ENVIRONMENTALLY Jean Frost couldn’t have chosen a better hobby when she decided to become a bee keeper as looking after our bees has become a national concern owing to the decline of these honey makers.

Bees are a vital part of the ecological chain and are responsible for 80 per cent of pollination in the country and essential to biodiversity.

Taking up bee keeping was something Jean decided to do a few years before she retired from her job with Hampshire County Council’s Treasury Department as “A way of having something interesting to do after I stopped working.”

She began with a six week’s course in Farnham run by Ann Buckingham and at the end of it she bought half a hive of bees and set it up in her garden in Wield, near Medstead.

She also joined the British Bee Keeping Association and began taking a series of exams -one of the most important was the practical course she took at the apiary on the Bercleigh Estate in East Meon, to learn more about her hobby and as a result she has become an expert on bee keeping.

Jean, who is married to Terry and has two children and two grandchildren, is now a member of the Meon Valley Bee Keeping Association and has 12 colonies or hives which have spread out from her garden to a neighbouring paddock.

Her hobby has also taken her on travels around the UK such as the three-day Bee Keeping Spring Meeting in Shropshire this month, she gives lectures in schools and talks to local organisations such as the WI.

People can meet her at Honey Show in Alresford where she sells her honey as well as at local fetes and events.

For the beginner bee keeping isn’t cheap as a hive can cost around £150 and the protective suit as much as £500 but vital when handling bees though, even with this protection, Jean has been stung. “Now and again but only on my hands when I reach into the hive. Fortunately I don’t have any bad reaction and it is said bee stings help you stop getting arthritis.”

Now eager to share her knowledge with others Jean runs bee keeping courses and is now hoping to embark on a bigger project, a three-month practical course, which beginners can take as part of a major step forward to becoming a master bee keeper.

To help with finances for the course she has applied for a Heritage Lottery Grant and was amazed at how much paper work was involved.

“But it’s worth it,” she said, “if it will encourage more people to take up bee keeping to help stop the decline in our bee colonies whose numbers are currently going down at an alarming rate.”

To contact Jean email [email protected]