Making a buzz in Redbridge - rabbi explains the art of beekeeping

Some of the bees dunk their heads into the cones of honey

Some of the bees dunk their heads into the cones of honey - Credit: Archant

Aristotle wrote about them, the Mayans domesticated stingless versions of them and scientists have studied their biology, behaviour and reproduction since the 18th century.

Some of the bees dunk their heads into the cones of honey

Some of the bees dunk their heads into the cones of honey - Credit: Archant

The humble honey bee has been a source of fascination for humans throughout history and they continue to be welcomed into the gardens of beekeepers throughout Redbridge.

Those in the borough bitten by the beekeeping bug, or should that be stung, are quite likely to have found their way to the Epping Forest Beekeepers, part of a wider Essex association.

One such member is Rabbi David Hulbert, of the Bet Tikvah Synagogue in Perrymans Road, Newbury Park.

After rescuing a swarm of bees from a Wanstead road as reported in last week’s Recorder, he invited me into his Woodford Green home to learn a bit more about the ancient art of beekeeping.

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For Rabbi Hulbert, who has cared for his own hives of bees for more than a decade, it is a “very low maintenance, high pleasure hobby”.

He said: “There’s a fascination for some people in how bees work. There’s more scientific research on honey bees than any other insects. “How they can leave the hive, fly five miles away and come back to the right hive.”

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There are many benefits of the hobby, according to Rabbi Hulbert – most obviously, the honey they produce which keeps many of his friends happy but also the joy they bring to others.

He said: “It’s nice when you have young children, all the family can share in it. This road has lots of families with kids and they come in and look. I get them involved in getting the honey.”

Many might baulk at the idea of anyone, let alone young children, getting up close with hundreds or even thousands of bees.

But as the rabbi explains while looking at the two hives he keeps, bees only become aggressive when they feel their hive is threatened and as long as you take sensible precautions, it’s a perfectly safe pastime. So, in that spirit, we don a protective hat, complete with mesh guarding the face, and gloves and take a peek at the hives.

Each can contain about 30,000 bees in a series of boxes. Before pulling a box out and potentially upsetting the insects inside, Rabbi Hulbert uses a smoker, a device which pours out smoke to keep the bees calm.

He said: “They evolved millions of years ago and they haven’t changed much.

“When they smelt smoke, they knew the forest was on fire and they’d have to escape to save themselves. They eat up their honey, they fill up and when they get full bellies, they’re very docile.”

And although he was slightly disappointed with the amount of honey they’d produced, Rabbi Hulbert was hopeful that warmer weather would help.

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