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Beekeepers keeping an eye on their hives

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 20, 2014

TASTING HONEY: Cathy Backway, education co-ordinator for North Devon Beekeepers.

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NORTH Devon's beekeepers are watching their hives to ensure the wild weather doesn't damage them or let in water that could spell the end of their colonies.

They will survive until the warmer conditions arrive as long as their shelter isn't compromised, said Jack Mummery of the area's beekeeping association.

"If conditions are right they pack into a cluster, like a ball, and as long as the hives are well ventilated and they're not exposed to the elements, they're fine," he said.

As the weather gets warmer the bees will start to disperse outwards and move about.

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And all being well they will be making the precious honey which has many benefits as Jack describes in this month's association report for the Journal.

He writes: "Honey is produced from nectar from flowers and sometimes from honeydew, gathered by honey bees. Used as a sweetener and spread it also has antibacterial properties and is a healing agent for open wounds, applied under medical supervision.

"Honey available in shops is, broadly speaking, produced either commercially or by small-scale beekeepers.

"Commercially produced honey involves a certain amount of processing and a lot is imported.

"Some honey is heated to above 50°C to kill natural yeasts to prevent fermentation and filtered through micro filters under pressure to remove any foreign bodies. This also removes most naturally occurring pollen.

"Most commercial honey will be filtered and heated to varying degrees to make it easier to pump through pipes to the bottling plant.

"Small beekeeper honey will be extracted from the comb using a machine which spins the combs throwing honey out of the cells.

"The honey will then be filtered to remove wax particles and the odd bee part.

" If the honey is heated, it is done to dissolve any granulation and would not be heated above 35°C.

"Beekeepers sell honey either runny or set which can be very hard or quite soft depending how it is prepared.

"The colour depends on the nectar source and can vary from almost colourless (from borage) to almost black (from tree flowers).

"Generally, the darker the honey, the stronger its flavour. Honey can be produced from bees harvesting honey dew, a sticky excretion from aphids. This honey is almost liquorice like in flavour and very dark."

Next week in part two of his bulletin Jack describes the variety of honeys made from one particular flower or plant.

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