What’s the buzz…? Beekeeping in Little Stoke

Tim Hewer, beekeeper in Little Stoke, Bristol.

In spring 2013, Tim Hewer was approached by a friend who needed a spot of land on which to keep his beehive. Tim accepted and assisted in setting up a new apiary, “I was standing there, wearing a pair of Marigolds and holding 10,000 bees. Listening to the low buzz, I slowly began to relax. It was that sound that grabbed me.”

Feeling inspired, Tim reached out to his friends and together they formed the Little Stoke Beekeeping Society. The society started with ten members who donated £30 each and by July 2013 a hive had been built and the first nucleus of bees moved in with help from South Gloucestershire Beekeepers Association, a local branch of The British Beekeepers Association.

The society has since grown, with twelve members tending to six hives named after local areas – Harry Stoke, Great Stoke, Little Stoke, Stoke Gifford, Stoke Lodge and Bradley Stoke.

Each hive houses a colony of honeybees who work hard and can produce upwards of 50 pounds (23 kilos) of honey from March to August. Bees will fly one and a half times around the world to produce one pound of honey. The queen is initially raised on a diet of royal jelly and lives for an average of three to four years, laying up to 2,000 eggs a day during the summer season, whilst the other members of the colony live for about six weeks in the summer and six months over winter, literally working themselves to death for the benefit of the colony. During the summer, there could be as many as 60,000 bees in one colony.

Tim devotes much of his time tending to the bees in all types of weather. When asked why beekeeping is such an important job he explains: “They pollinate a huge proportion of our food source. They are key to our survival.”

You may have heard in the news that the honeybee is in danger. There has been a dramatic decline in hives in the UK due to environmental changes such as the use of pesticides on crops and wet summers. Healthy honeybees are essential to the pollination of agricultural crops and the feed that we supply to poultry.

This is why Tim wants to see more local communities in South Gloucestershire actively engaging in effective beekeeping: ‘The beauty of beekeeping in suburbia is there are plenty of food sources for the honeybees to forage – We have hedgerows, gardens and woodland all within the three mile radius of Little Stoke. Our household gardens are so varied in foliage that urban colonies tend to do better than rural colonies.”

And the fruits of all this labour? Honey! The honey’s taste is dependent on the forage that the bees are able to gather. In August 2014, the Little Stoke Beekeeping Society extracted honey that tasted of elderflower and lime, which went on to win the first prize in the novice section of the annual South Gloucestershire Beekeepers Honey Show.

In the three years since the society began, it has achieved so much and Tim has exciting plans lined up. After auctioning off honey to raise money for Marie Curie, Tim now wants to branch out and help other local charities through the work that the beekeeping society does.

Concorde Medical Centre recently donated an urban hive to the society. Made from rigid plastic and bright purple in colour, Tim intends to use the hive to host Beekeeping Experience Days in which all proceeds made from tickets will be donated to charity.

If you are interested in beekeeping, a wealth of information can be found on the websites of the British Beekeepers Association, www.bbka.org.uk or South Gloucestershire Beekeepers Association, www.sgbka.org.uk, who have been pleased to help Tim and his volunteers in achieving their charitable aims and, of course, helping to maintain and increase the honeybee population.

• Tim can be contacted at tim.hewer@outlook.com

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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