BEEKEEPERS in Oxfordshire say their insects have produced more honey this year than in the past six.

And, with the number of keepers in the county double what it was five years ago, there has never been a better time to take up one of the world’s oldest hobbies.

Commercial honeybee populations have declined by about 45 per cent in the UK since 2010, threatened by pesticides and viruses.

And cold, wet springs in recent years have made life even more difficult for bees.

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But a warm spring and summer in 2014 made for better flowers, higher quality pollen, and more honey.

Thame beekeeper Peter Randall said he harvested close to 400lb of honey this year from his seven hives, which he keeps on nearby farms.

The 56-year-old accountant said: “What bees like is nice, hot, sunny days and we had a lot of those this year.

“This has been one of the best years in the last six. I’ve had at least 10 per cent more honey.”

The father-of-one, who sells honey and gives it away as gifts, said his bees pollinate crops such as beans, so when he has a good year, farmers do, too.

Banbury beekeeper Peter Chaunt said his hives in the grounds of the Warriner School, Bloxham, produced 10 per cent more honey than last year.

Mr Chaunt, chairman of Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association, said: “It has certainly been a very good year. Hotter temperatures mean better flowers and better pollen and nectar.”

But he warned that mild winters as Oxfordshire has been seeing so far could be “disastrous” for a hive.

Bees have evolved to hibernate through the coldest part of the year, huddling together for warmth.

If it stays too warm, bees will think it is spring and go out foraging, wasting precious energy and potentially starving when they cannot find any flowers.

Herald Series:

  • Peter Randall lighting a smoker used to pacify bees 

Mr Chaunt said the number of beekeepers in Oxfordshire has doubled in the past five years, from 150 to 300.

He said numbers had soared around the country as people were inspired by the plight of the bee.

Neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to a decline in bee populations, are subject to a two-year EU ban for use on flowering crops, such as oilseed rape, but the UK has not agreed to the ban.

Insect pollination, mostly by bees, is needed to grow 84 per cent of crops across Europe and is worth about £440m a year in the UK.

Mr Chaunt added: “We definitely want to encourage more beekeepers. The more there are, the better for everyone.”

Members of Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association meet monthly. Non-members are welcome, but will be expected to sign up if they start coming regularly.

President and TV broadcaster John Craven said: “If you are considering keeping bees, then your first action should be to join us.”

In January, honey made by Wallingford firm Rowse overtook Marmite as “the UK’s favourite thing to have on toast” in a survey by industry magazine The Grocer.


  • PLANTS you can grow in your garden for bees:
  • Herbs: Lavender, catmint, 
  • sage, coriander, thyme, fennel, rosemary, hyssop, marjoram, lemon balm, myrtle.
  • Wildflowers: Bird’s foot trefoil, bramble, comfrey, burdock, teasels
  • knapweed, vetches, cornflower, thistles.
  • Perennials: Crocus, buttercup, aster, hollyhocks, anemone, snowdrops, geranium.
  • Annuals: Calendula, sweet asylum, poppy, sunflower, zinnia, clemone, heliotrope.

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