“It’s an addiction,” says Dartmoor beekeeper Peter Hunt. “One I have had since I was 12 years-old. I really liked the beekeeper’s white suit and the veiled hat and helped out my friend’s dad as his “Smoker Boy”, an important role in beekeeping.”
By the time he was in his teens Peter had his own hive and was hooked. Now he has over 80 hives, close to his moorland home but also down the Tamar Valley and into Cornwall. Hives are located to give his bees the best possible food in the form of wildflower nectar in a clean environment.
Depending on the weather his bees produce anything between one and two tonnes of honey per year which is of very high quality due to the bees’ wildflower diet.
“They are wonderful pollinators of both garden and farm crops. Unbeatable.”
But it’s not just honey production which interests Peter but bee genetics too.
“I breed the right type of bees for here, strong bees able to withstand the cold Dartmoor winters.”
Working in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia and Oman, Peter was intrigued to see how bees survive in desert conditions. “Bees there are very different. They live along the coast, in oases and on farms where they pollinate crops of lucerne, alfalfa and even date palms.”
Now home for good, Peter is able to enjoy keeping bees in ideal conditions: “although we could always plant more bee-friendly flowers everywhere, any spare corner. ” He has become involved with Dartmoor National Park’s project “Moor Than Meets The Eye” which is a landscape partnership scheme, helping people to explore Dartmoor’s past, conserve its wildlife, improve understanding of its rich landscape and to create flower-rich grasslands, “turning the moor into a huge bee nature reserve.”
“The Bumblebee Conservation Trust makes the point that some of our wild bees are now extinct and others are in dramatic decline. This is an issue we should be worried about. The good news is we can all help to reverse these declines if you’ve got a garden, meadow, orchard or allotment.”
You can meet Peter and find out more about bee-keeping in The Curious Gardener Tent on both days of the Festival at Powderham Castle on 28th and 29th April.