It’s a little known fact that the impressive Hopetoun Estate near South Queensferry is home to more than just roe deer, rare Hebridian St Kilda Sheep and its Aberdeen Angus herd. It is also home to 16 groups of honeybees, which, in the peak season, can contain up to 12 millions bees – and they aren’t there on holiday. They are there to work.
The honeybees, managed by Murray McGregor and his team at Denrosa, were brought to the Estate ten years ago to aid in the pollination of the arable crops, wild flowers and trees that adorn the land at Hopetoun. Mike Eagers, Head of Agriculture at Hopetoun, instructs the beekeeping team where to place the bees based on the crop cycle. The bees can be placed in up to eight different locations on the Estate over the course of a year. These locations change each year dependant on the crop rotation.
The bees are not only used to aid pollination on the Estate. The honey from the hives is collected up, put in jars, and given straight to the Hopetoun Farm Shop, which is less than half a mile away on the other side of the Estate. The Farm Shop opened in 2011 and has just been awarded its fourth consecutive five-star rating by from VisitScotland.
Priced at £4.99, the jars of honey will vary in taste, as each hive has its own ‘scout’ that chooses where the pollen will be collected. Two hives can be a meter apart from each other and have completely different tasting honey. Also, as the honey is made using nectar from all over the Estate, those people with allergies in the area near Hopetoun might want to pick some up, as it is said eating local honey can help reduce the effects of hay fever.
Mike Eagers, Head of Agriculture at Hopetoun Estate, says:
“Not only are bees vital to the pollination of all our crops, especially oil seed rape and beans, but they are fascinating creatures in their own right. They have an amazing social hierarchy – the woman is in charge and the males to do all the work! Murray and I have a sit down each year to discuss where the bees are going, and every time I learn something new about the bees and their social hierarchy. They are nothing but beneficial. Definitely worth the £6 price tag for a queen, I’d say!”
Each hive has up to 50,000 bees in it during peak season and, to keep it in top condition, and to make sure the bees are kept under control and not swarming, the beekeepers check each hive every ten days. The bees will only swarm when the queen bee does not have enough space. When this is the case, the beekeeper simply adds more boxes for the queen to lay eggs.
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Notes to editors:
Hopetoun Farm Shop
Hopetoun Farm Shop, which launched in 2011, is a showcase for Scotland’s finest food, and has just been awarded its 4th consecutive five-star rating from VisitScotland. Bringing together carefully selected award-winning Scottish produce to complement the Hopetoun product range, the Hopetoun Farm Shop features more than 500 food and drink signature brands in addition to an in-store butchery, bakery, pie shop, greengrocer and cookery theatre. The shop’s aim is to source over 80% of the product range from Scotland, half of which from within 50 miles of the shop itself.
Hopetoun House is one of the finest examples of 18th Century Architecture in Britain set in 150 acres of landscaped and natural grounds alongside the Firth of Forth just outside Edinburgh.
Designed by Sir William Bruce in 1699, with enlargements and alterations by William Adam from 1721, and continued by his sons John, Robert and James Adam. The magnificent interiors have remained largely unchanged for three centuries, ensuring the collections of furniture, paintings, tapestries, clocks and original craftwork remain in place. Hopetoun House is open to visitors every day from Easter weekend throughout the summer, until the last weekend of September.
Hopetoun Estate extends to 6,000 acres in Lothian and 18,000 acres in Lanarkshire. It runs a mixed farming system at Hopetoun with 2,500 acres of arable land, Aberdeen Angus cattle, Hebridean and Mule sheep, free-range turkeys and chickens.