New ‘Bee’ginings: The University of Sheffield Beekeeping Society’s Top Tips

Harvey Boughey shares his top tips for ‘bee’gining your own community of beekeepers in part two of a set of articles by The University of Sheffield Beekeeping Society.

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Gaining interest and maintaining a smaller more niche society can be tricky however there is still plenty you can do. Below we’ve created a list of what we believe to be some key things to do in order to keep your society alive and buzzing!

Yearly training:

Providing training for individuals interested in having an active society role in the next year is a great way to draw people in and future proof your society for years to come. Although you may already be a competent beekeeper you want your society to thrive after you’ve left, and many hands do make light work. We subsidise our training if they do it through the society and its provided by the Sheffield Beekeepers Association (SBKA)

Get happy bees:

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Although this may sound trivial even if you’re confident around bees, as a keeper, nicer bees will always make your job easier. It’s also important to remember that a majority (if not all) new members will have never been around a beehive so having some placid easily manipulated bees could really help spark interest as oppose to putting people off.

Local beekeeping association- people are really helpful:

Your local beekeeping association is you most crucial ally, they will likely provide training, advice, resources and swarm removal if needed. At its heart, beekeeping is a very cooperative hobby so it’s almost certain that your local association would jump at the opportunity to help you.

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Bee Socials

Unlike many other societies because there are finite numbers of hives, suits equipment etc only a small section of the society can directly interact with the bees at one time so it’s important to make those on the periphery feel included. The best way to do this is make a bee related social from as much as you possibly can, we plan to run instructive hive deconstructions with no bees for interested members, candle making, honey processing and much more. Make sure that everyone feels included and connected to the bees, hive and product since that’s why they’re members.

Give it a go:
These are a great way to quickly drum up some interest in your hives as well as be informative, they provide a glimpse into society life for those that are still on the fence allowing them to not only feel involved but also integral since each check is important to assess the health of your hive. 

Good and consistent equipment:

Equipment is integral to a society but for me personally, my biggest pet peeve is low quality/inconsistent equipment. It’s important to not buy loads of stuff otherwise start-up costs can be high it would be better to buy quality and a consistent style of hive/ frame spacing etc. This will not only set you in good stead for the societies future but also prevent any incompatibilities due to hive box sizing/ frame spacing, something that may seem small but when you’ve got 6 different sizes of hive box and can only fit 9 frames in your 10 frame box with a massive gap at the back doomed to be filled with grace comb you may thank us. One option would be if your university has a woodworking society you could collaborate with them to produce a handmade hive since all the blueprints are public domain online.

Find a good location:

This is key, you need somewhere out of the way of the public but still easily accessed and ideally owned by the university (so you can go in and out at your leisure). As long as you have decent enough flowering plants in the area you should be okay, you could also see if there are any baron/unkempt areas nearby which your society could transform for the local bee population to bolster flower numbers for foraging, plus this gives you a good opportunity for a social

Don’t buy everything! You can borrow some stuff:

Similar to earlier you need some equipment (we will provide a list at the bottom of what we’d suggest you need) but don’t go overboard as I said earlier beekeeping is a very cooperative hobby and most of the more expensive equipment (e.g. honey extractor) could be borrowed from your local association, nevertheless large expensive purchased for infrequent use will only put a nasty dent in your society’s budget.

Draw people in somehow:

With something like beekeeping many people have never even considered it as something they may be interested in, so it’s important to be noticeable at your Societies Fair. Be enthusiastic, answer questions, give out flyers, strike up conversation, give out things. We’ve decided this year to make honey flavoured/themed confectionery to give out to all new members in a bid to draw people in. Get creative but most importantly, be memorable.

Don’t be disheartened:

Finally, don’t be disheartened if it’s slow, societies can take years to fully blossom and you can rest easy knowing you are doing something rewarding with a huge environmental impact.

Essential kit list

If you’re looking to get started but are confused as to what essentials you need to get going, we’ve put together a handy list of what we consider you need:

  • Bee Suit
  • Bee Gloves
  • Hive tool
  • Smoker
  • One brood box (including frames)
  • Three supers (including frames)
  • Landing board
  • Queen excluder
  • Crown board
  • varroa board
  • feeder
  • Queen cage
  • Queen marker
  • Spare frames
  • Frame spacer (only if your frames are not self-spacing)
  • Nuc (However a usable box for this usually comes with the bees you’ve bought)

Missed the first article by The University of Sheffield Beekeeping Society? Find out about their work in ‘Bees, Beer and Budding Apiarists’ here. If you’re a student at the University of Sheffield, find out more about the Beekeeping Society and become a member here. You can also join their Facebook group.

About The Author: Harvey Boughey studies at the University of Sheffield.

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