It was all going so well when I first arrived at the apiary to do another routine check on the Farming Today beehive. There was a light breeze, the sky was blue, the birds were singing.
I was just admiring the view and the wildlife when it happened. I wasn't anywhere near a hive and hadn't had the chance to put my protective veil on, when a bee (definitely not one of the Farming Today bees) took a dislike to my newly shampoo'ed hair and, after buzzing around my head for a few seconds, dive-bombed my eye. I think my reaction was something along the lines of "ouch" as the bee speared my eyelid with its poisoned dart. Clive Joyce, our mentor, was there and scraped the sting out of my eyelid. Novices be warned - never pinch a sting out, always scrape it out. If you pinch it you'll squeeze more venom out.
Yes it did hurt - I was expecting that. But I wasn't expecting the pain that followed for 12 hours nor the Popeye look I had the following 2 days. But, 4 days later, my eye is now only slightly swollen and almost back to normal.
I tell you this not because I want sympathy (though I'll take it if it's offered) but as a timely reminder about the dangers of working with bees. I'm sure many beekeepers may be slightly irritated that I am making such a meal of this, many of them feel that we should celebrate the positive aspects of beekeeping. But stings are a problem, and they really hurt. For some who are particularly allergic, stings can be fatal. For the rest, our mentor, Clive informs me that once you're stung 20 times to get immunity. I'm 5% there already. I'd be interested to hear any of your views on stings - why did the bee go for me when I was nowhere near any hive? Do you have immunity from beestings - if so how long did it take you?
On the positive side. Farming Today now has two hives. The bees were clearly trying to swarm out of our first hive, so Chris and Clive 'artificially' swarmed the hive. Chris will post the mechanics of this later. It has now occurred to me that we'll have to go through the process of naming another Queen.
Aunty is still doing well in the first hive. Honey production going well and we're keeping our fingers crossed for Charlotte's cake. We've entered 4 categories at the Royal Show. Light honey, medium honey, honeycombe and honey cake. If you're planning to be at the Royal Show do come along and say hello. Chris and I will both be giving demonstrations in beekeeping on Wednesday 8th July at the BBKA tent.
Fran Barnes is Senior Producer at Farming Today