Group Discussions > Keeping bees

The November issue of Garden Square News features a story on keeping bees in London, but for those who would like more details, below is a Q&A between beekeeper Stephen Wilcox and beekeeper Graham Young, both of whom featured in the article.

1) how did he get into beekeeping? I moved to my present address in 1985, which backs on to 3 acres of communal garden where bees were already being kept by an elderly beekeeper. I subsequently took over as chairman of the garden amenity company in 2002 and as my involvement with the garden increased, I became more interested in the activities of the beekeeper, Clive, helping him move heavy boxes, etc, helping him with swarm catching and finally, when he suggested I enrol on a beekeeping course and learn about the academic side of it, I took the plunge and qualified in 2006.
2) what does he enjoy about it? The relationship between me and my bees.
3) was he nervous when he started? Yes, of course but with experience comes respect, knowledge and confidence.
4) how long has he been doing it? 6 years
5) how many hives has he? 7
6) what instruction did he get? Beekeeping course at Barnet and District Beekeepers' Association
7) is he a member of a bee-keeping association - which one? See above. Have they been useful? Very useful, supportive and educational.
8) are his hives inspected for disease? If so, how and by whom and for what? Any swarms I collect are inspected by the regional bee inspector on an annual basis, to check for notifiable diseases (foul brood)
9) what is his normal yield per hive? massively a variable, but about 50-80lbs per hive.
10) are there particular crops such as lime which flavour his honey? Borage, clover, lavender, horse chestnut,
11) how much time does he spend on looking after the hives? 2 hrs per week
12) what problems has he had if any? Stings? Has not been a problem. I always introduce myself to my bees at the beginning of each season with bare hands covered in sugar syrup (See photo).
13) how did he decide where to site the hives? there were previous hives there so we just improved security by putting up a better wire-mesh fence.
14) how have the neighbours reacted? No problems. Most of the 180 residents are not aware of the hives except when I give out the honey.
15) how does he extract his honey - where does he get the extractor from? Extractor borrowed from the association.
16) does he use the wax? Yes, but only to exchange for foundation. I have considered making my own furniture polish but can't be bothered.
17) how does he cope with over-wintering? Plywood covers placed over nationals; WBCs are double skinned so able to cope with winter cold and woodpeckers.
18) would he recommend bee-keeping to others? Of course.
19) what advice would he give to someone thinking of starting? Do a course, read up, seek an appropriate site for an apiary.
20) does he need insurance? Automatically covered by membership of BBKA
21) does he have cover to inspect for swarming if he is away? Other association members co-operate with this.
22) are there any stories he would like to tell you? Interesting swam collection sites in central London: British Museum. Marylebone Station. Regent st. traffic lights. Marble Arch bus stop. Plus many other fairly boring locations like fruit trees and hedges etc.
23) what type of hive does he use? I have 6 nationals, 1 WBC.
24) where does he get his equipment/ queens? Paynes, Thornes, Maismore, Caddon Hives.
25) what is his favourite cannot-do-without- piece of equipment? Fabi spray.
November 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterGarden Square News