Bees Welcomed at Longleat
I am so excited to share the news that Longleat is now home – hive – to two colonies of bees! It’s been a project that’s been on our agenda since last year, and I’m pleased to say that working with local Bee Keeper, Dennis Pictor, this summer we have been able to get everything organised and the bees are now settled into their new home on the Longleat estate.
Bees have been a hot topic in recent months and they should be. Working with Dennis, I’ve come to learn so much about these amazing creatures and their honey over the past few months, and I can’t wait to discover more next season.
Honey has so many incredible health properties and benefits; did you know local pollen helps you build immunity to hay fever?
Dennis has been selling his own honey in the local village post office for two years; recently he had a customer in his 80s who has suffered from hay fever all his life, and this is the first summer (since eating Dennis’ honey) that it’s totally disappeared.
There’s also lots of natural health boosting properties in honey, so it’s great for making homemade beauty products like my hair mask. It absorbs into skin quickly and is great at retaining moisture, making it perfect for hydration. It’s also a natural antioxidant and has antimicrobial properties, which allow it to absorb impurities from the skin for a youthful, radiant complexion.
But it takes all summer for bees to make honey and a lot of hard work; they need 40lbs of honey themselves just to get through winter. So it’s an incredibly methodical, precise routine that the bees go through to look after the Queen and create provisions for the winter. Dennis told me a fascinating fact that when bees collect nectar from the fields, it has about 20-22% moisture. But it needs to come down to around 17-18% to build a honeycomb, so the bees use their wings to fan it. How clever is that? In the winter they even use their wings to create heat and keep warm.
Honey aside, bees are integral to our ecosystem. Dennis says “our diet would be pretty bland without bees.” All those gorgeous fruits and vegetables I love to cook with, from apples, strawberries, carrots, onions… everything, is pollinated by bees. I’ve loved heading to Longleat’s bee centre and teaching John all about it too. I think it’s so important he knows the part nature plays in growing his food and in turn to be respectful of it.
We’ve been looking at ways to look after the bees too and there’s lots of simple things that can easily be done at home. Dennis says to “keep grass nice and long throughout spring and into July; this encourages white and red clover which bees love.” Some of the most beautiful flowers are bee-friendly too, from fragrant lavender, geraniums (but they must be traditional, cultivated are of no use to bees) and brilliant sunflowers.
If you’re interested in knowing more about bees, there’s loads of great websites and bee clubs around you can join (that’s how Dennis started out and now he’s been going eight years).
Here’s a few of the best I’ve been reading:
Thanks to Dennis too for teaching us so much already and getting everything up and running at Longleat.
More bee updates coming soon, and our very own Longleat Honey in Emma’s Kitchen I hope!
Until then, have a great weekend. X