A trip to Devon


A couple of days ago my dad, Ⓑ and I went for a bee-themed day out together. The morning was spent learning about honey at the Quince Honey Farm in South Molton, and the last hour in the afternoon at the adjacent Thornes of Devon.

The Quince Honey Farm has recently moved to a larger site outside of South Molton, and they've been clearly putting quite a lot of effort into the new attractions. There is a large soft play shed with activities and a café for the adults, a honey factory shed with tours telling you how the honey is extracted, how hives are made, how the hive products are processed, and offering tasting of honey. My dad (72) enjoyed the tour but Ⓑ (8) was more excited about playing in the central garden of bee-friendly plants. This was despite it being winter — I think the garden would look much better in summer. There was another shed which seemed to function as a poster display, classroom and a collection of quirky places bees had made their home, for example a pillarbox or disused kiln. As charming as this was, I thought the bees might be more happy to be in an enclosed space this time of year rather than a semi-open one for display purposes. Finally, there was a decent café serving food, where dad could choose between lots of gluten-free options, Ⓑ could had a huge plate of ham, egg and chips, and we all liked the quality of the food. There are also tractor tours of the farm, but on a rainy February morning we opted to stay inside the sheds. I didn't get to taste the honey but dad reported the heather honey was good!

In the afternoon, Ⓑ was in the mood to get some new supplies for the new season. I was a bit disappointed to hear that the Devon branch didn't stock Thorne's great Bees on a Budget hive and it would need to be ordered by phone, especially seeing as the delivery last year was poorly handled by Fedex. However, I'm told that if I rang ahead and asked for it to be delivered to the shop, we could have picked it up for no delivery charge. Never mind — we have no immediate need for a full hive and I can just order one. What outweighed this minor disappointment was that Gail, who runs the shop, was friendly, knowledgable and patient with a very excited visitor.

We did, however, manage to pick up some supplies. Ⓑ chose an electric smoker and a fierce-looking uncapping slice. Also, after a protracted discussion — one which Ⓑ made no bones about the tedium of — we bought a nucleus hive. Ⓑ felt that he was ready for bees of his own. Dave and I had discussed this a few times and felt that everyone sharing the colonies is better, but given that Dave also has a 'nuc' waiting for some new inhabitants, and we do all of the inspections that we can together, we decided to go for it. The display model looked well-made and strong, but we decided to get the flat-packed version to save £35.

Essentially the nuc hive is a half-width, red cedar version of the Bees on a Budget hive, so I was familiar with the construction process. The decision to build it ourselves proved to a good one, because we spent that evening and the next morning happily banging together the hive. Ⓑ took an active role and confidently used hammers, nail punches and even knives to make frames and the hive itself. After that, we went to my dad's shed and stained the newly-constructed hive a light blue colour. The whole process of making the hive was fun and educational for both of us, and now Ⓑ is doubly excited about the new season coming up, and the expectation that he is keeping his own colony.

Ⓑ writes:

So hello my name is Ⓑ and i am 8 years old. I help my uncle to take care of our bees. After a year my uncle said he would buy me a small hive called a nuc. After we bought the nuc it took us two days to make it. Then the day after we did some staining. PEACE BOYS AND GIRLS.

Returning to the apiary, the weather's been far too cold and rainy to open up a hive to take the honey for Saturday's microscopy workshop, but even in these conditions, the sight of bright yellow pollen in many a bee's pollen basket is a good one to see.

A picture of Ⓑ constructing a frame is attached. Excuse the low light levels — Ⓑ wanted to turn off the lights to make it look like we were toiling away at midnight. We'll post a picture of the finished product when the stain dries!