Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Honey direct from our Moss View Apiaries!

As keen followers of this blog will know, we set up our first apiary on Moss View Allotment on Plot 2 last year (2009), with 3 hives of honey bees (apis mellifora), with bees supplied from (2 swarms and a split) Dave Rome (our beekeeping mentor and a frim friend) at the Balmorral Road Allotment Apiary.

Our reasons for starting Beekeeping was in order to try and do our bit to help the struggling honey bee by attempting to provide a new environment for them to live locally, to help safeguard their wellbeing by (hopefully) being able to pass on several nucleus of bees each year (to new beekeepers and those who have lost their bees over the winter) and perhaps to also help spread some good information to those who have an interest in the environment and the plight of the honey bee!

 As you can see, even with the terrible weather during the last winter (temperatures down to -19C and snow 12" deep on the plots during the 2009 winter)our 3 hives all came through the winter, and once they had got going we were then able to divide them to provide us with more colonies of bees to go into our 2nd Apiary on Plot 1, and also to provide 3 nucleus colonies to new beekeepers who had attended the Stockport BBKA beginners course with Pat and Colin!

Hive 1 has always been a problem, with the Queen never really getting going as quickly as the other hives, but as they made it through the winter we've let her be, and they have now laid down enough honey to see themselves through the winter, so perhaps next year we will look at requeening them (as the hive 1 queen will then be in her 3rd year and although they have enough supplies for themselves, they arent producing any surplus, plus they can be quite aggressive bees, hence their nickname of Psychos!) Hive 2 is our best colony, relatively mild in behaviour and extremely productive in honey, hence their nickname of Incredibles!

The second apiary was built during the winter of 2009, and filled with 1 of the hives from apiary 1 and the divisions that we were able to take......

........ which gave us hives 4 (hippies as they are sooo laid back and calm) and 5 (headbangers cos they bounce off your head when you do the inspections) .................

........... hive 6 (nicknamed stingray cos they are fairly aggressive and tend to sting at the slightest provocation) and Hive 3 (that was moved from Apiary 1 - nicknamed Propodopolis as they are very active with propolys, gluing everything together!)

Of course its not cheap to start keeping bees, firstly you need to learn what you are doing, so membership of the BBKA is vital (plus it provides the beekeeper with public liability insurance on the hives) and its a darn good idea to attend one of their beginners classes (£60 each). After that you need to find the place to keep your hives and build your Apiary (apiary 1 cost £150 to build, and apiary 2 cost £175 to build), then you've got to buy the equipment you are going to need to be able to handle the bees (Personal Protection Equipment such as suits and gloves, gaitors (to stop them crawling up your trouser leg), plus Tools to enable you to handle the hives such as smokers, hive tools, bee brushes, icing sugar dusting equipment, something to carry it all in - I'd estimate at least £120 per person depending on which type of suit and how cheaply you are able to get it).

The next cost is for the actual hives themselves, a basic National Hive with 2 supers, no stand or landing board will cost at least £125, and when you then add in costs for another 2 supers per hive, the frames and foundation to go into them, a stand to put it on, landing board, clearing boards and bottom boards for the winter, I'd estimate that each hive will easily cost you well over £200! (If you would like a pictoral tour of what is actually contained within the hive itself in terms of hardware, then take a look at this post in the blog archives, scroll down and there's a good section - with piccies -of just what is needed to build a hive and fill it ready for the bees to live their!

The next cost (of course) is going to be for your actual Bee nucleus, commercially they can cost between £150 and £250 (depending on current supply and demand), locally the price is usually about £140 (from a local beekeeper - if you can find one with a spare nucleus to sell), then of course you need to think what you are going to do when your colony is established and they start to produce queen cells, do you squish them and hope for the best, let them swarm or divide them, in which case you are then going to need somewhere to house them!

 So you then need some Nucleus Boxes, either bought ones (£90 or so), or make your own (approx £35 each like we did here, and you want at least 1 per hive and more sensibly 2 per hive)

 Finally you then need something to extract the honey from the frames once you're bees have filled and capped them with honey! To remove a super you firstly need it empty of bees, the easy way to do so is to fit a clearing board (a board with a couple of one way exits that allow the bees to exit the super but not come back up into the super), or if you are pushed for time, then you could individually shake / brush the bees off the frame that you wish to take, then immediately put it into a sealed box to let you remove it from the apiary!

Once you've then got the frames home, you need several more bits of kit to be able to get the honey out of the frame, firstly you will need something to put the frames on to remove the cappings (otherwise as soon as you uncap the frame you will have honey pouring everywhere), then you need something to remove the cappings (an uncapping knife or uncapping fork are the cheaper options at £25 or £8 each, but you can spend over £100 on a heated uncapping knife, or more on various uncapping machines) and then you will also need a centrifugal honey extractor (food grade plastic ones from about £130, manual stainless steel ones from about £230 and motorised ones from about £500), then filters and some settling tanks for the honey to rest in whilst the bubbles caused by extracting settle out!

Once that is done you are then ready to jar up your honey, simple you may think, but again, its not without its costs! Jars can cost from as little as 12p each to as much as 50p each (depending on what size and type you want to use) and then it just needs to be labelled (3 labels, an anti tamper seal, a specific 'compliant' honey label - has to contain certain details by law - and your granulations label), which can add as much as an extra 60p cost to each jar! So, a cheap label and jar can cost you 72p to jar up, then if you are posting it you are going to need protection (special box at 80p each) and your postage (£3.80 for up to 1 kg 2nd class)

So, after all that expense you may think you've got it all sorted, that you can now just sit back and let all the bees do the hard work and take you're honey harvest at the end of the year! Think again! During the 'active;' season (March through to end of October) you need to do a weekly inspection of each bee hive, checking on the health of the bees, on whether they have enough room and stores, whether there is a queen present (either by seeing her or by looking for freshly laid eggs) and carrying out swarm management (either by removing the queen cell or by dividing the hive), so each week you should budget for 30 mins to an hour and a half per hive - depending on the size of the hive and how much you wish to inspect (plus travel times and suiting up / lighting smoker times, add another 10 mins at the beginning and end of each apiary session). For the 4 of us with our 6 hives this usually means we are doing the bee insepctions for about 3 to 4 hours, with 2 teams working, 1 per apiary! Then factor in the time taken to extract the honey, setting up takes 20 minutes, then extracting 4 frames a time in our stainless steel extractor takes about 20 minutes, so if you've got 30 frames to extract you know you are going to be in for a long night, especially if you are then going to jar up and label your honey (jarring 25 lb of honey takes an hour and labelling it another 20 minutes!)

In total over the past 2 years (between the 4 of us) we recon we've spent over £3000 setting up the 2 apiaries, building the apiaries, getting the bees, buying the hives, tools, extractor and uncapping equipment, building nuc boxes, getting trained, quite a large outlay with little return last year (we had 18lb of honey in total between the 4 of us)! In terms of the time we've invested, in the past year I'd estimate (if you include building the apiaries and putting together hives, stands frames, the time taken weekly to do the bee inspections and the time taken to extract and jar up the honey) that we've spent in excess of 500 man hours between the 4 of us!

We definitely arent into Beekeeping to make any money, in fact anyone that thinks taking beekeeping up as a hobby will give them a quick return on their investment is going to be sadly disappointed (see the above text for a description of what sort of costs and time factors are involved), but having said that, we are now in a position that we can start to recoup some of our investment in terms of money as we do now have a limited amount of honey available for sale, it will normally be sold locally to friends and work colleagues (Lee has a growing clientel of staff at his store who come and see him for our honey - with his boss' permission of course!), but we are also aware (from numerous emails and enquiries that we've received via the blog) that some of our online friends are also interested in trying our honey, so to anyone that is interested in trying it  there's now a button to buy it now via paypal at the bottom of the screen, and another in the menu bar to the right of the page!

The honey we are selling comes from Moss View Allotments, located on the Cheshire Borders, and although we can't claim an organic label (as you have to be specially certificated to do so) I can honestly state that it is 100% natural, no added chemicals, just pure honey extracted by ourselves and jarred up for you to enjoy! Our bees are naturally 'free range', locally they have a wide variety of flowers, ranging from those found on the plot and in local gardens, through to wild flowers alongside the Ship Canal and disused railway lines, through to those that are found in the local farmers fields (who is organically certified).

Local honey is a premium quality product, it contains nectar and pollen from local sources, for which there is some evidence can help to control the symptoms of some common allegies (hayfever and asthma) if consumed regularly. Local honey has a wonderful taste, which varies depending on the pollen and nectar source that the bees have been gathering it from, and naturally its consistency can vary from the most runny clear honey (almost a champagne colour, fantastic for putting in your tea instead of processed sugar) through to naturally set (granulated) which is very thick, opaque and has larger sugar crystals present (ideal for on your morning porridge!) Honey which has 'granulated' (naturally set) can be returned to a runny condition by gently heating the jar in a water bath at 60C

Local honey is a very green product, it has minimal food miles (unlike most cheap commercially produced honey which is imported) and is supplied exactly as the bees produced it, with no 'blending' or additives, unlike some commercially produced honeys. Soft set honey is produced by blending a small quantity of naturally granulated honey with runny honey and 'whisking' it until it becomes 'soft set'. This is not a naturally occuring type of honey but a blend that has had a process applied to it!

Local honey is the product of thousands of hours labour by the bees (each bee will produce a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime), and a lot of time, money, hard physical work and personal pain by the beekeeper (This year Lee has been stung 3 times, I've been sting 5 times, Pat has been stung 7 times, Colin has been stung 8 times and Sarah has been stung 15 times!)

All our jars of honey are single variety honeys, when we extract the honey harvest we do it separately for each of our hives, storing it in separate settling tanks, so we can tell you which hive any particular jar of honey was produced in (yes, we keep them all stacked separately), so if you find a particular jar of honey tasty, then we should (stocks depending) be able to provide you with more jars from the same hive, although as the bees forage on different plants at different times of year the exact taste, clarity and texture will depend on what the bees themselves have produced!

So, go on, support your friendly local Beekeepers, support our Moss View Apiaries and show your support for the British Honey Bee by treating yourself to a jar (or two) of our fresh natural local Cheshire Honey!

Fresh Natural Cheshire Honey
Preference - Runny or naturally set?

Postage will be via Royal Mail, 2nd class, usually delivered within 3 working days, and we post Monday to Thursday each week, postage and packaging costs are £4 per jar, slighlty less than the postage and packaging combined costs us! Your jar of honey will be bubble wrapped inside its own individual box to ensure that it arrives at your destination in pristine condition!

12ox hexagonal jar of 2010 honey, freshly extracted and bottled ready for sale! Delicious!

Hopefully in the not too distant future we will also be able to supply limited amounts of natural beeswax furniture polish, natural lip balm and possibly some beeswax candles, watch this space for details!