Posted on Leave a comment

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! 

IMG_0329

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!

IMG_0328

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

IMG_0214

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 

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

67152302284__33AB8DE0-39A9-4099-BD3C-6EA06AEEE4DC

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

Posted on Leave a comment

July – A busy Month!

Hi everyone, firstly I need to apologies for missing the blog post two weeks ago. It’s been a very busy month and next month looks like it will be the same, because of that I’ve decided that until October I will post once a month before going back to twice a month in November! So this post is just a quick one on what I’ve been up to this month and what we’ve got coming up.

Our beekeeping experiences have really taken off this month we’ve got between 2 and 4 booked every week from the start of July to the end of August so if you have a voucher and you’ve not yet booked in, take a look at the dates that we still have available – here. I’m glad to say we have had lots of great positive feedback about the experience and everyone has gone away with an even greater fascination about bees than they had before!

In early July we attended Whitacre and Shustoke Show, It was a really nice day and we were very lucky with the weather! We took along a glass observation hive for people to see which was a big hit, especially with children. We were so busy I even had to get my sister to come and help on the stand! One of the things that really stood out for me was how many people mistook our bees for wasps!!!

Despite the rain we had a lovely day celebrating one of our stockists, The Cheese Gin and Ale Barn, 5th birthday by attending a market at Curborough Country Side Centre filled with great produce from lots of their other local suppliers! To any looking for somewhere nice to go for a couple of hours shopping I highly recommend popping over to Curborough.

The bees have also been busy this month with us having a really good flow (flow just means that the plants are producing nectar) and we’ve seen the hives grow substantially. We’ve also been busy making new hives up and we are at the time of writing this at 76 hives. Swarming has certainly reduced as I’ve not been called to collect one for at least 3 weeks now.

One of the highlights of this month for me was welcoming Stephen from Bee Craft magazine to our honey room to write an article on our new honey extraction services. After a few snags with getting his frames to fit into the extractor we were underway. We had a great talk about beekeeping, extracted lots of honey and had plenty of pictures taken (Not sure I liked that bit as much!). (Photo credit below: Bee Craft Magazine)

August is set to be another busy month for us with honey to be harvested towards the end of the month and a few shows and events as well. On the 11th August we will be at Fillongley Show with our honey, gifts and insect houses as well as our glass observation hive so you can come and see our bees working! On the 25th August we will be attending an event at Kingsbury Water Park with our observation hive, the event is all about educating people about bugs with a focus on bees! It’s a free event but would be great especially with children with lots going on including bug hunts around the waterpark!

Thank you for reading this quick update, as ever thank you for your support
Matthew Ingram
Holt Hall Apiary

Posted on Leave a comment

Harvesting Our Honey

Wow, what a difference a week makes! We’ve gone from constant rain to beautiful sunshine and hot weather and the bees loving it! This week we have been able to make up another 7 hives (This is a topic for a future post) so we are that bit closer to our goal of 100 hives for the year! Anyway this post is about how the honey gets from our bees to you!

Getting Honey Off The Hive

To get the supers (Not sure what these are check out our post about parts of the bee hive – here) off the hive without many bees in them we use something called a clearing board. Essentially this is a flat board with a hole in the centre, this hole has a mesh cone covering it so that the bees can get through it to go down to the rest of the hive but they can’t get back in. Essentially a one way valve for bees!

This removes about 95% of the bees the rest of them fly to the window in the first extracting room so when we take them through into the second room where they get extracted there are no bees (although one does occasionally hitch a ride through the PVC curtain!)

Capped honey that’s been cleared of bees

Getting Honey Out Of The Comb

The honey is in the beeswax comb covered over with a thin layer of wax that the bees make so that the honey doesn’t absorb water and spoil. Our first job is to cut or scrape the capping wax off the frames. There can be a lot of honey left in this wax so at the end of the process we squeeze it through a small press, similar to a fruit press to get every last drop of honey out! Even the wax doesn’t go to waste as we make candles and other products from it!

Cappings being removed

Once the frames have been uncapped we place them in a centrifuge, ours holds 20 frames and uses an electric motor to spin them up to 200 RMP although we rarely get it going that fast because it can break the delicate beeswax structure.

The frames spinning on by!

The honey spins out against the sides and runs out through a valve at the bottom through a fine strainer, the strainer doesn’t remove any of the goodness or pollen from our honey it simply stops you getting a jar full of bits of wax and while some people like having wax in there honey lots of people don’t. If you do want completely unfiltered honey then let us know at info@holthallapiary.co.uk and we can get you a jar next time we harvest!

It’s hard to get a good picture of the underside of the strainer I really didn’t want to drop the camera in!

To The Jar!

Our honey sits in a bucket for a minimum of one day to allow any air to rise to the top so you don’t get white bubbles in your jar which doesn’t look too good on a shelf. Some of the honey will remain in buckets longer as storage because between us I don’t really enjoy jarring up honey! I should just say that the length of storage has no impact on the quality of the honey!

Previously to filling we will have washed and sterilised the jars we need to fill.

To jar the honey the buckets are poured gently, trying to incorporate as little air as possible, into a jarring tank that has a clean cut valve to stop the drips once the jar is full. Each jar is placed on a set of scales under the valve and each jar is filled by hand, with all the practice I’ve had I can now fill them to about +/- 1g which is as good as a machine… just a little slower!

The jars are sealed and the anti tamper label is added. We then add the best before sticker to the bottom of the jar and the main label. New for this year we have numbered labels, this means that we can track each jar from the hive to when it was extracted, stored and jarred, its hard to beat that level of traceability, if you’ve got one of our jars and you want to know that information fill in the form HERE and we will get back to you ASAP!

Thank you for reading this quick post, I’d really love to hear from you with ideas for blog posts, new product ideas or any feedback you’ve got! If you would like to help then please fill out the form below

Matthew Ingram