After an absence of over 500 years, earlier in 2018, we were delighted to introduce honey bees back to Lindores Abbey with 6 hives being set up by the Holy Burn.
As custodians of Lindores Abbey, we have made a very sincere commitment to protect this important landmark for future generations and the aim of our Preservation Society is to see Lindores Abbey flourish again as a site for research, learning, brewing, distilling, horticulture, and beekeeping.
History of beekeeping at Lindores
The Tironensian monks that lived and worked here were well regarded for their horticultural and medicinal skills. and when they first arrived at Lindores, the land on which the Abbey was built and all of the land around it had to be tamed and then properly cultivated. The massive orchards that sprung up around the Abbey covered over 30 acres and were the largest in Scotland, growing apples, pears and plums. We also know they kept bees in straw skeps for honey and wax production.
So in 2018, after lots of research and consultation, we took delivery from British Beefeeds of 3 hives and 4 nucs of bees, with a mix of Scottish native and Carnolian bee colonies, which will provide honey and wax in the future for the distillery. We may actually use it in drinks, tinctures and our catering, or may use it for candle making. The Distillery bees will be kept in modern hives as Skeps have many drawbacks and not in keeping with today’s management practises.
The bees have been settling in well and The Apiary, managed by Douglas Bell, will become an integral part of the visitor experience. However, Douglas is not the only member of staff who has become entranced by our new residents.
Charley is the 17 year old niece of the current Custodian of Lindores Abbey, Drew McKenzie Smith, and is now the latest beekeeper in a long line of beekeepers! Charley has been working at the distillery part time for just over a year now and is studying Advanced Biology, Chemistry and Statistics at school, as well as doing a Science Baccalaureate on the honey bees at Lindores.
She became the latest beekeeper after showing so much enthusiasm and passion in the bees, that head beekeeper Douglas asked her to join the Bee Team. Since then, she comes out once a week to take care of every bee need.
Charley is going to keep us all updated on the bees and we will post regular updates on how they are getting on.
20/08/2018: Currently all of our hives are looking very healthy. Each hive, except hive number 7 with our very angry Queen, has been given some medication for the Varroa Mite to ensure that they stay healthy. In the upcoming weeks the bees will be getting some special sugar feeders to help them get through the winter and will be receiving some extra protection, in the form of mouse excluders, to allow them to better protect the rest of the hive from predators such as Wasps. Our bees now have their own private water sources (A.K.A bright yellow water buckets), with damp cloths and paracord attached to make sure they get the water they need with a reduced risk of drowning. Our hives are still currently building up their honey stores and in the next year we hope to be able to harvest some and get our very first taste to enjoy with everyone.
05/09/2018: Yesterday, Charley fed the bees some liquid syrup. Nectar has been a bit scarce and this is to support them in the coming months, to provide enough food over winter. All the colonies had started eating their own honey stores, which tells us they were hungry. She also applied mouse guards over the entrances to the hives. This allows bees in, but predators such as wasps and mice who are looking for honey cannot squeeze through the mouse guards. At this time of year, the Queen Bee slows down her laying, so the colonies are not overcrowded for winter, and the food they have is enough to live on for the remaining bees. We will be replacing the liquid syrup with fondant in October.
14/09/2018 : We are meeting with Dr Chantelle Davies from St Andrews University next week. She is keen to see how she can work with us to enhance our bee offering to a wider market and allow us to support any expansion plans we have for our bees honey and wax, as well as supporting us to spread the word on the importance of bees to the world food economy.
Our bees were all provided with sugar syrup last week, and with the last remnants of nectar getting blown away by recent winds, this will support them over the winter months
21/09/18: Bees are looking good, we intend to take out a foundation of honey next week, from one hive which seems to have a lot. Charley and Dougie met with Dr Chantelle Davies from St Andrews University this week. It looks like a very exciting opportunity for the Abbey to be working with St Andrews University in a number of areas, starting with the bees.
29/09/18: This week hive 7 finally got their mouse guard put into place. This should allow them to better protect the hive throughout the winter. All hives have now been fitted with insulation blocks which are sitting on top of their feeders, these will keep them warm throughout the course of winter. The hives which have eaten through the syrup provided in their feeders have all been replenished. This will sustain them until we put in solid fondant feeders which we won’t have to refill as often. We have recently been noticing that wasps have been getting into some of the hives through small gaps between super boxes. These have now all been filled up with insulating tape to hopefully stop anymore wasps invading our hives. One of the super boxes on hive 6 was to be replaced this week but sadly the worker bees were not happy with us at all and wouldn’t let us touch a thing. Hopefully next week they’ll have calmed down and we can replace the box and perhaps collect some honey in the process. Lastly, a big thanks to Lewis for all of his help this week with the bees.
05/10/18 – This week we had the pleasure of teaching co-worker Helen some of the things we do out here every week. Hive 6 finally got their super box replaced, the old box which they had was ill-fitting and left some gaps between each layer of the hive which could have let wasps and other predators in as well as letting heat out. Now that it has been swapped for another box, which is a much better fit, there are no gaps between the layers and the bees are better protected and much warmer. Along with replacing the super box from hive 6, we also collected a frame from it. We ran a hot knife over the surface of the frame and collected all the honey that dribbled out at the bottom. Helen and I then took the honey around the distillery to let all of our co-workers try some. Everyone enjoyed it more than we could of hoped, with some very keen people taking a serving spoon to the bowl for more. Hopefully, in the future when we are producing more honey we will be able to give more people a taste and teach more people about everything we do. Thank you Helen for spending the afternoon with us, hope you enjoyed and learned as much as possible.
26/10/18 – The past few weeks have been very busy for our bees. We’ve had the amazing opportunity to feature on the front page of The Courier last week and also got a piece on STV News just the other night. STV came to film our very first blind honey tasting. We had a panel composed of various people, including our boss Andrew McKenzie-Smith. Panelists had six different coded honeys in front of them and were asked to rate each one for different characteristics such as colour, aroma and flavour. Once everyone was finished, they were asked to pick their favourite honey out of the six. We are more than delighted to say that our honey came out on top. Overall, we’re extremely pleased with this result and are even more impressed with our bees (especially hive 5 from which we took the honey).
With Winter on its way our bees are needing a little extra help to get through all this cold weather. With the help of Lewis, the hives were given an additional treat this week. Each were given a big block of sugary fondant to replace their current syrup feeders. This will last our bees all through winter and will allow them to reserve their stores of honey.
To visit the bees for yourself or to visit the distillery and meet the rest of the team see HERE