Though puffs of smoke and behind a full-face mask of mesh, Martin Smith is happily tending to his hives in Skelmersdale, a small town in the Lancashire countryside that was mentioned first in the Doomsday Book back in 1086, shortly after the Norman conquest of England.
History too will tell you that man has had a taste for honey from the time he first became a hunter and gatherer, and there are depictions of beekeepers through Pharaonic times in hieroglyphic script. And it wasn’t too long before man figured out that honey was a natural antiseptic too.
But Smith, a man who has held all sorts of senior posts with the British Bee Keepers Association and is the spokesperson for the group now, is more concerned with keeping his present pastime thriving into the future.
“There are about 25,000 beekeepers in Britain now, and we would estimate there’s another three or four thousand who are not members plus about two hundred members of the Bee Farmers Association,” he tells Weekend Review. And yes, size does indeed matter when it comes to the difference between bee keeping and bee farming, with most keepers having a couple of colonies — Smith keeps 10 — and farmers have a hundred and more colonies.