Clare Scouts Out Sheffield Honey

Sheffield Honey is a relatively new company, and just over a year old, but owner Jez Daughtry has really carved a place for himself and his honey in Sheffield. 
Not only does Sheffield Honey attend a lot of markets and events, they stock many delicatessens & cafes in the area including PJ Taste, Snap Deli and The Schoolrooms.  
I recently went up to Dungworth to see Jez and his bees.  I was pretty excited about this trip as I had so many questions to ask.  You see, Jez posts quite a lot of intriguing bee related tweets about his bees and I've been itching to find out exactly what he's talking about!  Also, Jez had mentioned getting me 'on the bees' which could only mean one thing; some up-close and personal bee action!
Sure enough as Jez welcomed me to his home, he handed me a full bee-keeping suit.  I tell you, life as a food blogger has never been so stylish (Where's the photos? – Exposed Style Ed)!  I think this outfit even beat the glamorous overalls I wore when I visited Moss Valley.
Jez was keen to get going as he'd just received a call from a local saying that they had a swarm in their garden.  So like a pair of bee-busters we donned our protective suits and got going. 
On the way Jez explained that a swarm is essentially what happens when the bees reproduce.  They collect in a great big mass, and although the bees are in a sedated state, a swarm is far from the  ideal thing to have at the bottom of the garden! 
As Jez gets quite a few calls about potential bee swarms he has sussed out the best and quickest way to assess each case on the phone.  This way he can whittle out any swarms of wasps or bumble bees which aren't of any use to Jez and so reduce wasted trips.
Hang on!  I thought bumble bees did produce honey.  Nope, well not enough for commercial use anyway, they just produce enough to feed their young.  And here's another bumble-bee fact for you; they don't die once they've used their sting, it's the honey bee only that sacrifices his life on stinging.
Jez tells me that honey bees aren't as cute and cuddly as the bumble bee and look more wasp like, but without the hardened shell and with less yellow.  In fact, some of them can be totally black. 

Unfortunately when we arrived at our destination we discovered that we'd just missed the swarm and there were just a few scout bees buzzing around.  These scouts have the job of looking for new places to set up home and are not worth collecting to take back to Jez's hives.
It was a shame that I'd missed the swarm, but it was good that the bees had moved on quietly all by themselves, although Jez would have quite liked to have taken a few home with him!
Next up we go to visit some hives as Jez has some queen bees that he needs to introduce.  Normally the workers will create a 'queen cell' for the queen to lay an egg inside (which will then develop into another queen).  Once these queen cells are 'capped off' or sealed, the hive will swarm and leaving the capped off cells in the hive ensures that those bees left behind will have a future queen. 

However Jez prefers to breed his own queens, from hives of calm and well natured bees, rather than risk leaving it to chance.  So, whenever he sees a queen cell, he'll remove it before the queen has chance to develop.  I guess this lessens the chance of swarming too.
As we walked towards the hives, I felt relatively calm, especially as I was fully kitted in the suit.  I'm also not scared of bees or wasps (unlike the husband who shrieks like a girl whenever one comes near him!), but as we got closer to the hives, the bees started buzzing quite close to my face which put me about a bit!  I just did whatever I always do when there are bees/wasps around and froze.
Jez was concerned and asked me if I was ok and I assured him that I just needed to settle into the situation and get used to the bees buzzing around me.  Two minutes later I was fine and I just stood back and watched as Jez did his stuff.
He had a smoker which really did help to calm the bees down.  The bees react to the smoke in the same manner that they would respond to a forest fire, i.e. they eat more so that they can leave the hive if the fire gets too close.

Once he'd introduced the queens we made a move to the next set of hives and this time our destination was the roof of Western Park Museum!
Jez thinks that he may well be the one and only truly urban bee-keeper in the UK.  But it's not all urban, he also haves some hives out by wild heather so that his bees can produce the popular heather honey. 
Whilst up on the rooftops I got the chance to see a swarm (albeit a small one)!  The bees were perfectly calm and Jez simply scooped them up and popped them into one of the hives.  Jez makes it look so simple, but he's a fully trained bee-keeper so DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!

Once Jez had finished checking up on the hives we headed back to Honey HQ where we had chance for a cuppa and a chat about the business side of things. 
Jez got into bee-keeping when he'd been made redundant from his job in IT.  He was looking for a change, and as he'd had a go at bee keeping when he was around 16/17 years old, he decided to give it a go on a commercial basis. 
He openly admits that he was a bit naïve about the idea; he just thought it was something that would happen overnight.  But now Jez knows that this is a long term project, one which presents a good 3-5 year learning curve for him.  Most businesses are the same, but bee keeping is pretty specialised and there's always something new to learn.
Starting out, Jez knew that brand was key and he worked with DED Associates Ltd to perfect the right logo.  It is impressive; simple and classy and something that Jez should be proud of.  In fact, Jez has really enjoyed the branding side of the business, as much as he's enjoyed the bee keeping aspect. 
Of course Sheffield Honey is known for the honey, but Jez's wife Alison is helping him develop lines in candles and wedding favours too.  In order to ensure that their products can easily be differentiated from others on the market, Jez is always coming up with new twists on the standard jar of honey.  An example of this is the cinnamon honey which has a stick of cinnamon sunk into the jar of honey to give it that subtle warming flavour of the winter spice.  Look out for this, along with infused vanilla and chunk comb (which has a section of the honeycomb inside) along with the usual varieties of blossom, soft set and heather. 

If you want to know more about bee-keeping, or give it a go one day, why not take a look at Jez's Buzzy Work classes (£33 per person).  They're aimed at newbies and Jez keeps the classes totally flexible, adjusting them according to the experience of the group.  I think they would make great gifts; they're certainly something a bit different! 
If you'd rather just stick to the honey then Sheffield Honey's website has up to date details of all the events they will be attending in the next couple of months along with all those delis and cafés who stock their products.  You can also order from Love Your Larder.  It really is good stuff!

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