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July…already, where’s this year gone?!

I always enjoy sitting down and writing our blog, even if it does always seem to be the last minute. I enjoy looking back over the month to really think about what we’ve been up to because in the middle of the season the weeks seem to go by like theirs no tomorrow and its easy to forget what you did yesterday let alone the start of the week!

This photo is one of my favourites of this month. Taken on our stall at Market Bosworth Farmers Market (4th Sunday of each month) Although this is actually a honey bee so wouldn’t use an insect hotel which are designed for solitary bees I loved how it was just having a little rest there looking over our stall. 

One thing I do want to mention is that we get a lot of calls to collect swarms and unfortunately due to how busy we are and the risk of bringing disease into our sites we are no longer collect swarms. If you go to the British Beekeepers Association website – https://www.bbka.org.uk/find-a-local-swarm-collector you can get the details of lots of local beekeepers who are volunteering to collect swarms! 

 

Last month I promised I would talk you all through our honey harvesting process which we did back in May and will be doing again towards the end of July. We generally do 3 harvests each year our spring one for Soft set honey, Our July/August one for Runny Honey and our September one for Heather honey! 

Our first stage is on the hives adding something called clearing boards which are like one way valves for bees. The bees can work their way down but then can’t get back up to the supers (boxes holding the honey) and the next day we can take it off and bring it back in to our processing room! 

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Next up we have to warm the boxes a little back to around 35 degrees just so the honey runs a bit quicker but not to warm to damage the honey or soften the wax too much.

The warmed frames go through an uncapping machine, I used to do them all by hand but now this machine does the job using two heated knives to remove the wax on the outside of the frame exposing the honey below!

The wax isn’t wasted though its squeezed using a press below which release all of the extra honey and leaves dry curls of beeswax which is then melted at the end of the season into lovely blocks of beeswax!

The uncapped frames are moved into our extractor and although now it’s run by electric not by hand the idea behind the extractor hasn’t changed for around 100 years! The frames are spun around for about 10 minutes and by the end almost all the honey has been removed.

The honey goes into a big tank to be warmed overnight and the wax floats to the top so we can just let it run through a strainer and into a bucket and hey presto the end product is made!!

When we are ready we pump the honey into the jars pop a label on it and our favourite runny honey is ready for the market stall or farm shop!

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Even with big equipment the extracting process can take a long time sometimes but over the past few years we have really got to grips with it and can process faster than ever. We even help other beekeepers by extracting their honey for them because believe me it can make a right mess if you aren’t careful!

Before I finish I just want to quickly mention all of our markets this month because its a busy time for us!

2-3rd July – Open Air Country Fair at Planters Garden Centre Tamworth

9th July – Middleton Hall Summer Fair, this is our first time but we’ve been told its a great fair!

16th July – Shustoke Show, really excited for this one as the last time we were able to do it was 2019 and we’ve grown so much since then. A great family event with loads to come and see!

24th July – Market Bosworth Farmers market

 

As ever I must say a big thank you to you all supporting us buying directly from us through the website, at our shows and fairs and also through our stockists!

Thank you
Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Flying Into June

Well I can’t quite believe how quickly May has gone, but strangely looking back to the first week of May seems such a long time ago!

May is traditionally a very busy month in beekeeping and this year has been no exception. With honey harvesting and processing, swarms left, right and centre, queen bee production and of course the start of our beekeeping experiences all going ahead at full steam!

Queen rearing is one of the most interesting tasks of the year, a real challenge to even experienced beekeepers. Producing queens from our best stock allows us to produce great quality colonies that can produce plenty of honey. These queen cells (above, or left) were soon going to be ready to hatch into mini hives called mating nucs that are designed to allow the queen to go on ‘mating flights’ and become a laying queen before she goes into a full hive. These mating nucs really are tiny only around 300 workers compared to full colonies with up to 60,000! Just a couple of weeks ago I enjoyed being invited to talk to Sutton Beekeepers about increasing your hive numbers and of course we chatted about producing queens as well! 

 

If you haven’t already noticed on our social media or even at one of our markets we’ve had our R&D hats on over the past couple of month and have finally released our AMAZING blackcurrant honey, its super smooth soft set honey with tangy blackcurrant. It’s really fruity but as we always we want the honey to be key and so you get the delicious honey aftertaste. I taste an awful lot of honey, be it ours or other company’s that we work with and this has become a new favourite of mine!

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To anyone that has been on one of our experiences this year these three hives will look familiar! We have been busy with our first month of beekeeping experiences. If you have a voucher and haven’t booked yet then please do get yourself booked in ASAP and come and meet our bees! 

A different note and one that the beekeepers reading this will I’m sure have experience of is Swarming. Swarms are the bane of beekeepers lives between April and August. The bees become congested if we don’t give them more room and eventually they decide to split the hive in two with around 1/3 of the workers and the queen leaving the hive. They leave behind queen cells and one of those hatched queens takes over the colony several weeks later. Some years are worse than others and by all accounts we aren’t the only ones seeing lots of swarms happening or at least trying to! Just part and parcel of beekeeping but it keeps us on our toes! 

I want to spend more time talking about honey harvesting which we have just finished (on the day of publish…hopefully) so in our next blog I’ll walk you through that process so you can see exactly how it’s made. It’s been a strange crop with the weather having been so up and down so that has led to some more tricky extracting but if you can’t wait a month to see how it’s made if you have TIKTOK you can find a video walk through on there! 

Thank you all as always to reading our blog it really does mean a lot to me! Come along and see us at some of our markets this month:

Open Air Country Fair – 4th & 5th June 10am – 3:30pm Planters Garden Centre, B78 2EY
Market Bosworth Farmers Market – 26th June 9am – 1:30pm Market Bosworth

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary 

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Where did spring go?!

Well I’m conscious that every month I seem to be talking about the weather but I think that does quite a good job of explaining farmers and specifically Bee Farmers main worries!

The start of April was met with warm weather and damp conditions overnight, perfect for bees and flowers! The Oil Seed Rape was out in bloom a couple of weeks ahead of last year and all looked good with the bees producing lots of honey. Fast forward 2 weeks and the ground is now very dry and the warm temperatures are a long forgotten, the bees are now in a sort of limbo where they have started building up for spring because of the early ‘flow’ but are now just holding steady waiting for the weather to change.

On a more positive note we have been busy with other jobs this month. We moved bees to a brand new site for us at The Barn at Berryfields in Meriden. This Restaurant and farm shop aim to be as self sufficient as possible and it really shows in the quality of the produce! We were already stocking honey there but when we were asked if we wanted to have bees on site we jumped at the chance! 

Away from the hives we had an outing to Stratford Butterfly Farm another one of our great stockists to talk to their guests about honey bees. We set up with our observation hive (Which has had a lovely new paint job since last year, thanks to Christine aka Mum) We had so many interested people through which prompted us to decide that we would take the bees to the Open Air Country Fair on the 30th April.

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Join our mailing list to get a one off 10% voucher and receive the honey of the month offer which is 10% off our honey of the month. Don’t worry we don’t bombard you with emails! You will get one that tells you our monthly blog has been released and one with the monthly offer and you can un-subscribe at any time

Coming up this month we have experiences starting which is very exciting, it Seems like a long time since we last ran experiences but it will soon come flooding back to me! We are also sending out our first queens of the year to those with pre-orders towards the end of May. 

We’ve got a couple of markets and events on too:

Thank you as always for reading our little blog and supporting our small business

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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Spring Is Here.. or is it?

Well if I had been writing this a week ago I’d have been talking about the beautiful weather and how great it was that the season was well underway. Fast forward a week however and we are plunged back into cold weather. Or at least it seems cold after that warm spell, I think it’s actually quite normal remembering back two years to the Beast From The East that hit right at the end of March 2020. 

The main problem for beekeepers with the warm and then sudden cold temperature is that the bees have been out collecting nectar and pollen and the size of the hive has increased with more and more eggs being laid everyday but as the cold weather has come in it has stopped the ability of the bees to collect food which has put the bees in a risky area! They can very quickly run out of food at this time of year if we as beekeepers aren’t keeping an eye on them.

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One of the main jobs we’ve been doing over the past week or so is moving our hives. Now unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures but I do have one from last year and the process is much the same.

First we remove any feeders and lids and use small straps to tie the hive together so that it won’t come apart during transit. Then on the morning of the move we lift the hives onto the trailer having first covered the entrance with masking tape so the bees can’t get out!!

Once on the trailer we make sure they are strapped down to the trailer with a second strap and away we go! When we arrive on the new site which at the moment are Oil Seed Rape (OSR) sites we just reverse the process! 

The bees are out and re-orientating within a couple of minutes and soon start making use of the new food source!

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Thank you all for reading our blog, next month I’m hoping to come back with a delicious honey recip-bee to get your mouth’s watering and some more updates on how the season has started… hopefully!
If you’re wanting more content from us then I’m happy to say we’ve joined TIKTOK and you can now see lot’s of short videos about our beekeeping all month! We really are embracing Social media during April and hopefully we will be doing a Facebook/Instagram Live for you all to watch and see exactly what we are up to and to ask any questions. 

Also don’t forget that by signing up to our mailing list below you’ll get blog updates and an email around the middle of each month with an offer which is 10% off one of our honeys so that’s a great way to keep in touch and save a little each month!

Thank you

Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

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February – Weathering the Storms!

Well, the 28th soon snuck up on me! Once again i’m writing our blog a day before it’s due to go out, you’d have thought after two years writing these I’d have got the hang of it! 

February has been a fairly typical winter month here, we’ve been busy jarring and working in the workshop to get all our boxes and frames ready for the season. The plan for this season is to increase to 200 hives… which means lots more hives need building and the wooden frames that go in those need assembling.

One of the most exciting thing that’s been happening this month is increase in stockists! We have taken on about five new stockists in the past month and hopefully many more throughout March! 

You can find more about our stockists – here

The first of the real spring flowers are out now, Snowdrops, Crocus and Hellebores are out and providing fantastic early food for our bees! I often get asked about planting for bees. I think the best thing many of us can do is to try hard to provide early, and late flowering plants that extend the season of our pollinators of course this doesn’t just help Honey bees, it helps bumble bees and Solitary bees as well as butterflies and other key pollinators.

Pictured is an early flowering variety of an ornamental Cherry tree. For those following our social media you’ll have seen the video of the bees making the most of this tree in the sun last week!

Of course I can’t do an update about this month without mentioning the few weeks of terrible weather where it seemed storm after storm was coming through. The wind worries me more than any other weather during the winter, the hive roofs are fairly light so even with bricks on top they’re known to blow off leaving bees with little shelter from the almost certain rain that follows! I’m very happy to say however that our sheltered wintering sites did their jobs and kept the worst of the weather off the hives and so we didn’t lose any roofs and the bees are still all looking healthy and well! Over the next couple of weeks we will start doing more frequent checks to ensure they have enough food because as the weather warms up the amount the queen lays increases causing the bees to rapidly use up their stores!

This month also saw the launch of our brand new bee Jewellery! Two beautiful pieces hand made especially for us. Watch this space though because we have plenty more coming as well!

I must also mention that Mothering Sunday is the 27th March! We have our beautiful Honey Hampers back in stock with amazing updated labels! 

You get: 1 jar of Honey, a beeswax candle, Honey dipper, Wildflower seeds and an information card about us and our bees!

Thank you all so much for reading our little update and as ever supporting us! Next month I’ll be telling you all about how we have got on moving bees to their spring sites ready for the Oil Seed Rape to come out in April. 

Come along and see us at Market Bosworth Farmers Market on the 27th March from 9am until 1:30pm

Thank you
Matthew Ingram

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