My father adored honey and kept bees when I was a child although I only have a memory of that. I had never considered keeping bees and actually do not even like honey.
A few years ago I started a vegetable patch in my back garden but had a pitiable harvest of most crops. The broad beans were lamentable and so I asked for some advice from my brother who is an expert in this business. He diagnosed a pollination deficit, in short, there were not enough bees. Sure enough, when I started to take notice, the cotoneaster beside my conservatory window that used to be humming with bees had very few visitors. Then I started taking notice of all the media attention that the plight of the bees was getting.
I started to plant flowers and shrubs that would attract bees and heard that a course was starting at the Aberdeen Grammar school that autumn as an introductory bee keeping class. I had no intention of ever keeping bees even at that stage; I was just keen to learn more about bees. The next thing I got involved with was going out to the Apiary at Crathes and was hooked.
One of the nucleus hives was not strong enough to go the heather along with the others so I was allowed to foster them at home. As the time drew near to having to return them to the apiary, I knew that I was going to miss them all so when an advert appeared for bees for sale in the newsletter I bought my first colony. They thrived and I have added to my stock, my neighbours are delighted to get honey and the crop of beans has increased accordingly. In addition, I have met some lovely enthusiastic people who are always willing to give advice and help out in any way; I ought to have started keeping bees earlier.
As an association, we are very fortunate to have the apiary at Crathes and it is with some trepidation that I have taken on the general running of this facility. I have been going as a volunteer for several years and at least I have had a very good tutor in Graham Torrie who has now stepped down from this role so I have very big shoes to step into. I will not be doing this on my own as there are already a core of very committed volunteers who show up regularly and help out.
Our aims are not going to change: the welfare of the bees and the opportunity for anyone wanting to come out and get some hands-on experience are still going to be our priorities. If you are interested in joining us when the regular visits start up in the spring, please send me an email and I can let you know when we will be at the apiary.