In the SPOTLIGHT – Club President Stuart Roberts

Q1. How long have you been a beekeeper?
A. I have been keeping bees since 2009 – so this is my 12th season.

Q2. Why did you become a beekeeper?
A. I have always been fascinated by bees. My mother would take us on day trips to Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham. Just down the road by the Pebble Mill was a ‘zoo’ which had an observation hive by the entrance. I thought that this was the best bit of the visit and always liked the idea of keeping bees myself. 30-odd years later I saw an item on the news about declining bees and googled beekeeping associations and found out that I was15 minutes away from my local one. The rest is history.

Q3. What is your favourite bit of beekeeping kit?
A. I don’t have a favourite bit of beekeeping kit. Although, I have wellies that I can zip up tight. I have had a few instances where bees have gone down my wellies and it’s not nice. So being able to zip up your wellies tight around your calf is a nice thing to have.

Q4. How many bee suits do you have?
A. I have 3 sets of beekeeping kit that I use but I prefer the separate trousers and jacket to the all in one suit. I just find it more comfortable. I also have a Scarlet sized children’s suit.

Q5. What is your proudest beekeeping moment?
A. My proudest beekeeping moment is achieving the BBKA Master Beekeeper certificate. It took me a long time and was a lot of work but it definitely made me a better beekeeper studying for it.

Q6. Do you have a favourite pair of socks?
A. I don’t have favourite socks.

Q7. Who is your beekeeping hero or heroine?
A. My beekeeping hero. I have lots and too many to mention. Obviously Geoff Hopkinson B.E.M. N.D.B. has been a massive influence on me. I really admire people like Tom Seeley, Mark Winston, David Tarpy and Robert E. Page Jnr. However, if there was one beekeeper that I could be like it would be Marin Anastasov. He is very knowledgeable about every aspect of bees and beekeeping. He is also highly skilled and to watch him handle bees is a delight.

Q8. What beekeeping disasters have you had?
A. I think the worst disaster I had is when I made up a really strong nuc and moved to another apiary. I left the strap in place and it covered the entrance. When I realised it was too late and all of the bees were dead. It was horrible and I haven’t repeated
that.

Q9. Which aspect of beekeeping do you like best?
A. The aspect of beekeeping that I like best is creating new colonies. Making up nucs and adding new queens or queen cells and then inspecting them a week or two later to see eggs in beautiful new comb.

Q10. What is your least favourite beekeeping job?
A. My least favourite beekeeping job is cleaning dirty equipment. It seems never ending. I don’t usually recycle frames I usually burn them. However, I have a massive pile of frames that need boiling and scraping – I’ll probably end up burning them.

Q11. If you didn’t keep bees, would you be a campanologist or a Morris dancer?
A. No !

Q12. What would be your best bit of beekeeping advice?
A. Best beekeeping advice. Geoff would say ‘Keep your bees alive, dead bees gather no honey’. However, I think that is taken as read and I’d say “never miss the opportunity to mark a queen”. If you think to yourself “I’ll mark her next time” then 9 times out of 10 you will be in desperate need to find her before she is marked.

Q13. What would your last meal be?
A. My last meal would be a curry with a hot buttered naan and onion bhajis.

Q14. What is your favourite bit of a bee?
A. My favourite bit of a bee is the antenna cleaner. It is so clever.

Q15. When you think about your bees, what makes you smile?
A. Successful queen rearing makes me smile. Heavy supers make me smile. Pollen going in the hive makes me smile. Eggs in cells make me smile. There is not a lot about beekeeping that doesn’t make me smile other than disease.

Q16. Do you like honey?
A. I love honey. Especially on Greek yoghurt with some chopped nuts.

Q17. What annoys you about bees (apart from the stings)?
A. The thing that annoys me about bees is that the more I learn the less I realise I know about bees. The other thing that annoys me about bees is that they make me feel very mortal. I now notice the passing seasons much more and I’m very aware that I may only have 30 beekeeping seasons left (if I’m very lucky).

Q18. Do you talk to your bees?
A. I talk to the bees all of the time. I’m usually asking them to come out of the way or I’m apologising for being clumsy.

Q19. How often are you asked to stop talking about bees?
A. I’m past volunteering information about the bees – people ask me and I respond but usually my answer is ‘it depends’.

Q20. Do you prefer sweet or savoury nibbles?
A. What does ‘or’ mean? I like savoury but I have a real sweet tooth. Have you tried my fudge?

Q21. What other interests do you have besides beekeeping?
A. Other interests…..I work full time for Jaguar Land Rover in vehicle efficiency research based out of (home currently) Warwick University. I am a qualified World Snooker coach and have my own full size snooker table. I enjoy walking (in the sunshine) (to the pub) and I enjoy good food and drink. The link to beekeeping is cake !

Q22. Who would you like to inspect a hive with?
A. I’d like to inspect a hive with Angelina Jolie – did you see the video she did for World Bee Day ?

Q23. What sums up your attitude to bees and beekeeping?
A. My attitude to beekeeping is …. I learn something new every time I open a hive. Observation is the key. Look, look and look again. People say ‘I can’t find the queen’ or a ‘I can’t see eggs’ – it is just practice looking in the right way. Looking is the key. We spend ages getting to the apiary and then ages getting ready, putting your kit on and lighting the smoker and then we give a cursory glance at the bees. We need to be looking longer and better.