It’s surprising where life can lead you when you’re not looking. Taking a Canadian houseguest on her first walk through suburban London, I sought out local experiences that would give her a feel of the real life of London far away from the ubiquitous Tower and the Changing of the Guard.
So it was that I took my visitor for a wander to my local allotments summer open day. Amongst the vegetables, cake sales and barbecue we discovered Mike and Sue, local gardening and bee-keeping professionals. While Sue was busy painting children’s faces with butterflies and bees, Mike was selling jars of their own honey and handing out leaflets about their new bee-keeping course.
Working in the environmental sector, I am aware of the plight of our native bees and the vital role that honey bees play in pollination and food production. With my adopted Canadian eyes, seduced by the first decent day of summer and by Mike and Sue’s enthusiasm, I wanted to learn more. More out of curiosity than a sudden commitment to bee keeping I signed up for the course.
On a dark February evening, I found myself at the first class, surrounded by people who had given this a great deal more thought than I – people who had allotments and huge gardens on which to place new apiaries. People who owned bee suits and hives.
And yet, a year later, course completed, I am hooked. I have found my own site, I have a second-hand hive ready for its new inhabitants and I have discovered a local community of bee keepers – wonderful people who are passionate about their subject and generous with their knowledge – keen to pass the bee keeping baton on to new enthusiasts. I too have passed on the bug to friends and neighbours, some of whom have just completed the same course, others who are as excited as I about my bees imminent arrival.
That hum of summer is addictive. Sitting in an apiary and watching the bees head out and back to the hive laden with nectar and with pollen is like a form of meditation. Bee keeping teaches a new level of patience. As one of my bee-keeping mentors says, the bees seem to have read all the same books. They know what to do and when. Everything happens in its own time and the bees will not be rushed. We are guided by them.
I have learned patience too in other areas. Not just from handling bees, but from the long slow process of finding a suitable site where the powers that be understand the importance of bees, make you welcome and do their best to find a suitable spot. If a terrifying lecture on bee diseases and integrated pest management didn’t put me off, nothing will.
My Canadian visitor has long gone, but I am about to play host to up to 70,000 new furry guests. My new-found patience only goes so far. I can’t wait!
to find out more about Mike and Sue’s courses, visit the Bees’n’Beans website