Frequently Asked Questions


This section provides a list of frequently asked questions which are grouped in four themed categories.

To find the information you require please scroll down the list, select your question and click ‘Answer’ to see the information available.

If you then want to find the answer to another question simply click top to return to the main list of questions and select your new question, or you can just scroll through more of the answers.

The ‘Answers’ provided are intended to add to and complement the information that you will also find elsewhere in the site.

Aspiring Beekeepers

Q. How much does it cost to be a beekeeper? Answer

Q. What equipment will I need? Answer

Q. What are the benefits of Reigate Beekeepers membership? Answer

Q. What geographical area does Reigate Beekeepers cover? Answer

Q. How can I join Reigate Beekeepers club? Answer

Q. Can I try beekeeping to see if I like it before committing? Answer

Q. I’m really nervous – do I have to handle bees? Answer

Q. Where is the teaching apiary located? Answer

Q. Can I just turn up at the teaching apiary? Answer

Q. When and where are the lectures held? Answer

Q. Is my garden suitable to keep bees? Answer

Q. How much time does beekeeping take up? Answer

Q. How much honey will I get? Answer

Q. When and how should I start keeping bees? Answer

Q. Do I need a licence to keep bees? Answer

Q. Will I get stung if I keep bees? Answer

Swarms, Honey Bees and other Insects

Q. What can be done about a swarm of bees in my garden? Answer

Q. How can I tell the difference between bees and wasps? Answer

Q. I have bumble bees in my shed / compost heap, what should I do? Answer

Offers of Apiary Sites, Hive Locations, and Sponsorship

Q. Could a site I have be suitable for an apiary? Answer

Q. Could one of your beekeepers locate their hive in my garden? Answer

Q. Can I or a group sponsor or adopt a hive? Answer

Q. How can I make donation? Answer

Q. How may I offer a Grant for or Sponsor a learning or fund raising activity? Answer

Beekeepers Talks and Information

Q. Can you give a beekeeping talk to my school, scout / brownie group, club meeting? Answer

Q. Can you tell me if there are beekeepers that live near me? Answer

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Q. How much does it cost to be a beekeeper?

Probably not as much as you think, and you can take it in steps to allow you to choose how much you want to spend and be involved.

Step 1 – join a beekeeping club, so that you get advice, support and practical experience about keeping bees.

Annual membership of Reigate Beekeepers is £49, which in addition to allowing you to attend our training apiary every week during the Summer season, and providing you with a mentor to guide you through your first beekeeping experiences, you also receive monthly editions of two national beekeeping magazines and Reigate Beekeepers own BeeNews magazine, plus insurance in case you loose your own bees. For the membership fee you can spend your first year learning about beekeeping before buying your own bees.

Step 2 – buy some beekeeping equipment, including a bee hive, clothing, and tools.

These can be bought separately, and excellent used equipment can be bought cheaply at equipment auctions such as those held by Reigate Beekeepers. But if you want to buy everything new, typical beekeeping starter kits cost around £350.

Step 3 – obtain some bees.

As a member of Reigate Beekeepers you can obtain a swarm of bees collected by our swarm collectors, or be given bees by other beekeepers. A typical contribution to Reigate Beekeepers Association for this support is £100. If you want to buy bees from commercial suppliers the costs is typically £200.

Step 4 – care for and feed your bees.

In addition to treating your bees to ensure they stay healthy, if you want to harvest the honey they produce you will need to feed them to ensure they remain healthy and have food to survive through the winter months. For each hive of bees this typically costs £30 each year.

Step 5 – harvest your honey.

To do this requires equipment to extract, filter and collect the honey. Extraction equipment can be hired from Reigate Beekeepers for typically £5 per week. Commercially available starter kits for harvesting honey are typically £400.

Step 6 – manage and maintain your bees each year

Discussion on the beekeepingforum.co.uk suggests that the cost of running a bee colony each year, taking into account the expenses for disease treatment, replacing equipment (such as brood frames every 2-3 years), and feed (sugar), was in the region of £65 per hive per year.

If you have no experience of beekeeping we strongly recommend that before you buy second-hand or, new equipment you try out one of our Beginners or, Taster Courses or, pay us a visit at our Training Apiary on a Wednesday evening from 6:30pm (April-August). There are many different types of hive, with a choice from many different materials (polystyrene/soft wood/cedar wood) which all have their pluses and minuses. It can be very confusing to an aspiring beekeeper so why not seek advice on the pros and cons before you take out your credit card.

We also have an annual Spring Auction of used equipment where you can usually buy much of what you may need at lower prices.

If you really can’t wait here are some useful web links to complement your own research:

Paynes Bee Farms

Fragile Planet

Thornes Beekeeping

Bees Online

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Q. What equipment will I need?

  • A beekeepers suit with hood
  • A pair of gloves
  • A smoker to calm your bees whilst inspecting your hive
  • A hive tool to assist with opening your bee hive
  • A bee brush to gently remove bees as you inspect your hive frames
  • A syrup feeder
  • A bee hive, comprised of a number of basic parts –

Roof / Crown Board / Super Boxes for Honey storage / Brood Boxes for bees to live and rear young bees / Queen Excluder to prevent the queen from laying in the honey stores / Base with mesh floor, landing board, entrance, and supporting legs,/Brood Frames & Super Frames plus wax foundation for each frames.

The above equipment can be purchased assembled (more expensive plus more expensive shipping) or, component parts with assembly instructions.

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Q. What are the benefits of Reigate Beekeepers membership?

Reigate Beekeepers is a very friendly club, with over 200 members it is one of the largest clubs in Surrey.

Membership brings many benefits, whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced beekeeper. These benefits include :-

    • Weekly meetings at our teaching apiary throughout the summer season (April to August) for both beginners and advanced members.
    • Local experienced beekeeper contacts near you for help and advice, including ‘mentors’ for those new to beekeeping.
    • Winter beekeeping courses with qualified tuition.
    • Winter lectures on subjects of interest to beekeepers (September to March).
    • Varied yearly programme of demonstrations, lectures, social events and visits.
    • Excellent teaching facilities. Our teaching apiary which was opened in 2010, has been purpose built to provide an ideal location for our members in a delightful countryside setting. Further development of the site is underway to extend and enhance these teaching facilities.
    • The club also manages a number of other apiaries, including one at Box Hill that is also used as a queen rearing centre for the benefit of members.
    • Purchasing with club discounts for your beekeeping supplies.
    • Monthly club newsletter and extensive library of books about beekeeping.
    • Membership includes monthly national magazines – BeeCraft and BBKA News.
    • Members only website which includes a discussion forum to ask questions and share beekeeping experiences and specific Reigate Beekeepers information.
    • Swarm collecting service, which provides new bees for club members.
    • Annual Honey Show, which provides the opportunity for members to display their bee products and achieve awards and prizes.
    • Insurance against Third Party claims and against bee loss through disease.
    • Extracting equipment for hire at a nominal charge.
    • Microscopy bee health clinics in the spring and autumn.
    • Members also participate in the Reigate farmers market, selling honey, and related products such as beeswax candles.

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, and one that makes a very significant contribution to the protection of our wildlife and our environment.

Above all, membership of Reigate Beekeepers provides the opportunity to meet other friendly and interested beekeepers and learn more about beekeeping.

Click here to submit a Membership Enquiry or to Request a Membership Application form

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Q. What geographical area does Reigate Beekeepers cover?

The Reigate Beekeepers Association is a Division of the Surrey Beekeepers Association and covers a large area of the south-east of the County, taking in the approximate boundaries of Dorking, Mole Valley, Leatherhead/Ashstead, Reigate & Banstead, and Tandridge District Councils.

However members also come from as far a field as Crawley, Horsham, Epsom, Horley, Caterham, Warlingham, Nutfield, Wescott, Abinger, Capel, Newdigate, and Godstone. Some people travel much further on occasions to attend our courses and lectures.

Q. How can I join Reigate Beekeepers?

To join the Reigate Beekeepers please contact the Membership Secretary by clicking Membership Enquiry and provide some details about yourself and your interest in beekeeping.

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Q. Can I try beekeeping to see if I like it before committing?

Yes we are very happy for you to do this, and there is no need to become a member of Reigate Beekeepers until you are sure you will enjoy beekeeping. You can try beekeeping during the summer months by joining us at our teaching apiary, or during the winter months we run lectures about beekeeping at the Woodhatch Centre, just south of Reigate. All we ask is a contribution towards the tea and coffee at the summer meetings and £2 for the winter lectures.

Winter Lectures

Reigate Beekeepers run a series of lectures and talks on beekeeping subjects during the winter months, (September to March). These normally take place on the first Wednesday evening of the month and are held at the Woodhatch Centre, just south of Reigate. Please click this link for details of the centre http://www.woodhatchca.org.uk/

Other lectures on specific topics and courses suitable for beginners and more advanced beekeepers are also run by both Reigate Beekeepers and other associations. Please click Beginners Course to see the information about our courses for those considering or starting out on beekeeping.

Summer Teaching Apiary Meetings

The apiary is approximately 10 minutes south of Dorking, between Newidgate and Holmwood. For security purposes its detailed location is not be published here, but please contact us if you would like to visit this apiary.

Please click here and use the ‘Other Queries’ contact form to enquire about trying beekeeping, possibly by attending a Wednesday evening session at our Teaching Apiary (during April to August), or by joining our Beginners Course.

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Q. I’m really nervous – do I have to handle bees?

No, and not until you feel fully confident and want to handle bees. As you gain experience during the training at our club apiary you can go at your own pace. Just let your mentor know, and they will ensure that your experience develops at your pace to develop your confidence. You will never be expected to do anything until you feel you are confident and ready.

Bee are naturally gentle creatures, and you will be shown how to keep them calm and handle them so that there will be no need to be nervous.

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Q. Where is the teaching apiary located?

The apiary is approximately 10 minutes south of Dorking, between Newidgate and Holmwood. Please click here and use the ‘Other Queries’ contact form to ask about visiting our teaching apiary.

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Q. Can I just turn up at the teaching apiary?

It’s always best to contact us beforehand to ensure the apiary will be open.

Because of security reasons we do not make the specific location of our teaching apiary publicly available. However, we are very happy for any one who may be interested in beekeeping to attend any apiary meeting throughout the summer season.

Please click here and use the ‘Other Queries’ contact form to let us know you would like to attend a meeting, and to obtain the details of the location of the apiary. Then when you arrive at the apiary for the first time just ask for a committee member and they will be happy to assist you and show you what happens in the apiary.

Meetings are held on each Wednesday evening of the month from April to August, from 6:30pm (weather permitting).

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Q. When and where are the lectures held?

Reigate Beekeepers runs a series of lectures and talks on beekeeping subjects during the winter months, (September to March). These normally take place on the first Wednesday evening of the month and are held at the Woodhatch Centre, in Whitebeam Drive, which is located close to the Woodhatch cross roads on the A217, approximately one mile south of Reigate. Please click this link for details of the centre http://www.woodhatchca.org.uk/

However, they are occasionally held at other locations so, it’s always best to check this website for current details.

Other lectures on specific topics and courses suitable for beginners and more advanced beekeepers are also run by both Reigate Beekeepers and other associations.

Please see the information provided on this site, and click Beginners Course to see the information about our courses for those considering or starting out on beekeeping.

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Q. Is my garden suitable to keep bees?

Most gardens could be suitable for keeping bees, but there are some things to consider before locating a bee hive in your garden.

Will your neighbours be concerned ?

If you are on good terms, talk to them before moving bee hives into you garden. A good gesture is to offer them some of your honey harvest, and explain how important bees are to the environment.

Locating hives so that their entrances face away from neighbours, and surrounding the hives with fences or hedges so that the bees fly up when they leave the hive is often beneficial.

Bees will require a source of water.

This can be a simple watering tub in your garden, and this is preferable to them congregating around your neighbours pond or swimming pool.

Bee hives should preferably not be located under trees, or other overhangs which may drip water on to the hive.

A location where they can benefit from early morning sun shine is ideal. However, they should not be too exposed to direct sunshine during the hottest part of the day; dappled shade at midday is possibly the best situation. Also avoid areas which can become waterlogged and areas which are frost pockets.

The overall ground area required for each hive must include room for you to stand when you are inspecting your bees.

You will also need space alongside the hive to place equipment and parts of the hive such as the roof as you undertake the inspection. Sufficient space so that you have access to the hive from all four sides is also preferential.

Plan that in future you will probably have at least two hives.

Keeping two colonies of bees makes it easier to manage and compare the behaviour of your bees and will be useful for  swarm prevention techniques.

If possible place your hive on a few paving slabs. Ventilation of the hive is very important, and the paving slabs will prevent grass and weeds growing which may restrict air flow, as well as provide a sound foundation.

It is also wise to ensure that your hives are not located close to public paths or other points of public (or your own) access which may cause concern, or allow any one to damage your hives.

Although it is very unlikely to be a problem, if there are already other bee hives close to your garden you should consider if there are sufficient sources of pollen and nectar available to support all the bees. Bees are however capable of flying  three miles or more, from their hive to find suitable sources of pollen and nectar.

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Q. How much time does beekeeping take up?

Beekeeping is a seasonal hobby therefore the time varies with the seasons. In the middle of winter there is practically nothing to do, except to occasionally check for physical damage and that the hive entrance is clear.

The busiest time is the summer when each hive should be checked weekly. When you get the hang of it this need take no longer than typically ten minutes. Other tasks such as feeding and treating your bees also only take a few minutes.

But be warned, beekeeping is a fascinating hobby, and just watching the wonderful behaviour of your bees can take hours !!

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Q. How much honey will I get?

There are many factors which will affect how much honey you can harvest, not the least being the weather. In a really good season, with lots of sunny days, a large and healthy colony can produce over 60 lbs of honey. Remember also that some honey needs to be left for the bees to feed on during the Winter.

With favourable factors, the average bee hive should produce between 20 – 30 lbs of surplus honey that you can harvest.

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Q. When and how should I start keeping bees?

Well think of beekeeping as circle, with the activities linked to the seasons. You could start at any point in that circle, but it is best to start by planning, reading and talking to beekeepers.

You can join in Reigate Beekeepers’ events as a visitor, at any time. We hold weekly practical sessions at our training apiary during the summer (April to August), and monthly lectures on beekeeping topics during the winter (September to March).

If you attend our winter lecture meetings you will meet real beekeepers as well as listen to talks on subjects related to beekeeping.

We run a beginners course which is held from January to March. Attend this course to gain further advice, learn about what you require, and some of the theory and history of beekeeping. Click Beginners Course for details of our current course.

In April we begin our practical experience meetings at our training apiary. At these meetings you will have a mentor as you gain ‘hands on’ experience, which will develop your knowledge and confidence in handling bees.

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Q. Do I need a license to keep bees?

Not in the UK, in some other countries yes.

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Q. Will I get stung if I keep bees?

The answer is yes, eventually. Bees are not aggressive and naturally are gentle creatures. We keep calm bees at our apiary, and most stings are the fault of the beekeeper, due to squashing bees under their fingers whilst manipulating hives.

Bees will not generally sting if they are not provoked. A bee may sting if it is provoked by flapping at it or, if it becomes trapped in your hair or crushed. When close to a bee hive avoid flapping your arms and moving rapidly, if the bees are antagonised, walk away through undergrowth or trees if possible.

A few people are severely allergic to bee stings, but most will only swell for a short time and then gradually become more immune. If you are stung remove the sting asap by scraping the sting out with your finger nail. The sting still pumps venom for some time after the bee has left.

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Q. What can be done about a swarm of bees in my garden?

Do not be concerned or panic; bees within a swarm are very unlikely to cause any concern to humans. The bees in a swarm are universally in a good mood. Also they cannot easily sting even if antagonised because they have gorged themselves with honey and cannot get their bodies into the best position to sting.

Swarms are nature’s way of colony reproduction. In simple terms, approximately half the bees, and the old queen leave the hive to search for a new home. If the swarm is not causing a nuisance then leave it, gradually the bees will cluster in a bush or tree and remain there for up to three days. During that time scout bees will be sent out to look for a new home.

Swarm Collection is a service that is no longer provided by our local authorities. Instead, members of the public, contacting their District or County Council offices or local Police for help or advice about dealing with a swarm, are most likely to be referred either to a local Pest Control business or to a nearby Beekeeper.

It is preferable not to contact a Pest Control business, bees need to be protected. For those in the immediate Reigate, Redhill and Dorking areas, Reigate Beekeepers offer a swarm collection service to members of the public.

To see the contact details for our local Swarm Collectors please click Found a Swarm?  and scroll down the page.

Or if you want to learn more about the service that Reigate Beekeepers offers please click here Swarm Collection Service .

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Q. How can I tell the difference between bees and wasps?

Both honey bees and bumble bees have a furry appearance to their bodies, with generally amber to brown translucent alternating with black stripes; whereas wasps may have only a few hairs on their body with black and opaque yellow stripes. The tip of the body of the wasp is pointed compared to the rounded shape of the bee.

Honey Bees are the highest form of insect life, they live in a well organised colony that does not need to hibernate. They produce honey and store it in wax comb and use the same hive from one year to the next. The typical peak population in the hive is 35,000-80,000.

Wasps start in the spring with a single queen wasp that has hibernated under leaves or in cracks. The queen wasp builds a new hive constructed from paper and about the size of a golf ball. This hive builds up through the summer, however no honey is stored. In the autumn the colony organisation breaks down, with homeless wasps becoming an increasing nuisance around bins and rubbish. The typical peak population in the nest is 10,000.

Only honey bees swarm. Do not be concerned if you discover a swarm, bees within a swarm are very unlikely to cause any concern to humans. Swarms are nature’s way of colony reproduction. In simple terms, approximately half the bees, and the old queen leave the hive to search for a new home. Often, whilst scout bees are out looking for somewhere suitable they cluster on a tree branch.

Other differences include:-

Features Bees Wasps
Legs Legs not generally visible when flying. May have yellowish coloured pollen baskets on their legs. Two long legs which hang down and are visible during flight. No pollen baskets on their legs.
Nests Normally in bee hives containing combs made of wax. In protected cavities such as attics or under roof eaves. The nest is papery in appearance and is made of chewed wood.
Food Nectar and pollen from flowers and plants. Other insects, overripe fruit, sugary drinks, human food  / food waste, meat.
Sting Bees only sting once (unless it is a queen bee, which spends almost all their life in the bee hive). The sting is barbed and when used it pulls out of the bee resulting in her death. Wasp can sting more than once. Their sting is smooth and is retracted after use.

Bumble Bees or as the Victorian’s called them ‘humble bees’ live like wasps, as only the queen hibernates and survives the winter. In the spring the queen bumble bee seeks a suitable hole and builds within it a nest of leaves and moss. She constructs nodular wax cells and incubates her young as a bird would. As her first offspring hatch and begin to fly the queen increasingly stays within the hive to produce young. Bumble bees do make a small amount of honey and store it in one special cup like cell. There is no more than a tablespoon at any time. The typical peak population in the nest is only 40-60.

There are about twenty species of bumble bees in the UK, as well as many species of solitary bee.

For more information about bees, wasps, (and ants), and how to identify them please click this link Bees and Wasps to the national society dedicated to studying and recording bees, wasps and ants in Britain and Ireland.

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Q. I have bumble bees in my shed / compost heap, what should I do?

If at all possible leave them alone. They are under threat and do struggle to find natural habits these days, and they are very non aggressive. It is not possible to move their nest, they will die. If you can live with them until the autumn they will naturally leave anyway and not use that nest again. If you are reasonably careful you will be able to walk around them real close up, without them bothering you at all.

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Q. I have a site which I think may be suitable for an apiary?

Thank you for considering offering an apiary site to Reigate Beekeepers. We have many members who may be interested in locating bees on suitable sites.

Please click the following link BBKA Leaflet which will open a leaflet ‘Choosing an Apiary Site’ that outlines some of the factors a beekeeper will consider when looking at the suitability of a site for an apiary. You may find this helpful to review the offer of your site.

If you feel you would like to proceed with your offer please contact our Apiaries Coordinator by clicking Out-Apiary Site Offer and use the form to provide some details of your site – approximate location, size of site, ease of access, ground conditions, type of site, surroundings, and your reason for offering the site.

If the site sounds suitable we will then advertise the details of your offer in our monthly newsletter at the beginning of the month inviting members who may be interested to contact you to discuss.

Contact Enquiry Form Link

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Q. Could one of your beekeepers locate their hive in my garden?

Thank you for your offer, one of our members may be interested in taking up the opportunity that you offer.

We will need some details about your garden, its location and surroundings in order to determine its suitability. Please click Out-Apiary Offer and use the form to tell us these details as well as perhaps the reason why you would like a bee hive in your garden, and how you would like to be contacted. If the site sounds suitable we will then advertise the details of your offer in our monthly newsletter at the beginning of the month inviting members who may be interested to contact you to discuss.

Contact Enquiry Form Link

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Q. Can I or a group sponsor or adopt a hive?

Yes we are looking for people who want to help the nation’s bees, but may not want to become a beekeeper.

Reigate Beekeepers provide a ‘sponsor a bee hive’ opportunity for individuals, schools, other groups, or businesses.

If you’d like to find out more about sponsoring, please click here. [sorry, ocument being updated]

If you participate in the ‘sponsor a bee hive’ scheme we can offer you the chance to visit and see the hive (all safety equipment provided). A brand new hive is purchased, and, along with a certificate, the hive itself has the name of the sponsor.

Please click Sponsor-a-Hive and use the form to make an offer or to request more information.

If you’d like to make a partial donation towards the cost of a complete hive, we can also combine individual contributions – please do get in touch.

Sponsoring a hive can form part of a school or community project.

For schools, if you want to sponsor a hive you can join our ‘adopt a bee hive’ programme. We will give you updates about your hive, visit the school to talk to your classes about beekeeping and show them a range of items, such as equipment, hive equipment, honey etc. With sufficient notice, we may also be able to attend with an observation live bee hive. Further information about our involvement with schools can be found Bees in the Curriculum

Contact Enquiry Form Link

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Q. How can I make donation?

We will be extremely happy to receive any donations, that will contribute to the development of our Education facilities.

Donations can be accepted directly by our beekeepers wherever we can be found … at Local Shows, our own Honey Show, the monthly Farmers Market in Redhill, or even when responding to calls about Swarms of bees!

If you would like to make a donation by post (cheque) or directly to our account (bank transfer), please contact our Treasurer for address or bank details using this link …

Contact Enquiry Form Link

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Q. How may I offer a Grant for or Sponsor a learning or fund raising activity?

Our Grants & Sponsorship Team will be delighted to discuss opportunities for you to either sponsor or provide a grant towards activities we are either already, or wishing to undertake.

Please use the link below to make an intial direct contact and one of the team will respond within a day or two.

Contact Enquiry Form Link

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Q. Can you give a beekeeping talk to my school, scout / brownie group, club meeting?

Many of our members are happy to give talks on bee related topics, and we have equipment including an observation live bee hive which can be used to show the fascinating life of honeybees.

Please click here and use the ‘Invite a Speaker’ contact form to contact us and give a few details about what you would like – proposed date of talk, location, audience, reason for the talk etc., your telephone number, and we will ask our members to see if one of them may be available.

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Q. Can you tell me if there are beekeepers that live near me?

If you would you like to get in touch with a member of Reigate Beekeepers who keeps hives near you please click here and use the ‘Other Queries’ contact form, and we will try our best to help. You will need to provide your address, name, and contact details, along with the reason for your enquiry (e.g you want to buy their honey, you are interested in beekeeping etc).

Remember our membership does not cover every beekeeper in the area, and not all beekeepers have honey for sale to the public.

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