You may have seen the rare breeds of sheep, cows, goats, pigs and poultry at the farm, but did you know the site is also home to two beehives called ‘Phoebe’ and ‘Rosalynd’? (We love a good Shakespearian reference!)
On World Bee Day we will be shining a light on these fascinating little creatures with bee talks throughout the day and skep-making demonstrations. (Skeps are a traditional type of beehive made out of straw.)
Here, volunteer beekeeper Mistress Gaynor introduces the bees of Mary Arden’s Farm:
Did you know that Robert Arden, Mary’s father, kept two bee hives near his house? I wonder if Mary was a beekeeper.
I would like to introduce to you Phoebe, our resident queen bee at Mary Arden’s Farm, and her large brood.
Phoebe gives us our sweetness, with 40lb of honey going into the Palmer’s Farmhouse larder last year. The Tudors are making good use of it in divers delicious dishes. We also had a good amount of beeswax which Mistress Ellen made into candles on high days and holy days.
Phoebe also joins the Tudors for the washing up. She seems to know the exact time the housemaids come out to wash the dishes after Tudor dinner, and they are often joined by several bees who drink up the salt water from the board.
Phoebe not only provides our sweetness but also pollinates the meadows and orchards on the farm. Phew!
Phoebe originated from an Irish queen bee with 90% native genes for the Black European Honey bee, the very bee that William Shakespeare would have seen buzzing around Stratford. We are working closely with the Stratford-upon-Avon Beekeepers Association, which promotes the breeding of native stock, to bring this native back into the countryside. There are plans afoot for Phoebe to supply new queens to beekeepers and spread the native gene. She is a very busy bee is our Phoebe!
Last year we were also joined by Rosalynd and her brood in a new hive, so we are expecting a whole year’s supply of honey this year.
It’s good to have bees again at Mary Arden’s Farm; they give us a vital crop and complete the inventory of animals kept on this farm in Tudor times.