Dunham Massey's Honeybees

A team of dedicated volunteer beekeepers look after the honeybees that call Dunham Massey home; some of the team have been caring for Dunham’s bees for over 10 years! Over that time Dunham’s bee population has grown from three hives to the eight we have today. Whilst six of the hives live outside of the visitor route in the walled garden, you’ll be able to spot two of the hives in the Rose Garden.

Looking after honeybees is a year-round job as unlike other types of bee; honeybees do not hibernate over the winter months. The beekeepers care for the bees come rain or shine throughout the year.

Bee keepers working with a hive

November-April

Between November and April the beekeepers can be found cleaning and maintaining the hives and their frames whilst keeping a close eye on the bees. Over the winter months the beekeepers burn wood from the hives to kill off infection and make new frames for the following season. The beekeepers are always on the lookout for varroa mites which can cause big problems for the colonies. These mites the size of a pin head can cause illnesses such as the deformed wing virus. The beekeepers treat the mites by dusting the bees with icing sugar! The bees will groom the sugar off themselves, brushing the mites away with it. Around February the colony starts growing with more pollen becoming available.

A bee swarm in a tree at Dunham Massey

May-October

During this time the queen bee will start to lay eggs- 2,000 a day! With one queen per hive she successfully performs her role for two-three years when the hive then replaces her. Dunham’s beekeepers mark the queen with a colour so they know how long they’ve been queen for- this year’s colour is red and last year’s was yellow. Between May and July is swarming season- this is the bees way of spreading their population. The beekeepers keep close watch on the hives to prevent them from swarming whilst inspecting the colonies for queen cells. The beekeepers are always on hand to collect swarms that have been spotted across the Dunham estate; they’ve previously collected swarms from outside the visitor centre and up trees in the garden!

A beekeeper holding a frame from a bee hive

Honey spinning

The beekeepers can harvest any surplus honey not needed by the bees to be sold in Dunham’s shop or used in other products. They check the frame has a full wax cap, take the frame out of the hive and remove the wax cap completely. They then spin the honey and jar it a week later. Dunham’s honey has a floral taste because although the bees do fly around a two mile radius, there are often bees to be found in the Rose Garden. You can buy a range of Buzz Balm products in Dunham’s shop including lip balm, beard balm and hand balm all made with honey produced by Dunham’s bees.

Did you know?

  • Bees don’t fly until they’re around three weeks old and once grown take very little pollen.
  • In the height of summer, one colony of bees can contain around 50,000 worker bees, 400 drones and one queen. That’s over 400,000 bees at Dunham!
  • Worker bees only live for six-eight weeks.
  • A bee will visit 50-100 flowers during one trip.
  • Dunham's beekeepers are rarely stung (some have been stung once in 8-10 years!) If a sting does happen the bees start to release a pheromone, alerting the hive to potential danger so the beekeepers smoke the area to dispel the pheromone.
Beekeepers working at Felbrigg Hall

Beekeeping across the National Trust 

The work of a beekeeper is vital for the survival of the honeybee. Find out more about how the National Trust is looking after honeybees across many of its special places.