Bees are an integral part of strawberry production here at Annabel’s Deliciously British as they pollinate our strawberry plants each season. They also produce our traditional honey which is delicately flavoured by the strawberry plants and local wildflowers that they pollinate.
Honeybees at Annabel’s Deliciously British
We started our journey as beekeepers to support bee conservation because, despite bees being an important link in the food chain, they are in decline. Now we have 1.5million bees across 22 hives on our Yorkshire strawberry farm.
“I absolutely love having the bees on the farm – watching them work is just the icing on the cake. And the honey we get from them is divine”.
But how do the bees make honey?
The honey-making process
From early Spring, honeybees travel from flower to flower to collect nectar and pollen. This nectar is stored in a honey bladder (or “honey stomach) whilst the bee travels back to the hive. Once at the hive the bees pass the nectar from their honey bladder to a hive bee.
Nectar transfer happens multiple times, during which it gets enriched with enzymes and other substances from the bees. The water content in the nectar is very high so this process is repeated until the nectar droplets have thickened.
Once the nectar has thickened to the right consistency the honey bees distribute it into empty honeycomb cells. These cells aren’t filled right to the top; by doing this, the honey bee can accelerate the evaporation process of the remaining water by constantly fanning its wings.
Eventually sweet, liquid honey is created. At this point, the bees will cap the hexagonal honeycomb cells with a thin layer of beeswax which means the honey can keep indefinitely.
Harvesting the honey
Once the cells are capped with wax this indicates to beekeepers that the honey is ready for harvest. This usually happens in late summer. During hive inspections and honey harvesting, we use smokers to keep the bees calm – and to avoid getting stung!
When bees sense danger, they release a pheromone called isopentyl acetate which travels through the air and alerts other bees in the hive to be ready to attack. Using harmless smokers interferes with the bees’ sense of smell and they can’t react to these pheromones.
The smoke also causes bees to prepare to leave their hive in case it is on fire. When doing this the bees eat lots of the honey, assuming they need lots of energy. This makes it harder for them to sting and therefore safer for us to harvest the honey. We make sure the smoke isn’t too hot to prevent harming the bees.
Once the bees are calm the honeycomb can be removed from the hive. With the honeycomb frames removed, we can scrape off the wax (caps) and place the frames into an extractor. The frames are then spun, causing the honey to be released from the honeycomb. The honey is then strained to remove any remaining wax and other particles and drops into a bucket below the machine. Finally, we decant the honey into jars ready to be sold.
Try our honey
You’ll notice that the colours and flavours of traditional honey vary. This is because it is affected by the blossoms that the bees visit and is what makes each honey so unique. Our honey has a wonderful floral aroma and tastes mouth-wateringly sweet with a hint of strawberries.
Ready to taste it yourself? Jars of honey are available to order for home delivery in our online shop. Or even treat yourself to one of our Honeycomb Frames, featuring 100% raw British honeycomb straight from our hives!