Camilla Goddard is a beekeeper and director of Capital Bee, maintaining hives all over London, giving talks and demonstrations on beekeeping and, of course, making honey. We were keen to find out just how sweet a beekeeper’s life really is…
OM: Can you describe an average day at work?
CG: It changes completely seasonally so I work around the seasons rather than the days of the week, which is a nice change from the usual pattern. When it’s really busy in the summer, I can be teaching kids beekeeping in schools or wildlife centres, looking after bees at a hotel, catching a swarm hanging in someone’s garden, looking after bees at the Old Bailey and extracting honey or doing a bumble bee rescue job on a landscaping site by the evening.
OM: Have you always wanted to be a beekeeper?
CG: No, a friend got me a beehive and I found I really started to admire bees and be amazed by their industry and selflessness. I also realised I could do something to stop them dying out if I started to collect swarms and teach people about bees.
OM: What was the hardest part about becoming a beekeeper ?
CG: It’s quite a physical job when you are moving hives or taking off honey, so you have to lift properly and visiting sites in London’s summer traffic and on rooftops can be pretty hot in a beesuit.
OM: And what’s the best part of the job?
CG: The smell of the honey when you open up the hives and seeing the bees do a shaky “joy dance” when they are onto a good source of nectar.
OM: Do you feel you’re treated differently in your industry because you’re a woman?
CG: Yes, probably, particularly when I started.
OM: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And what other advice would you give to anyone looking to become a beekeeper ? What qualifications and experience do you need?
CG: Align your career decisions with your passions in life, that way you will always be motivated and excited about what you do.
Running your own business is great if you are an enthusiastic self motivated person; the first two years will be hard, then all your hard work will start to pay off as people get to hear about you and refer others to you.
I learnt a lot from the bees, and I also did some of the British Beekeeping Association exams.
OM: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in the workplace or in your career?
CG: When I worked 9 to 5 jobs, I used to think that the harder I worked the more I would be appreciated, then everybody just gave me more work and I was completely stressed and exhausted. So in the end I thought I might as well work for myself and control my levels of stress and exhaustion a bit better!
OM: What does success mean to you?
CG: Doing something meaningful with my life and designing a unique life that reflects who I am and what I believe in.
OM: What’s your feminist wish for the future?
CG: More flexible working hours for women working in large organisations, and more decision-makers being women.
Many of my friends were sold into having “careers” in the 80’s but found the rigid structure designed for men was actually not really made for them or flexible enough to suit having a balanced life.
Many burnt out in that environment and ended up designing jobs to suit themselves and the kind of life they wanted.