Beekeeping in the Suffolk countryside
My beekeeping experience: to bee or not to bee? I decided to bee!
One of the things that we love doing at Woodfarm, is collaborating with other independent Suffolk businesses. East Anglia Apiaries is a brilliant cottage industry, producing honey from bee hives near Woodfarm HQ, which now appears in our complimentary guest breakfast baskets.
Founder, Nick came to beekeeping through his love for the outdoors, desire to conserve nature and interest in the slow food movement. And as beekeeping encompasses all of these, it was the perfect way for him to do something positive.
He works with hosts who are prepared to provide a part of their land for the siting of beehives. Each site is known as an apiary, and I (Carl, the owner of Woodfarm) was lucky enough to spend a morning in the company of Nick, and 50,000 of his friends to get a little taste of what it’s all about.
Nick made contact in the Summer of 2023 to see if we would be interested in supplying sample jars to our guests. As we already provide jam and marmalade produced just round the corner from Woodfarm HQ, this seemed like a perfect fit. In just a short time the Honey that we supply in our breakfast baskets has already gone down extremely well with our guests.
I think that these days we are all at least semi-aware of the importance of bees and their contribution to us and the planet that we share. Having spent a morning with Nick and some of his hives, I feel far more informed about the lives of these wonderful creatures, and how they produce the most incredible honey.
Nick is a fantastic educator in this field, extremely knowledgeable, and with a true gift for sharing his passion. He is very keen on bringing in the ‘bee experience’ in 2024, so keep your eyes peeled if you fancy immersing yourself for a few hours in this fascinating world. We will bring you news!
I met Nick at one of his host sites in the Suffolk countryside on what was the hottest day of the year. With temperatures well into the 30’s, we donned bee suits and zipped ourselves in, complete with a veiled hood, and leather gauntlets, elasticated at the elbow just in case any cool air wanted to get in! Nick opted for Marigolds as he can work better with them. Yes, he is used to getting stung!
Bee season starts in April and ends in October, so mid-September when I visited, was very much towards the end of the season. Nick had invited me to come and take a look around as he performed his weekly checks to make sure all was well in the hives. He was hoping we would see a queen, and we did! Here she is, the one on the top left.
After lighting his smoker he started opening the first hive, and easing the frames out one at a time. The smoke calms them down, and having been warned that I could get attacked, but to stay calm, we actually found them very chilled, which was a blessing. The frames, as you can see, are where the honeycomb is, and the honey produced.
You’ll notice the numbers 22 and 23 on the frames, which denotes the year that they were installed into the hive. I have so much interesting information buzzing (intended!) around my head, but I don’t want to misinform you! What I can say with confidence is that each hive can contain up to 50,000 worker bees in the height of the Summer, with one queen. All the worker bees are female, and the males (or drones) are used purely for producing more females! I’m going to get graphic here for a second as this made me wince, but Nick told me that after the drone mates with the queen, his genitals fall off! Oh, and then he dies! Nuff said.
The queen bee lives for 5 to 6 years, whereas the workers live for just 6 weeks! The queen lays eggs in the honeycomb, and can lay up a couple of thousand a day! You may be able to see tiny white specks in the photos, which are the eggs. I’m going to stop trying to be the educator now, as I know a man far more suited to that role!
I really had a fantastic time with the bees, and as you can see I took tons of photos. I set my phone up on a tripod and filmed much of what was going on, then did lots of screenshots to get some of the best images that I could.
As you will see I also took my drone with me, and managed to get some great photos with that too. The one above where you can see us as tiny little white dots, was from 100m above us.
Those of you staying at Woodfarm will get to sample this wonderful honey in your breakfast basket, and we have Standard sized jars available that you can purchase as well.
I will bring you news as soon as I have it about the availability of a beekeeping experience next year. A huge thank you to Nick for showing me around and sharing his obvious passion for the world of bees and beekeeping. Please do visit the East Anglia Apiaries website and have a good look around.