In the SPOTLIGHT – Membership Secretary – Claire George

Q1. How long have you been a beekeeper?
A. I have been a beekeeper since 2011.

Q2. Why did you become a beekeeper?
A. My neighbour was given some old beekeeping equipment including a beehive which we cleaned up thinking that we could be beekeepers together and help save the bees. My garden was much larger than hers so we placed the hive at the bottom of my garden. We then waited around for a swarm to come and settle in, whilst asking local beekeepers to let us know if one became available. After two years waiting, I lost my patience and decided to buy a nuc of bees for the hive. My neighbour then became a full time mum and I took over.

Q3. What is your favourite bit of beekeeping kit?
A. My hive tool, I use it all around the house as well as on the hives. Most useful bit of kit ever and I now have four of them.

Q4. How many bee suits do you have?
A. I have a suit for every two years of beekeeping, so about 5 now. Also bought two
for my daughter so that she can come and help, although she hates flying insects. Asla gave one to the church warden so that he can strim around the hives at the church.

Q5. What is your proudest beekeeping moment?
A. Winning the best frame of honey at my local honey show.

Q6. Do you have a favourite pair of socks?
A. My favourite socks to wear are the ones that fit around my calves without cutting the blood circulation although these are mostly black as I wear them for work. However my favourite socks for pattern are the ones that look like they are eating my leg.

Q7. Who is your beekeeping hero or heroine?
A. I am not sure that I have a hero beekeeper. I am just impressed with and envious of anyone who manages more than10 hives and keeps them alive year after year. I just don’t have the time.

Q8. What beekeeping disasters have you had?
A. The worst disaster so far was losing my one and only hive to starvation in my second year beekeeping. Learnt a lot since then and haven’t had what I would call a disaster since.

Q9. Which aspect of beekeeping do you like best?
A. I love a nice calm day when I have time just to go and look at the hives, checking that they are in good health and are doing well.

Q10. What is your least favourite beekeeping job?
A. Dealing with an ‘arsy’ colony.

Q11. If you didn’t keep bees, would you be a campanologist or a Morris dancer?
A. I tried to become a Morris dancer when I was a young girl. It was frowned upon then and I decided that I did not want to be the person that had to fight about it. It’s also exhausting and they drink a lot of beer, not my favourite tipple. Therefore, campanologist would be a more suitable.

Q12. What would be your best bit of beekeeping advice?
A. Be patient.

Q13. What would your last meal be?
A. My last meal would have to be one I don’t have to chew cos I expect to live a lot longer than my teeth. Rice pudding always goes down well as long as it has a very nice jam on top.

Q14. What is your favourite bit of a bee?
A. Their tongue is great. I love seeing it out collecting nectar and sugar syrup but hate to see them out in dead bees.

Q15. When you think about your bees, what makes you smile?
A. Thinking about the pollen sacs filled with pollen and them being busy in and out of the hive.

Q16. Do you like honey?
A. I love it and would eat honey all day every day if it wasn’t so fattening!

Q17. What annoys you about bees (apart from the stings)?
A. The way they stick everything together with propolis and how they always manage to get in the way when you close up the hive.

Q18. Do you talk to your bees?
A. I often talk talk to the bees whilst I am with them. When I had them in the garden, I would go and tell them things. Now they are in an out-apiary they get less information and more telling off.

Q19. How often are you asked to stop talking about bees?
A. Strangely, I have never been asked to stop talking about bees and often have strangers ask me questions as soon as they find out that I am a beekeeper. My daughter will laugh at me sometimes when I start talking about them in company.

Q20. Do you prefer sweet or savoury nibbles?
A. I definitely prefer sweet nibbles but will usually eat savoury ones.

Q21. What other interests do you have besides beekeeping?
A. I read (a lot! Mostly fantasy and Sci-Fi), knit, build jigsaws ( I especially like the 3-D ones). play board games (when I can find an opponent), pottering in the garden, watching films and TV series. I also enjoy DIY, using skills that I have learnt over the years and getting to use tools.

Q22. Who would you like to inspect a hive with?
A. I like to inspect hives with anyone, because everyone has a variety of experience and approach. So whether experienced or beginner, I find the different aspects a learning curve.

Q23. What sums up your attitude to bees and beekeeping?
A. I try to be calm and patient as possible at all times but I am still learning as well.

Training, Education and support for beekeepers in 2022

Following the successful move to the new apiary location at Shugborough ‘The Kennels Paddock’, we look forward to all members joining us on Saturday mornings and Thursday nights, commencing in May.  

On a Saturday morning, members are invited to support the apiary working group to undertake weekly inspections.  

Thursday nights will be a mix of social and educational, Covid and weather permitting, where all members will have an opportunity to share their experiences and catch up socially.  

The apiary and education teams will work closely to identify practical demonstrations deemed appropriate or necessary on our colonies and we will arrange subjects for discussion throughout the season.

If you have any suggestions on topics you would like to see covered or you would like to share your experience with other members, please get in touch with us.

Our education offer will continue with ….

Basic Assessment in Beekeeping
open to all who have managed at least one colony of bees for a minimum of 12 months – 6 study group sessions, followed by at least 2 sessions in the apiary before the assessment in July.

Anyone interested, please let us know before the end of January 2022.

Honeybee Health Certificate: open to those who have passed the Basic Certificate and kept bees for at least 3 years – 6 study group sessions followed by at least 2 sessions in the apiary before the assessment in July.

Anyone interested, please let us know before the 28th of February 2022.

General Certificate in Beekeeping Husbandry:  
Are there any members who have passed the Basic Certificate and have at least 5 years of beekeeping experience?  If so, why don’t you consider joining our Beekeeping General Husbandry study group which will run during 2022, for assessment in 2023. 

Study Groups
We will be running BBKA module study groups throughout 2022 based on the demand from members.  Study groups are a really good way of increasing your beekeeping knowledge and you don’t have to undertake the examination at the end.

We are currently running module 1 Honeybee Management, which takes place on the first Monday of the month via Zoom.  If you would like to join this study group or undertake any of education opportunities above, please email Trevor on Trevorsmith_13@yahoo.com

If you would like any more information about ways in which you can get more experience of handling bees at the apiary, take part in any of the education offers, or if you would just like to help, please email us at ssbka-mail@southstaffsbeekeepers.com

Stay well and safe 

Alan Greenman 

In the SPOTLIGHT – Committee Member Clive Stewart

Q1. How long have you been a beekeeper?
A. For approximately 22 years now.

Q2. Why did you become a beekeeper?
A. I always had a fascination for bees from as far back as I can remember, but a chance holiday to Mablethorpe had me take up beekeeping as a hobby.

Q3. What is your favourite bit of beekeeping kit?
A. My fold up bucket. It takes up no space in the van, and I don’t forget to put it in as it is always there.

Q4. How many bee suits do you have?
A. I have lost count, probably somewhere between 10 and 15?

Q5. What is your proudest beekeeping moment?
A. My first talk on bee removal at Stafford Bee group.

Q6. Do you have a favourite pair of socks?
A. Black Russian Navy socks from Army Surplus store in Ripley.

Q7. Who is your beekeeping hero or heroine?
A. I don’t really have one, but do have a great admiration for those that share their knowledge and experiences without prejudice. I like the works of Brother Adam, Clive de Bruyn and also enjoy listening to the likes of Anne Chilcott, Prof. Tom Seeley and Michael Palmer.

Q8. What beekeeping disasters have you had?
A. Too many to list, but I do not look at them as disasters, more like life lessons, because you never stop learning and disasters just make us better beekeepers

Q9. Which aspect of beekeeping do you like best?
A. Spring inspections. After the long winter months there is nothing more pleasurable than opening a hive on a warm spring day, as the trees, plants, birds and bees begin to come to life.

Q10. What is your least favourite beekeeping job?
A. Any job that involves honey, extracting and even jarring up. I know, I know, it sounds odd, but I so hate getting sticky.

Q11. If you didn’t keep bees, would you be a campanologist or a Morris dancer?
A. Mmm… Neither really ring my bell or have me waving my handkerchief with excitement. I’m having cold sweats just trying to think of an alternative.

Q12. What would be your best bit of beekeeping advice?
A. Take your time and enjoy it.

Q13. What would your last meal be?
A. I like food! So it is difficult for me to say one thing, but when I think about it, rabbit stew the way my mum would make it….

Q14. What is your favourite bit of a bee?
A. The sting… Ironically, I have a lot of respect for that part.

Q15. When you think about your bees, what makes you smile?
A. How bees have become the reason I get out of bed in the morning.

Q16. Do you like honey?
A. No.

Q17. What annoys you about bees (apart from the stings)?
A. Honey! it’s so sticky

Q18. Do you talk to your bees?
A. Yes, and I talk to everyone’s bees as well as my own.

Q19. How often are you asked to stop talking about bees?
A. Having a job like mine, all people want to do is talk bees, but I don’t have a problem with that.

Q20. Do you prefer sweet or savoury nibbles?
A. No real preference, it’s food and I like food.

Q21. What other interests do you have besides beekeeping?
A. Narrowboats, they are so relaxing and if I ever retire, it’s where I want to be.

Q22. Who would you like to inspect a hive with?
A. Richard Branson, Alan Sugar or Deborah Meaden. People in business fascinate me.

Q23. What sums up your attitude to bees and beekeeping?
A. There is no right or wrong way in beekeeping, only the way that suits you and your lifestyle. However, having dealt with a lot of bees in buildings in my work, I do believe in practising responsible beekeeping

The Club needs your help to move the Apiary

The club met with the National Trust (NT) at Shugborough on the October 6th 2021. Present were: Hayley Mival, General Manager NT, Helen Royall, Project Manager NT, Caroline Beacall, Head Gardener NT, Alan Greenman, Ed Bennett, Claire George and Jo Berriman.

It was a good positive meeting with the NT where they outlined their Shugborough Estate plan for the next five years.

They said that the south walled garden adjacent to the apiary needs extensive repairs to the wall, requiring scaffolding to be erected.

As this is planned to start early to mid November 2021 the NT asked us to move the hives away from the the wall.

As the rest of the planned site changes will also affect the apiary. Helen Royall the NT Project Manager suggested that we should consider relocating the apiary for the duration of the scheme. After discussing the options it was agreed to re-locate the apiary to the Kennels.

This will meet the club needs for the next 2-3 years when the apiary will move back to its present site with much improved facilities and storage.

Moving the apiary will be a big challenge for us. With your help we plan to do this work over the next few weeks. We will then be ready to run the apiary in its proposed new location for the next two years.
See below for the proposed schedule of work needed to re-locate the apiary to the paddock area on the Kennels site.

Your help with this will be very much appreciated. We will email the latest information on working party dates and times. Keeping the apiary fit for purpose and safeguarding the bees is very important. Please come along and help us over the next three weekends
starting on 23/24th October and continuing as needed on the 30/31st October and 6/7th November.

Remember to bring appropriate outdoor wear including gloves and boots and PPE with you along with the usual garden tools.

We will be clearing the ground, cutting down trees, trimming hedges and moving equipment, the marquee and our newly purchased shed. A lot of work for us to do in a very short time.

The Paddock – now!

Shugborough Apiary re-location plan October – November

Week 1

Saturday 23rd

• Box up container equipment & store in marquee
• Equipment regarded as not essential to be taken to Sure Store
• The Kennels car port to be cleaned & the roof growth to be removed
• Foliage surrounding car port area to be cut back
• Hardstanding to be cleaned or jet washed
• Work to start on clearing main paddock area, members bring the necessary equipment with them
• Cut back the identified trees to stump level where directed
• Close up & prepare the 5 hives & Nucs for temporary re-siting at The Lodge

Please see additional information within, notes below from our joint meeting with the National Trust on October 6th 2021

Sunday 24th

• Clive has kindly offered the use of one of his trailers to transport hives & Nucs to The Lodge
• If car port is cleared transport equipment from new shed over to The Kennels
• Transport generator & lawn mower to The Kennels
• Continue to transport equipment from stores to car port at The Kennels or utilise marquee as a holding bay
• Dismantle new shed and transport to The Kennels
• Bonfire to burn rubbish

Week 2

Saturday 30th

Shed to be moved and re-erected at The Kennels

• Pick up and continue with any outstanding tasks not completed
• Dayna has kindly offered the services of ‘Big Bertha’ (large rotary mower) to continue with paddock clearing
• Erect new shed
• Lift & transport redundant concrete slabs from existing apiary to The Kennels
• Identify where hives are going to be sited at The Kennels and lay slabs
• Empty old shed and dismantle for burning
• Bonfire

Sunday 31st

• Pick up and continue with any outstanding tasks not completed
• Remove & bag base & grit from former location of new shed
• Bonfire

Week 3 – November

Saturday 6th

• Pick up and continue with any outstanding tasks not completed
• Contents of dirty store to be transported to The Kennels
• Close up hives at The Lodge ready to transport to The Kennels on Sunday
• Close up & prepare remaining hives at “old” apiary site ready to transport to The Lodge on Sunday

Sunday 7th

• Transport hives from The Lodge to The Kennels
• Transport hives from “old” apiary to The Lodge
• Task mop up
• Remove metal Harris fences (clean and dirty stores) & transport to The Kennels
• Remove remaining redundant slabs and transport to The Kennels
• Final tidy up and Bonfire

Notes from our joint meeting with the National Trust on October 6th 2021

The Vision for the Shugborough Estate Project:
• It was stated that the club apiary is an integral part of the Shugborough estate and the Walled Garden and that South Staffordshire and District Beekeeping Association has a future at Shugborough

Project:
• Overview of the new car park, infrastructure changes and the Walled Garden project shared

Project time frames – the wall project:
• Scaffold being put up end of October / early November with the Walled Garden Apiary site being set up last of all (likely to be early November). Scaffold needs 4 metres of clearance from wall base

Apiary long term needs & wants:
• Outdoor facilities – water and electric and toilet facilities close to apiary
• Indoor facilities – room for training and meeting, away from apiary, changing, toilet and kitchen facilities
Agreed that the vision for the Plant Centre would work (will include shower facilities).
• Storage – secure, lockable, undercover, some of which needs to be in close proximity to the apiary, a lean-to style shed to be sited in a location along the wall within the apiary, design and final location to be confirmed
• Training site with potential for several hives open at once must be closed to public
• Access – level open area with vehicular and easy access. Good and convenient car parking
• Location – current aspect is ideal (in Walled Garden area) and will work in the future
• Interpretation – to be included in future designs.
• Apiary to be presentable.
• As many mature trees as possible to be retained for the bees and more mature orchard tree planting for size variation.
• Boundary line – park railings with a hedge mix e.g. hawthorn, field maple, holly mix

Apiary – temporary location:
• The choice of temporary apiary locations was discussed and confirmed as the paddock area at the Kennels
• The needs and wants of the club during this time period were agreed
• The outdoor spaces at the Kennels were agreed on as the temporary location for the apiary

Additional information:
• The Kennels Cottage is not available for use.
• The club has no access to the sheds, garage or cottage garden (within the walls and shown in red on the map above)
• There needs to be clear access at all times in front of the cottage, along the track to the cottage, to the double gates into the productive garden, apiary paddock and glasshouse complex (shown in yellow on the map)
• Areas defined on the map for storage are shown in purple, parking (blue) and apiary (green)
• The temporary site at the Kennels will only be available as a location for the club apiary whilst the walled garden undergoes repairs to the walls and while the infrastructure project associated with the car park and Walled Garden is completed
• Following the completion of these infrastructure and wall projects, the club apiary will return to the Walled Garden area
• National Trust agreed to provide water, electricity, outside lighting and ‘portaloo’ for the club within the designated apiary area
• Locations identified for the bee hives and car parking with hardstanding earmarked for the marquee and storage shed

License:
It was agreed that the current license would be extended to 2 years to cover the move of the apiary to the temporary site at the Kennels paddock area pending a review on when it can return to the walled garden area in October 2023.

Practical considerations:
• Transport required for moving hives. shed and equipment from existing apiary to new location
• Clearing and preparation of the Kennels area before the apiary can move in
• Dismantle old apiary and remove container

‘My Apiary’ – Brian and Karen

Karen and I have two apiaries consisting of eight hives and a couple of nucs.
The first is a south facing apiary with early morning sunshine (when available) in an urban setting, close enough to the Chase to sometimes produce heather honey if the weather is in our favour.


At the moment it consists of 6 hives and a couple of nucs, which will be combined later in the year if required. The apiary is now up to full strength after throwing out a drone layer and replacing it with a split from the same colony.

There was a virgin queen in the original hive, but it appears she never made it back after mating during the heavy rains we had early on. Still that’s all part of beekeeping.

The second apiary consisting of 2 hives is situated in HMP Stafford. Having worked in the prison for 26 years and with Karen working INSIDE as well, we were asked by the Governor, if he purchased a couple of hive with all the basic equipment, could we supply the bees and the knowhow to set up a teaching programme for the inmates.

That was over 3 years ago, and the situation has gone from strength to strength.
Its been very popular with inmates and to date we have taught the basics of beekeeping to half a dozen lads along with a long list of others who have shown an interest.

These two hives have been excellent honey producers, and the honey is now being sold to the inmates in 8 oz squeezy plastic bottles (glass not allowed). The proceeds from the sales help towards the upkeep of the hives, for fondant, wax etc.

The programme has been quite promising, and other establishments around the country have shown an interest, and are considering the same in their prisons. The biggest hurdle with setting up an apiary in a prison is security, but having worked at Stafford for such a long time there were ways to get around the rules.


These last 8 or 9 years have been a challenge, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always managed to keep going. HAPPY BEEKEEPING