1999 National Honey Show

On Saturday 11th November Countrylovers.co.uk webmaster visited the annual Honey Show which was held at Kensington Town Hall in London. Although it's primarily an event for the bee keeping community the Show had quite a lot to offer any inquisitive and curious member of the general public, and the exhibitors seemed to have a genuinely warm welcome for everyone and time to impart their knowledge.

[In illustrating this Event we've tried to keep the pictures to a managable bandwidth size, so expect to see some picture compression. As for the interview - well audio files are inevitably large.]

Honey exhibits - 19k Two areas of the venue were set aside for the honey, beeswax, mead and other competition entries.

Honey is judged in a variety of Classes - from very pale yellow through to dark (one of the darker varieties had the colour of treacle - but it certainly doesn't taste like treacle !). Then there's set honey, crystallised honey and, of course, comb honey.

Elsewhere beeswax entries were displayed, including a fine collection of 'dipped' and 'moulded' candles. Apparently the secret of a good candle is in the wick, while one of my guides during the afternoon pointed out that pure beeswax candles produce a lovely fragrance when they burn, unlike the unscented paraffin variety.

Judging criteria for beeswax include the colour (which must be clear and bright), a purity which must stand up to inspection with a magnifying glass, and such matters as whether the wick is 'centred'.

Beeswax candles - 18k
Mead exhibits - 19.5kThe Mead section contained bottles of every honey hue you could imagine, and a variety called Metheglin where honey is fermented with spices or fruit juices.

Interestingly the colour and fragrance of mead, honey and wax is all related to the types of plant pollen and nectar the bees feed upon.

Another interesting fact I discovered is that the extensive planting of rapeseed has often been the salvation of rural beekeepers - traditional hedgerow and meadow sources of pollen often sacrificed to modern agricultural methods.

In the main Show hall there was a hive of activity [please pardon the pun]. There was someone from the London Bee Keepers Association who had pinpointed bee keepers within London on a map of the city. Quite an amazing the number, given the crowded urban environment.Show hall - 24k
Honey labels - 19kFrom label-makers to suppliers of unusual bee-related items the 1999 Show was certainly an eye-opener for someone not involved with beekeeping.
A company called Northern Bee Books had a stand heaving with all sorts of publications about bees and beekeeping. In your wildest dreams I suspect that you would never iamgine that so much could be written about the little insects which produce the honey for your sandwiches and toast. NBB also produces a couple of periodicals - including The Beekeepers Quarterly - and publishes books in its own right (about beekeeping, of course!).Northern Books stand - 19k
Traditional frame making - 19.5kOne exhibitor selling beeswax products was also demonstrating how to make the wooden 'frames' which are inserted into the hive for bees to build their honeycomb on. Alas, there are now plastic frames available.
The stand of an organisation called Bees for Development had a beehive from Africa - a cylindrical shape made from bark [it's not very clear in the picture but it's the object below the arrow].

While westerners prefer square wooden hives it seems that people in the developing nations are quite happy using drainpipes, straw baskets and other low-tech sustainable materials to house their bee populations.

The BfD organisation's role is to help people in the developing world develop beekeeping as a sustainable resource and to help improve their standard of living through beekeeping. Nice idea. If you want to know more take a look at their website: http://www.planbee.org.uk

Bees for Development - 19k

Protective clothing - 17kIn the process of mooching round the main hall I bumped into these characters. Momentarily thinking that this was Sellafield, a prelude to a fencing match in boiler suits, or alternatively a Quatermass film, it was quickly realised that these folks were in the protective clothing that many beekeepers use. Supplied by a company called Sherriff, these protective suits were a reminder that bees can be nasty wee beasties when provoked.

Some beekeepers use no protective clothing at all. It all comes down to whether the colony of bees is aggressive and/or whether the beekeeper can be gentle when going about the job of removing the honey combs from the hive.

And while lots of people may have an idea that beekeeping is for creaky old fossils and Vicars that it not the case. Why there are even teenagers who keep bees! What's more there is a growing presence and utilisation of new media to communicate. One exhibitor at the Show was exhibiting a beekeeping CD-ROM with video clips, while these folks to the right are involved in BeeNet, which keeps beekeepers around Europe (and other corners of the world) in touch with each other.BeeNet - 10k

Bottom line? A most enjoyable afternoon (6 hours to be precise) among some of the most pleasant and friendly folks I have come across for years. Of the people I spoke with, it never seemed too much trouble to explain something. There was an air of friendliness, and a measurable enthusiasm for the activity they were involved with. For anyone even thinking about being in London at the same time next year it is worth spending a few hours to take a walk round the Show. We'll keep you informed.

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