Bad Bee-keeping with Bill Turnbull

6a01156fa075f4970c01538fc56c24970bBBC Breakfast presenter and author of the Bad Bee Keeper’s Club, Bill Turnbull is in his 11th season as a ‘bad bee keeper’.

He explains, “I started keeping bees 10 years ago after a swarm turned up at the bottom of my garden.  I called the Police, who called a bee keeper who just came along and collected the swarm in a cardboard box.  I was so inspired and wanted to see if I had that Zen-like ability to do the same.”

“There’s only one thing better than collecting a swarm and that’s when one re-houses itself.  I have a bait hive on top of my garage roof and have had two swarms use it this year. The second swarm weren’t even my bees, which is even better!”

Enjoying time spent outdoors, Bill describes himself as being “better with husbandry than horticulture,” and explains, “I’m not a gardener; we have a half acre plot and I mow the lawn with great reluctance, my wife does all the rest.  My father always said I couldn’t tell a cabbage from a rose and he’s right.  I grew up on a small-holding with hens, geese, sheep, pigs and heifers and I think that’s rubbed off on me.   As well as my bees, I keep chickens and have two black labs, Nina and Bonny. Nina is bee-phobic,” he adds, “she got stung once and now prefers to wait by the car whilst I check my bees.”

And Nina is not the only Turnbull to have been stung.

“I’ve been stung more times than I can remember,” laughs Bill, “though over the years I am actually being stung less.  I don’t inspect the bees quite so often now, although recently I did do something quite stupid even by my standards. When returning from holiday I thought I’d just take the roof off one of the hives to see what was going on and a bee flew straight up and stung me on the nose. It wasn’t pretty and the swelling is a bit awkward for my TV work.”

Ever the pragmatist he adds, “I wouldn’t not want to get stung, it would make bee keeping too easy and then everyone would be doing it.”

He continues to describe his enchantment with the little insects.

“I find bees amazing creatures, intricate and beautiful.  Each hive is a little City, with its own issues and problems.  Every time you open the hive, you have a series of questions to ask, it’s like solving a puzzle every time.  I find it clears my mind of other things.”

As an external examiner for the Centre for Journalism Studies at Cardiff University, Bill was in Cardiff earlier this week.  “I was actually a student at Cardiff University myself and my wife worked in Cardiff for years too. We both enjoy coming back to the City, it’s a great place, as is the rest of Wales.”

“I’m also Patron for Bees for Development,  an independent organisation which is based in Monmouth but I’ve not visited them yet. I once ran the London Marathon dressed as a bee keeper, to raise money for them and I vowed it was the the last marathon I’ll ever run; in a bee suit or otherwise.”

Bill still uses his treadmill every day though, “it’s part of my sleep management regime,” he explains, “After doing the Breakfast Show, I have to go home and sleep, or I become a basket case.  But then I need to do something in the afternoon to tire me enough to sleep at night.”

The well-liked presenter is slightly bemused at the success of his book, available from Amazon, which is going from strength to strength.  “An American publisher has recently released it in the States, renaming it, Confessions of a Bad Bee Keeper. I’m going over to do a Tour of the North East at the end of the month, and most of the book signings are at bee keeping conventions.  It’s ironic really as the book wasn’t written for experienced bee keepers but for just for people interested to know a bit about bee keeping.”

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