From honey to health benefits how beekeeping is the hobby to try

Beekeeping not only helps the environment, as the bees pollinate plants, fruit and veg trees but it is also said to be a great way to help with stress and anxiety.

Picture: Park Farm Cottage Bee Products
Picture: Park Farm Cottage Bee Products

Diane Roberts from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), said: “Beekeepers have to be calm and assured as they approach a hive - bees react to bad handling - so most beekeepers will tell you that even though beekeeping throws up lots of challenges there is nothing like the moment when you remove the lid of a hive and see and smell and marvel at the industriousness of a healthy population of bees.

“And that while inspecting you can think of nothing else so it drives away all anxiety and stress.”

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The British Beekeepers Association currently has 28,388 members who have an average of 3.5 hives which means altogether the estimated number of hives its members look after is 99,300.

Elizabeth, Derek and Joseph Ready of Bee Cosmetics

Elizabeth, Derek and Joseph Ready have kept bees as a family for 18 years.

Elizabeth said: “It all started when we saw a swarm of bees in the Carfax, Horsham, we started talking to the beekeeper collecting the swarm - within weeks we had two hives of our own and over the years built up to a peak of 45 hives scattered across Sussex.”

With 14 hives it supplies them with enough honey, beeswax and propolis for their skincare business Bee Cosmetics.

She said: “Bees are fascinating, we never stop learning or being amazed by their intricacies and skills such as creating perfectly formed wax combs in the dark, or communicating to other bees about sources of nectar by dancing (waggle dance).

Picture: West Sussex Beekeepers

“Being a beekeeper means you are often outside enjoying nature and the countryside. We have five apiaries across Sussex, letting us enjoy the beautiful Sussex countryside.”

Bee Cosmetics was launched in 2013 after experimenting with beeswax soaps. It now sells body butters, face oils and beard oils using honey, propolis and beeswax.

Elizabeth said: “Honey is brilliant at retaining moisture, keeping skin stay smooth and moisturised, and has antioxidant properties.

“Beeswax creates a protective film on the skin to help reduce water loss while keeping pores free from blockage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it particularly suited to sensitive skin.

“Propolis is full of many vitamins and minerals.

As for the common misconceptions she said: “‘Harvesting honey from the bees is harmful.’ In fact, honey bees often make an 80 per cent surplus of honey. This combined with careful management and care for the bees allows for collection of honey in a sustainable way.

“‘I need a big garden to keep bees.’ It’s possible to keep bees virtually anywhere, including small gardens. We had four hives on top of Swan Walk shopping centre in Horsham for a couple of years, the bees loved it but collecting the honey was a challenge with all the stairs.”

Toni Burbeck has been keeping bees in the garden of her cottage for five years.

What started as an interest in bees grew into a ‘fascinating’ hobby.

“We have enjoyed immensely the steep learning curve of how to look after and care for them.

“Currently we have around 15 hives producing lots of lovely sweet honey from the gardens, fields and hedgerows around Maresfield in East Sussex.

“We pride ourselves in harvesting the wonderful products the bees produce for us. In addition to the fantastic honey that the bees produce for us we also help maintain the colonies by collecting the older wax they produce as part of our yearly routine of replacing old wax with new.

“We filter in this in various different ways to make it wonderfully clean and this is then used to make our Beeswax Wraps and Candles.”

The food wraps and bags are made of 100 per cent beeswax with an added blend of jojoba oil and pine resin which is then impregnated into 100 per cent cotton material to make the food wraps.

The business is called Park Farm Cottage Bee Products and they sell the wraps, candles and bee bombs, which are wildflower bee friendly seed bombs.

Toni said: “We are so very passionate about the honey bee conservation and are members of various groups together with the British Bee Keepers Association

“All the profit we make from our products go back into looking after our colonies and ensuring they are well cared for.”

Diane, from BBKA, said: “Beekeeping is a craft you have to learn so whichever hive you choose we would always recommend you join a local beekeeping association to learn the basics and you may even get a mentor to help you start up. Local bees, adapted to the climate where you live, are the best and your association can help with finding some.”

West Sussex Beekeepers’ Association (WSBKA) has nearly 500 members and has four divisions across the county – Central Sussex (Horsham), Chichester, Wisborough Green and Worthing.

Graham Elliott, honorary secretary, said: “All divisions offer membership to those with an interest in the natural world and honey bees in particular. Teaching the theory of the management of honey bee colonies is available as is mentoring and practical training at each of the Divisions’ teaching apiaries.

“Those considering taking up beekeeping as a hobby are encouraged to join one of the training sessions run by each of the divisions during late winter or early spring. Practical training then takes place at the teaching apiaries when the active beekeeping season resumes in the spring.”

Members also receive ongoing training and support with the opportunity to manage the division’s honey bees before acquiring colonies of their own. For more information visit: westsussexbeekeepers.org.ukThe Sussex Beekeepers’ Association caters for those who live in Brighton, East Grinstead and East Sussex, and can be found here sussexbeeorguk.wordpress.comVisit www.bbka.org.uk