You don’t have to look very far to see that we love bees here at Joules. Not only are they cute, colourful and remind us of sunny days, but they’re crucial to maintaining our environment. We simply couldn’t “bee” without them!
The simple kind act of caring for our bees could have a huge ecological benefit. The sad truth is bee numbers are plunging – a third of British wild bees and hoverflies are in decline. Bees are a vital part of our food chain and pollinate around one-third of food crops and 90% of wild plants.
Bees have a special place in our hearts as well as our products, so we are taking every step we can to save them. To find out about why bees are so important and how we can care for them, we spoke with Jonny Easter, Conservation and Sustainability Manager at Warner’s Distillery and resident bee keeper…
“I joined Warner’s when they started developing their Honeybee Gin which is made with real honey, including that which we harvest here on the farm. I was a local beekeeper before I joined, and have a number of hives across the valley — we now have up to 22 hives in a given year here at Warner’s. I established the apiary here, which is where all the hives are kept. Since then, my role has grown massively: it’s my job to look after the beehives, whilst ensuring that we are maintaining a sustainable landscape across Falls Farm, and putting sustainability into the heart of everything we do at Warner’s, from managing our crop of fresh, farm-grown botanicals to responsible waste management.”
01. Learn as much as you can about our bees – the more you know about these amazing insects, the more you can help.
02. Planting wildflowers and bee-friendly plants is an easy way of giving local bees a good source of pollen to forage.
03. Bee hotels are great for putting out in your garden to attract solitary bees – these bees have lost a lot of their habitat and need all the help they can get.
04. If you spot a bee that looks like it hasn’t moved in a long time or is in a dangerous place, carefully move it to a nearby flower. Only feed it sugar water as a last resort, if no flowers are around.
05. Support local beekeepers by buying local honey – not only does it taste better than the supermarket stuff, but you’re helping a hard-working beekeeper to keep our precious pollinators protected.
06. You could even become a beekeeper yourself! The more beekeepers we have, the more bees are safeguarded, and it’s a great hobby to take up. (You can find out more about being a beekeeper here!)
“We have three botanical gardens at the farm – with an ultimate goal to become self-sufficient in as many botanicals as possible – and we’ve also sewn over five acres of wildflowers in our local area. We have the oilseed rape which will be coming out into flower in April, which is important as it provides the first honey flow of the year for us, along with snowdrops and crocuses which will be coming into flower soon. There’s also hazel in the hedgerows, and horse chestnut trees will be coming into flower soon too. You can tell which flowers the bees have been visiting from the colour of the pollen on their legs — at the moment they’re bringing in bright yellow pollen from the willow, and orange pollen from the dandelions.”
“For honeybees, the queen needs to survive the harsh winter so that she can carry on the next generation to be born in spring — it’s our job to make sure this can happen. A beekeeper’s role is to assess how much is being brought in by the bees to ensure they have more than enough to get them through winter, and giving them plenty of opportunities to forage.”
“We have some bee hotels in the botanical gardens specifically for solitary bees. Solitary bees are 125 times more effective at pollinating than honeybees so they are incredibly important to our ecosystem, and they are actually the species that has been hit the hardest by declining habitats in the UK. So we have provided these habitats to really try to help these essential pollinators. You can put solitary bee hotels in your own garden easily too — you don’t have to be a bee keeper. You might spot one of our Bee Hotels in pub and restaurant gardens across the country. You can even pop onto the Warner’s website or Friends of Joules and order one for your own garden! Spring is the perfect time to set one up and see how solitary bees settle in.”
“What we’re trying to do here at Warner’s is demonstrate how a business and conservation can work together. Everything we do is linked to the landscape, and we’re dedicated to preserving that landscape for the benefit of our wildlife and our ecosystem. We work alongside charities and initiatives that are devising strategies for conservation, and sponsoring beekeepers to make sure that our bee populations can thrive.”
“For starters, every bottle of our Honeybee Gin comes with a pack of wildflower seeds — wildflowers are so important for providing a foraging source for bees, and we’ve actually seen a 97% decline in wildflower rich meadows in the last 100 years. We also allow the public to come and visit the farm, see how what we’re doing here to help the bees and open up a dialogue about conservation. One of the best things you can do to for our bees is to become a beekeeper, so we offer an insight into what that involves, and support new local beekeepers too. Each colony has up to 60,000 bees in the height of summer, so the more beekeepers we have the more bees that are safeguarded.”
We had a fantastic time visiting the apiary at Warner’s Distillery and learning from Jonny about our hard-working pollinators. This commitment to conservation is why we’re so proud to have partnered with Warner’s on our Joules x Warner’s Apple & Pear Gin, made with botanicals grown right on the farm.