Christmas is nearly here! Now only another 3 weeks until Christmas and we are busy sending orders out and getting any pre ordered hampers ready to deliver. We have also decided to expand the blog slightly so sometimes we will have a piece on plants for bees and others a recipe for you to try using our honey! This month you get both!
We were lucky that even with the lockdown we were able to attend Market Bosworth Farmers Market which was really well attended and well supported which makes a massive difference to small businesses. Looking forward we are waiting to have some guidance on what Tier 3 means for our December markets, as soon as we know we will post it on our Facebook page.
We have spent the last month working on getting ready for next season. The hives are now all ready for winter and other than lifting them every few weeks to check they have enough food we now just have to leave them to it. It seems strange after looking after and checking them weekly for much of the season that we can now step back and be confident that we did all we could to help our bees get through winter.
This past week we received a load of wood which will go to make 120 brood boxes. A big job cutting it down and assembling the boxes but one that will mean we can expand significantly next season. We are hoping to get to around 150 hives next year which we think is easily do-able without impacting our honey crop too much!
Recip-bee of the month!
Our festive honey has also proved to be very popular, enough that we have just finished jarring a second batch so there is plenty to get us through until Christmas! If you are thinking about ways you can use our festive honey why not try Emma’s Recipe for a festive honey biscuit, adapted from BBC Good Food
To Make 20 cookies you need:
100g Soft Butter
1 large tablespoon of Festive Spiced Honey
1 Egg Yolk
1 level teaspoon of Mixed Spice
180g Self Raising Flour
Fancy trying this great recip-bee? Add Festive honey to your shopping basket – Here
STEP 1 – Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon until creamy.
STEP 2 – Next beat in the Festive Spiced honey and the egg yolk.
STEP 3 – Add the mixed spice and flour, mix into soft dough.
STEP 4 – Take a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball.
STEP 5 – Then do the same to the other cookies.
STEP 6 – Space out on a greased baking tray, as they will spread.
STEP 7 – Cook for 10 minutes at 175C.
STEP 8 – Best enjoyed with a cup of tea!
Gardening For Bees!
For those of you looking to receive or give a Bee friendly gift this Christmas there’s nothing better than a winter flowering garden plant. On warm sunny winter days Bees will venture out of the hive and what better way of making that journey worth while than making pollen available to them.
Winter flowering plants not only help save bees but also brighten up our gardens not just with colourful flowers but scent too. Helebores or Christmas roses, especially the simple single ones provide great colour for the front of a border. You could create a feast for bees by interplanting with Crocus, snowdrops and Winter Aconites.
Although most Garden Centres will be sold out of bulbs by now, they normally get potted bulbs around Christmas time for instant colour. If you already successfully grow Rhododendrons and Camellias why not try underplanting with Winter Heathers for a carpet of colour. Putting flowers at the height bees fly at saves them energy ensuring they get back to the hive safely.
Try Mahonia Charity or some of its relations to produce a big display of bright yellow flowers and plant Sarcococca for a mass of little flowers whose perfume punches well above its flower size.
Lastly try clothing your walls and trellis with Winter flowering Clematis (Cirrhosa), Ivy that you can avoid cutting so it flowers and winter Honeysuckle.
Thank you for reading our monthly blog, hopefully you’ve enjoyed our new articles and we would love to see photos of your baking or bee plants! Send them to us on facebook, Instagram or by email as we might just show them in next months post!
Matthew Ingram Holt Hall Apiary
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Well November is here and I have to admit I’m already starting to feel festive! As the weather goes cooler the jobs outside with the bees comes to an end and office and honey room jobs take over!
I like to be continually trying new ideas and working on new products, this month has seen the launch of our two festive products. It’s the first time I have tried a seasonal product and already I’ve been very well supported so I need to thank you all for your support!
Our first release was our gift hamper, I’m really excited about this one as it highlights our most popular items and comes with an information sheet about us, our bees and the items in the hamper. We even have a Christmas bee on the packaging.. whats not to love! To help those stuck in a lockdown area we can send it in the post directly to the gift recipient with a message if you tell us at checkout at no extra cost! If you’re interested in getting one of our hampers they’re available – HERE
Our second new product launch was our Festive Spiced Honey. We have infused our runny honey with a warming blend of spices; nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves to name a few. The honey smells and tastes of christmas and has quickly become my favourite of our flvaoured honeys, this is limited edition and will only be running until December! Its available – Here
Away from the new products I’ve spent a few days this past week cleaning down the honey room for the winter. All of the honey processing is finished other than jarring which we do as and when we need to. All of the equipment is scrubbed clean to remove the honey and wax which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Honey can be cleaned much quicker with warm water but the warm water melts the wax and coats the equipment which makes it a nightmare to clean.
The most difficult piece of equipment to clean is the wax melter… as the name suggests its designed to melt wax which means getting the melted wax off again is quite a challenge. This time I tried a different approach, I filled the melter up with hot water and left it to raise the temperature so the wax melted and floated to the top of the water where it then set when I turned the machine off. Certainly saved me lots of scraping! The honey room is now back to looking as good as new after its busy season extracting over 2tons of honey!
This month’s Markets, please do come along and support ourselves and fellow market traders!
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 8th November 10am – 2pm
The Open Air Country Fair (Christmas Market!) – The Horse and Jockey WS14 9JE – 21 & 22nd November 10am – 3:30pm
Well another month has flown by! Autumn certainly feels like it has arrived with cold days and the trees starting to change too. It felt especially cold at Market Bosworth Farmers Market where a hat was needed, a sign of things to come!
Most of our hives have been moved back to their wintering site now as well. I personally like to winter my hives in one large area, I can make sure they are safe and secure, check on them all regularly and most importantly I can make sure they have ample food and feed quickly and easily where necessary.
This month has seen Christine (My Mum, many of you will have met her at farmers markets) and I working in the honey room jarring honey! Part of the services we offer for beekeepers is extracting and jarring honey as we have a great 5* food hygiene rated honey processing facility. The particular contract that has been our focus over the past two weeks was for around 1200 jars as a trial for a potentially larger order in the new year!
It is just over a year since we started offering honey extracting and jarring services but the past month has really seen an increase in demand which is great news and a job that gets me out of the cold, for now at least. We offer a number of different services from simply extracting the honey from the comb into buckets through to jarring and labelling, you can find more info – HERE
It is also the time of year I start planning next season, what equipment I will need and what my targets are for 2021. I am planning on a slightly smaller expansion this coming year but one that will hopefully see me with 150 hives by the end of 2021 and probably as many colonies as I can look after on my own! I will need a lot more equipment to manage this number of hives so my winter will be spent in the workshop building hives and frames! Certainly an exciting year ahead!
This month’s Markets, please do come along and support ourselves and fellow market traders!
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 11th October 10am – 2pm
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 17 & 18th October 10am – 4pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 25th October 9am – 1:30pm
Well this month has been unseasonably cold and wet, where usually we would be expecting another few weeks of honey production from the Himalayan Balsam it has either finished or the bees have been unable to take full advantage of it. We are around 3 weeks ahead of this time last year with almost all of the honey now extracted and being stored in our honey shed.
One of the big successes of this month for me is the Heather honey. It’s the first time I have ever taken bees to the Peak District but the bees really did well, better than I had expected them to! Each hive will have yielded about 10kg of surplus Heather honey. While it sounds a lot to most and I’m more than happy with that myself this year some beekeepers with years of experience taking bees to the moors can get a far higher yield.
The honey will mainly be sold as comb honey, I’m expecting to produce around 500 portions of it but that has to last me until this time next year so I’m expecting to sell out! The smaller pieces of comb will go into a jar and topped up with summer honey from our bees locally, that will make chunk honey which will be available on our website, unfortunately the cut comb is too fragile to send in the post so it will only be available for click and collect or for purchase directly at our markets.
Not only are we busy extracting our own honey we also do extracting for other beekeepers that may not have the space or equipment needed, it also saves making a mess of your house because EVERYTHING ends up stick after harvesting honey! If you’re a beekeeper putting off extracting your own honey send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can advise what we can do to help you.
As the honey is removed we must provide sugar syrup as an alternative for some of the honey, now is the time I am busy filling feeders and you can really get a sense of how quickly they work, it’s not uncommon to see a hive consume 2l of syrup in one day.
While we are getting ready for winter we also treat for an invasive mite that came into the UK around 40 years ago. Without treatment the Varroa Distructor can kill off a hive directly from feeding on larvae and causing deformities or through carrying disease from one hive to another. We treat them in the autumn to give them the best possible chance going into winter and then once again right in the middle of winter which should be more effective and last them until the following autumn.
This month we have a packed calendar of weekends, we have a market every weekend so please do come along and support ourselves and fellow market traders!
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 5 & 6th September 10am – 4pm
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 13th September 10am – 2pm
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters At Bretby DE15 0QS – 19 & 20th September 10am – 4pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 27th September 9am – 1:30pm
Last month I spoke about how good the weather had been and how well the bees were doing, unfortunately after the month of below average temperatures the bees have largely stopped producing honey. Many beekeepers around the UK have found the season seeming to end much sooner that last year. Hopefully the weather will turn again though and we will have lots of late season honey!
The big event for this month was moving bees to the heather. I got all of the hives I was moving ready the evening before I moved them and was then up at 4am the next morning to begin the move! All the hives were safely loaded onto the trailer and strapped down. By 4:50am I was heading North to the Peak District.
After an hour and a half driving I reached the site where the bees will be for the next 6 weeks. I unloaded the hives onto their pallets and released the bees by removing the masking tape that had been used to block the entrances while in transit. The bees were soon out and about inspecting their new (windier and colder) home.
A week after the bees were taken to the moors I went to check them, unfortunately due to the cold weather the bees had burned through their stores and were looking quite hungry! Each hive had a frame of honey that I stored from the spring for use at this time of year. I’m hoping that after a few days of warm weather I will see a big improvement and lots of honey coming in!
This month has also been the real start of winter preparations, right at the end of July I took delivery of 1 ton of granulated white sugar. This sugar is mixed to produce a thick sugar syrup that we use to feed the bees to ensure they are in peak physical condition to over winter.
Any beekeeper will tell you that making sugar syrup is a sticky job and one not many enjoy. I’ve tried quite a few ways but have now settled on using a 200l tank over a gas burner. I fill it just over 1/3rd with water and let it get quite hot. I then add 175kg of sugar one 25kg bag at a time stirring regularly. Once it is mixed well I add thymol, a chemical that stops the syrup from going off when it is stored for a long time.
In August I will be at a few markets so please do come down and see us if you can.
The Open Air Country Fair – Planters Garden Centre B78 2EY – 1 & 2nd August 10am – 4pm
Buzzards Valley Artisan Market – Buzzards Valley B78 3EQ – 9th August 10am – 2pm
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 23rd August 9am – 1:30pm
Thank you for reading our blog, next month we will be talking about harvesting our honey and walk you through the whole process from hive to jar!
Well what a month of mixed weather it’s been! lots of rain at the start of the month a week of amazing temperatures and sun last week and back to slightly dull this week. The good thing is the rain has really helped to boost a lot of the plants so when it is warm the bees have an abundance of nectar to collect!
Last week when the temperatures were above 25°c (most of the week) clover was yielding really well. One of our hives filled a completely empty super with honey in less than 4 days!! The great news is that box had a special thin wax foundation for the bees to work on, which means we are going to be able to cut it up and sell it as good old fashioned cut comb, something we are regularly asked for! I’m really excited that I have also been able to source ‘veg ware’ these plastic looking pots that will hold our honey comb are actually compostable and made from plant fibres meaning they are much better for the environment than single use plastic.
We have also started selling queens this month, as you will know from my previous blog posts and letters in Bee Craft queen rearing is something that really interests me. As I now have a surplus of queens from my breeding program I am selling them, and I must say how pleased I am that so many people want to try them. It was quite strange going to the post office with bees but the post office staff took it very well though and the bees arrived at their destinations safely 24 hours later.
On the 28th I enjoyed being back at Market Bosworth Farmers Market, which is currently the only regular market that I am attending. There was a really good turn out and everyone was being well behaved (social distancing wise), if you are interested in finding lots of local food producers come along next month on the 26th July. Also we have our first event of the year on the 4th and 5th July at Planters Garden Centre. We will be attending the Open Air Country Fair which promises to be a great event with over 40 producers attending, the fair will be extra spaced out and on a one way flow to make social distancing possible, it certainly looks like it will be a good event to visit!
Today (30th June, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll know I have a bad habit of leaving it to the last minute!) I have been for a drive around the Peak District. The beautiful views weren’t all I was there for however, I have been checking on the heather and meeting the land owners where my bees will be from late July for around a month or until the ‘flow’ has stopped. This does mean that we will hopefully have some heather cut comb for sale, heather honey has recently become more popular as it is said to rival Manuka with many of it’s properties.
Thank you for reading our blog, as ever if you have any questions or would like any topics covering please get in touch to email@example.com
May seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, I can hardly remember when things happened this month as it all seems a blur. The weather has been amazing for everyone sunbathing and of course our bees, it seems strange hoping for rain but we really do need some rain to get the flowers going again as they are starting to slow down now.
Equipment has been one of the biggest issues this month, the bees have done far better than I could have hoped and I have increased the number of hives quite significantly to around 110 although that figure seems to rise everyday at the moment. Building frames is usually a winter job but I’ve needed far more than I had planned so have had to build a lot recently. I built a small jig like one I used in Australia to help me make frames quicker. Unlike the traditional way of making frames with small nails tacked in each side I use glue and a 1 inch staple to hold them firm.
Queen rearing is often a topic I enjoy talking about and this month has been the first month I have produced a signifcant number of queens myself here in the UK. I am producing around 20 queens a week now mainly for my own use but I am looking to eventually sell some. The queens are Carniolan a breed of bees native to south east Europe. They build up in numbers very quickly and are known for large colonies and good honey production. I am trying to move away from a hybrid breed called Buckfasts as selective breeding is hard on a small scale as there is a much greater variation in traits inherited by the daughter queens due to their hybrid nature.
Grafting is the method I use for queen rearing, I move a 1 day old larvae into a cell designed to mimic a queen cell and place it in a hive with no queen, the bees then instinctively produce queen cells which are moved into small hives 10 days later. 3 weeks after that the queens have been on mating flight and are ready to head up their own hives! I apologise that I have no photos of the mating hives or of our finished queen cells but I will post them on our social media and in the blog next month.
I am expecting a tricky next few weeks as the spring flowers end and before the summer flowers begin, this to beekeepers is called the June gap. The colonies are very large and need a lot of food but they are unable to get enough naturally. Last week I made 250kg of sugar syrup ready to feed the hives if needed. To make the syrup I simply fill the barrel with the right amount of sugar and warm water 2:1 ratio roughly and use a gas heater to warm the syrup up so that it dissolves fully. I then tap it off into Jerry cans ready to be used where its needed.
Thank you for reading our blog, as ever if you have any questions or would like any topics covering please get in touch to firstname.lastname@example.org
Well where have the past four weeks gone? It seems like every month goes quicker than the one before it! This month has been a really busy month for us with the beekeeping season now well underway and lots of jobs to be done. Lockdown has had a relatively small impact as we can still go and check our bees and make deliveries. Unfortunately but understandably both of our regular farmers markets have now been cancelled until restrictions are lifted. If you do want a delivery of our honey then either order online or send me an email to email@example.com.
The month started with moving bees to the Oil Seed Rape (OSR), the honey we get from OSR is very light and sweet but has a tendency to granulate very fast. To make it more pleasant to eat we gently control the crystallisation so only small granules of sugar form which is much smoother and perfectly spreadable! This honey we sell as Soft Set and has become increasing popular with our customers over the past month or two.
Moving bees is always an interesting time, the night before I move bees I go around and strap each hive up so it can be moved without the floor and boxes becoming separated (If you want more info on the design of bee hives click here for a previous blog post on that topic). Early the next morning before the bees have had chance to go out foraging I go around closing the entrances before stacking them on the trailer. After checking the straps holding the bee hives on the trailer about 20 times (I always worry!!) I set off to the new location.
When I arrive I place wooden pallets down first and get them reasonably level with bricks under the corners if needed. Then the hives are set down on the pallet and the straps are taken off. Finally the entrance block is removed and the bees can then get out and fly, if everything has gone well then all of this should be done by about 8am and the bees haven’t been too disturbed.
The next job for the month was siting a container. Due to the expansion of Holt Hall Apiary there was no longer enough ‘bee proof’ storage, something that is very necessary in the autumn when bees are looking for food anywhere and unused frames covered in honey are irresistible but ‘robbing’ as its called isn’t something we want to encourage as it can help spread disease and incite bees to rob other hives which can actually kill weaker colonies.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the month has without a doubt been getting 60 households and schools from around the local area to decorate a bee hive for us. You will have seen from previous posts our hives are generally brown, well for the first time since I started beekeeping I painted them all white, they were then distributed to people who had volunteered their creative services via a Facebook post to some local pages. The results have been absolutely fantastic, there are still a few boxes to collect but once they are all in they will be varnished so the designs can live outside year round and then I will be taking photos of every side of every box and will share on our Facebook, Instagram, and of course here next month. In the mean time here is a sample of what I’ve had back so far!
Thank you for reading our blog, and supporting our local business. Any shares on social media or through word of mouth would be massively appreciated as we are looking to increase our local deliveries to offset the closure of farmers markets.
Matthew Ingram Holt Hall Apiary
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I’ve been straight back to work, all the hives have been checked and although they are a couple of weeks behind where they were at at this time last year they have wintered well. My next job is to move 20 hives out to a site of Oil Seed Rape which seems to be extremely early this year. As the hives are slightly behind and the Oil Seed Rape is ahead I’m not expecting a bumper crop of honey but it will provide great stimulation for the bees which will mean strong hives for the summer honey flows.
Well I’ve been back at home for about two weeks now, although with everything that’s been going on that feels more like 2 months! I have been especially busy making local deliveries of honey to lots of new customers around Kingsbury, Wood End and Tamworth. The weather has been quite changeable too going from quite warm low teens back down to 5 or 6 degrees, I am however looking forward to this coming week as temperatures are set to increase again.
Last week I also took delivery of 100 deep Langstroth boxes to extract from a bee farmer who hadn’t got around to doing it. After a few days warming them up to make extracting easier I have managed to get about half done. Hopefully I will have finished the extracting by Wednesday which will leave me a few days to get the wax rendered down and everything ready to be collected. It’s been a big job but it’s been a good test of my extractor and my new heated uncapping tank (An uncapping tank allows me to warm the wax cut off to expose the honey before extracting, the wax and honey is separated which means less honey is lost during processing)
Next week in the warmer weather I plan to go through and combine a few of the smaller hives, doing this means they can produce more brood together than they could on their own. Once they have built up well they will be split back into their own hives hopefully in just over a months time. The queens from the hives I am combining will be ‘banked’ that means to put them in a cage and keep several in one hive. It will mean that when the time comes to make the splits again I can reintroduce the queens and they will carry on with very little interruption.
Regarding beekeeping experiences, I have had several emails about if vouchers will be valid for longer if courses are postponed due to Covid-19. As we run courses to September I am hoping that we will be able to run some courses even if we miss the first month or two of courses. Of course this will mean the amount of available spaces during the season is reduced and so we will extend the vouchers expiry date by 12 months to ensure everyone gets a chance to redeem their voucher!
Honey Deliveries, we will be continuing to make honey deliveries to local areas. As the website may not calculate postage correctly please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make your order for local delivery, If you are not in the Tamworth area please go ahead and make your order as per usual via our website. In order to minimise the journeys we are making you may have to wait a couple of days as we will look to combine several deliveries into one trip.
Thank you for reading our blog, next month I hope to be able to share with you lots of bright images of the Oil Seed Rape in flower and our bees busy at work. Until then stay safe.
Well it’s the end of February and that means this will be my last article from Australia! I can’t believe how fast my time has gone here and how much I’ve learnt about all aspects of commercial beekeeping. It’s given me lot’s to think about this season with my own bees.
This month as last month has been very much about queen rearing and requeening hives. We are coming towards the end of the season here and we are starting to push hives down to two boxes high ready for them to go through winter. This means we have also been busy extracting honey and sorting comb honey for our customers.
We also had an issue with rain, yes rain! After months of worrying about hives being damaged by fire it was actually water that caused the damage. One of our sites with Nucs became flooded and some nucs were as much as half submerged, amazingly despite being so water logged not a single one died!
Thinking back to my bees at home, I’m starting to plan where my bees will be going this season. I will be looking for sites after June around the midlands so if you have room for 20 hives and think you have a suitable location then please get in touch. I will be also looking for sites on heather moors so again if you have any contacts then please email me at – email@example.com
One of my first jobs will be going to see what’s left of the Oil Seed Rape crops I was due to be moving bees onto and then moving as may hives as I can to those locations. Many of my overwintered nucs are almost full already so many will be moved into full hives. Queen rearing will also start as soon as I see drones in the hive, Hopefully around early to mid April as it’s been quite mild.
I’m also excited to say I have a few talks coming up, one to a gardening club talking about bees and planting for bees. The other is to a local beekeepers association where I am talking about my time in Australia and honey extracting.
Next month I’m looking forward to being able to update you on my bees and then I hope to pick one topic of focus each month and write a more in depth blog which will be suitable for people interested in bees as well as actual beekeepers.