Why not hive a go at beekeeping?

Keen beekeeper Eddie Farrell tends to his hive
Keen beekeeper Eddie Farrell tends to his hive

WIGANERS who are buzzing with enthusiasm for beekeeping are hoping other people will help the environment by taking up the hobby.

The number of residents in the borough donning a beekeeper’s protective outfit and looking after their own hives is growing amid dire warnings from scientists about plummeting insect populations.

The Ormskirk and Croston Beekeeping Group, which covers the borough, hopes more Wiganers will join its growing band of members from the area and says beekeeping is neither as expensive nor time consuming a hobby as some people may be led to think.

Increasing colony numbers could also play an important role in boosting the area’s green credentials, as honey bees are responsible for pollinating many important food crops.

Tutor Martin Smith, from Skelmersdale, said: “We have people who keep bees in quite small spaces so providing they have access to trees and are not overlooked they should be fine. You need to devote about an hour or two per hive once a weekn during the active season. It is quite technical and you have to know what’s going on in a hive, so that’s why we run our courses.

“Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby and we’ve a whole range of people aged from about 15 to pensioners. It attracts those interested in the environment or fascinated by the science. Ironically town-dwellers are actually doing better than those in the countryside at protecting bees because they are planting a wider range of flowers and councils are getting involved.”

Martin says anyone interested in keeping bees should be able to get up and running for around £500, to cover tuition, protective clothing, a hive and the insects themselves.

The Ormskirk and Croston organisation has its HQ at Kings Moss near Billinge where it runs an introductory course made up of classroom tuition, a day at the apiary and eight weekly sessions. It also maintains 15 hives on site.

The job of looking after the tens of thousands of bees there falls to apiary manager Eddie Farrell, from Bryn, who also has around 10 hives of his own at two sites near home.

Eddie first became interested in beekeeping four years ago and quickly became enthralled by the complex and fascinating lives of the social insects. The 51-year-old said: “I ran a Cubs group and we were given some money so we decided we would do something environmental and purchase a beehive. I’ve always liked the thought of keeping bees but never went down that route. But once I started I found out I loved it.

“I knew bees were having a lot of trouble so I thought I could help out by becoming a beekeeper. The first season we had a pretty bad time with them because we lost our queen and had several problems, but we managed to get them through it and decided one hive wasn’t enough. After the basic beekeeping courses you can move on to do modules on the way to becoming a master beekeeper. I’ve done the first one and I’m studying for my second at the moment.

“They are really interesting insects and there’s quite a few beekeepers in Wigan now with everybody willing to help people out.”

To find out more, visit www.bbka.org.uk/local/ormskirkandcroston/courses/index or email Martin at Ormskirk_beekeepers@hotmail.com