Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

About Copper Bee Apiary

The Beekeeper

The Beekeeper

Copper Bee Apiary is a garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, UK. The beekeeper is me, Hilary van der Hoff.

Copper Bee Apiary specialises in comb honey, which we have been producing on and off since our first attempt in 2016. We also make mead, honey sloe gin, quince jelly with honey, and beeswax products. These products are currently not for sale, as we only produce them on a small scale.

I keep bees because I enjoy working with and learning about them. Although I love the natural world and support conservation, my beekeeping is not motivated by conservation/environmental concerns, which I believe would be a misguided reason to keep honey bees.

I have been keeping bees since the summer of 2014, when I first established Copper Bee Apiary with a colony of local bees in my back garden in Cambridge city, UK. You can read about the original city apiary here.

People sometimes ask me, how much work is it to keep bees? And I suppose that depends what kind of beekeeper you are. Are you the type to idly wander in to your apiary with a cup of tea on a summer’s afternoon, and find yourself still there after sunset? I am. Others might be able to wander back out again when they’ve finished their tea. I spend huge amounts of time with the bees in the spring and summer, yet fall behind on many things (building frames, cleaning kit, reading the bee books…), and I wish I had even more time available for beekeeping. At times (perhaps, if I’m honest, most of the time), it feels less like “keeping bees” and more like “trying to keep up with bees”. I’m usually a step or two behind them. If I do successfully manage some timely intervention, like a vertical split, then I’m mightily pleased with myself. I don’t want to be the type of beekeeper who’s always opening the hives and “controlling” the bees to some scheduled routine…but it seems I’m not at risk of doing that, anyway. (An extract from one of my adventures…)


I am a member of the Cambridgeshire Beekeepers Association (CBKA) and the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA).

On 12 August 2015 I passed the BBKA Basic Assessment with Credit, and was awarded a Certificate of Proficiency in Apiculture.

My intention is to continue my studies in apiculture to ultimately become a Master Beekeeper.

Events Attended

Dr Jonas Geldmann, Cambridge University Department of Zoology, talk to CBKA on how managed honeybees are cause problems for wild pollinators, 11 April 2019.

CBKA One Day Seminar, 23 March 2019. “Beekeeping in the 21st Century”. David Evans on DWV - post here. Other posts to follow.

Jonathan Baynes talk to CBKA on Integrated Pest Management, 7 October 2018

Kath Austin talk to CBKA on Bee Bee Wraps, 19 July 2018

CBKA Practical Apiary Meeting, Wandlebury Apiary, 21 April 2018. "What to do following the first inspection of the hive at the start of the year". Led by Stephen Poyser and Roy Cross.

John Rayner talk to CBKA, 19 April 2018, on Beekeeping in Rural Cambridgeshire.

CBKA One Day Seminar, 10 March 2018. "Is active swarm control still the best policy?"

The Hive at Kew Gardens, December 2017. Post here.

CBKA Practical Apiary Meeting, 19 August 2017. Honey Processing.

CBKA Practical Apiary Meeting, 10 June 2017. Inspections and Apiary Management. Post here.

BBKA Spring Convention, Harper Adams University, Shropshire UK 7-9 April 2017. Annual conference of the British Beekeepers Association. Workshop on pollen in honey. Blog post here.

Old Library Botanical Exhibition at Christ's College Cambridge, March 2017. Blog post here.

John Rayner talk to CBKA, 29 January 2017.

CBKA talk 2 October 2016 on "CBKA Apiaries".

Jonathan Pattrick talks to CBKA on 21 July 2016 on the bee gym (see my post here) and on his PhD work (my post here).

Jonathan Baynes talk to CBKA on 16 June 2016 on the General Certificate in Beekeeping Husbandry Assessment.

CBKA One Day Seminar, 12 March 2016. "“Beekeeping – a self-financing hobby?"

"Making Mead", by Brian Dennis, CBKA 4 October 2015.

Skep making, CBKA 2015

CBKA One Day Seminar 2015 "My type of hive is the best".

CBKA Improvers' Course 2015

BIBBA/SICAMM Conference, Llangollen UK 26-28 September 2014. A joint conference of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association and the Societas Internationalis pro Conservatione Apis melliferae melliferae. Blog post here.

Writings, images and sound recordings are by the beekeeper unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Logo artwork © 2015-2019 Susan Harnicar Jackson. All rights reserved.