The changeable weather and unprecedented wasp numbers have proven challenging this summer but have been balanced out by an exceptional spring yield and a beautiful heather crop.
The Snowdonia Honey Co., a Welsh business that produces a unique, premium quality honey from hives dotted around the Snowdonia National Park (Eryri), has shared its annual review of the summer honey season.
Alun Allcock, founder of The Snowdonia Honey Co., reports that the summer crop has been relatively modest, with each hive producing around 25kg less honey this year. This is due to the very cold and changeable weather in July and August, the main foraging time for the bees.
However, this has been balanced out by the exceptional spring harvest, something that Snowdonia beekeepers only experience once every few years. The extraordinarily good weather that the Snowdonia National Park enjoyed in May and June created an abundance of early-flowering plants, including sycamore and hawthorn flowers, resulting in a brilliant spring honey crop.
“The late spring and wonderful conditions meant we were able to produce a beautiful Snowdonia Spring Honey this year, which has been very popular,” explains Alun. “The taste is much more intense than honey produced in the summer, darker in colour and captures all the aroma of spring flora. We are already looking forward to entering this exquisite honey into the Great Taste Awards.”
The warm temperatures and lack of rain in recent weeks means that a heather honey crop has also been harvested by the bees. Snowdonia Ling Heather Honey is only available for a very short time and comes from the Welsh Ling Heather that turns the slopes of Snowdonia a magnificent purple in late July and August. It is a smooth, dark, and rich honey that has a sweet yet earthy taste.
Despite some of the challenges summer has presented, Alun is feeling optimistic about next year:
“The bees seem to be setting themselves up well for winter by foraging on the end-of-summer flora and fauna, particularly Himalayan balsam, rosebay willowherb and lastly ivy which grow abundantly here in Snowdonia. If the weather stays mild enabling the bees to fly, they will be going into winter really strong and the result will be a good honey crop next year.”
Other points of interest this year
Queen rearing – The Snowdonia Honey Co. produces around 100 high-quality new queens to head up new colonies or requeen existing colonies each year. Early season conditions meant that the queens produced this year were very high quality with a lull in mating flights during July but that caught up with itself in August so a good year was had.
Wasps numbers have been a huge problem this year. The mild winter didn’t kill off as many as normal and there have been problems keeping them from robbing out the smaller, new bee colonies. Their populations now seem to be dwindling as we move into September.
The Snowdonia Honey Company was founded in 2018 when Alun bought a small farm in Snowdonia and realised that there was an opportunity to produce a unique, high-quality honey from the rugged, ever-changing landscape of the Snowdonia National Park.
The diverse flora and fauna of Snowdonia, coupled with the fact that the bees have to be tough to cope with the often-wild conditions, has resulted in honey with a sought after and distinctive flavour, aroma, and colour. This is attracting a growing following of discerning British food lovers.
Alun has gradually added to his hives to keep up with demand. Starting with just two, The Snowdonia Honey Co. now has around 100 hives dotted throughout the Snowdonia countryside, equating to 6 million or so bees at the height of summer.
“When I tried the first batch of honey from those original bees, I knew we had found something special. Snowdonia can be a harsh environment, and the bees have to be extra tough to survive and thrive. That – coupled with the wonderful flowers and plants that are native here, including our heather – has resulted in a unique, high-quality honey that reflects the region’s unspoiled wilderness. I’m delighted to see more and more people tasting and discovering it.”
Produce including the limited-availability Snowdonia Ling Heather Honey can be purchased online from the Snowdonia Honey Co. website at snowdoniahoney.com with free delivery anywhere in the UK.