Brockworth boys in a great bee adventure in Gloucestershire
It’s hard to grasp the sheer numbers involved in bee colonies unless you see it first hand and up close.
For most of the 120 hives owned around Gloucestershire by BS Honey Bees, each one is home to around 20,000 bees.
That’s well over two million honey bees owned by this one company alone. That’s a lot of bees, a lot of honey and it also makes for quite a valuable operation.
In the USA, beekeeping is big business. Around 90 per cent of the industry is to pollinate the nation’s almond trees and some keepers have up to 10,000 hives. Without it, all those packets of almonds you see on supermarket shelves simply wouldn’t be there.
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In this country beekeeping isn’t done on such an industrial scale but there is still a burgeoning market for it – partly from a modern environmentalist trend among beginners but mostly from commercial orders from honey producers.
The value of these hives is why Daniel Bates and Tristan Sawczuk are cautious about divulging the whereabouts of their sites around the county. They’ll only go as far to say that there’s one near Tewkesbury, one near Cheltenham, another in the Forest of Dean and one near Gloucester.
And when you visit one of these sites, you’d hardly know it was there. Tucked away off a main road, nestled under the boughs of an old perry orchard, several wooden hives house the valuable operation of BS Honey Bees.
But of course there are bees – lots of them – buzzing around your head and creating a significant and permanent hum as they go about their business.
These aren’t the dangerous ones though. Daniel and Tristan use the Buckfast variety of bee, known for their placid nature. And thanks to the hot weather we’ve had recently they’re in a fairly harmless mood at the moment.
Dan and Tristan are both 22 and are old friends from school in Brockworth. They started working as beekeepers several years ago and for the past four years have alternated between summers here and in Australia, where they learned their trade on a sufficiently commercial scale to set up their own business together.
Dan said: “We know we’re in a position now to compete with other companies, in terms of the quality we offer and at a far cheaper price to most of them too.
“Thanks to our time here and in Australia we have the experience that not many people in this country have and we know what it takes to work on a vast commercial operation.
“We know that there’s a market there, we understand it and we are good at what we do. Plus we get to own and run our own business, too. We love it.”
The only downside for the young business partnership is that their industry is, to an extent, weather dependent and summers like super-wet 2012 really don’t help. Not only do individuals stop buying hives in wet weather but the bees need food to survive when there’s not as much pollen around, so honey supplies are consumed rather than being available to sell.
Still, there’s always work to do – whether it’s building new hives or preparing for the following summer.
Dan said: “Our mates wonder how we can make a living out of beekeeping but it’s a lot more complicated than people think. It’s not simple and there’s a lot to do.
“This might be the first year that we don’t go to Australia because there’s so much to get on with.”