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It all started when Peter first picked up a friend’s Ladybird Book called “Life of the Honeybee” by W. Sinclair (Hardback, 1969). He must have been 10 years old. So started his life long fascination over honeybees. The local Welwyn honey, that always tasted fabulous, was produced by a 80 year old -
Mr Wit had about six hives, and had worked for Taylor’s Bee works in Digswell. Peter’s parents had arranged for him to visit Mr Wit’s apiary and with hat and veil Peter became ‘smoker boy’ for one afternoon.
It wasn’t until at the age of 14 that Peter was allowed to have his very first hives. It took many years persuading his parents. The year prior to obtaining his first colony, a swarm landed in a tree in their front garden and was collected by another beekeeper who placed the bees into a cardboard box. This remained in the garden until it was taken away early the following morning.
One day, Peter’s parents were asked, by Mrs Wit, if they would be interested in a colony? The reason being that her husband could no longer manage lifting the heavy boxes into a wheelbarrow and running them up over a steep embankment, crossing two roads and up the garden path, into the house.
Peter’s parents agreed and to keep a long story short, the family ended up with four hives and all of Mr Wit’s equipment. The first lesson learned was to secure everything very well. As the bees were driven up into their driveway, one double brood chamber slipped out off the back of the car and ended up with bees spread up over the garden fence post and Peter’s father receiving his first stings from their bees.
So it began…
Not really the recommended way to start beekeeping these days, but Peter was fortunate the beekeeper remained their tutor for some years to come.
Peter’s family learnt much. Times have moved on in 36+ years and new improved methods have replaced some of the old ways which unfortunately are still being taught today. The first task was to requeen a very nasty, tempered colony. On such a small scale this is not such an easy task for the beginner.
Peter had read some books and attended the very last two day beekeeping course run by Taylor's of Welwyn the year before they closed.
In 1990 Peter joined the Welwyn Beekeepers Association, one of the oldest associations in the country and continues to remain an active committee member. (Please visit the links page for further details).
He quickly became fascinated in how different colonies behaved. Some were better honey producers, others good at robbing. Certain colonies would continue to fly out when the majority found it unfavourable to go and forage. Some colonies would aim and sting the ankles while most would target the face.
In the late 1990’s Peter collected a prime swarm. The bees were so gentle and remained so for many years. They were so calm that no protection was required. This he found out purely by accident when his father stood alongside him having completely forgotten to don any protective clothing. From then on a true bee improvement program was underway.
Peter can proudly say they have established an area which gives excellent breeding results. Going one step further, he is researching some local bees and is now in the process of using these to look for varroa tolerance without applying chemical treatments. Results are looking promising.
All his work has been through careful observation, selective breeding from locally raised UK stock.
Peter only offers these bees as they are from a known background and free of any visible signs of bee disease which can often be found with some other bees. Chalk brood can be debilitating and is commonly put up with by beekeepers. This is one thing not accepted within any of Peter’s colonies!