With many new courses available for beginners this spring why not take up the alluring craft of beekeeping?
Gavin Howling, beekeeper and co-owner of the Sysonby Knoll Hotel in Melton, has been keeping honey bees since he was nine-years-old and he explained to the Melton Times why he gets such a buzz out of it.
“Having the right knowledge is crucial if you’re to take on beekeeping as a hobby and any good course will offer you this at a good price,” said Gavin.
“The essentials are to have protective clothing, gloves, a smoker and an extractor which most beekeeping courses will let you hire.
“I’ve always said to people that you need to have two hives.
“Beekeeping doesn’t have to be expensive. A second-hand hive with bees can cost around £50 compared to a brand new hive, without bees, which can cost between £200 to £300.”
No licence or permit is required to keep bees. They start flying around April when the rapeseed crop comes into season and usually become less active when the last crop finishes in the autumn.
Gavin, who has 10 colonies of honey bees, said: “Modern protective equipment has come on leaps and bounds and 99 per cent of the time it’s safe but you should be prepared to be stung occasionally.
“During winter there can be between 15 and 20,000 bees in one hive, compared to up to 100,000 in summer. The weather fluctuates so this can have a big effect on the quantity of honey produced by the bees.”
Gavin produces enough honey each year to keep his own hotel breakfast customers happy and supplies to Melton’s iconic Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, retailing at around £5.75 a jar. He also offers his hotel visitors an exclusive beekeeping experience during the height of summer.
He added: “I offer three guests at a time the chance to delve into the hobby a little more. When the weather is fine I take them down to the hives and we talk about the equipment and the gear they are wearing. After opening up the hives, visitors are given a jar of honey to take away. It’s very popular and we enjoy showing people around.”
The Sysonby Knoll bees are also the star of a popular bee cam - log on to www.sysonby.com/beecam to watch the honey production live as it happens.
l If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper then visit the Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers’ Association’s website www.lrbka.org for information about beginners’ courses starting this month.