Hi Honey I'm Home!

Amateur apiarist Brian Whitley on the back garden beekeeping revolution

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Brianís Amazing Facts About Honeybees


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Much has been documented about the demise of the humble honeybee, but it may have found an unlikely urban ally in the amateur apiarist.

In back gardens all over London a revolution in bee keeping is taking place thanks to an expensive but effective marketing campaign for an innovative new beehive called ‘beehaus’. However this modern piece of engineering looks nothing like a hive to me or something that would be attractive to bees or indeed that I would want at the end of my garden.

I shared my views with self proclaimed traditional apiarist and Chiswick resident Brian Whitley who described how he got hooked on back garden bee keeping.

“It’s quite difficult to keep bees these days and it’s becoming more expensive,” says Brian a Medical Scientist by day specialising in genetics. “Hives costs around £400 and that’s before you have a spinner or any of the gear. It’s not a cheap hobby but nevertheless it’s extremely rewarding hobby.

Brian has been keeping bees more than 30 years “I was a very early bee keeper in my 20’s. I met another bee keeper by coincidence and she happened to have her beehives in an orchard in Wimbledon which was on National Trust land.

“The first thing that struck me was that one can make money out of bees – I was young and starting off, trying to buy a house so I was always thinking of angles how to make a bit extra cash - and the other thing that struck me was the beautiful location the beehives were at. I thought gosh wouldn’t it be nice just to hang out around here.

“I asked her what I needed to do to start and she explained that I would need a swarm. As I was talking to her that late afternoon, in the tree above me a huge swarm started to collect. Admittedly we were in the apiaries, but the statistical chance of that happening whilst standing beneath the tree chatting about bees is very slim. So I took it as an omen.

“Legally I was allowed to have the swarm so she lent me a hive. I think the first year the bees died but by then I was struck by it so the next year I set up about six to eight hives in this orchard. This meant I had the keys to the orchard and I could go there and hang out there, it was wonderful. I kept bees there for ten years and became more and more committed to them.”

When Brian moved into the Chiswick home he shares with his wife in Lynn, he set up his hives there. “First we kept them on the large area of flat roof but the exposure to the elements wasn’t good for the bees so the hives were moved to the end of the garden where they are in the ideal position with shelter from sun and rain.”

It is here that the bees live in harmony producing Chiswick Honey which, I can say with all sincerity, is the most delicious honey I have ever tasted. Although it’s never going to make the couple enough to retire on, the produce they make from their bees’ honey is outstanding. It can be bought via chiswickbees@gmail.com., from Chiswick Local Produce, a glut trading scheme based in W4 or can be sampled in various dishes at The Roebuck.

Brian’s Amazing Facts About Honeybees

Emma Brophy

November 17, 2009