Volunteer beekeeper Helen is as busy as a bee
Nestled in the hospice’s beautiful gardens in Torquay, our 25 beehives are home to over a million bees! These industrious little helpers work tirelessly to produce yummy honey that is sold to generate much-needed income for Rowcroft – last year alone they scooped an incredible £3000 for the hospice! With the help of a lottery grant, our marvellous beekeeping team is responsible for looking after our busy bees in the apiary, and keeping our little velvet friends as happy and as healthy as possible. Helen is one of our fabulous beekeeping volunteers and in this enchanting blog she reveals why she’s got a bee in her bonnet about these buzzy insects!
Learning through volunteering
“I started volunteering as a beekeeper with Rowcroft last August and I have fully immersed myself in apiary life! Rowcroft’s apiary needed volunteers and I needed more help and advice with my home apiary, so it’s been a perfect partnership.”
Helen’s beekeeping role
“My role with Rowcroft is every aspect of being a beekeeper. This spring we’ve planted polyanthus and violas all donated by Sutton Seeds, and we’ve sown wildflower seeds too to produce a floral feast that’s nectar-rich for our treasured pollinators.”
Working with local schools
“We’ve also had groups of school children to visit, to talk to them about the bees and we’re hoping to do a few more talks this year. Plus we’re in the process of setting up a beehive in the grounds of Brixham College, where beekeeping will be offered as an after-school club. The educational prospects are huge because children can learn about so many things: caring for the bees, economics, carpentry, gardening, and harvesting honey, wax and a substance called propolis that can be used to make candles and beauty products. The also learn how their actions have an impact on wildlife.”
A passion for the humble honeybee
“I love talking to people about the bees and explaining how intelligent they are and how they work as one large organism. Bees are absolutely fascinating. They work so hard yet one bee produces only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, and it takes 550 bees to make a pound of honey over two to three weeks – which we sell for £10. They are truly underpaid!
“The biggest challenge with my role is the bees themselves. You never know what mood they’re going to be in – feisty and stingy or calm and quiet!”
The importance of bees
“Bees are not just important to Rowcroft but also to our environment. We need to look after nature and I’m sure nature will look after us. If we don’t help look after our bees then we run the risk of losing so many of the nice things we eat such as strawberries, raspberries, apples and pears. Many plants would not be able to fertilise without bees and other pollinators.
“Bees and other pollinators need a diversity of forage through a season that stretches from early spring to late autumn. Gardens and parks are very important for bees, and the gardens benefit from the bees in return; the wildflower meadow at the hospice would not be so beautiful without our busy bees.”
Rowcroft’s Beekeeping Team
“The Rowcroft apiary is run by volunteers and is led by Alan and Rob who set up the apiary 7 years ago, starting with only a few hives. There is a core team 7 volunteers, but there are approximately 14 volunteers in total who turn up as and when they can. Our volunteers have a variety of experience; there are complete novices through to experienced beekeepers like Alan who has kept bees for over 10 years. Working outside in the fresh air, we’re a diverse bunch of people who come together to learn and share our knowledge of beekeeping, and we always have coffee and biscuits afterwards. The bees require a gentle hand and it’s very good for your mental health as you need to be calm and focused while you work on the hive. All in all, I love my role as a volunteer beekeeper!”
If you’re interested in joining our team of volunteer beekeepers, then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone us on 01803 210852. If you’d like to find out about other ways to volunteer with Rowcroft, then please see our volunteers page.
Blogs from other volunteers:
- Let’s raise a cuppa to Judith (hospitality volunteer)
- The hidden stars of the hospice – Dee Smith
- A journey from architecture to nursing through the pandemic
Please also check out our volunteering opportunities.