Our Suppliers: Bee Special
Name: Tamsin Harris
Job Title: Commercial Bee Farmer
Time in role: 8 Years (2020)
Favourite part of the Job?
My favourite part of the job is the first hive inspections in the Spring. I just love to see that the bees have made it through the winter and are quietly working away, building up the colony in time for the Spring nectar flow. The rich smell of wax and honey that greets you as the roof of the hive is lifted off is a real tonic for the soul.
How did you become a Commercial Beekeeper?
23 years ago I did a very comprehensive beekeeping course that was run at Duchy College in Camborne and from the very start of the course I was totally absorbed by the biology of honey bees. I got my first hive in 1997 and have kept bees ever since.
How many hives do you have and where are they located?
Initally I had a couple of hives on our land and then, as always seems to happen with beekeeping, the number of hives started to increase and I had to look for other places to set up what's known as an out apiary.
Unusual fact about me:
The picture on my honey label is a photograph of my first hive in the garden of a very dear friend. He was a retired farmer and he became my beekeeping buddy, always available to help with the honey extraction and more to the point, the honey tasting!
Why I like V&M:
I'm delighted to be able to provide WestCountry with my honey, the concept of getting quality local food out to plenty of local retailers is great, long may it continue.
Average yield per hive?
I gradually increased the number of hives to over 100 and joined the Bee Farmers Association as a Commercial Bee Farmer. It can seem a rather strange job as I actually agriculturally farm insects, those insects being the amazing pollinating, nectar gathering, honey bees.
If you knew then what you know now what would you do differently?
With the increased number of hives came the increased volume of honey and I invested in a honey extraction room, purpose built to contain all the processing equipment and bottling facilities. This has made my life so much easier, I should have done it a long time ago.
What flavour profile does Bee Special honey have?
I have 12 out apiaries and each apiary has a unique tasting honey. The flavour comes from the flower sources in the surrounding area. Bees can travel up to three miles in their quest to gather nectar and anything from early spring blossoms, sycamore and hawthorn tree blossom, to clover and bramble flowers later in the season can tempt them.
Does the weather affect the quality or flavour of the honey?
The 2019 beekeeping season saw bumper crops with many of my hives yeilding in excess of 140lbs of honey. When the weather is warm and settled in the first few weeks of July the bees can bring in a phenomenal quantity of nectar that they very quickly convert to honey. The aim of a beekeeper is to have the maximum number of bees in the hive at this time of the season, that number could be in excess of 50,000 bees! Imagine that number multiplied by the number of hives that I have and that is the total of my workforce.
What are the key health benefits of honey?
There are many health benefits from eating unpasterised honey; it's a good source of antioxidants, it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, an anticeptic, so can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. It also works as a cough suppressant and does a wonderful job at soothing a sore throat. Honey is also a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in the gut and aiding digestion. A wonderfully healthy way to start the day is a warming bowl of porridge liberally drizzled with delicious local honey!
What’s the most important message to get across to consumers about honey & in particular local honey?
When I extract my honey I store the harvest from each apiary separately. I never blend the honey from several apiaries as I believe the subtle flavour variations and colour ranges are what makes local honey such a delight to taste. I want to keep the honey in the jar as close in flavour to the honey the that bees are eating throughout the year.
Covid 19 specific question – what’s the most positive thing you will take away from this time?
Buying local has certainly been the way many people have chosen to shop during the Covid 19 pandemic and I believe that this has not only made consumers more aware of the superb foods that are produced on their doorstep but also has increased their appreciation of the services companies like Westcountry provide.