In our business every year is very different, usually because of the weather, but last year more than most.
After years of very low winter losses, we suffered more than average losses of colonies over the winter 2019, but those that did survive did particularly well and were looking really good going into winter 2020. Kevin spent a lot of time raising new colonies to replace the losses and hopefully this winter will be better.
When lockdown happened the National Bee unit were quick to confirm that we were able to continue looking after our bees. This made complete sense as beekeeping is a profession with little contact and the bees haven’t noticed much difference.
During the first lockdown people seemed to shop more local and the demand for honey soared which was helpful as the businesses stocking our beeswax products were nearly all closed so we needed to close Busy Bees Cosmetics for a few months. This was a shame as Julie had just launched her range of beeswax soaps which might have been useful.
The harvest last year was similar to the previous years but the bees kept us sweating until the last minute. Our summer harvest is usually mainly blackberry and is harvested mid-July. Last year when the blackberry was flowering the weather was poor and the supers were empty at the end of July. Fortunately, the bees were able to find forage in the first two weeks of August and the supers filled. To the south of Sudbury the honey was mainly Borage and Phacelia and we think the honey in our other sites was from farmers wildflower mixes which have been really helpful. There have been margins planted with Sunflowers and Buckwheat which both yield well but haven’t been around previously.
The bees have been in bed for the winter but there’s always things to do. We are keen to improve our stock and breeding bees is much more challenging than other livestock as we have less control. Queen bees fly up to 3 miles to mate and can mate with up to 35 Drones (male bees). This means that the results can be very variable. To counter this we are expanding a central mating apiary near Lavenham and have 8 apiaries 1-3 miles in every direction so that our queens should mate with our Drones. A further 5 or 6 apiaries are being set up to give further coverage. We are really pleased with the improvement in stock already achieved especially in terms of calm behaviour and low tendency to want to swarm and we are selecting stock that build up well in the Spring which helps productivity but also indicates good health. We hope to be able to expand the number of colonies and queens to have surplus to sell to other beekeepers
Orders for our Honey continue to increase and we last year we included Borage and Ivy Honey to our range. Our Gift Wrapped Honey jars are always popular and we saw this especially at Christmas.
Julie reopened Busy Bees Cosmetics in August and has taken on Roxie to help make and wrap our beeswax products, which are mainly supplied to businesses in Suffolk and we are expanding into Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. There is even an outlet in Leamington Spa! Now that the Christmas rush is over Julie will be working on producing hand creams for launch this year and is currently launching new soap varieties every month.
Thank you to all of our landlords and customers for helping us to breed healthy happy bees and to produce and stock our Honey.
If we can do anything to help please let Julie know on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07557 105495
Best wishes for the year ahead.
Kevin & Julie Thorn