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Spring Is Finally Here

Spring is most certainly here, finally! Just a few more weeks until we start moving our hives out to their spring sites! The bees are looking really strong and I’m glad to say we have only lost a very small percentage of them. Unfortunately, it seems many other beekeepers haven’t been as fortunate and based on early reports I’m expecting the national average of hives lost through winter to be higher than the past few.

The warm weather over the past week has really got the bees flying and many are collecting pollen from any early flowering plants such as Crocus, Snowdrops and Hellebores.  We have taken the mouse guards off now so the bees have easy access into the hive without brushing the pollen of them as they climb through.

The big job over the past week has been painting a new shed we have positioned on the farm ready for our beekeeping experiences. If you have a voucher for a beekeeping experience the dates have now been released – HERE. Direction to the farm will be sent out in your confirmation email, it’s only 2 minutes up the road from Planters Garden Centre.

We will also be using the space for our queen rearing course that we are running for more advanced beekeepers interested in producing their own queens. We only have a few spaces left on this course and we are only planning on running one this year so be sure to book on ASAP!

Looking ahead over the next two weeks we will go around checking the sites we will be moving bees to, making sure they are safe and suitable. It’s also a good chance to chat to the farmers and see how the crops are coming on. Before the end of the month all our hives will be in their spring sites and ready to collect plenty of nectar and pollen from the oil seed rape!


Gardening for bees!

Its very easy to get lulled into the garden on the first beautiful day, it’s as though the winter is over and the sun will shine for months to come. However very quickly colder temperatures reappear and we are back into Winter before we know it.  It’s the same for our bees, the first sign of sun and they’re out of the hive looking for pollen.   We can help them find it by incorporating some early spring flowers in our gardens.

Spring flowering bulbs are a great way to feed your bees.  Just like our Bees they appear when the sun is shining.   Snowdrops, Winter Aconites, Snakes Head Fritillaria and Grape Hyacinths are some of the earliest Bee friendly plants and just after they’ve flowered is a great time to dig them up, split them and replant them.  That way guaranteeing even more for next year.

Complimenting the early bulbs at ground level are single flowered Hellebores (Christmas Rose), Primula or Primroses, Pulmonaria (with its pastel blue flowers), Ajuga (with its burgundy foliage and deep blue flowers) and Bergenia (with its bright green elephant ear leaves and pastel pink flowers).  All of these will die away (only to reappear next spring) allowing you to plant your summer plants around them.

Twisted Hazel catkins covered in our bees!

If you want something around a meter tall, there’s Rosemary, Ribes (or flowering current), Prunus Incisa Ko Jo Mai (Fuji Cherry, masses of Pale Pink flowers), Hazel for its catkins, single Rhododendrons, Pussy Willows, Mahonia (Yellow) and Berberis Darwini (bright orange).   The latter two are great for security because of their prickly leaves.

Finally, if you want a tree look out for early flowering Almonds, crab apples and pears.

If all that sounds like a lot of work leave the dandelions until at least they’ve flowered and allow Comfrey to run riot.  Comfrey also makes a great liquid food.  Simply cut the leaves (after flowering) and allow to soak for days (even weeks) in water. 


Thank you as ever for reading our blog, your support means a lot to us. I hope as things start to open up you will be able to come and see us at more markets and events. This month our only market will be at Market Bosworth on Sunday 28th March however online orders and click and collect are still available!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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January Jarring!

Well another month in lockdown has gone by but we’ve been very busy jarring honey! The warmer days in the last week have seen the bees making the most of the sun, they’ve been really active and have been finding the first snow drops that are just coming into flower.

As promised in last months blog I’m going to talk you through how we get the honey in the jar! Extracting honey is a different topic and we will cover that in the summer when we are extracting this years honey! This month as well as our own honey we have been busy jarring honey for another honey brand, we have done around 4,000 jars for them so far.


The Jarring Process!

The honey comes to us in 30lb buckets, although in the next couple of weeks we will be expanding so we can take barrels of honey. Barrels of honey are standard amongst big producers and hold 300kg of honey.

As soon as we get the honey, we put it straight in the warmers, they allow us to carefully warm the honey to around 40 degrees being careful not to go over 40 which would impact the taste and quality of the honey.

In the photos above you will see:

Top Left: The buckets of honey sat waiting to be jarred, each one is enough to fill around 60 jars.
Top Right: Inside the warmer, our warmer holds 15 buckets, 5 on each level. there is a heater above and below to ensure they all warm evenly
Bottom Left: The jarring machine uses gears to push just the right amount of honey out into the jars! It can take any size jar, we simply tell it how much to dispense and then calibrate it with the first few jars, we check every 10th jar to make sure nothing has changed and the jars are being filled properly!
Bottom Right: The jars packed into boxes and palletised ready to go out to the customer!

As honey naturally crystallises the buckets are sometimes solid, it can take just hours to get the honey runny enough to jar and other times it can take several days to a week. We will check the honey several times everyday and jar it as soon as it’s clear so that we aren’t warming the honey for longer than we need to!

The honey buckets are emptied into a tank that holds about 75kg and it’s piped directly into the jarring machine. We push the jar under and it automatically dispenses the correct amount of honey, we add the lid and make sure its on tight before adding the anti-tamper labels, best before dates and main label.

The other type of honey that’s very popular is Soft Set, it’s a silky-smooth white honey that is perfect to spread. This honey is a bit trickier to get right. We can start with any sort of honey, we warm it up so it is completely runny there can’t be any granules, we then add around 10% of soft set honey to the runny honey. Over the next few days of stirring, the runny honey starts to set like the soft set honey we added. We then jar it and the honey sets over the next few days, ready for you to enjoy on your toast!


This Month’s Reci-Bee!

Honey, Ginger & Pumpkin Seed Scones

(Adapted from National Trust Book of Scones by Emma Taylor)

Ingredients:

500g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
100g Caster Sugar
1 tbsp Ground Ginger
125g Butter/Margarine
25g Grated Ginger
3 tsp Pumpkin Seeds
2 tbsp Runny Honey (or honey of your choice)
1 large egg, beaten
Approx. 150ml Milk (or milk alternative)

I LOVE a scone, I think they are super simple to make and are perfect for elevenses or with a cup of tea in the afternoon! In a perfect world I would make these to share with family, however I will have to sit and indulge myself with a cup of tea and a film! This recipe lends itself to Holt Hall Apiary’s Runny Honey, but for an extra Ginger kick for the fiery ginger lovers out there, feel free to use Ginger Infused Honey . Or this will give a beautiful flavour if you used the newest development – Lemon Infused for the perfect pairing of Lemon & Ginger!

Method:

Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 190°C/180°C fan. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

Step 2 – Sieve the flour, baking powder, sugar and ground ginger into a mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the pumpkin seeds.

Step 3 – Add the honey, beaten egg, grated ginger and milk to the bowl and mix to make a soft dough (you may not need all of this, save it for brushing the tops of the scones).

Step 4 – Turn out onto a lightly surface, and gently press with your hand, until the dough is 4cm thick (it’s thicker than you realise! My first attempt was too thin!!). Stamp out with a 7cm cutter (your choice on smooth or crimped edges). Any trimmings, bring together to form more scones (waste not want not!).

Step 5 – Brush the tops with milk, or a little egg if you have any left, and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Step 6 – Delicious warm, with butter or more honey!

Would love to see pictures, please share them to info@holthallapiary.co.uk.

Thank you for reading our blog, hopefully you’ll have a good idea of how your honey got into it’s jar! I’m looking forward to sharing the process of how we get the honey directly from our hives to you when the season starts!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Hap-Bee New Year!

Happy New Year! What a difference a year makes, this time last year I was enjoying my time in Sydney before heading back up the coast to the bee farm I was working on. Corona Virus then was just being spoken about in the news but was isolated to China, who could have imagined what it would become!

I need to thank everyone who has supported Holt Hall Apiary in what has been a different but surprisingly good year for us. We met all the targets we set last year for the number of hives we wanted and took on several new stockists and customers for our jarring and extracting services. We have been increasingly well supported at our markets with great turn outs and lot’s of people coming back to us for their honey which we love to see!

Looking towards 2021

It seems already that it’s going to be a very busy year! January will see us contract jarring (Jarring honey for someone else) around 2,500 jars for a customer we worked with towards the end of 2020.

Hive building and frames are well underway now I still have around 80 boxes left to make but that’s a job I can be doing along side other things so long as they are finished by March.

We are planning to get up to around 150 hives this year and really push towards maximising honey production and especially producing more Heather honey as it proved so popular. Our home reared queens have also been popular with a small waiting list already.

The bees are doing well, we are checking the hives weight every two weeks or so just to make sure they have enough, those that haven’t get a kilo of bakers fondant which gives the bees instant sugar without them needing to do much processing which is hard when its cold outside.

Bees eating the fondant

This Month’s Reci-Bee!

Honey & Gingerbread Loaf

(Adapted from BBC Good Food by Emma Taylor)

This cake is super simple to make but gives a beautiful festive flavour to bring a close to another year of festivities. I would eat this cake straight out the oven if I could! This is wonderful, on its own, slathered with butter or if you are feeling creative, why not try it with Greek Yoghurt and some berries as a festive brunch option! It’s what I will be doing!

This recipe will lend itself to many of the Holt Hall Apiary honeys available, each will give a slightly different flavour, why not try it with a few and see which you think is best!

Method

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 and butter and line a 900g loaf tin. Put the honey, butter and sugar in a saucepan and warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted, and the sugar dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool. If you are as eager as I was to get this cake in the oven, keep stirring the mixture off the heat to help reduce the temperature.

Step 2 – Sieve the flour into a bowl with the baking powder, mixed spice and a pinch of salt. Add the egg and milk, then gently fold in along with the cooled melted butter mixture. Once combined, tip into the prepared tin, place on a baking tray, and bake for 40 mins until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin, then place on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. 

Step 3 – Enjoy in any way you want!

Will keep in an airtight container for up to four days

Ingredients:

100g Butter, plus extra to grease the tin (or you can use a tin liner)

100g Ginger Infused Honey (I found this one worked best, but Runny Honey would also work, just add an extra pinch of Mixed Spice in!)

125g Soft Brown Sugar

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

200g Self Raising Flour

¼ tsp Baking Powder

1 ½ tsp Mixed Spice

Pinch of Salt

1 egg, beaten

4 tbsp Milk


Next Months blog we will be talking about jarring honey, how we get it from the hive into the jars ready for you to enjoy! If you make this month’s reci-bee (I highly recommend you do, it tastes amazing!) then please do send us your photo or tag us in it on Facebook or Instagram.

As ever thank you for reading our blog, your support really does mean a great deal.

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Bee Merry! Christmas is nearly here

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
  • 100g Sugar
  • 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

The Method:

  • 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.

Winter Honey Suckle – Photo Credit Gardina

Written by
Gerald Ingram, Planters Garden Centre


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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Feeling Festive… Already!

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

Move the slider to see both of our hamper designs!

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
  • Market Bosworth Farmers Market – Market Bosworth main square – 22nd Novemebr 9am – 1:30pm

Thank you for reading and supporting us, if you haven’t already please do sign up to our mailing list below for updates on our business and new blog releases.

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Jars, Jars and more Jars

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

Thank you

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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August – The Season Comes To An End

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.

Cut Comb Heather Honey

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 info@holthallapiary.co.uk and I can advise what we can do to help you.


Syrup Ready for the bees!

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

Thank you

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Bees On The Move

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!

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Honey Honey Honey!

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 matthew@holthallapiary.co.uk

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary


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May 2020: Hot Hot Hot!

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 matthew@holthallapiary.co.uk

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary