As a beekeeping academic for years, I appreciated Ruth Farwell's "Hive talking" (Off-piste, 26 July). Students can be like bees: the more you wave them away, the more they come back for more. However, the care and concentration necessary when examining a hive is a great way of ridding yourself of the stress of committees, finance, staffing and student issues, because you have to be totally calm as you do the work otherwise the bees pick up on your tension and react angrily.
I well remember the day before the interview for my present post in July 1994, when I opened my hives and received quite a stinging on my balding head, even through my protective hat (which I soon replaced with a more resistant version). Since the interview panel didn't know me, there were no adverse comments about my odd appearance. I got the post, and the following year was my best ever in terms of honey yield.
Phil Banfill, Director of research, School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University