Thrive visited local bee keeper Geraint Mason from Cefn Cribwr, to find out what the buzz is about when it comes to beekeeping.
So, what made you get into bee keeping?
I started getting interested in keeping bees around six years ago, just as the big publicity regarding the plight of the honeybee in the UK and worldwide started making the news. Once I had read as much as I could find on the internet regarding keeping honeybees, I joined the local beekeepers association – Bridgend Beekeepers, and attended their beginners course, which is held over the winter months.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of bee keeping?
It’s either getting a honey crop at the end of the season or seeing all of your bee colonies making it through winter successfully.
How many bees are in your hives?
Roughly? Over 35 thousand at the Summer peak reducing to just a few thousand during the Winter, when the queen’s egg laying slows right down or stops completely.
How do you prepare your hives for Winter?
There’s lots to do in the build up to Winter, the most important thing is making sure that each colony has sufficient stores of honey to see it through until the Spring. Honey which the bees have collected through the Summer can be left on the hive and not collected by the beekeeper or, if the majority of the honey stores have been removed, the colonies will need to be fed using a water / sugar solution which the bees will convert into honey stores. I personally always try to leave at least some collected honey in the hive and only supplement this with sugared water, as honey made from sugar does not provide good quality honey for the bees and does not contain any of the complex trace compounds like the honey created from collected nectar.
How fundamental do you think the bee population is to our food system?
Along with wild pollinators (bumble bees, wasps and other insects) honey bees pollinate some crops that can only be pollinated by insects, these crops include apple, cherry & raspberry to name but a few. Without insect pollination these crops would suffer varying degrees of reduced production. Some parts of China have completely lost their bee populations due to over use of insecticides and crops such as apple now need to be pollinated by hand using small paintbrushes. Globally it is estimated that honeybees are responsible for pollinating crops valued at two hundred billion dollars each year.
What is causing the British bee population to be in decline?
No conclusive cause has been attributed to the high rate of bee colonies failing in the UK but evidence suggests that one or all of the following factors may be contributing to bee deaths: varroa mite, electromagnetic radiation, pesticides, various pathogens, loss of habitat and genetic factors.
If people want to help what one thing could they do to sustain the bee population?
Plant bee friendly flowers, consider a meadow flower area in the garden, buy local honey and honey products and encourage all types of bees into your garden not just honeybees.
How do you get from bee to honey pot?
What is the process? Briefly, the frames of honey containing sealed cells of honey are scraped to remove the wax caps and the frames are spun in a centrifugal extractor which sends the honey flying out of the cells at high speed. The extracted honey is then filtered and poured into sterilised jars, no preservatives or anything else is added!
How many times do you get stung when harvesting?
Sometimes not at all, sometimes lots of times, depending on many factors like the temperature, the time of day or the colour of your gloves (bees don’t seem to like black gloves for some reason!)
Where can we buy your honey?
Demand has outstripped supply for this year, but I do normally sell honey at the door and in local fairs across Bridgend & South Wales. You can contact Thrive Magazine to buy honey from me.