How long have there been bees at Petersham House?
I brought the first colony of bees to Petersham around five years ago.
How many hives are there?
We currently have four hives. Two are large, mature colonies and two are smaller, young colonies that will grow to full size next year.
How do you look after the bees and what equipment do you use?
I generally check on the bees once every other week, sometimes more. Harvesting the honey and extracting it takes a couple of days, also preparing colonies for winter.
It’s important to know the bees have a queen, there are plenty of healthy larvae to grow into the bees that do all the hard work and plenty of food available in the hive and the environment in the form of nectar and pollen from flowering plants and trees.
To produce honey requires a strong, healthy colony which can take several months to build up to a good size, together with plentiful nectar. The bees work hard to reduce the water content of nectar to around 20%, then cover each cell with a protective capping of thin wax.
How often do you collect the honey?
I collect the honey once or twice a year, always ensuring I leave plenty for the bees. First I must clear the bees from the honey boxes, then I slice off the wax cappings that protect frames of ripe honey and spin it out in a centrifugal extractor.
How much honey is produced per year?
This year each of the two mature colonies has yielded around 45 kilos each of beautiful honey, including honeycomb.
Is the honey used as an ingredient for dishes at Petersham Nurseries Café?
The honey has recently been used to make fig, ricotta and honey ice cream, served with roasted figs and the honeycomb has been served with cheese and oatcakes.