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I'm a busy bee
WITH the huge variety of fruit, flowers and veg growing on an allotment, it really is the ideal habitat for bees.
If plot holders are happy for hives to be safely placed on an allotment – it really can be a win/win situation as the bees help to pollinate plants as they buzz from bloom to bloom. (In Southampton you must speak to allotment officer Sue Ashdown before you do anything).
Bee-keeper Tony Mabey took over the care of a colony of bees from another bee-keeper who was retiring and the hive is on his in-law’s plot in Southampton. A fence surrounds the hive which is home to around 50,000 bees and this ensures they leave the hive flying above head height and cause little annoyance to surrounding plot holders.
“It’s really important to ensure all the people with plots nearby are happy to have the bees there – if there was any problem, I would get the bees moved,” said Tony, 40, a senior manager at Ordnance Survey.
He became interested in keeping bees after reading a book about the pastime and was keen to give it a go.
“It was over the Christmas period that I picked up a book by Ted Hopkins called A Guide to Bees.
“Then in the spring I enrolled on a local course and took it from there,” he said.
Confidence Tony admitted he was a little hesitant when he first started to handle bees but with the right tutoring he became confident around the hives.
“You have to feel confident with the bees – there’s little point pursuing this as an interest if the bees stop being fun to manage and you have to wear two protective suits whenever you are near them,” he said.
During the spring and summer – the main months when the bees are active – Tony checks out his hive at least once a week.
He will be keeping an eye on the bees’ activity and ensuring there is only one queen bee – if another develops then the hive will divide.
“It’s a really fascinating hobby. I like it because it helps me to switch off – I’m out in the fresh air and I get totally absorbed when I come up here to check on them.
“And I can help my in-laws on their plot too,” he said.
Of course, one of the main concerns with keeping bees has to be the fear of getting stung and Tony admitted it was a hazard he had to accept.
“If I’m working closely with the bees I ensure my suit is zipped up and I don’t take any chances.
“I got two or three of them in my veil once and got stung quite badly. If they sting you on the ankle it’s quite painful so I make sure I wear boots.
“The more experience you get around bees, the less likely you are to get stung,” he said.
With all the media coverage about the decline in bee numbers and the call for the public to do their bit to help our buzzing friends, there has been a huge growth in interest in keeping bees.
Tony is encouraging anyone who is interested in keeping bees to find out more through the Southampton & District Beekeepers Association.
To find out when the next meeting is and arrange a visit, contact the apiary manager Andy Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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