally intended (especially when you start to divide hives or catch swarms). Nice, placid bees may sit comfortably in your garden, but don’t rely on your bees always being placid. Also, don’t rely on your neighbours liking the idea of living so close to bees when they find out you have some just over the fence. You should also keep bees away from areas where people walk or where children play. Guard bees can notice movement up to around 8-10 metres from the hive and come out to investigate. Ideally a secluded bit of a large garden or a space on a farm away from obvious areas of activity, footpaths etc (see Apiary Set Up).


For many, the idea of being covered in angry bees is not a pleasant one. Of course most beekeepers manage their colonies and breed out such bad traits (or try to), but even for the best of us it can be pretty daunting when faced with aggressive bees - as we are from time to time. It is quite important that prospective beekeepers have a go with someone else’s bees. It is often possible to find a beekeeping course in your area, or attend an association apiary visit or, if you know another beekeeper, ask to attend a visit. A course or association apiary visit is often a good time to do this as you may be able to borrow some protective clothing.


If you know you suffer any kind of serious allergic response to bee stings, then beekeeping is probably not for you. None of us like being stung and most of us take precautions to avoid being stung. After receiving a number of stings, people tend to develop some degree of allergic response (some more noticeable than others). This is quite natural. But occasionally an allergic response can lead to a more severe reaction that can be life threatening (see Bee Stings).