24 September 2014
Show me the honey!
BCoT’s beekeepers are celebrating their first honey harvest – a pleasant surprise after just one season of beekeeping.
As part of the College’s ‘ECOBCoT’ initiative and with the plight of bees much in the news, staff were keen to get some beehives on site. Five BCoT staff members trained in beekeeping and have been supported by Basingstoke and District Beekeeping Association (BDBKA) Secretary, Pete Northcote, and BCoT lecturer and experienced beekeeper, Gerald Hill. The BCoT Beekeepers have also been grateful for the support of Basingstoke-based Vita-Europe, who have kindly supplied some bee health products, including anti-Varroa treatments, to help keep the bees healthy and disease-free.
Two locally-sourced cedar hives arrived at the College on 11th June and the bees quickly made themselves at home. One colony prospered so well that the Queen (nicknamed Latifah) decided to swarm, taking around half the bees with her. As is common, she had laid another Queen cell before she left so the hive colony survived and numbers are re-establishing well under new Queen Eugenie. Not surprisingly, honey has not been harvested from this hive as the bees will need it themselves to over-winter.
The other hive, with Queen Beatrice, were really ‘busy bees’ and filled eleven ‘super’ frames full of honey, which the beekeepers were able to harvest.
Supervised by colleague Gerald, the ‘Bee team’ were able to extract more than 15lbs of honey, along with extra wax that the colony will not need. The beautifully clear, light-coloured honey was then jarred – with some of it going to catering students to make honey cake – while the beeswax was turned into lavender-scented furniture polish.
The honey, polish and slices of cake were sold to BCoT colleagues, with the proceeds going back into the ‘bee fund’ to help ensure the long-term viability of the hives.
“Although bee-keeping isn’t a particularly expensive activity, the College did have to invest a considerable amount to purchase the bees, hives and equipment in the first place. Like most people who keep bees as a hobby, it’s nice to be able to think we can sell enough to contribute towards our costs,” said Lauren McCann, one of the Bee team.
As the days get shorter and colder, the bees will slow down, remaining in the hive over the winter. The BCoT team will maintain a watching brief, just checking on the bees from time to time to ensure they have enough food to last until they can start collecting nectar again in the spring.
Many beekeepers report that their first season was their most difficult. For the BCoT bee keepers, it was certainly an interesting first season but one that saw some very tasty results!
Details of forthcoming courses can be found on the BDBKA website: http://www.basingstoke-beekeepers.org.uk/