Not everyone gets to be a lady-in-waiting.
This is the work of Jolanta Modliszewska, although she is not a human toll. Instead, he is a queen beekeeper based at Denrosa Apiaries, which has over 5,000 hives across the UK.
At Coupar Angus HQ they have just created M&S Limited Edition Scottish Lowland Honey. It is only available in Scotland and is produced from colonies led by queens bred in that country. Modliszewska, who has worked at Denrosa for 17 years, tells us about her unusual job.
How did you get into beekeeping?
I’m originally from southern Poland and grew up in the countryside, taking care of plants and animals. I got into beekeeping by accident. I came to the UK with the promise of a job and it didn’t quite materialise, but a friend of mine was already working at Denrosa. There was a vacancy and they asked what I wanted. I was there first thing the next morning and never left.
How do you raise queens and establish a colony?
We select the best colonies by evaluating them based on various criteria, such as honey production, bee and brood health, and various behavioral traits that facilitate management, such as low swarming and minimal aggression. Then we take the very young larvae from them and place them in specially prepared colonies, where we take care of them and turn them into queen bees. They are placed in an incubator to complete their brood, and at the point of hatching they are transferred to mini-hives to fly and mate. Once this is done and the queen begins laying eggs, the crop is harvested and used to start a new colony.
A new colony starts in one of two ways. You can take some brood and bees from an existing colony, not from the queen, and take them to a place away from the queen hive. Once they’re checked and definitely queen-free—a process that takes about a week—we introduce her to a new queen. It is accepted into the hive and begins laying eggs almost immediately, so that it quickly grows into a new, fully-fledged colony. Alternatively, bees can be removed from other colonies and placed in a new hive by adding a new queen.
What do you admire most about bees?
Many aspects. I love to see the end product of my work – delicious honey – and to be gentle when working with them. I also like to see them collect lots of pollen. The type has a great influence on the taste of the product. My favorite thing to do is collect queen bees from mating boxes and see how the bees react and care for it. It is interesting.
Yes, and for many reasons, including the fact that the queen bee does not gel with a wider hive. A failed colony simply does not flourish, lacks morale and will not work together with the brood. A good colony is strong, grows quickly and has perfect broods – and of course scores more, which is an indication of a successful queen.
Has M&S approached Denross?
We have been part of their supply chain for several years. We were approached by M&S for the new Collection Honeys and we really welcomed their vision to develop regional honeys that offer unique taste, quality and a new proposition for shoppers. M&S work with us to produce honey on their existing partnerships, Selected Farms, so we can package it individually and trace it back to a specific apiary, as well as our new Collection Scottish Lowland Honey, which is still regional but covers larger areas. Covers. selection of hives. They understand the quality and variety of forage available to bees and therefore the flavors that can be produced.
Why the Lowlands of Scotland?
For a taste that cannot be produced anywhere else in England. It’s a snapshot of the year that can never be recreated because the weather and the bees’ foraging locations always change slightly from year to year – you could say it’s a 2022 time capsule. Scottish Lowlands honey is produced mainly on agricultural land in the lowlands of Scotland, our main range is Tayside, Fife and the Lothians. The main flora involved here are canola, alfalfa, lime, sycamore and raspberry, and produce the flavor of the product. It is pale in color with a fruity/floral note and goes well with most dishes, both savory and sweet. If you have a pot with a lot of lime in it, it can be a little minty. My favorite is made of sycamore wood. It usually tastes quite dark and nutty, so it’s great with cheeses, salads, and other savory flavors.
Worried about the future of bees?
The main threat is the loss of fodder due to intensive cultivation of non-nectar crops. However, M&S farms take into account all pollinators, both wild and cultivated, ensuring there is enough for both and that honeybees are never intensively cultivated. Major environmental problems such as global warming will change the flora pattern over the years and make it harder to manage, so this is a problem. Bees love warm weather, but prolonged heat waves and droughts can be very damaging, so we need to watch this carefully.
How many times have you been bitten?
Often. But the better the beekeeping, the less it happens, and it’s often your own fault. However, the bees seem to respond well to me, and my colleagues say they are noticeably calmer when I work with them.