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Bee Fever

An addiction (well, sort of!) to beekeeping

This is not quite as daft as it sounds, as anyone who has kept bees for a lengthy period will know that bee fever can be a major problem with some beekeepers.

I have been involved in beekeeping a long time and have seen many people come into the craft. You can almost "pigeon hole" them into about six groups. In my view bee fever happens in the first couple of years, usually with those who will say "wow" at anything they are shown, in what might be described as false enthusiasm. They read anything they can find, turn up early at every meeting, buy a load of kit and bees before they are ready for them and sometimes ask the daftest questions. Despite reading all the books and asking all the questions, they rarely seem to be able to understand what is going on inside a hive, or what should be happening.

Having got their first colony, they quickly acquire more, either from a swarm from their own colony, because they haven't understood the swarming principles - or they have listened to the wrong advice! Very often they put themselves on the local swarm list or contact the local council, pest controllers, police and anyone who will take their details. They of course end up with a lot of swarms towards the end of the summer, because other beekeepers have got fed up collecting them! They will buy up all bees that are offered for sale too.

Equipment is bought at an alarming rate and often nailed together wrong, or worse still glued, so it can't be taken apart! I have been the auctioneer at the West Sussex BKA auction for many years and can spot those with bee fever a mile off. They ask me some elementary questions and often bid enthusiastically for junk or different hive types! Very often they bring back what they bought in error the following year, so I sell it to someone else who has the same condition! I term these "boomerang lots".

Not everyone who builds up colony numbers reasonably quickly suffers from bee fever. Some are so good at an early stage they are well capable of looking after a reasonable number of colonies in a controlled way. Quite frankly I will encourage those with a bit of common sense to have more colonies if they wish, because they will learn quicker. I have to admit to putting 24 colonies into my second winter, but I had the guidance of an incredibly good beekeeper and I think I picked up beekeeping quite quickly.

In my experience bee fever doesn't last very long, a couple of years at the most. Quite often the enthusiasm wanes after a few stings, or the partner (if they haven't been the victim of partner fever!) has decided to step in. "Sting allergy" is often a secondary infection to bee fever, so what does that mean? You know it, don't you? Lots of kit put up for sale, or occasionally left where it stands to rot.

The person concerned has disappeared and onto their next project, where they will get fishing fever or hang gliding fever!

Oh! I didn't mention, bee fever can affect both sexes and at any age!

Roger Patterson.