Beekeeping at Southport Meeting House

My name is Sue Hornby and I have been beekeeping for sixteen years. For at least ten of those years I have kept some colonies at the Friends Meeting House in Southport.

The garden is a pleasant, peaceful enclosed area and at the moment I have two colonies there. The bees are gentle creatures and go pleasantly about their business. There have been one or two swarms over the years but they have been collected efficiently with little disturbance to the neighbours.

As with any activity involving living creatures you learn to expect the unexpected. There have been years when the harvest has been plentiful and some where they have only produced enough honey to see themselves though the winter. There was one awful year when both colonies didn’t make it though the winter. 2018 when the ‘beast from the east’ managed to kill off many colonies nationwide. But I restocked and, fingers crossed, despite lockdown this year the colonies seem fine.

The Meeting House, as with all communal spaces, can be very busy so I have learned to coordinate my inspections with the friends. For obvious reasons this year has been different as I and the caretaker have been the only people visiting. This ends next week when my Sunday visits will be more closely timetabled not to disturb the meetings.

My ‘rent’ is paid in honey. I tithe every super harvested so it does vary from season to season.

Honey is not the only product of the hive. I can get wax (which I use to make hand creams, body creams and medical balms). Bees also produce propolis, royal jelly and pollen but I don’t harvest these as doing so can put stress on the colony. I never take all the honey they produce. There is always enough for for their winter stores I only ever harvest excess.

In short I have found the friends helpful, kind and understanding, the garden peaceful and pleasant and my experience housing my hives with the friends positive.

Sue Hornby

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