Wednesday 18 May 2011


My name, Deborah, is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Deborah is "bee".

So perhaps it isnt pure coincidence after all that I am so enthralled by these fascinating insects.

Luckier still, is the fact that I live only a few miles away from George Shepherd, who until recent times was the Secretary of the Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers Association.

George was extremely kind to allow me to accompany him on a hive inspection today. This time of year is incredibly busy for all beekeepers so the gesture was much appreciated.

George, waved me into the house, a beautiful old Rectory sitting proudly on the hill over looking the valley, towards the hamlet of Teigh

He was on the phone, expertly reassuring and advising a lady who had discovered a swarm on a fence nearby.

"Dont worry" he said, "they wont be aggressive, they are homeless and merely looking for a new pad"

Some beekeeper somewhere will have lost half of their colony and will be very keen to be reunited with it. Hope they make it back home.

Preventing a swarm is one of the most key roles for a beekeeper, not because swarms are dangerous, but because a beekeeper will lose half of his liquid gold producing colony if this happens.

Why do bees swarm and what instigates a swarm? Good question to be answered in another blog.

George was most helpful and resourceful. I knew I was in good hands. Whilst waiting, I looked out of the kitchen window, now you know I wouldnt mind doing the washing up looking out at that, would you?

All suited and booted we took the short car journey down the hill to the hives. Dont think I will ever forget the moment I donned my first bee suit!

First things first, George prepared his smoke gun to subdue the bees should they be feeling a tad feisty. Having had a bee inspector around the day before, he wondered whether they might be annoyed at being disturbed again.

I adored George's rustic hives. All handmade by himself and designed to suit the needs of the colony perfectly. I was very impressed. In fact I noticed George was ingenious with a lot of improvisation when it came to equipment. Why pay the prices the bee suppliers charge, he exclaimed.

It was mesmerising watching George tend to the hives.

He was methodical and meticulous but the thing I noticed most was how calm, gentle and respectful he was. This is their home, so going in there like a bull in a china shop is sure to upset them.
If it was my home I certainly wouldnt like it.

Up to 50,000 bees in a hive, thats alot of bees, especially when they are buzzing all around you and on you. I was surprised how relaxed I was and keen to have a little go myself.

George is incredibly knowledgeable, with over 20 years experience to pack into 3 hours, my brain turned into a sponge trying to absorb every droplet of information.

After a full inspection, the hives were reassembled but as careful as George was, a few casualties were squished in the process. The "supers" or hive layers are really heavy!

George gave me an analogy I will always use and remember:

"Think of the hive as the organism or the body and the bees are it's blood, it doesnt matter if a few droplets are lost" 

Isnt that a great way of looking at it.

Back at the ranch and George's work is not done.

Extraction and filtering of the honey. From this:

To this:

Yes George contstructed the filtering system himself.

Lets not forget the beeswax too!

At this time of year a beekeepers work is never done but I got the massive impression that George wouldnt have it any other way.

George's bees behaved impeccably, perhaps they knew I was a "newby" and no I didnt get stung. Result.

Encouraged and enthused by the fact that it's only a matter of when and not if, I left George and his bees, absolutely BUZZING!!!

1 comment:

  1. what a lovely post..and wierdly i watched the film 'a secret life of bees' last night...x