Learning about the world of bees and beekeeping
We are a volunteer association to help people in and around Hitchin to discover and enjoy the world of bees and to learn the craft of beekeeping. We host visits to the BuzzWorks Bee Discovery Centre to enjoy the bee-friendly garden and the exhibition. We provide training courses for new and improver beekeepers at the HoneyWorks Beekeeping Training Centre and support local beekeepers.
Education: We aim to educate the public (and children especially) about how honey bees live, how they pollinate plants (necessary for food for us as well as wildlife), how they produce honey and why their survival is at risk and they need our help. We believe it is important for everyone to understand the role of honey bees in our environment so they can help ensure their survival.
Training: We aim to train new and improver beekeepers. Beekeepers are recognised by governments across the world as having a vital role in maintaining the health of the honey bee in the presence of pests and diseases that have had a severe impact on honey bee populations over the last 50 years. Honey bees have a national importance for pollination of food crops so training beekeepers in good beekeeping practices and increasing the number of beekeepers is of direct benefit to food producers in particular and to the public in general.
Hosted Educational Visits: We host visits to the BuzzWorks Discovery Centre from local schools, youth organisations (e.g. Rainbows, Brownies, Beavers and Cubs) and other youth and adult community groups. The Discovery Centre comprises an exhibition on honeybees, an example bee-friendly garden, an observation bee-hive and apiary and an outdoors shelter for activities such flower pressing, honey-tasting, candle making and utilisation of teaching aids. Our hosts give talks on the honey bee (habitat, life cycle, plant pollination, nectar collection, honey production) with reference to what bees need to survive in the modern world and how important they are to ensuring mankind's own food supply.
Public Open Days: We open the Discovery Centre to the general public on several days in the year (approximately once per month from June to September). We provide hosts to inform visitors about bees and beekeeping, to demonstrate the use of related equipment (e.g. for managing the bees and extracting the honey) and to point out in our garden the kind of plants that are beneficial to the bees.
Beekeeper Training: We provide theory and practical training courses for prospective, beginner and improver beekeepers. The HoneyWorks Training Centre is a dedicated site comprising an apiary, workshops and meeting rooms. The primary aim is to teach trainees how to successfully manage one or more colonies of bees, keeping them in good health and, if desired, to produce honey for human consumption.
Dissemination of knowledge about honey bees: We provide information to the general public. This is achieved electronically via our website and verbally/using leaflets at our market stalls.
The Discovery Centre, comprising bee-friendly garden, Bee School and courtyard, is open for family, school and group visits. The garden is planted with flowers and vegetables that need bees. The Bee School has an educational exhibition in six chapters which explains the fascinating world of the honey bee, while an observation hive gives a close-up view of honey bees at work. Courtyard tables provide an outdoor classroom and a place to picnic. This fully accessible site is situated on the edge of the Old Hale Way Allotments and is open to the public on selected days between May and September:
BuzzWorks Discovery Centre will be open for arranged visits from May.
Open Days: Planned open days for 2015 are Sat 13th June, Sun 19th July (during Hitchin Festival), Sat 22nd August and Sat 19th September.
School Visits: are hosted on a Tuesday or a Thursday (between May and July).
Other Group Visits: by arrangement.
To plan a visit, see contact details below.
At HoneyWorks you can learn how to keep honey bees and extract honey. Lying within Burford Way
Allotments and backing on to Oughtonhead Nature Reserve, it is an excellent wildlife site.
Taster Days for prospective beekeepers: This year's Taster Course comprises a theory day on 11th April followed by a practical day on 26th April. This course is aimed at those beginners who have been accepted on our replacement beginners porgramme.
Beginner Training - this year, beginners will join our regular Sunday afternoon apiary sessions.
Improver Training - this year, short theory sessions will be held on Sunday afternoons, followed by practical apiary sessions with the beginners.
The training programme normally runs from May through to September. For 2015, our beginner places are all taken. We are running a waiting list for 2016 beginners training. Improver places for 2015 are still available - priority is given to existing members.
Please contact our Administrator for further information (see contact details below).
BuzzWorks aims also to promote wildlife conservation. The BuzzWorks and HoneyWorks sites are planted and managed to provide foraging for bees but also to provide support for other wildlife.
Pondlife: Our ponds are havens for frogs, newts, dragonflies and many other insects. We even had a resident coot on HoneyWorks pond in 2014!
Insects: The BuzzWorks flower garden and the HoneyWorks wildflower meadow, scented garden and fruit trees attract many other insects, including solitary and bumble bees.
Birds and Bats: Bird and bat boxes in the trees provide shelter and encourage local wildlife diversity.
Nature Reserve: The HoneyWorks site backs onto the Oughtonhead Nature Reserve managed by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, forming a complementary habitat for the variety of birds, butterflies, insects and other wildlife that thrive in the nature reserve. The reserve is an important habitat for birds such as kingfishers, water rail and woodcock whilst mammals such as the water shrew may be seen.
Hitchin Market Stall - Honey and More
We sell our honey, related hive products (soaps, balms, candles) and other gifts at the Hitchin Craft and Farmers Market which
is held on the last Saturday of every month. Our stall is down by the
river Hiz opposite St. Mary's Church. Do come and see us.
Our next stall will be on Saturday 28th March. We look forward to seeing you then.
We do get good reports on the effectiveness of Elynium balms. If you have feedback, let us know. For further information see http://www.elynium.com/.
The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) maintains a list of individual beekeepers willing to respond to public reports of swarming honey bees. Use the following BBKA links to find out more about swarms or to contact a swarm collector.
| Please do not call beekeepers about bumblebees or any
insect other than the honey bee. They are unable to help you with these
and will not collect/remove them.
For information on other insects and bees, the organisations listed on the Do You Have a Swarm page are better placed to help you.
Will Honey Help? We are often asked whether taking local honey will help hayfever sufferers. Whereas there is no scientific evidence for it, some sufferers do believe it helps.
The Theory: Local honey does contain small amounts of pollen from local plants. By consuming this honey over a period of time (likely many months), the theory is that the pollen content works on the body's immune system to de-sensitise the sufferer to the pollen to which he/she is sensitive.
Our thoughts: Hayfever is a result of an allergic reaction to one or more plant pollens. Bee
pollinated plants flower at different times of year so that the pollen
from specific plants will be present in the honey produced by the bees
at that time. Honey will contain pollen mostly from the plants
visited by the bees; the pollen from plants that rely on wind rather
than insect pollination will be present in honey in small
quantities only, if at all. It is unclear whether sufferers would
need exposure to specific or any type honey borne pollen to attain
desensitisation. If specific, then they would need to know to which
plants and at which time of year they get the reaction and have ready a
supply of the corresponding honey which they can use in the months
leading up to their reactive period.
honey is a natural product and, like
all pure honey, will crystallise over time. This is a sign of its
the minimal processing we perform to retain aroma and flavour. The
rapidity with which it crystallises and the size of the crystals depend
on the amounts of different types of sugar in the nectar used by the
bees. We "cream" some of our honey so it is "soft set" (see below) but
really prefer to leave it natural as nature intended.
honey has a fine texture but can set hard. In this area, there is a lot
of oil-seed rape and the honey from this sets very quickly. Spring honey generally has a light colour and mild, delicate taste.
Summer honey has
a fine texture and remains liquid longer than spring and autumn honey. It has a more golden colour and a pronounced floral taste which fulfils the popular image of a tasty golden liquid honey.
Autumn honey can set very hard with a less fine texture and stronger flavour. It has a much darker colour. Nectar from ivy flowers is a main component and is responsible for the colour, taste and hard set. It is prized by many for use on toast or with porridge.
To turn crystallised honey back to liquid or to soften it, microwave on low power for 30 seconds,stir and repeat if necessary. Try not to overheat as this can affect its flavour. A gentler method is to warm it in a bowl of warm water.
Soft Set Honey: One trick to keep honey spreadable is to "cream" it. Warm set honey until it is just stirable (it won't work if it is too liquid). Stir it to break up the crystals until it is a thick creamy porridge - it will look lighter in colour. It will remain "soft-set".
More About Jarred Natural Honey:
White streaks of crystallised honey sometimes form down the side of the jar. Honey crystals form around pollen grains, air bubbles, tiny pieces of beeswax or even imperfections in the glass surface. The crystals produced this way tend to be large and white. Once started these crystals trigger further crystals of the same type - hence the streaking effect. They are harmless (just honey) and do not affect the flavour or quality of the honey.
A white honey foam can sometimes form at the top the jar. It is natural - some trapped air is unavoidable during processing and it forms air bubbles that slowly rise to the top and can accumulate as honey foam. It is harmless and doesn't affect the flavour or quality of the honey.
BuzzWorks Association Hitchin is a voluntary, non-profit association set up in 2007 by local beekeepers.
What Volunteers Have Achieved: Back in 2007, a rubbish dump at the far end of Old Hale Way allotments was made available by North Herts District Council for the development of the BuzzWorks Discovery Centre. A hardworking band of volunteers cleared the site, planned the layout, erected the buildings and established the garden and apiary with the support of various grants to provide the infrastructure. Regular working parties were established and little paid labour was needed. A similar project then evolved to establish the HoneyWorks Training Centre - previously a completely wooded area of abandoned allotments on the Burford Way allotments site.
What Volunteers are Doing Now: Work on these sites is ongoing by volunteers with various interests, skills and backgrounds. Activities are varied and include gardening (planting and maintaining flower beds, pruning and grass cutting) and DIY activities (maintaining site equipment and buildings and the making and repairing of hives and bird/bat boxes). There are always new developments coming along that need enthusiastic and practical support.
The Discovery Centre would not be what it is
without the commitment of the team who give talks, develop source material and
help with the school and other groups who come during the summer and enjoy what
BuzzWorks has to offer. At HoneyWorks there is also work to do in support of the
beekeeping training programme such as helping new starters find their way around, managing training material and equipment or even serving up the tea and cake after a practical session in the apiary.
Our regular market stalls help to finance our work. We are looking to expand our core team of
volunteers there to help sell our honey and other products and to chat to the public to promote our activities. During summer we have a demonstration hive of bees at the stall - a real crowd puller.
Interested? If you are interested in honey bees, in gardening for bees, in helping visitors to learn about bees or just willing to chip in wherever in a sociable, meaningful environment, why not join us? Whatever life skills you have, you can be sure we can find a role for you! Even small commitments of time are valuable to us and tea and biscuits are always on the agenda!
Why not come to an Open Day and see what we do or contact our Administrator (see Contact below).
We would love to hear from you.
1. Winter Meeting on Thursday 20th November - Great interest in the Film "More Than Honey". The practices of large scale commercial beekeepers is a world away from the traditional methods we know.
2. Winter Meeting on Thursday 15th January - We had a full house with attendees from BuzzWorks, North Herts BKA, Beds BKA and North Bucks BKA. Guest speaker Peter Folge, a Seasonal Bee Inspector and member of Welwyn BKA, gave us an excellent, informative talk on his beekeeping experience gleaned from his own 33 years of keeping bees but also from his work as a bee inspector. Peter's willingness to provide detailed answers to audience questions was much appreciated. A great evening - thanks.
3. Winter Meeting on Thursday 19th February - Another good turn-out despite the awful weather. A lovely talk from Sarah Kohl of Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust on "Where The Wild Things Are". Amazing work the Trust is doing over its 40+ nature reserves. Did you know that the UK has the majority of the world's chalk rivers, many of them in Hertfordshire? This was followed by a review of Natural Beekeeping and then Geoff Feary talked about and showed off his Warre hive - a beautiful hexagonal one designed by him. Thanks again to Lucille and Liz for the tea and cakes.....
Annual General Meeting
Next event is the AGM on Sat 14th March. Notice of AGM has been sent to all members and the registered beginner trainees.
Start of the 2015-16 Season
The beekeeping season will be ramping up now as the queens come into lay. The bees are already busy collecting pollen on the days warm enough for them to fly. Exciting times. This is a critical time of year for the bees. Hives should be hefted to ensure the colonies have sufficient stores.
Check out the Members' Page for the year plan and other information.
Fun Links and Worth a Look
Haute Couture for the Apiary - jean-paul-gaultier latest "must have"?
Don't do this at home or in your apiary - Naturist Beekeeping
Worth a Look:
Institut fur den Wissenschaftlichen Film (IWF):There is a series of excellent videos made by IWF in Gottingen, Germany available on YouTube - we are not advocating any of their methods but they are defintely "worth a look".
First Springtime Inspection http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcTlHV1ZxLo
Creating a Nucleus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBiojkUd_5Y
Selecting Honey Bees - Honey Yield and Behaviour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI48I4L3_pM
Selecting Honey Bees - Vitality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8deP6Wq_i_w
Management of Colonies by Annual Rotation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px3agh67_xI
Bee Dances (inc Waggle Dance) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNlyNnY3-sc
Heather Skep Apiary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivfc9rCbV7g
The Neonicotinoids Debate
"Bees prefer food containing neonicotinoid pesticides" Nature, April 2015
A rational summary (Nature, Feb 2013) Bees, lies and evidence-based policy
Some latest UK research results (for bumble rather than honey bees) Neonicotinoid insecticides impair bee's brains
CCD, Bee Diseases and Other Research Results
Colony Collapse Disorder - CCD may be a result of young bees forced to forage
Natural chemicals in nectar and pollen can combat parasites - a study by Dartmouth College
Beekeepers with something (worthwhile) to say
Randy Oliver (US Biologist and commercial beekeeper) - scientificbeekeeping.com.
The "Flow Hive" advert has gone viral on YouTube but some are not impressed.
Please send all enquiries to our BAH Administrator at email@example.com
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If you wish to join us, please download this PDF copy of the membership form and return it to the Membership Secretary as directed on the form.
Click on an image to download a PDF copy.
The map gives the locations of BuzzWorks (Discovery Centre) and HoneyWorks (Training Centre).
The Garden leaflet gives a list of bee-friendly flowers that you could plant in your own garden.
For more information email email@example.com