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Downton Honey

downton honey

Over the last couple of years I have reduced the number of beehives I keep and generally only have enough honey for my own family's use, and to give away to friends and family. On a good year you may find some of my excess honey for sale at The Borough Cafe in Downton.

Bee facts

Honey Bees

There are 17,000 different species of bees. The honey bee - Apis mellifera - is just one of these.

Most bees do not live in colonies, but live as individuals or small groups.

There can be between 10,000 to 60,000 individual bees in a honey bee colony.

Part of the fascination of beekeeping is witnessing the wonders of bee behaviour. Members of the colony interact with one another through a bewildering variety of complex behaviours and communication systems such as the 'waggle dance.'

The Honey Bee Waggle Dance

Foraging worker bees returning from a good source of nectar and pollen perform a dance to inform others of its location. The bee waggles its body as it walks in a straight line over the vertical wax comb, and then loops back on itself in alternating directions to form a figure-of- 8. The bee may pause to give out samples of the nectar to its observing sisters.

The angle from vertical correlates with the angle of flight to the forage site with respect to the sun. The length of the waggle correlates with distance from the hive, and the number of times the dance is repeated correlates to the size of the food supply.

Honey Bee Stings

Small barbs in a honey bee's sting prevent it from being withdrawn. As the honey bee walks away after stinging, a pulsating sac of venom is ripped from its abdomen, which continues to pump after it is detached from the bee. The bee dies shortly afterwards.

Other insects such as bumblebees and wasps lack this barb and so they can sting more than once. A queen honey bee sting also has no barb, but she only ever stings rival queens, and rarely, if ever, a beekeeper.

Bee stings are painful, and all beekeepers have been stung, but it is possible to go through the season with only a few minor stings, or none at all. Some beekeepers develop violent reactions to bee stings which can result in very bad swelling for a few days. In a small number of susceptible people honey bee stings can result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening medical emergency.

Pollination

Honey bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen. Flowers produce nectar purely to attract bees and other insects. The pollen they produce is collected by bees, but in the process is passed on from flower to flower. The process of pollination is essential for the development of many flowers and many important crops, especially fruit.

One third of everything we eat depends on insect pollination and honey bees are the most important pollinator of all, contributing £200 million to the UK agricultural economy.

Honey

Approximately 6 million kg of honey is produced each year in the UK. This only accounts for 15-20% of all the honey we consume.

To collect a 1/2 kg jar of honey a bee would have to make 10,000 flower visits, flying a distance equivalent to twice around the world.

In ancient times honey was the most important sweetener in food and drinks.

The names Deborah and Melissa both mean "Bee" (Hebrew and Greek respectively).