Helena Jackson, beekeeper

[left] Helena in her full bee suit and veil, holding a smoker and a hive tool. [right] Helena supplies Finlaystone with honey for the estate shop, and the Three Sisters Bake Café if the crop allows.

[left] Helena in her full bee suit and veil, holding a smoker and a hive tool. [right] Helena supplies Finlaystone with honey for the estate shop, and the Three Sisters Bake Café if the crop allows.

I’m classed as a youngster in the beekeeping fraternity, which, when you’re in your 40s, is quite nice. But this is more a reflection of the average age of a beekeeper, and highlights that we need to get a broader range of ages involved to keep the art and traditions going, while being progressive. I’m a Lancastrian by birth. I was born in Bury and moved up to Scotland in my late 20s. I didn’t know any beekeepers when I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, but I’ve always been an avid gardener and interested in environmental issues and ecology. A trip to Ayr Flower Show in August 2011 is where my beekeeping journey began. Ayr & District Beekeepers have a mobile apiary and invite the general public to get up close with a beehive and a colony of bees, while talking them through the main aspects of honeybees and beekeeping. I was hooked from that point, and soon after I took a beginners’ course. I still credit the enthusiastic and enigmatic Phil McAnespie for my birth as a beekeeper. I have two apiary sites, which are very different to each other. I’m classed as an ‘out apiarist’, meaning my bees are not in my garden or on land where I live. One site, containing just one hive, is in a back garden in Kilbarchan that belongs to a lovely couple who love bees but didn’t want to become beekeepers. The other is in Finlaystone Country Park, owned by the MacMillan family, and is set in 500 acres of gardens and ancient woodland; perfect foraging for the honeybees. A lot of beekeepers are in it for the honey. Me? Not so much. I need to pay the ‘rent’ for the apiary in honey, and I like to be able to supply Finlaystone with honey for the estate shop – you can’t beat local honey. I live in a beautiful conservation village. It hosts the Three Sisters Bake Café, which I also like to supply if the crop allows. My partner Stewart loves honey. He is a singer in a rock band and uses the honey for his throat before gigs – very rock’n’roll! I use it sometimes in cooking, making mead, but predominantly in cocktails or hot toddies. I’m not really that keen on honey myself. I do enjoy making candles from the beeswax, though.

Helena working in her main apiary featuring four of her own hives

Helena working in her main apiary featuring four of her own hives

A brood frame showing adult honeybees, uncapped nectar, capped honey and sealed pollen – all used for feeding the larvae and young bees

A brood frame showing adult honeybees, uncapped nectar, capped honey and sealed pollen – all used for feeding the larvae and young bees

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 69-71, issue 108.

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Photography Neale Smith
Interview Catherine Coyle