If I were a bee, I’d want to live in Winterbourne Gardens. The tranquil setting with a vast array of special plants and lots of water make it a perfect spot for bees. It’s also ideal for beekeepers! Birmingham and District Beekeepers Association have a training site at the gardens – an apiary with around a dozen hives.
At this time of year our bees are hunkering down, eating their honey stores and shivering their muscles to keep warm. With spring and the warmer weather, they will start to go out again collecting a wide range of pollens and nectar. Depending on the weather and health of the colonies, there should be a surplus of honey to take off the hives in August.
Honey is a very special product; each batch has its own particular taste depending on what the bees have been foraging on. Of course, the honey produced at Winterbourne Gardens is extra special, it has a silky smooth with a deep and delicious floral taste. It is taste totally different to your usual supermarket honey.
Our bees enjoy the spectacular variety of different nectars on offer from early in the year right through to the Autumn. One worker bee produces just one eighth of a teaspoon of honey in her busy life. So, a typical hive will need a huge team of over 50,000 bees at the height of the season in June and July. This enables them to collect enough honey to see them through the winter with some surplus.
We take some of the surplus honey off the hives in August, leaving plenty of stores for the bees to over-winter. The soft beeswax cappings (that cover the individual cells holding the honey) are scored to release the liquid honey and the frames are spun in a centrifuge or extractor. After settling for a few days, the air bubbles will have floated to the top the honey and it is ready for jarring. Alternatively, honeycomb comes directly from the honey boxes (known as ‘supers’) on the hive. It is just how the bees made it – totally raw and unfiltered, sometimes with bits of pollen. The honey comes encased in soft beeswax and you can eat the wax or not, it’s your choice. As it takes a lot of extra effort for the bees to produce the wax as well as the honey we are removing; the honeycomb available in the shop is always much rarer.
Honey and honeycomb from the gardens are available in the shop but ‘bee’ quick, supplies are limited! One of our members Jane also uses wax from the beehives to make environmentally friendly food wraps along with other bee themed gifts which are available to buy.