A day in the life of our beekeeper

Tregothnan is excited to welcome our new beekeeper, Alice Margetts, to the team. We catch up with her over a Cornish cream tea to get an insight into the wonderful world of bees…

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How did you learn the art of beekeeping?

I was born into it, following my father – C J Coleman – through the apiaries, ‘helping’ in the Honey Factory, accompanying him on pollination inspection and the delivery of hives. My Dad – my mentor – spends his life observing and learning the unique behaviour of the Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) and its responses to managed crop pollination.  He did ground breaking work breeding queens of a quiet temperament of the Apis Mellifera Scutellata (Killer Bee) in Zimbabwe for over 30 years and has presented scientific papers internationally.

What do you love about your job?

That nature always has something to teach you – if you are amenable and observant.  The relationship between Bee and Human is especially fascinating and challenging.

Are there different breeds of bees that are used to make the honey?

All bees make honey.  However – for the purpose of harvesting honey –the Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) is used commercially.

What are the typical flowers that the bees would feed on?

Any flower which has either/both nectar and pollen present – however they are selective and use a preferred source until they have no other alternative.

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What is the process from honey collection to bottling? Is it a long method?

The process is not long – but does require care to preserve quality of honey. Combs of mature honey from the hive are de-capped and then the honey is removed from the comb with a centrifugal extractor.  The honey is then strained and allowed to “settle” (preferably in stainless steel settling tanks) prior to bottling.  Any impurities can rise to the top and be skimmed off.  The honey is now ready for bottling in sterile jars.

How do you separate Manuka honey from the other types?

To crop any specific nectar flow i.e. Manuka honey, the bee hives would be constructed specifically for the area concerned, and the nectar flow in question. Manuka honey is reputed to contain properties which promote health and healing.

What is the difference between soft set and clear honey?

All honey starts off as clear/liquid and then as time passes it becomes granular.  Certain granular honeys may be “milled” into “soft set” honey. Tregothnan offers both clear and soft set honey, available here.

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What are the particular flavours/characteristics of Cornish honey?

The Cornish honey which we have sampled appears to be multi-floral in character.  Similar to that of the spring flow in Southern Australia.

What is the shelf life of honey?

Honey was found in the pyramids and whilst edible, the diastase (the enzyme count/life of the honey) had degenerated. The typical shelf life of honey (before the diastase degenerates) is dependent on how it is stored.  Anything over 1 year will show signs of deterioration – especially if stored in sunlight.

Do you use the honey for your own medical use as cures for any ailments?

Yes we do.  We use Royal Jelly – and a mix of propolis and honey for colds and coughs. My most memorable treatment was the use of honey on 2nd degree sunburn whilst back in Zimbabwe.

What is your favourite honey?

With such a diversity of honey in the world it is difficult to have a favourite.  However, forerunners in our opinion are the Sugar Gum and Black Malley Eucalyptus nectars in Australia, and the Brachystegia Woodland nectar of Southern Africa. Tregothnan’s Clear Honey with its flavour created from the pollination of Cornish wildflowers is also high up there on our list!

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Tregothnan’s honey range can be viewed here.