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News > Alumni News and Profiles > King's Remembered > Andrew Gibb (L56/59) is an avid apiarist!

Andrew Gibb (L56/59) is an avid apiarist!

Andrew's love of bees started at King's, thanks to his Biology teacher.

From Andrew Gibb, Lyon House, 1956-1959

Simon Tyler’s article in Newsletter no 09 mentions the recent landing of Perseverance on Mars and how we should never lose our sense of wonder at what can be achieved. As he says, we do not have to be rocket scientists to have a sense of wonder at our world. My curiosity at the world around us was initiated whilst I was at King's Bruton as I was attracted to find out about beekeeping where the biology master, at the time, kept two hives of bees on the roof of the laboratory. This is a hobby I have pursued ever since I left King's Bruton. I studied mechanical engineering at University, but I always found beekeeping something completely different and really relaxing.

As my wife did not like bees near her, I could not keep hives of bees in the back garden, but I kept up to 19 hives in two nearby out-apiaries: in a plant nursery and in a cattle farm. My bees produced about 4cwt of honey each year and this paid for any equipment I needed together with a significant contribution of our annual family holiday.

My main crops of honey came from suburban gardens, local trees and shrubs (fruit trees, sweet chestnut, limes) and common land (blackberries, Himalayan Balsam, clover, dandelions). I did not do any migratory beekeeping taking my colonies to fruit orchards, rape or heather moors. To improve my honey yield, I was mad enough to study for the examinations of the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA). This activity paid dividends in that, by knowing more about the annual management cycle, the main UK honey crops, understanding disease control, bee biology and breeding bees, my honey crop increased over 50%, so I concluded this was a worthwhile effort. I went on to teach beekeeping in adult education as well as become a BBKA examiner.

I was also invited to join the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers and so become a Freeman of the City of London. This is a livery company originally set up to control wax chandelling before the gas and electric lighting and given its first royal charter by Richard III in 1384. Today it does a considerable amount of charitable work supporting projects that boost community organisations to help young people become responsible citizens by raising their aspirations. support for the armed forces (Royal Navy HMS Protector, 5th Battalion of The Rifles and RAF Coningsby) and encourage best practice in beekeeping - about a third of the members are beekeepers.

Eventually in later life, my back started to rebel at some of the heavy lifting that is required with certain aspects of beekeeping (a full box of honey can weigh up to 16kg!). So now, besides a couple of hives, I give talks to adult groups, children and young people, and examine candidates for both written and practical beekeeping examinations.

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