Last year while on the tube I picked up a copy of the Metro and saw an advert that was being run by The Co-operataive Group asking people to get involved with Plan Bee, its national campaign to increase the amount of bees in the UK.
I looked at the Plan Bee website that evening and saw that The Co-operative was setting up and sponsoring the training of beekeepers, and that they had a training site in London.
Very soon after I was making my way to Camley Street National Park, which is based right next to the new Kings Cross St Pancras building. There was a real buzz of excitement as we all got to know each other and our tutor Brian McCallum.
We were taken to the hives that are on the site at Camley Street for our first real experience of being up close with bees. There was some anxiousness, but that went when we were looking at the frames from the hive carpeted with bees busily doing their jobs and not bothering with us at all.
My excitement dipped slightly when I realised that the hive came as a flat pack. Being a bit of a stranger to a hammer and screwdriver it was with some trepidation that I opened the very large box to assemble the hive. However, I did manage to put it together and it now sits proudly on its stand (in an almost square fashion).
I can now be seen in my protective bee suit checking the hive througout the week.
It was a Saturday morning and I was heading off for our second day of beekeeping training. Our first day was back in October where we covered a lot of theory but today was going to be a practical and we will hopefully get a visit to the Apiary - weather dependant!
After coffee and a chat we had our first class, which was covering swarms. For our swarm training, Bryce had created a small tree and fence post in the classroom so he could demonstrate how to capture a swarm from both types of location. The swarm was made out of polystyrene with a couple of paper bees on the side! This gave us a good idea of what we would need to do when the situation does arise.
In the next class we were then shown how to make up frames. I had read how to do this in books but it makes much more sense when you see it done.
In the afternoon we got all kitted up and headed to the Apiary. We were split into two groups with one hive per group. The hives were then opened up. It was really exciting to finally see inside a hive. We all got a turn at taking out a frame - it was really surprising to find how heavy a frame is when it is full of honey.
During the inspection we got to see all the components of the brood - the eggs, larvae, sealed brood and we also managed to see the queen. At the end of the training a few telephone numbers were exchanged so that we could phone each other for moral support.
I arrived a bit late and flustered to the first training session with actual bees at Wythenshawe Park on a humid Friday afternoon. I felt a little bit nervous actually. Paul, our tutor, immediately said "join the others and get a suit on". We rolled the gloves on up to our armpits, and zipped the veils around our faces. Then looking like spacemen, we trundled after Paul to where the bee hives were.
The first volunteers took the roof off, then the crown board, then the food tray, the super (narrow frames where you would take honey from), the queen excluder, and then started to lift out the frames from the brood box (the outer wide frames at the bottom). There were bees, eggs, grubs, honey and pollen.
When it was my turn to have a go, I dismantled the hive carefully, and picked out the first frame. I was feeling very confident by this point actually, and soon progressed to one of the inner ones packed with bees. I left feeling completely inspired to get involved with a local beekeepers group, and learn even more about caring for bees.