Focus on the Honey Bee
PUBLISHED: 01:16 26 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:02 20 February 2013
Honey bees are vital not only to our economy but to many of Kent's most famous crops, including our apple trees...
The humble honey bee isa welcome guest in our gardens and is responsible for the pollination of two out of three mouthfuls of food we eat. But sadly there are virtually no wild honey bees left in the UK, so beekeepers have become the essential guardians of this hardworking creature that adds around 260mto the UKs economy annually.
For certain crops pollination by bees is vital: honey bees pollinate around 90 per cent of UK apple trees, for example, and throughout Kents orchards you will find beehives tucked away under apple trees.
Tonbridge-based beekeeper Peter Hutton began beekeeping more than
50 years ago as a lad of 17 when he lived in a gardeners cottage alongside a walled garden where bees were kept.
Peter now has hives on his own smallholding outside Tonbridge, as
well as six apiaries around the county on orchards and agricultural land. Oilseed rape and orchard blossom form a major part of his bees forage.
Peter is swarm collection coordinator for the Kent Beekeepers Association and from April onwards he is extremely busy taking calls and dealing with swarms. He also helps to train novice beekeepers.
Peter says: Im a naturally curious person and what appeals to me most about beekeeping is that theres always something new to learn, even after 50 years of beecraft.
I think my enthusiasm must be infectious, because Ive got lots of other people started on beekeeping! Since 2010 Ive been an Adopt A Beehive beekeeper for the south east, so subscribers can follow through my beekeeping year.
Each year British honey bees produce 25,000 tonnes of honey, and Britons consume around 47,000 tonnes of the sticky stuff
A single honey bee produces less than a 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime (around six weeks for workers)
At the height of summer, a colony will consist of one queen bee, up to 50,000 female workers and 2,000 male drones.
Worker bees fly within a three to four-mile radius of the hive at an average speed of 14 mph.
Honey found in an Egyptian pharaohs tomb was still edible after 3,000 years.
Beekeeping is enjoying a huge resurgence in popularity as our appetite for locally produced honey increases and we become more aware of the vital role this pollinator plays. In just three years, membership of the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) has doubled to
more than 20,000.
But despite this, the honey bee remains under threat from disease such as varroa, the use of pesticides and habitat loss. However, we can all do our bit to help the honey bee by:
Eating more honey, preferably locally-produced varieties
Growing pollinator-friendly plants such as fruit trees, traditional cottage garden flowers, vegetables, and herbs
Becoming a beekeeper
Adopting a beehive its the ideal way to help the honey bee without getting your hands sticky
BBKAs Adopt A Beehive scheme means you can help the honey bee without having to keep bees yourself. For 32.50 subscribers receive a welcome pack including a jar of British honey or honey mustard and a seasonal newsletter Hive Talk. All profits go towards applied research and education projects to save the honey bee.
BBKA is offering Kent Life readers 10 per cent off the price of a Beehive Adoption. With a welcome pack of goodies, this charitable gift is a great way of giving for Christmas and birthdays. Call 0845 680 7038 and quote Kent Life to receive your offer or got to: kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk and Links.