Local beekeepers are enjoying a harvest that is “the best crop for three years.” Figures just released by the British Beekeeping Association show that hives in the Westcountry averaged 30lbs, up from the lowest point of just 7lbs two years ago, with Somerset’s apiaries yielding a record average of 40lb per hive.
Wellington is a hive of activity of Somerset beekeepers. the centre of excellence at Bradford-on-Tone, officially opened earlier this year, includes a lecture room, workshop, honey extraction facilities and a kitchen. It has allowed Taunton Beekeepers Association to provide a year-round education programme and lectures. Outside in the apiary there are 15 hives used as teaching aids for beginners and more experienced beekeepers alike.
Bee farmer and member of Somerset Beekeepers Association (SBKA) Chris Harries of Sedgemoor Honey explained: “The bees came out of the winter nice and strong because the conditions were excellent. Throughout the year there was plenty of moisture in the ground, flowers flourished and the sun came out at the right time. All my 1,700 or so honey boxes were on a hive somewhere in Somerset at one time.”
Chris’s hives produced an average of 86lb of honey totalling 11.2 tonnes, 800 pieces of honey comb and 250lb of heather honey.
Another Somerset beekeeper, Mary Rankin, said: “From what we’ve seen in the last two or three years, the number of honeybee colonies is increasing. There’s a better survival rate over winter and increasing numbers of beekeepers.”
Mary harvested 60lbs from three hives and left boxes of honey on each colony to keep them going through the winter.
Dr David Aston, President of the British Beekeepers’ Association, said on a recent visit to the county that the education work of SBKA’s divisions was helping members to improve their husbandry skills in dealing with pests and diseases.