A hive of activity: Why there’s a buzz around beekeeping

Copy of an article from The Press and Journal, 5 May 2019, by Ellie House

[Visit the P&J link to watch the video.]

You would be forgiven for flinching a little at the thought of getting stung, but if you leave a bee to go about her business, the chances are, she’ll give you a wide berth in return.

This is the philosophy of Naomi Adams, who can spend hours tending to an apiary in Crathes each week.

For those unfamiliar with beekeeping, an apiary is simply a location where honeybees are kept.

For Naomi, her role as bee apiary manager for Aberdeen and District Bee Keepers’ Association (ADBKA) still causes her great amusement, after she decided to take a beekeeping course seven years ago.

She believes fellow members, such as vice-chairman David Morland, and beekeeping course co-ordinator Ian Mackley, are far more knowledgeable, but Naomi certainly seems to have a way with bees.

She has lavished care and attention on the collection of hives, coaxing the bees along and admiring their hard work.

Last summer saw an impressive result in terms of the honey produced, and 2018 was the best year in recent times in Scotland.

P&J-frame-2Ironically, Naomi isn’t personally keen on nature’s sweet bounty, but she believes the honey harvested by beekeepers is preferable to products found on the supermarket shelf.

“I don’t actually like honey very much, but the honey made by our bees is so pure in comparison to shop-bought honey,” she said.

“There’s no preservatives or chemicals, it’s good stuff.

“I can’t actually sum up what it is that I love about beekeeping so much.

“It all started when I was struggling to grow vegetables in my garden, and it was suggested that I might have a pollination problem.

“So I decided to go on a beekeeping course, and my husband told me I’d never go as far as keeping bees.

“After I finished my course, I was asked if I would foster a hive.

“I was delighted, and I’ve been passionate about beekeeping ever since.”

Bees tend to thrive when left well alone, so Naomi does her best to interfere with the hives as little as possible.

A typical hive in Aberdeenshire will contain between 40,000-45,000 bees in summer, and 10,000 bees in winter.

Getting stung comes with the territory, although Naomi wears protective clothing when tending to the hives.

“We all get stung once in a while, but honey bees aren’t naturally aggressive,” she said.

“Bees are fascinating creatures and very good housekeepers.

“They turf out any dead bees from the hive, and bees also work themselves to death.

“The queen bee, however, is in a very privileged position.

“She will live for two to three years, and you can see the different personalities of queen bees.

“One of our queens is very shy, and although we put a dot on each queen, we can still struggle to find her in the hive.

“My grandson loves coming along, and he once said that the queen bee should wear a crown.

“I find beekeeping very therapeutic, and I think it is brilliant for mental health.”

ADBKA has recognised the wider benefits of beekeeping, and now works with Alcohol and Drugs Action.

The charity provides support for those affected by drugs and alcohol, and several service members are working with ADBKA, and tending to their own hives.

Vice-chairman David is hopeful that the project will continue to grow, and he has also introduced bees in the city thanks to the Urban Bee Project.

“Beekeeping is an amazing stress reliever, and those with addiction and mental health problems can also benefit enormously,” he said.

“The Urban Bee Project is co-ordinated and funded by Aberdeen Inspired, and managed by Angela Joss, who was instrumental in getting Alcohol and Drugs Action involved in the project.

ADBKA supported them by providing calm and happy bees, and by mentoring.

“I think beekeeping allows you to focus, and when you’re with the hives on a sunny day, there’s something wonderful about that.

“The Urban Bee Project saw us set up a hive at His Majesty’s Theatre in the city centre, and that’s very exciting.”

Beekeeping is clearly soaring in popularity, and 94 people signed up to ADBKA’S course this year.

David estimates that around half of the course intake will go on to manage their own hives, and the course attracted a wide variety of people.

“We honestly get people from all walks of life, all professions and all ages,” he said.

“You could say I came from a generation of beekeepers, as my grandfather was a bee scientist in the 1930s.

“My father kept bees as well, but you don’t need to have a background in bees to come on the course.

“We’re even getting young people coming along, and at the heart of this is raising awareness.”

Honeybees are vital pollinators, but they are threatened by loss of habitat.

Bees also face threats from agricultural chemicals, disease and predators.

These mean few honeybee colonies exist in the wild in the UK.

“There are so many ways you can show your support and help bees along,” said David.

“We give talks in schools and support community beekeeping projects, as well as running our course.

“Be kind to bees, because they really do matter.”

How can I help bees?

• Plant lots of bee-friendly plants that produce pollen and nectar

• Support beekeepers by buying local honey

• Don’t interfere with any hives you may come across, and consider having a go at beekeeping yourself

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