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Engineering Honey Update #2 – Autumn 2023


Weathering Challenges


It’s been another crazy year for the Chord Crew, but we thought it was ‘hive time’ we gave an update on our corporate bee hive, as the bees have been equally buzzy.


Back in May of this year, Chord Consult embarked on an exciting journey towards enhancing our environmental consciousness by establishing a ‘Top Bar’ beehive. This innovative project was not only aimed at promoting bee populations, but we also had one eye on producing sustainable local honey while adhering to eco-friendly principles. 


However, as we all know, nature has its own plans, and this year's wet summer brought its unique set of challenges giving mixed success:


The Good News


First and foremost, we wanted this project to play a part in addressing the global decline in bee populations. Top Bar hives are the bee's knees when it comes to sustainable beekeeping. Unlike traditional hives, which emphasize maximum honey extraction, Top Bar hives prioritize the well-being of the bees and the preservation of their natural behaviour. This aligns perfectly with our commitment to sustainable practices. 


So, imagine our delight when, in late June, our hive was so successful it produced its first swarm!!!


The Swarm (June)


You see, when a happy bee colony is reproducing well, it can get overcrowded and the queen starts feeling a bit cramped in her hive. This is when she decides it's time to split the hive and create a new colony. It's kind of like a bee family's version of setting up a regional office (which the Chord Directors may have been taking notes from… watch this space!)


It works like this: - the old queen bee lays some special eggs, one of which turns into a new queen bee to stay behind with the established hive. The old queen then takes off, with a group of her trusted workers, which we call a swarm. They fly off on a mission to find a new home where they can spread their wings. So, if you ever see a swarm of bees, don't panic – they’re just on a quest for a new place to live!


The Collection


One of the unsung arts of beekeeping is catching a swarm before it causes a nuisance (hives getting stuck in chimneys was a big reported problem this year). To promote the catch, we left empty hives (like speculative developments) around our bee site to encourage any swarm to make home locally. Amazingly, this ploy worked! The new swarm found our nearby empty (traditional) hive and settled in within hours. Nobody actually saw our swarm: we only realised they’d swarmed when we visited site a few days later on a random check – the Top Bar numbers had halved and the empty hive was full. To avoid overcrowding our bee site, we then gifted the new colony to another local keeper. A whole new hive created from nothing (other than pollen and hard work, or course).


The Rain (July)


So, we were feeling pretty smug with our successful (albeit slightly reduced) colony, when the British weather stepped in. We went from the warmest June on record (as anyone who attended our birthday party will vouch) to an exceptionally wet July and August. And bees don’t like the wet weather. Under new management, our reduced colony has faced a pretty tough start. 



Early Winter (November)


Add to this a cold, wet, start to the winter, and it’s looking like a tough first year for the new crew. As a result we’re nervous about taking too much of their honey this year, and want to leave them with most of their hard earned gains to help them tough it through till spring.


On the positive side, the new colony seem really happy. The Top Bar hive should offer much more insultation than traditional hives to keep our little ones snug, whatever the weather throws at them, till Spring.

 


A Taste of Honey


But, all is not lost. To ensure the colony has space to feed, we have taken a single juicy frame of honey from their considerable bounty. We’ve also heard from the keeper who took our swarm, and he’s kindly offered us a few of his bountiful frames too.


So, we HAVE managed a harvest this year, just a very small one. This is being bottled up over Christmas, and we’ll be looking to distribute jars, where we can, to our closest friends and allies early in the New Year.


 

Conclusion


Our ongoing Top Bar beehive initiative may not have resulted in copious amounts of honey, due to the wet summer and the sustainable approach of the hive. However, it has brought us closer to our goals of promoting bee conservation and sustainable beekeeping practices. As we continue to learn and adapt, we remain committed to making a positive impact on the environment and contributing to the well-being of our planet, one bee at a time. Bee-cause… every little helps!


PS. if you’re particularly keen to try some of our honey, please contact ash@chordconsult.co.uk to join the waiting list. We can’t promise to get a jar to everyone, as the bees come first, but if you’re quick enough we’ll do our best.

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