We were delighted that Matthew had agreed to give us a second talk after last year’s fascinating account of his experiences in Australia, and the start of his Bee Farming operation in Staffordshire only a very few years ago.
He took us through his beekeeping diary month by month, starting with an aerial shot of 100 of his hives in one apiary under the snow. His winter plan includes building his boxes from timber, wax recovery, and a lot of packing of honey for his own label and for other businesses. He said his Mum deserved a mention as she helped a lot! He trickle treats his colonies with oxalic acid which, he said, may have been less effective in the mild winter.
In March he moved his hives to several non-permanent apiaries to allow them better pollen forage – but maybe too close to an oilseed rape crop. Spring also saw him grafting queen cells and checking overwintered nucs to ensure a ready supply of new queens (Carniolan). It has been a learning curve understanding how many bees and how much time this takes, and he said his focus was still on honey rather than selling bees.
Over summer he went to farmers’ markets and shows, along with harvesting honey. This year he also took on the renovation of an old milking parlour for an extraction room, so he was very busy. Then he took bees to the Peak District, where they produced some beautiful frames of heather honey for cut comb and chunk honey. He loves the flavour and colour of heather honey.
Then in autumn he brought his colonies back to the home apiary, to save travelling around with a lot of syrup, and to reduce time spent checking the bees. In October he took a holiday with his girlfriend – to the bee farmers’ AGM in Devon. This was also a season for developing new products such as flavoured honeys and a chocolate honey spread.
November was a time for Christmas markets, which are a valuable part of the business. They also allow him to talk to the public and gather feedback. Packing and product development continued too.
And in December it was time for frame making – about 3,000 – and box building, ready for the coming season.
I came away feeling I had had a very enjoyable evening and learned quite a bit about life as a young bee farmer. This was a very good talk, and our thanks go to Matthew for being such an engaging speaker.
Thank you, Marion, for arranging it.
After his talk Matthew very competently answered a number of questions from the Weybridge Members. The video of the Zoom talk is available on a restricted YouTube programme accessible to WBK members only. If you were unable to attend the ‘live’ presentation, we heartily recomend that you find the time to listen to this recording. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/jqrenS0di70
Many thanks for this report Jane.
What an unusual and impressive young man is Matthew! His beekeeping skills can only be matched by his business ones in building up his beekeeping operation so quickly.