Becoming a Beekeeper

Why keep bees?

People keep bees for many reasons

  • To maximise the pollination of fruit and vegetables
  • To protect honeybees—at risk due to climate change, agricultural and gardening methods, pests and diseases
  • For honey and wax production

Bees sting, don’t they?

Yes, bees can sting! But if handled gently and with consideration they should not cause a nuisance. You’ll learn about this and lots more when you take your Basic Beekeeper course.

Do your homework

You wouldn’t take on a herd of cattle without doing some research first and beekeeping is just the same. Successful beekeeping means preparation and you’ll need to gain some knowledge beforehand. Begin by talking to beekeepers and by reading. The best time to start is late summer or autumn by going along to your local beekeepers’ association.

Join your local beekeeping association

This is highly recommended. Your association will keep you in touch with local expertise, local conditions and problems. Come along to our winter meetings, where you will meet other beekeepers and hear talks on subjects related to the craft. Glasgow & District Beekeepers’ Association meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month, from September to May, at The Heart of Scotstoun Community Centre on Balmoral Street, G14 0BL. Meetings start at 7pm and usually finish about 9.30pm see our "What's On"  for  details of meetings and training.

In Scotland most associations are affiliated with the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association (SBA) and it is worthwhile joining the SBA as well. Your SBA membership brings you third party and product (honey) insurance as well as the monthly magazine The Scottish Beekeeper. More information about the Scottish Beekeepers Association can be found on their web site www.scottishbeekeepers.org.uk

Find a mentor

Glasgow Beekeepers’ Association will welcome and support you when you start up. You may be given the opportunity to assist an experienced beekeeper and/or take part in a mentoring programme, which is a great way to learn to learn good apiary management.

Equipment matters

Buy the best personal protection you can afford. The more secure you feel, the better you will enjoy your first steps in beekeeping. A full suit or a jacket which includes a built in veil gives excellent protection and will increase your confidence. The kind that has a fabric back and looks like a fencing helmet works well.

You’ll also need long close-fitting rubber gloves that you can wash easily, to protect your hands and wrists, plus a hive tool and smoker. These are readily available from beekeeping suppliers. Wellington boots will complete your outfit.

Select a hive type

There are several designs available and there is often heated debate amongst beekeepers on the benefits and shortcomings of each! The most important point is to choose ONE style and stick to it as having a mix of styles is frustrating in the long term many hives are not interchangeable. The most commonly used type of hive in the Glasgow area is the National.

Be sure to buy local bees

So ….. you have done some training, found your mentor, bought your protective equipment, had some experience of handling bees, found a secure site, now you’re ready buy a couple of hives and to source some bees.

You will hear time and again from experienced beekeepers, “local bees do best”, besides which, outside Scotland diseases and new pests are devastating bee colonies. At present the best way to keep bees healthy in your area is to acquire bees from a local beekeeper. It’s usual to buy two colonies and hives so that you can exchange brood and honey in the event that one hive becomes weak and needs a boost from the stronger hive.

Your local association will be able to help you find docile, local bees when you set up your apiary.