How it all began

So, bringing you up to speed to where I currently am:

My beekeeping adventures really began in May 2011 when my husband (somewhat reluctantly) and I (very excitedly) attended a one-day Beekeeping Appreciation Course. It was a wedding gift from a friend and no, I didn't purposely put it on the registry list. Hosted by the local branch of the Warwickshire Beekeeper's Association - Warwick & Leamington Beekeepers (W & LB) - we learnt about the varieties of bees, the beekeeping calendar, how bees produce honey, the beekeeper's tools and then we even got to don a beesuit and see a hive for ourselves. I just felt amazed by these little creatures who all work so tirelessly for the benefit of their colony. Anyway, I won't drone on about all that (see what I did there). Ultimately, I left the one-day course with a little kernel of excitement in my belly that this was just the beginning of my beekeeping journey.

So, I joined W & LB as an associate member (individuals who aren't beekeepers but have a general interest in beekeeping) and signed up for the Introduction to Beekeeping Course, which took place for six weeks starting in January 2012. I learnt loads about all aspects of beekeeping. In our last session we went out to the Branch Apiary in the beautiful setting behind the Parish Church in Bubbenhall, Warwickshire, and got to play with the bees ourselves (not literally obviously).

Here are some of the course members. I'm the 'Michelin Man' on the far left 

A very smiley and windswept me holding up a frame of bees 

In the meantime, I had ordered a lime green Beehaus from Omlet. The reason why I opted for the Beehaus is that I wrote an article about the design of it a few years back for a magazine I previously worked for. The founders, all four of whom were friends whilst studying industrial design at the Royal College of Art, are lovely guys and all passionate about what they do. Having launched the famed Eglu Chicken coop in 2004, the company have since diversified and now design homes for all sorts of household pets (bees, of course, aren't pets but can be housed in an urban garden).

I have also located a home for my Beehaus. My garden is too tiny but a friend is very kindly letting me have a patch of her garden in the centre of Leamington Spa. The only 'rent' I have to pay is a couple of jars of honey at the end of the season.

The Omlet Beehaus - I've opted for a lime green one

On Saturday 22 April 2012 I drove into the Shropshire countryside to attend the British Beekeeper's Association (BBKA) Spring Convention 2012 at Harper Adams University College. I went on my own as none of my friends or my husband are as into bees as I am - I won't lie, they think I'm a complete geek! But I'll convert (or, more likely, bore) them into bee lovers yet.

Some of the inhabitants at Harper Adams University College gave me strange looks as I walked towards the exhibition

The entrance to the BBKA Spring Convention exhibition hall 

I had a great morning chatting to the exhibitors and some of the delegates. I especially enjoyed meeting David Wootton, an exhibitor who I had been exchanging tweets with for some time. I bought a signed copy of his book 'Beekeeping: A Novice's Guide', which I'm sure is going to be well thumbed in these early teething stages of beekeeping.

Another tweet-up I had was with Robert Phillips, a product designer and PhD candidate in open source design and application.

There were also some members of my local beekeeping branch that I stopped and chatted to for a while. One thing I have discovered about beekeepers is that they can talk for ages about bees and beekeeping, which I totally love. Another observation I've made about beekeepers, or at least all the ones I've met so far, is that they are such a gentle and placid breed of human.

Then it was down to one of the real reasons why I was at the convention - to buy a beesuit. Upon recommendation I went to the BB Wear stand. I tried on a bright orange one for size. The man who helped me said I needed a medium, which is more for height than belly width. I still felt like a Michelin Man but was told that it was a good look - by beekeeper's standards anyway.

A photo my husband took of me when I got home 

I posted the above photo on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook when I arrived home and was immediately ridiculed. My work colleague said I looked like Kenny from South Park, a friend said I looked like a Guantanamo Bay inmate and another told me I could be the third Pet Shop Boy. How rude! It's ok though, I've struck all these people off my honey jar list ;)

Whilst at the convention I was also doing a bit of research for a design competition called Design Buzz, which we are about to launch in our magazine DEVELOP3D. The brief is either come up with a completely new beekeeping tool or to redesign a current one in order to make it more user friendly and appealing to the urban beekeeper. The bee smoker, used to puff out smoke in order to calm the bees when you are about to take the roof off their home, I feel, is ripe for a redesign. I bought this one at the convention and although it does the job, I wondered whether, put into the hands of a product designer or engineer, what alternatives they could come up with. More on this competition soon....

The bee smoker was created in around 1875 and hasn't changed much since. Is it due a redesign? 


  1. Tanya good to meet you at BBKA convention. Thanks for mention in your blog. I think the Guantanamo bay bee suit looks great.
    All the best - David Wootton

  2. Great blog. re: redesign. I once heard a lecture where the guy bemoaned that hives haven't had a significant improvement in 150 years. I'm all up for that. My goal is expense and easy. The top-bar hive suits me so far. I've given up on smokers. I've found a squirt bottle of water seems to do the trick. But a redesigned one may be useful.
    Howard McEwen

  3. Interesting blog, and what a great hobby to take up! Such a great idea as a gift and I know of a few friends who would enjoy something like this, I am not very good with swarms of any kind so I think I would be totally freaked out, but I look forward to reading your progress, please keep me on your honey list as I believe it will help my daughters hayfever being local! xx Tracey Knott


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