Margaret Thomas, who holds the National Diploma in Beekeeping, has recently moved to Highland Perthshire. She shares here with readers some of her apiarist enthusiasms and her willigness to pass on some skills

In Southend on Sea in Essex we were semi commercial beekeepers, managing around 60 hives and selling honey to local shops and through Farmers’ Markets in the area. 
Southend is one of the driest parts of the British Isles and farming is intensive with crops ranging from oil seed rape – those fields of yellow – field beans grown for animal fodder, followed by unimproved pasture, hawthorn and blackberry hedges grown along the estuary of the Thames and Blackwater rivers. 
In autumn sea lavender and sea aster bloomed along the marsh borders in the drainage ditches along the sea wall and in the muddy tidal strips.  Bees were able to forage successfully from April through to September.  Our customers were able to enjoy a variety of colours and flavours of honey. 
Beekeeping is a very physical pastime so, reaching our 70s, we decided to move nearer the family and have settled in Aberfeldy. The bees remained in the south, judging that they would not be acclimatised to the northern weather and there was the possibility of bringing disease to the local population of bees. 
We have acquired two colonies and they have settled well into life in our back garden.  The poor summer has meant that we got very little honey, but the soft and top fruit have done very well from the attention of the bees. The potential local forage is varied. 
Along the banks of the Tay the bees were seen foraging on butterbur (Petasites hybridus) and other wild plants, summer there were the trees in the park and in the autumn the policeman’s helmet (Impatiens glandulifera) left the bees covered in white pollen.  Some bees must have made it up into the heather as some honey would not spin out of the comb – a sure sign of heather honey - apart from the pungent aroma.

Beginners’ Classes
We used to teach beekeeping in the south and are thinking of starting beginner’s classes in March if there is a demand.  The venue and time will depend on the demand.  Anyone interested in joining the classes should please phone me on 01887 829710 (leave your contact details on the answerphone if necessary) or email CLOAKING
          A session learning about raising queens is pictured below at the National Bee Unit near York.

 

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