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Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 15:03 UK
Bee Part Of It: Norfolk's bee buddies talk beekeeping
By David Keller
BBC Norfolk

Fiona Lilley (left) and Elaine Gibbs, Norfolk bee keepers at Felbrigg Hall
Fiona (left) and Elaine are going to be looking after our BBC Norfolk bees

BBC Norfolk has set up its own hive at Felbrigg Hall, near Cromer, as part of the BBC's Bee Part Of It campaign to keep the county's honeybees buzzing.

To ensure its upkeep we have the voluntary services of two beekeepers - Fiona Lilley and Elaine Gibbs, who have nearly 20 years experience with bees.

However, keeping the bees safe from disease and poor weather will be tough.

The first nucleus of honeybees are buzzing in their box and will be moved into their hive by the end of May 2010.

"It's a starter box that contains just under half a proper full hive of bees. It's like the nursery area for a developing colony," said Fiona.

"Within a couple of weeks we will be moving the frame from that nucleus box into a full size hive where they'll hopefully be expanding enough to fill the hive by early summer," she added.

Elaine Gibbs looking after bees at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

With honeybees in decline due to disease and the UK's cold winter season during 2009/2010, the weather needs to be warm enough for the bees to be transferred into the BBC Norfolk hive to be successful.

"The bees themselves came from Elaine's property," said Fiona.

"Unfortunately due to the poor situation of breeding our own queens in Norfolk, we had to import a queen bee from a bee producer and marry it with some of Elaine's worker bees. They'll now unite together and produce a colony," she added.

The bees will be moved into their main hive once the weather is warm enough. The queen then needs time to settle in and lay a proper brood.

Looking after bees

Fiona is an office administrator at Felbrigg Hall and whilst looking after the bees at the hall for four years, she has maintained her own colonies for three.

The buzz she gained from looking after a hive for the first time meant it quickly became Fiona's main hobby.

"I became interested through a friend who had hives and I helped her for a year and decided it was something I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue as a hobby," she said.

"I found it so utterly absorbing and fascinating that I found myself wanting to learn more and I found it very relaxing to do.

"I feel that more people need to be encouraged to keep bees - the more people that keep them, the better chance we've got of solving this bee problem."

Bee hives at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
BBC Norfolk's bee hive will sit alongside the others at Felbrigg Hall

Elaine is a voluntary beekeeper at Felbrigg Hall and has been obsessed with bees for 15 years.

"I started when a friend seeing my large garden said, 'Can I put one of my hives in your garden' and I said, 'Yes, but the first time I get badly stung you've got to take them away'.

"I didn't get badly stung, but in those days we used to let hives swarm more or less at random and the neighbours got fed up with it, so I prevented them swarming and then, of course, I got hooked!"

Fiona and Elaine will be sharing the drama from the hive during the summer with BBC Norfolk in their diary.

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