Beekeeper Spotlight: Meet Francoise

At Pollinator Pioneers, our team consists of 16 dedicated volunteer beekeepers (and growing). We are incredibly grateful to work with each and every one of them. As a CIC, we exist purely to benefit the local environment, with all profits invested directly back into the community, so our team’s dedication, time, and passion keep our conservation mission alive.

We want to share with you our monthly beekeeper spotlight, so without further ado, please meet Francoise – An experienced beekeeper-extraordinaire who carries out inspections at our Brooklands Aipery site.

What do you l love about beekeeping?
I love everything about beekeeping from caring for the bees and the hives, checking they are healthy, thriving, and free of parasites, watching them in the hives and extracting the honey to going to market with my colleague beekeepers to sell the honey, candles, wax, and other craft items and most of all to inform and educate others about pollinators.

Beekeeping is calming and soothing: one has to move calmly and slowly when working with bees. The sweet smell, and beautiful sound when the beekeepers open the hive, are breathtaking. Most of the time bees are non-aggressive and curious, they will check the beekeeper.

I admire bees for all their abilities, skills, cleverness, their bravery, hard work resilience, and tenacity. They are ‘giving’ until the end of their life.

• I love the idea that by being a beekeeper and looking after urban bees I help with local pollination.
• I love the pure honey they produce which should be treated like gold.
• I love being part of the beekeeper’s family.
• I love the feeling of being close to nature.
• I love planting crops for the bees.

What’s your interesting bee fact?
There are so many interesting bee facts that choosing one is difficult however the way the allocation of tasks is decided inside the hive mainly by the age of the worker honey bee and its normal development is amazing. The natural progression of tasks with age is from cell cleaning to older brood feeding, younger brood feeding through comb building, entrance guarding, and foraging duty. If could choose a second fact I would go for the bee dance which is the way bees pass information to other bees.

What are the top threats facing pollinators in the modern day?
• Habitats that pollinators need in order to survive are shrinking
• Imported species and diseases.
• Pesticides
• Climate change
• Pollution
• Asian Hornet invasion

What is the most challenging aspect of husbandry?
The threats listed above are certainly a challenging aspect of husbandry. Beekeeping is a lifetime learning experience: not every time you check your bees is the same. There are diseases, queen failing, high winds torrential rain, and the unknown, all of which are potentially life-threatening for our honeybees.

We recently had the painful experience of losing two hives in a matter of 3 months and are not sure why the second hive did not thrive. Worker honey bees are insects that live in a community with their queen and drones in a hive and each hive has its personality and challenges.

What advice would you give anyone interested in Conservation or Beekeeping?
Beekeeping keeps you close to nature and enhances your well-being. It is a group-caring and love-giving experience. Beekeeping is emotional and magical and is a very rewarding activity which provides one important contribution towards conservation, pollination and wildlife.

Beekeeping, for me, gives you a different perspective on life and nature, one will find their self-thinking “bee” when in early spring a Mahonia or dandelion flourish and when a bee plunges in the purple flower of an artichoke or hovers over a lavender bush; when it is a nice quiet sunny day or when it is not so nice.

Want to know more?
Do get in touch if you feel inspired to become a trainee beekeeper in the future. Perhaps you would like to volunteer on ‘wild pioneering’ days, or help us with promotion at local events? We would love to hear from you.