12 Mar How to do sustainable Beekeeping with BEE17
BEE17 is a not-for-profit beekeeping project run by Walthamstow residents Richard Smith and Helen Lerner. Their aim is not just to support bees but also to educate others about these fascinating creatures.
Richard and Helen are members of Walthamstow Village in Bloom, part of the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association, which Helen leads. The group started planting lots of bee friendly plants and Richard mentioned that he wanted to keep bees. Initially, they were going to have a hive in the churchyard but ended up putting it in Helen’s large back garden.
Almost 100 jars of Walthamstow Village Honey
That was in May last year. Since then they’ve bought a colony, another hive and a Queen bee, and split the bees between the two hives. In July and August last year they extracted the honey from the supers, one hive alone produced 96lbs of honey.
Richard and Helen sold their produce in a pop up shop, along with jam, beeswax polish and candles, and made enough money to buy two more hives and donate £400 to the gardening club to buy good forage plants for bees for the local area.
Since then, Helen and Richard have learnt a huge amount about bees and beekeeping. “Each bee can fly 33,000 miles during their lifetime,” Helen told us, “and the worker bees only live for about three weeks. The Queen lays throughout the season to replace the bees that die”.
Helen and Richard Advise Potential Beekeepers
Helen has always been fascinated by bees and says that if you’re thinking of having your own hive it’s important to make sure that you’re not scared of bees before you commit by visiting another hive. People react to hives in one of two ways, “They either find a hive so hot and loud that they have a natural aversion to it – or they’re absolutely fascinated by it”, as Helen and Richard were.
BEE17 wants to teach people about bees and helps people new to beekeeping. As well as making sure they’re not scared of bees, potential beekeepers should find out whether they are allergic to bee stings or not. If they are it’s not a barrier to beekeeping, they can take antihistamines or use an EpiPen if you need to.
Bees don’t often sting, as Helen said, “Bees aren’t interested in stinging, they’re either swarming – which is when they’re setting up a colony – or they’re collecting pollen. If we’ve been stung it’s usually been our fault because we’ve trapped a bee by accident. Stinging is a bee’s last resort”.
- Grow plants that are pollination-friendly (you can find a list of plants on the Royal Horticultural Society website if you search for “perfect for pollinators”).
- It costs about £1000 to set up two hives, buy the bees and the equipment you’ll need.
- Get advice from the BEE17 website (where there’s also a Beecam showing what the bees are up to in real-time) and feel free to get in touch with Richard and Helen.
Royal Horticultural Society www.rhs.org.uk
BEE17 & Walthamstow Village Honey bee17.bz
British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) www.bbka.org.uk