Did you know that we have our own beehives here at Emmaus Cambridge and that you can buy jars of our honey in the café?

Ever interested in sustainability, we installed two hives a few years ago, by 2020 we had six hives, and we are aiming to have 12 in 2021. We have wonderful volunteers helping manage the hives and companions get involved if they are interested.

As we have over five acres of gardens here at the Emmaus Cambridge community and are surrounded by fields, there is plenty to keep the girls busy. Each hive can easily have 40000 female workers bees in them, which is just as well, as each foraging bee only collects a spoonful of nectar in her short lifespan. This can be as little as six weeks in the height of summer.

Like many other insects, bees collect nectar and pollen (a source of protein) and in doing so pollinate the flowers and trees; they make a vital contribution to our food baskets. There might be tens of thousands of female worker bees in our hives but there are only a few hundred males (drones) and of course only one queen. Her job is to lay eggs and in the spring and summer she can lay thousands a day, equivalent to her own bodyweight. It only takes a few weeks for these to hatch and start working as nurse bees, cleaners, foragers and guard bees (well someone has to keep those pesky wasps away).

Honey is nectar with the water content reduced (by the bees fanning their wings) with proteins and enzymes added as they process it in their special bee stomach. Its high fructose and glucose content means that bacteria and other microorganisms cannot breed – hence its long shelf life and reputed health-giving and healing properties. In some societies, it has even been used in wound dressings.

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