I first became interested in beekeeping when I was working as a pest controller around two years ago. A local friend who kept bees as a hobby took me on my first swarm collection, and it was so interesting and educational I looked into buying hives and bee’s etc, but the initial cost would be around £400, which was a little out of my league, so the idea got put on a back burner. Then about a month or so ago, I stumbled upon a forum site called friends of the bees.
Friends of the bees is a group of beekeepers that wanted to keep bees as naturally as possible and were not so worried about honey production, just the bees welfare. They were kept in hives called top bar hives, these could be homemade from any old scraps of timber which I liked. I immediately made my first Top Bar Hive from bits of wood in the garden. I was hooked. I let my line manager know that I was a new beekeeper, and as we do London Underground pest control, which occasionally gets swarms of bees. Everything started falling into place. Within two weeks I had a call from a day tech telling me of a cast swarm at Goldhawk Road station. I attended that evening and the bees were still there. This was my first attempt at collecting a swarm on my own and I was nervous but excited at the same time. Everything went well and by the time I got home it was around 4am, so I transferred them from the cardboard box, straight to their new home.
I had jumped in the deep end slightly, so I started reading as much as I could on bees, and watching You Tube clips, and joined the local bee club; these people keep bees purely for honey production, so there was a bit of rib pulling towards me but I stuck to my guns with using top bar hives. My reason for liking top bar hives them was simple; thefts of “national” hives are quite common from allotments/privately owned land (known as prairies) and I didn’t enjoy the thought of someone stealing a national hive from me, at a cost of £200 plus. Yet if a Top Bar Hive went missing, not such a loss, the 4ft hive I’ve recently built cost a total of £15.
A few days after the allotment offered me a place, they phoned again to say they had a swarm there, so I was on my third swarm of bees. These I collected straight into a homemade mini hive, and placed in position on the allotment. I will be transferring them to a newly built 4ft top bar hive tomorrow.
My new beekeeping hobby snowballed beyond belief. Crazy as it sounds, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting quitely in front of my hive, watching the bee’s fly in and out.
Written by Stephen Stubbs, a night time pest controller sub-contracted to London Underground around seven years ago. Stephen comes from a construction background but after watching “life of grime” on the TV for a couple of years and thought what an interesting job it looked he switched to a career in pest control. He enjoys pest related hobbies, or things that are edible and carries shotgun and firearm certs.