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Meet Steve, the Adnams Beekeeper

By Jazelle, also posted in News on

Steve Barrett is our resident Beekeeper and has been looking after our Adnams honey bees for over 5 years. He talks us through some of the frequently asked questions around honey bees.               Where do the Adnams honey bees come from? All the honey bees kept in Adnams apiary are either orphaned or rescued. Mr Barret often gets calls to collect swarming bees that are looking for a forever home. Most recently we’ve saved two swarms, one from north Lowestoft and one from Carlton Colville. How many honey bees do you keep? There are around 80,000 bees in any one hive and (without counting them one-by-one) we estimate we have around 500,000 bees. How long do honey bees live? Honey bees only have a life expectancy of 12 weeks, which reduces to 6 weeks throughout the summer. Why are honey bees so important? Not only do they produce delicious honey, they are also the number one pollinator of flowers and the crops that we eat. No bees would mean no food, so they are hugely important to our eco-system. What is the June gap? The June gap is a common occurrence in June where there is little to no food for bees to eat. How can we help the bees? Bees don’t like nasty chemicals, so the more natural substances we can use to fertilize our crops the better. Honey bees also struggle during long summers without forage, so while our summers get hotter due to climate change, the bees are struggling to survive. Borage and wildflowers are great for bees to forage on. Bees sometimes must travel up to 3km away to look for food so it’s important that we sow as many of these plants as we can. We can also help during the June Gap by providing bees with sugar solutions to feast on.               Is it cruel to take honey from bees? Bees produce more honey than they need, so a responsible bee keeper will only farm the excess honey that the bees have to offer. What do Beekeepers use to put bees to sleep? The smoke is often mistaken for some horrible chemical solution that puts the bees straight to sleep. Happily, this is not the case. The Beekeeper burns pieces of wood and paper, so the bees mistake the smoke signals for a forest fire. The bees automatically rush inside the hive to eat their stashes of honey before the fire reaches it. Naturally, once the bees have a very full stomach they become sleepy. Much like your granddad after a Sunday Roast. Do bees hibernate? Bumble bees hibernate in winter, but honey bees do not. They retire to the hive and keep it warm for one another. They keep the nest warm with the combined vibrations from their wings. They move throughout the cluster to retain the optimum temperature of 34.1 degrees. Why do bees swarm? A swarm of bees is essentially a mass evacuation of their home. They are not aggressive or angry, they are just looking for a new place to live. This can be because they now have too many bees in one hive and are looking to upsize. Or perhaps there has been a mutiny and there are now two queen bees in one hive. Bees receive only one of the queen’s pheromone signals, so it’s easy for them to pick a side. The bees split, and some leave in search of a new place to build a colony for their old queen. Where can I see the Adnams honey bees? Our honey bees live a luxurious life. When they’re not enjoying their handmade hives at the Adnams Distribution Centre, they’re off on tour. Most recently the bees have been on display in the Observation Hive at the open gardens event in Trunch, Norfolk. You can also find them on Saturday 4th August at our Southwold Store and Café.