Above l to r: Andrew Allott, George Whitehead (IV Rb), Jonathan Jones (Rb IV) and Selby Martin
The School’s Beekeeping Society is reporting that it has managed to keep most of its hives healthy and that a bumper crop of summer honey is expected this year.
“This is the most important part of the year for us because during late June the lime trees in the School grounds and in the Quarry Park across the river come into flower,” explains Andrew Allott, Head of Biology, who leads an enthusiastic group of pupils who tend the School’s apiary. “Many people do not notice it, but the air at the moment is filled with a sweet scent and, if the weather is warm enough, the bees collect huge amounts of nectar in the long days of late June. The honey made from lime nectar is pale green and particularly delicious and we should be able to get a good crop of summer honey. Most beekeepers would extract this in early August – we wait until September so the pupils can see how it is done and help.”
Members of the Society each get some honey and the rest is sold for charity, usually raising several hundred pounds.
The Beekeeping Society started almost 40 years ago, but the last ten years of keeping bee colonies healthy has been very challenging because of a parasitic mite called Varroa and some virus diseases rather like malaria.
“The biggest problem has been keeping colonies alive through the winter and we have lost about half our colonies in most winters. We therefore have to try to double the number of colonies during the summer which isn't easy. Added to this, the weather has been execrable for bees - cold and wet through much of last year and very cold in spring this year when colonies should have been feeding and growing stronger.”
Many beekeepers have suffered catastrophic losses of colonies but at the School, four have survived this year and are now in good condition.
Harry Boutflower (UVI S) was chosen last year to join the British Beekeeping Association as one of a team of three to represent the UK at the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers in Vienna.