Alnwick, Bee basic

I have just spent two very enjoyable and informative Saturdays under the tuition of George Eames, master beekeeper and teacher of the BBKA Basic Husbandry course. I had the company, also, of 13 other pupils, and of Ian Robson, from Alnwick and District Beekeepers' Association (ADBKA), who had kindly organised the training.

Excuse the pun, but by the end, my head was buzzing – there is so much to take in.

Having been brought up by a beekeeper, with bees more or less forming part of the family, I thought I was fairly clued up. I obviously wasn’t accounting for details of disease prevention, pest recognition, swarm control, honey labelling laws and seasonal knowledge of flora and fauna.

How did I come to be sitting in Longhorsley Village Hall?

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I had joined ADBKA briefly a few years ago and visited the former Thirston site (now at Eshott) with my youngest son, who had taken an interest in all things bee. But Saturdays were precious, and there was always something to occupy our time. What we needed were our own bees at home, where we could check on them as and when.

The plan was to acquire some bees. However, bees acquired us one sunny afternoon in 2014 in the form of a swarm settling low on a bush in front of my son and I as we left school. It was a small swarm and late in season, but swarm none-the-less. Not knowing from whence they came, I was quick to offer them a home. They were very welcome. That was the beginning.

My next colony arrived the same year, on Christmas Eve, a present from my friend’s father.

My third colony was a large May swarm, found last year, high up in a tree along our lane.

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So now I am responsible for my own apiary, but with my father living at the other end of the country, I need some beekeeping knowledge.

The BBKA Basic Husbandry course fits the bill and opens the path for further tuition. George Eames was just the man for the job – clear teaching, informative, fascinating, down-to-earth, patient and entertaining.

There were practical demonstrations – how to light a smoker, how to open a hive, how to use a hive tool. There was hands-on experience – making up a frame with foundation. There were animations – how to create an artificial swarm using the Pagden method. George patiently ran through that a few times before we understood. And there were clear power points and colourful handouts too.

Now we look forward to a mock practical assessment on June 6, with one brave volunteer under George’s scrutiny. Then in June or July we will arrange to have our own oral and practical assessments.

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I hope my bees appreciate the efforts I am going to in order to care for them more ably, and reward me with a little honey this autumn.

If the idea of keeping bees intrigues, you can find out more from the Alnwick and District Beekeepers Association (ADBKA). For information about the group and how you can get started in beekeeping have a look at the website,

Happy beekeeping.

Lyd Heywood (novice beekeeper).

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