Beekeeping at the Allotment

Beekeeping at the Allotment

An Introduction to Beekeeping

Having beehives near your allotment is extremely beneficial, resulting in higher yields and better quality produce with the busy work of these invaluable pollinators. If beekeeping is something you are considering, please read on to find out more about beekeeping in the UK.

If you are planning to keep bees on your allotment plot, you will first need to seek permission from your landlord; check your tenancy agreement. 

Beekeeping responsibly and effectively can be carried out with some knowledge and expertise. The BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) offers courses and training, advice and examinations to their members. You can also obtain Public Liability Insurance. New beekeepers should be guided by an experienced beekeeper.

Advice and information given by the NSALG (The National Allotment Society) says that hives are best sited away from other plot holders, paths and public roads. The bees should be encouraged to fly over high hedges, fences or 2m screens around the hives; especially if their flight path crosses a footpath. Contact details for the beekeeper must be displayed on site. Self-managed sites may want to consider using a vacant or hard to let plot as an apiary, where a group of beekeepers can keep their hives. It is well worth taking the time to site the apiary in the right place. However, if someone on your site is allergic to bees, please do discuss your plans with them first and take their medical needs into account. Find out more about bee stings and bee allergies here.

If you are concerned about the use of insecticides by local farmers, you can use the online tool; Bee Connected, which connects farmers and beekeepers to communicate information about crop spraying near you.

Becoming a Beekeeper

Firstly, please refer to the information above with links to the relevant organisations to ensure you are legally able, you are capable; with the appropriate knowledge and somebody experienced for guidance and training. Obtain some basic knowledge about what is involved before you invest in equipment and take on this project.

Equipment Required

Costs for the minimal amount of equipment needed will vary but it is worth getting as good quality as you can afford. Also, be mindful of using second hand equipment that may have damage or could potentially introduce diseases.

Items you will need:

  • Protective clothing and long gloves
  • A hive
  • A smoker and fuel
  • Feeder
  • Hive tool
  • and of course, bees!

How Much Time for Beekeeping

Beekeeping is a seasonal activity and, therefore the time required varies. In the winter, you only need to check your hives occasionally to make sure they have not been disturbed and that the bees have sufficient food supplies. The busiest time is during late spring and into summer when hives need to be checked on a weekly basis. It is essential that hives are inspected during the active season in order to control swarming and to provide more space for the bees to store honey. This can take up to an hour, once per week.

Bee Shopping!

It is best practice to source local bees. Imported bees carry the risk of bringing pests and diseases and UK bees will be acclimatised. You can find local suppliers from your local association or the BBKA.

Where to Keep Your Bees

The BBKA recommends a reasonably sized site of at least half an acre would be required with a continual supply of food for the bees throughout the spring, summer and autumn together with a source of water. Avoid placing hives facing onto a neighbour’s property or near a public footpath. Facing a hedge or fence will usually encourage the bees to fly above head height and avoid being a nuisance. The site should be easily accessible and you will need enough room to work in when inspecting the hives. You may also want to consider if there is enough space to expand in the future. Please also see the information on the left from The National Allotment Society for placing your beehives on an allotment plot or at an allotment site.

Feeding the Bees

You might need to feed your bees during the autumn to supplement what they have stored themselves and to replace the honey you have harvested. You should only harvest what is surplus to their needs. They will require enough food to survive the whole of winter until foraging can begin again during spring. If spring and summer has poor weather conditions, they may also need further additional feeding. Bees are usually fed with syrup made from ordinary refined granulated white sugar and water and some beekeepers use baker’s fondant that is a bit like icing sugar.



Harvesting Honey

Harvesting of honey can begin during the summer; the further south you are based and later depending on how north you are. It is worth checking with your local beekeepers for the best time to harvest and advice on how to do so. On average, 30–50lbs of honey per hive is generally expected. There will be good years with more or, sadly, a poor year may not produce much or indeed, any.

How Does the Beekeeper Get the Honey From the Bees?

The Queen Bee is kept below the upper boxes (called ‘supers’) in the hive by a wire or plastic grid (called a ‘queen excluder’), which the queen is too large to fit through. As the bees cannot raise brood above the queen excluder, only honey is stored in the supers. As the season progresses, the beekeeper adds more supers until it's time to harvest the honey.

A special one-way valve is then fitted in place of the queen excluder and gradually all the bees are forced into the lowest part of the hive. The beekeeper can then simply lift off the ‘super’ boxes containing the honey comb. The honey is extracted from the comb using centrifugal force in a machine called a spinner, which looks like an old-fashioned upright spin dryer.

Winter Care for Your Bees

The bees will need to be strong and healthy.  Small, disease-free colonies can be united in late summer or early autumn to make a stronger colony that is more likely to survive the winter.

Hive entrances should be fitted with mouse guards and the hive structure may require some additional insulation.  It is important to make sure there is sufficient ventilation during the winter.  If the hives are on a windy or exposed and open site, weigh down the roof with something heavy like a few bricks and for extra security, secure the whole of the hive together with strapping.

Bee Stings

You are likely to get the occasional sting. Some bees are feistier than others, which can be as a result of bad handling so, it is important to learn and develop good handling skills to begin with. If you are stung, most people will experience some degree of swelling or itching for a short period and then you will gradually become more immune to the odd sting. 

You should always seek medical advice if you have more moderate or severe symptoms. You can find out more about bee stings and allergies here.

Pests and Diseases

Every beekeeper should be familiar with the provisions of The Bee Diseases and Pests Control Orders 2006 for England and Wales. Similar legislation exists for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Orders empower the Agricultural Departments of Great Britain to take measures to control American foulbrood and European foulbrood, which are serious bacterial infections of brood. The Orders also empower the relevant Departments to take appropriate measures against Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) and Troplilaelaps spp. mites. Both are currently exotic threats to UK Apiculture.

In 2021 the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Orders were amended to require that the presence of varroa is reported to the Agriculture Department for that country (this applies to England, Wales and Scotland). For England and Wales that is the National Bee Unit. This is to enable Great Britain to retain a trading relationship with the European Union and Northern Ireland.

Imports of honey bees are controlled by a limited Third Country system, to prevent the introduction of exotic bee diseases. Under present policy only queen bees and attendant worker bees may be imported from Third Countries, apart from New Zealand from where queens and package bees (a queen plus 15,000 worker bees) are permitted.

Asian Hornets

Beekeepers are concerned about the arrival of the Asian Hornet, which is a non-native species of the UK. This hornet has a voracious appetite for honey bees in early autumn; as a source of protein for its young brood, when other food sources are less abundant. The BBKA would like the support of NAS members in spotting Asian hornets; who are likely to hibernate overwinter in sheds, outhouses or wood stores. Here is the Non-Native Species Secretariat information on identifying Asian Hornets and comparing them with the European hornet - NNSS Asian Hornet Identification Sheet

As the potential establishment of Asian Hornets in the UK would have devastating effects on all other beneficial pollinators, the BBKA have contacted various national entomological, wildlife and educational groups for additional support, to suggest that their members also participate in Asian Hornet Week by monitoring autumn flowering plants for Asian Hornets hawking for insects.

You can also report an Asian hornet sighting by email to Please send a photograph and location details.

Our information is sourced from:

National Allotment Society 

British Beekeepers Association

Beebase UK

Allergy UK

Bee Connected


dahlia 3856176_1920
beehive 3703426_1920
the lavender flower 4339998_1920