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DVD Review: The Essential Guide to Keeping Bees

In the Essential Guide to Keeping Bees James Dearsley (the Surrey Beekeeper) chats with celebrity gardener Charlie Dimmock. “Being a gardener you see how much work bees do”, said Charlie. “I want to do something that might help them out,” and so we listen in as Charlie chats to James and asks all the sorts of questions that a beginner would want answering.

As I have just completed a beginner’s course in bee keeping with my local bee keeping society, I was interested to find out if I could gain additional information from the Essential Guide to Keeping Bees DVD. I was not disappointed.

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The guide is certainly aimed at the beginner but I found that watching someone do the task as they talk about it makes it much easier to understand and follow than by reading the same information in a book.

The two hour DVD is divided into 10 main chapters. The contents include :

  • The life of a bee where we find out about the queen, the workers and the drones. James explains what they do and how their roles fit together. We then see the life cycle of the bee and the colony, and what to look for when inspecting your hive.

  • What equipment you will need including different designs of bee suits. Hive tool and smoker, what, why and how you use them.

  • James explains about the hive including hive position, different hive designs including the modern bee house and their pros and cons.

  • In ‘getting a colony’ we learn how to get hold of your first colony. James talks to a commercial bee keeper about what you get when you buy a nucleus and what to look for in a commercial bee keeper and the bees they sell. He also explains what happens when you buy a queen bee by post.

  • We look at tending the colony and find out how much time is spent in maintaining the bee colony, (not much as it turns out, James tells us about half an hour a week). James also inspects his colony and we see a waggle dance in action.

  • James discusses with another bee keeper what signs to look out for in the bee hive when checking for bee diseases and what to do if you have concerns with your hive or brood. He offers advice on managing your frames and combs and we find out the 5 most important things to look for when inspecting a colony.

  • In the section on hive maintenance we learn about record keeping, how to clean and maintain your equipment to ensure diseases are better controlled and how to make sure that your colony will survive the winter. We also learn how to build your own frames.

  • James talking to a commercial bee keeper about how why bees swarm and how to manage an artificial swarm. Swarm control is key at certain stages in the year and having a knowledge of swarming is vital if you aren’t to lose part of your colony and probably annoy the neighbours.

  • In collecting honey we see how to recognise when the honey is ready for collection, and a section on honey extraction shows us how to use a manual and electric honey extractor. We are also shown how to uncap the honey using an uncapping fork and how to filter the honey

There is a very short conclusion with a summary about Bees wax, Bee pollen, Honey and joining a local bee association.

James Dearsley’s book ‘From A to Bee – My first year as a beginner beekeeper’ is available for £5.85 with free delivery to your local independent bookshop from hive.co.uk

The conversations between James and Charlie were entertaining but it does not replace joining your local bee association as a source of information. It does however give a very good idea of what keeping bees is like and if you are in two minds about buying a hive this may help you make up your mind. Charlie is as winsome as ever and the images of bees in a midsummer garden are enough to warm your heart on a cold winter evening.

Keeping Bees is one of six titles in The Ideal Life Collection. They all have the same format of an expert in conversation with a famous and enthusiastic amateur. The other DVDs cover the following pastimes:

  • Keeping Chickens which looks at what breed of chickens to buy, what to feed them and what chickens need in their medicine chest. How to mate chickens, house them, how to keep them laying and finally, murder most fowl. Keeping chickens is presented by Suzie Baldwin who has been keeping chickens all her life and the enthusiastic amateur, Jules Hudson from the TV show Escape to the Country. The running time for Keeping Chickens is 65 minutes.

  • Painting Portraits has art critic Brian Sewell sitting for 3 artists who paint his portrait using different techniques. As he sits for the artist the conversations explore their differing methods. The artists are John Ward who draws with charcoal, pencil and white chalk. Johnny Jonas who uses grisaille and oil on board and Michael Reynolds who paints with tempera and oil on board. The running time is 94 minutes.

  • Wine Tasting is a collection of mini master classes that cover reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines. The chapters include glasses and decanters, identifying corked wine and matching wine with food. The wine expert is Jasper Corbett and the enthusiastic learners are TV presenters Zoe Salmon and James Ryland. Running time 2 hours and 14 minutes.

  • Shooting Clays goes through every stage of clay pigeon shooting from beginning to hitting double targets. John King a senior shooting coach teaches Olympian athlete Iowan Thomas and TV presenter Zoe Salmon. John King covers basic safety, eye dominance and identifying and overcoming common problems. Running time is 105 minutes.

  • Meat: cut it, cook it, carve it shows you how to prepare and cook meat with practical demonstrations that are easier to follow than when reading a book. Butcher Jason Moore shows TV presenters Tommy Walsh and Melissa Porter how to carve a chicken, bone a shoulder of lamb, cook the perfect steak and make your own sausages. The DVD covers knife skills, how to butcher the most popular cuts of meat and chef Hannah Westcott explains how to cook the meat, including how to tell how rare, medium or well done a steak is without cutting it open to take a look. The DVD also includes a section on butters, marinades and béarnaise sauce. This is a 2 disc guide with disc 1 running time 67 minutes and disc 2 running time 80 minutes.

“The Essential Guide to Keeping Bees” from The Ideal Life Collection is available from www.stitchcombe.co.uk for £14.99