Scottish Honey

Scottish honey

The news hasn't been good - stocks of British honey were going to run out by Christmas - but, up in Perthshire, Andrew Scarlett believes things have turned a corner. Andrew sells his Scarletts Blossom and Heather honey in over 80 Tesco stores north of the border.

Blossom honey is the first to be produced, usually between mid-April and mid-July when the beehives are on lowland farms on the east coast of Scotland.

Heather nectar
Then from mid-July, Andrew and his team drive the bees up to estates in the Grampian mountains to forage on heather. 'Heather nectar results in a distinct, stronger, richer "single source" or one-crop honey. This journey has been a tradition for generations of beekeepers,' he explains.

Scotland is considered the best heather honey producer in the world; however recent EU policy changes and bad weather have put bees in danger. Two years of cool wet weather has also taken its toll, exposing bees to more diseases and washing nectar out of the flowers.

Helping the bee industry
'We're in our hives all the time now, we are giving the bees the best environment possible to produce honey, but keeping them in tip-top condition is hard work,' says Andrew.

So, apart from buying British honey, how can we help the bee industry? 'Hives near towns and villages do well if people grow a variety of flowers in their gardens, anything that's bee-friendly, such as Phacelia, helps other insects too.'

Queen bees
A colony exists because the bees create a 'queen' by feeding her royal jelly at larval stage. The queen then lays the eggs to build up the hive.

The bees control the queen's reign and decide when she is deposed, which can be for no apparent reason. In one day, a queen can lay her weight in eggs. She will lay one egg per minute, day and night.

A swarm is caused by an old queen leaving the hive with around 1,000 supporters before a new queen hatches. It sends out scouters to find a new home, such as a hollow tree.

Swarming means beekeepers lose bees, so they have come up with ways of preventing this, such as fooling the bees into thinking they've swarmed already by splitting the hive.


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