West Leake Honey
West Leake boasts its very own beekeeping business, which sells the delicious West Leake Honey.
Run by Ashley Shaw and Dr. Kam Shun Wong, they have eleven hives here in West Leake, and Ashley has been keeping bees for 25 years.
In the summer when their seven full-sized Dadant hives and four Nucleus hives (used to breed Queens) are at full strength, they can house around 500,000 bees!
The bees prefer single flowers as opposed to doubles. Here in the village there are so many different flowers and shrubs, which are in bloom right through the summer and autumn. Ashley emphasises that West Leake honey can vary from week to week in its taste because there are so many wonderful flowers and shrubs here which help create some marvellous flavours.
Ashley is a member of the BBKA (British Bee Keeping Association) suggests that “Beginner bee keepers are best to join a local society, but the best teacher is experience.”
There are many different kinds of honey bees in the UK. Ashley and Kam mainly have Buckfast bees, which were originally bred by Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey in the 1920’s up until his death in 1996, aged 98. They also have some newly-bred Jolanta bees, developed by Jolanta Modliszewski in Scotland.
Kam and Ashley keep the bees and sell the honey purely as a hobby and as a result of an exceptionally good 2022, they’ve bottled nearly 400lbs of honey.
The bees really liked the dry conditions. They hate rain. Honey bees do not really hibernate, they cluster in the cold weather and will still eat at times whilst maintaining a temperature of 33 degrees throughout the winter!
In the summer a worker (female) bee will live for just 6 weeks, but in winter they can live for 3 months. Drone (male) bees live a little longer – nearer to 7 or 8 weeks in the summer. Sadly they are killed off by the females at the end of the summer, as they are not required to mate with Queens.
Royal jelly is the very precious substance produced by the nurse bees and secreted by their glands. This is then given to a prospective Queen bee for its entire gestation period, who might then go on to live up to an impressive 3 years. Some royal jelly is given to normal worker bees when they are at the larvae stage, but just for a short period.
West Leake Honey is currently available from Ashley and Kam.
per 1lb jar
National Honey Day Friday 21st October