So, let’s get first thing out there, I never wanted to become a beekeeper. I had no interest and like many people had a distrust of any creature which would sting you. However, as I got older and my interest in our environment increased, I became more and more fascinated by pollination and the insects which populated my garden.
In 2017 my wife decided she wanted to attend the Gorey Beekeepers beginners’ class and somewhat reluctantly I trundled along. The course was delivered by Ben Harden and was excellent and was so fascinating I found myself getting sucked in.
Following this I attended the years lectures provided by the association and reads of lots of literature in order to get as much information as possible and attended the association apiary to get some hands-on experience and make sure I did not run screaming when surrounded by bees. I didn’t.
In 2018 we went along to the beginner’s class again, and then made the decision to get some bees. The plan was to get 2 colonies as we both work full time and felt 2 was the right number, we bought two colonies from a local beekeeper.
The start of the year was appalling weather-wise, many experienced beekeepers lost colonies as the season dragged into April, normally the time colonies are building up their strength. The two colonies we got were not particularly strong, but we tried to build them up.
After a particularly good lecture by Eleanor Attridge on swarming, we felt we should tackle marking and clipping the queens. So off we go, we have the equipment, we have the knowledge, just no experience…we were both nervous. We found both queens in our colonies no problem, first one marked successfully and returned. Then the next colony we identified and caught the queen and marked her, we were feeling quite smug as this point and would have patted ourselves on the back if it wasn’t for the fact, we were carrying the tools of the trade.
Then disaster struck, she flew off. She flew up toward the ancient oak at the back of our apiary. The smiles were wiped cleanly from our faces and we didn’t know what to do.
So, I picked up the phone and called Ger. Ger is an experienced beekeeper and looks after our association apiary as well. He picked up, chuckled a bit at my panic, and calmed me down. He told us to stay where we were next to the hive for 30 minutes, if we were lucky, she would orientate herself based on us and return.
First lesson learned, join an association. There are loads of benefits like the FIBKA magazine, insurance, lectures etc. The main thing is having people who will help you when it goes wrong, that help is invaluable.