We’re putting between 600 and 1,000 beehives, which are home to 30 million bees, on 25 British M&S Select Farms. These busy bees will help us produce an exclusive single-estate honey later this summer. Because we’ll be harvesting honey from different farms with natural biodiversity, each crop will have its own unique flavour. Better yet, the hives do good for the environment, since bees are natural pollinators and allow nature to do its work.
Experienced beekeeper David Wainwright has been producing top-quality honey for M&S for more than 10 years. After visiting the M&S Select Farms back in February, David and his teams placed their cedarwood beehives – many of which date back to the Thirties – in carefully chosen locations, ensuring they have plenty of shelter and sources of nectar nearby. “The farms grow crops that benefit from the bees,” says David, “such as courgettes, apples, berries, beans and more. The farmers will get a higher yield and better quality, since the plants will have been properly pollinated”.
Each hive has ‘scout’ bees that find the best sources of nectar and pollen from which to forage. Because the farms are so diverse, these could range from dandelions to apple and pear orchards, bluebell woods, and sycamore and hawthorn trees, cherries and gooseberries, blackcurrants and beans – all of which will give each honey its own distinct flavour profile. The bees gather their nectar and bring it back to the hives and start filling honeycombs. In the evening, they use their wings to fan the nectar, evaporating moisture and concentrating the liquid to make honey.
Honey bees are important pollinators. By introducing British honey bees to M&S Select Farms, we’re supporting local British honey production. Our work with honey bees is only part of the story, though – as part of our Farming with Nature project, we’re encouraging pollinator diversity and promoting natural habitats across our farms.
Over the next few weeks we’re looking forward to harvesting the first of our M&S Select Farms honey. Each apiary – a collection of around 24 beehives – will produce a batch of single-apiary honey with its own unique flavour, since the hives are placed on farms growing everything from cherries to courgettes. “The flavour we'll get is difficult to predict,” says head beekeeper David. “I hope we’ll get some cherry honey and dandelion honey, and I’m hoping for blackcurrant and gooseberry honey, which I’ve never tasted before.”