Meeting the Beekeeper: Harry Hazlem
Meet Harry Hazlem, an inspiring beekeeper from Gloucestershire. Harry's fascination with these remarkable creatures became a lifelong passion. He has overcome challenges like swarms and unpredictable weather, driven by his unwavering belief in the vital role of bees in our ecosystem. Harry finds immense joy in raising new queens and mentoring aspiring beekeepers.
With optimism for the future, he envisions solutions to protect honeybees from pests and a growing appreciation for all bee species. Join us on this captivating journey into the enchanting world of beekeeping with Harry Hazlem, a true advocate for the bees that shape our world.
BZZWAX: How did you get into beekeeping? What sparked your interest in this fascinating practice?
HARRY: My wife Lorraine started keeping bees. I joined her for an association talk, and I was fascinated! Then I read Jurgen Tautz’s book “The Buzz About Bees”. His description of honeybees as a superorganism was so amazing that my chin was on the floor. I was
B: What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as a beekeeper? How have you dealt with them?
H: Every year, the biggest challenge is swarms! The main thing is to understand why honeybees swarm and the signs leading up to it. Having said this, the weather has a big part to play in beekeeping. Every season is different and some years, like this year, even the most experienced beekeeper can be taken by surprise.
B: How do bees actually help the environment? What are the surprising benefits they bring to our everyday lives?
H: I love my honeybees but there are more than 250 other species of bee in the UK. All of them are important pollinators. In fact, bees are the main pollinators of flowering plants.
Without bees, raspberries, apples, pears, beans, tomatoes, and lots of other foods we eat would disappear from our supermarkets. Just as importantly, many wildflowers and trees would vanish from the countryside.
So, although we might think of honeybees first, bees of all kinds have a vital part to play in producing our food and shaping the kind of world we live in. I think a world without bees would be a pretty terrible place.
"I think a world without bees would be a pretty terrible place."
B: Have you noticed any changes in beekeeping practices over the years? Are there any new tools or techniques that have made your job easier?
H: Today lots of people who are starting out only watch YouTube videos. Beekeeping has a long history in the UK, Europe and in America so there are lots of different ways to keep bees. The best way to learn what will work in your patch is to be mentored by a good beekeeping teacher. A good teacher can help you understand what to do and why.
You also get to understand all the local factors – especially weather – that can affect why your bees behave as they do. I don’t think there’s any substitute for that.
As regards new tools, I’d give a shout out to the poly nuc box – a really versatile and useful bit of kit.
B: Have you ever tried beekeeping in an urban setting? What kind of impact can it have on the local community?
H: Yes – and beekeeping with close neighbours can be a challenge. Some people are fascinated by bees. It is a great opportunity to talk about them, their life cycle and how they make honey. Swarm season (April – June) brings people into very close contact with bees and then for some, bees can be alarming and inconvenient. I am part of alocal swarm collection group, and we get lots of calls at this time of year. Swarming is anatural thing, but it doesn’t always mix well with people in an urban environment.
B: What's the most rewarding part of being a beekeeper? Any heartwarming or funny stories you'd like to share?
There are so many rewarding aspects to beekeeping but I think my favourite is raising new queens. Every single time I get a buzz when I find a beautiful queen - I love it.
Mentoring is another thing I really enjoy. It’s a great way to encourage new beekeepers. Recently I was teaching a group. On my way home I wondered if I had been a bit too evangelical and perhaps, I needed to calm down a bit!
That evening I had texts from the students to say how much they’d enjoyed it. It made me smile and boosted my confidence.
"If you come across a hive, remember it’s the bee’s home."
B: How can someone start beekeeping on a smaller scale, like in their own backyard? Any tips for beginners?
H: Some backyard sites are absolutely fine others are not. There are several things to take into account and it really does help to ask an experienced beekeeper if you can. Generally, the best advice for a new beekeeper is to attend a face-to-face introduction course.
You’ll learn the essentials and you’ll be able to ask questions like where to put your hive at home. If you can, find a mentor. This will help your
future beekeeping career and improve your success for the first two to three years.
B: Are there any misconceptions about bees or beekeeping that you'd like to clear up?
H: People think all bees sting all of the time - they don't! The bees we see in our gardens are out looking for food and that’s their focus. Unless you crush or trap them accidentally, they’re unlikely to sting you. If you come across a hive, remember it’s the bee’s home. Keep your distance, treat them with respect and walk on by.
B: What does the future of beekeeping look like? Are there any exciting developments or trends on the horizon?
H: Beekeeping is a centuries old craft. There are always lots of toys and trendy bits of kit to buy - the bees don't care!
The most notable advance is hopefully a solution to the Varroa mite problem. This a damaging pest of honeybees introduced accidentally from Asia. Our understanding of this pest is improving and research to find an effective treatment is progressing.
More broadly, I think there is a growing appreciation for the important role that bees of all kinds play in our environment. Although they might begin with honeybees, more and more beekeepers want to talk about that too.
Harry Hazlem's dedication to beekeeping shines through as he continues to inspire and educate others about the importance of these incredible creatures. As the founder of Harry's Honey, his company is a testament to his commitment to sustainable beekeeping practices.
Whether you're a beginner or looking to expand your knowledge, enrolling in one of Harry's beekeeping courses is an opportunity not to be missed.