Out of office – Ben Atkins discusses beekeeping
Ben Atkins introduces us to beekeeping, what it involves and how a white flowery bap with salty butter is one of his true pleasures in life.
Please introduce yourself
I studied dentistry at Sheffield University, qualifying in 1998. After that, I spent some time at Karolinska Dental Hospital, renowned for its restorative work. This is still my special interest today.
In 2001, I bought a dental practice in Salford. This became part of the four-surgery Revive Dental Care business, which has won many awards and also runs an in-house services in Stockport and an out-of-hours service in Ancoats.
I am currently president of the Oral Health Foundation, and chairman of the Salford Local Dental Committee.
Why did you first get into beekeeping?
In a world before children, we had lots of time and I went on a few courses. From pig keeping to beekeeping. I suppose its strange to think what I filled my time with when I was not a party taxi driver (in the current climate, I miss those days, play centres and drinking coffee, ooooh the luxury).
It was an escape from running a dental business, being outside and something different. I just wasn’t Ben the dentist at those meetings.
The reason I suppose I got into beekeeping was for the life balance. Teeth for me are amazing, I love being a dentist but I need to escape from it. Having something, from go karting to gliding makes us who we are. I love it when you find that subject with a person when their eyes light up, their passion, who they are. You find this in our profession, the people who interest me have portfolio careers, different interests and you can see that they are happy in their own skin.
Beekeeping gives me some me time. Slow me time. You can’t rush bees, you have to be in the moment and you have to be relaxed, they know.
What do you enjoy about it?
I love the husbandry, building the beehives, painting them, restoring them when they are broken. Setting up the apiary, seeing the bees fly for the first time in the year is such a rush (your bees have survived the winter).
I love the peace and quiet, sitting watching bees can be hypnotic. On a summers day (at a safe distance), watching the bees arrive on the landing stage is beautiful. Contemplating that they could have flown five miles to collect nectar, seeing them with balls of nectar walking into the hive then within minutes flying off again is brilliant.
Within the hive, the structure of the wax, and the eggs developing is so uniform that it really gives me peace. I often relate a hive to a good business. Everyone has a job that they understand and complete. Every bee is busy, watching them do the waggle dance directing other bees is fascinating.
How much time does it take up?
As little as a couple of hours a week. More time if you are collecting the honey. But funnily enough there are always people willing to help at this time of the year.
Do you own your own bees and where?
Yes, I have my own apiary on our field, it is a short walk from the house. They are good neighbours and leave us alone.
What do you do with the honey afterwards?
A little secret is that I am not really that fussed about honey generally.
But to me honey smells of summer. When I harvest honey for the first time that year, I always have a white flowery bap with salty butter on it ready for the warm honey as it comes out of the hive. This is one my true pleasures in life.
Would you recommend it to other people and how would they get involved?
Yes, it is so rewarding. Visit your local beekeeping association, they are always really friendly.