Simon is a beekeeper from the south coast of England, he currently has over seventy hives on the New Forest and the Beaulieu river area which contain roughly five million bees. Simon set up his hives just over five years ago, but he wasn’t a novice. Apiary has run in the family for years and he proudly showed me pictures of his father and grandfather holding up swarms of bees which were taken only a few hundred metres from where we stood.
Simon is passionate about his bees, always wanting to make sure they are healthy and happy. I had no idea that hives could have temperaments, Simon told me that he has calmer hives and then some that were very aggressive. Over a couple of days, I saw how calm bees would climb on his hands and just sit there, on the flip side I saw Simon get stung in the face as he walked towards one of the more aggressive hives. It’s been an odd year for bees because of the weather, a late start to a short summer has thrown the bees a little but they are now producing honey at their usual rate.
Simon is fortunate enough to have a license to move some of his hives onto the New Forest when the heather is flowering, it makes for very thick and unusual honey. Bees are essential to a healthy environment and healthy economy. We rely on them and other insects to pollinate most of our fruit and vegetables.
Bees are under threat and without them so is our food and economy. One in every three mouthfuls of food depends on pollinators and they are responsible for 90% of wild plants. We need to do what we can to encourage bees and I’ve planted a selection of pollinator-friendly plants and flowers in my garden, no hive though yet – I’ll leave that to Simon!