Honey Mountain is the trading name of James' beekeeping enterprise. The name was (whimsically) inspired by the shape of Godolphin Hill, on which we used to live and on the side of which we have 2 production apiaries The shape of the hill is like a squashed volcano, not quite a mountain (!), but carrying all the local flora. Another apiary is near Breage village. We are looking out for a new site which might favour in-strain mating. The work of preparing woodwork and wax foundation in frames, rendering wax and making candles, extracting honey and filling jars are carried out at home. Income from sales amounts to a way of paying for the expenses of running the apiaries, particularly as travel costs are high.
Honey and labels
Honey labels are specific to each apiary or group of apiaries and to the parish or geography of the area. Thus Godolphin Hill honey carries a picture of the hill, Breage honey a water colour sketch of the village and Helston honey a digital picture of the town from its lowest level. Parishes are featured by virtue of the view of the parish churches of Breage, Sithney and Helston.
Honey is sold in 454g, 340g, 227g jars (corresponding to 1lb, ¾lb, ½lb); in the form of cut comb in plastic boxes by weight, and occasionally the two combined as chunk honey (a slice of comb in a 454g or smaller jar). Local shops stock the honey, sufficient to the harvest (being able to supply them throughout the year), from Farm shops, Health Food shops to local Post Offices and a Gift shop. These honeys have won top prizes in all local shows where and when they have been entered: those of West Cornwall Beekeepers' Association and the Royal Cornwall Show (Bees and Honey tent) - the last being the most prestigious show in Cornwall with the most competition.
Pure beeswax candles
Candles are made entirely from beeswax, some from rendering wax from the hives, some previously purchased from a Devon or a Scottish beekeeper. These are available for purchase via mail order or local delivery or pickup. They are sold locally on a small scale. Candles have also won the top prizes in all local shows, notably the Royal Cornwall Show.
Queen rearing for improvement of the strains is a regular and vital part of the whole enterprise. Mother queens and drone producing colonies are carefully selected for the temperament, productivity, strength and signs of varroa tolerance of the colony as well as for the standard characters of the old native bee. Queens are available for sale to both to local beekeepers and to specialists from further afield and in an exchange with Cornwall Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Group members. They are also available in nucleus colonies which are ideal as starter colonies for new beekeepers or those wishing to compare the performance of our colonies against their own and those interested in bringing ner-native bees into their apiaries. Queens are mated from the best apiary, where the most recently proven queens are concentrated to produce the highest quality drones. Daughter queens are moved to the more outlying apiaries and to as many local beekeepers as will take them. This ‘drone flooding’ aims to expand the proportion of drones carrying our selected genes our queens will mate with.
One of our colonies was one of a few tested genetically in 2013 as part of the B4 Project. Interestingly, when compared to established Apis mellifera mellifera (as well as to Carnican and Ligustican bees), our strain of dark bees is distinctively different from other UK A.m.m. bees, and arguably as different as Carnican are from Ligustican.
Cornish dark queens and nucleus colonies for sale
Our queens and nucleus colonies of all-black bees are available for sale throughout the UK. Queens will be posted or can be collected. Nuclei must be collected in your own box. The quality of our bees is so highly recognized that people have come from as far as Shropshire to pick them up and we have delivered to Southport. Nowadays we encourage those enquiring to acquire near-native bees from a similar environment, preferably in their own locality, if this is possible and prefer to sell to maritime beekeepers from western parts. For further details and payment methods go to the pages queens and nucleus colonies.
2014 Although difficulties were encountered in the queen rearing programmes in 2011 using mini-nucs, and in 2012 because of serious weather problems, orders for nuclei were satisfied in 2013. The 2014 season has proven much more successful, with Swi-Bine and Apidea mini-hives proving close on 100% successful in matings, with only 1 absconding (in shade!). Nuclei are currently available, some proven as having all-black workers and others with mixed workers.
2015 A number of National nuclei have been set aside for overwintering and availability in spring 2015, bred from the most hygienic all-black colony. Other nucs will be available in 2015 as colonies are split in the spring. The mid spring breeding programme will start in April and should yield queens and nuclei to spare if all goes well from the end of May onwards.
Address for collection: 10, St George’s Road, Hayle, Cornwall, TR27 4AH. Telephone 01736 602192 or 07980 486245 or email James to check for availability and directions.
The management cycle for the year begins with the honey harvest in August and the treatment of the hives for varroa, to fit the selected strategy of I.P.M. (Integrated Pest Management). Colonies are fed only if the honey stores in the brood chamber are less than 30lb, since though we can usually expect the ivy to provide some stores, we cannot guarantee they will always produce enough to survive the winter. Hives with less good queens are requeened with newly reared queens from the Bee Improvement programme and failing colonies replaced. Old queens may be "stored" in small colony nuclei over winter. All supers from which honey has been extracted are replaced on the hives from which they came as part of the disease limitation programme. In spring, once the nectar flow has started and temperatures have risen sufficiently, frames with drawn comb are inserted to encourage brood rearing and a little sugar syrup is given to stimulate laying. Later, frames with foundation are added to ensure new comb is drawn in a 3-year replacement cycle. A recent experiment is to use frames with starter strip only and "wired" with fishing line, as in Dave Cushman's web site (see beelinks). Swarm control measures are taken with any colony showing signs of swarming preparation, going with the bees, rather than against them (i.e., queen cells are not culled in an attempt to prevent swarming - rather the colonies are split in some way as to maximise honey production and the improvement of the colony strains). Production colonies are fed only if the season has been so poor that stores have been depleted to less than 15lb, in order to support the queen to continue laying, (so long as there is a good store of pollen in the hive) and prevent the colony from depleting its stores to zero. Occasionally, now apparently more frequently (!) June is poor and spring stores may be insufficient to maintain the colonies and they would otherwise starve and die. For further details see beekeeping.