Food & Drink, Guest Post

7 December 2018

Are you buzzing?

Andrew, Ewan, Alina, Hannah, Aaron, Amanda and teacher Mr Ambrose from Stirling High School, have written this guest blog for us about the work they have been carrying out with Plan Bee at the Castle. You’ll bee a fool to miss this!

Pupils pose in white bee-proof suits

Do you like honey? Do you like nature? Then you will love what The Hive has been up to! At Stirling High School we all share a common love for nature and bees, so we jumped at the opportunity to work with these amazing creatures of nature. Working in partnership with Plan Bee we installed two beehives at Stirling Castle. The hives can be found down by the Nether Bailey, past the tapestry exhibition.

During our Bee project, we set out many targets we wanted to achieve. These included learning about the bees and teaching cubs some bee knowledge. We also planned to go to the factory to see the process of “hive to shelf” (just to tell you it’s amazing and all 100% natural).

This project has developed our communication and enterprising skills through the creation and advertising of our own business; The Hive. The next time you are at the castle, please make sure you have the time to look at the hives. These beautiful workplaces are thriving and producing lots of honey for you to enjoy!

Location, Location, Location

Flowers in the Queen Anne Garden

When considering a location for a beehive, it’s crucial to keep the local environment in mind. For example, the nearby flowers can affect honey taste. That’s why the Castle is a special location to place the beehive.

The Queen Anne Gardens at the Castle have been a key feature of the Castle for centuries. As bees usually travel within a 2-3km radius of their hive to pollinate plants, they are perfectly located! They contain a wide assortment of flowers which the bees can pollinate.  This is important so both the bees and flowers can coexist and thrive together.

Educating people about the bees is also essential as they are extremely important for our ecosystem.

Passing on the Knowledge

In August, the Castle asked us to come along and work alongside a very lively and keen group of Cub Scouts. Our mission was to pass on to them everything we had learnt about bees throughout our time with the hives.

The Cubs were split into two groups; one to learn everything about the hive and the second to get suited up and take a look at the hives themselves! The first task was to talk to the Cubs about safety and the steps you have to take to make sure you don’t get stung. The Cubs were excited about the bees and really tested our knowledge with some excellent questions.

Pupils in white protective suits overlooking a bee hive

Group A, led by Amanda and Finlay, used a model to introduce the Cubs to the hive. The Cubs were able to explore the different levels of the hive while we explained to them what each part is for. This prepared them perfectly for the next stage which was to take a look at an active hive. The Cubs suited up and headed to see the hives. At first, they were a bit unsure, but after we showed them not to be scared they were confident enough to come closer.

We could see what we had taught them had sunk in immediately as they were able to identify the different sections of the hive and their functions, which we found really pleasing! We waved goodbye to the Cubs, hoping that we had planted a seed for future bee-enthusiasts and environmentalists!

To the Factory

Scraping wax during a visit to a honey factory

On the 11th of October, we took a trip to the Plan Bee factory in Motherwell.

When we arrived, we had to put on aprons and hairnets for food hygiene purposes. We got to scrape the wax of the frame to see the honey underneath using a “hot knife”. The honey was from Chichester, West Sussex, and London. The wax falls into a big sieve, then the frames are put into a spinner and carefully arranged to keep it from tipping over. It spins for around 20 minutes and you can start to hear the honey hitting the metal. When you can’t hear it anymore, you stop the spinner.

Next you retrieve the honey by placing a bucket underneath the dispenser with a sieve placed on top. A hose is attached to connect the bucket with a jar-filling machine. Using a camera, the machine measures the height and breadth of the jars to be filled with sweet nectar! When all the jars are full you put a lid on and then put them into boxes ready to be sold and dispatched.


A bucket dispensing honey

After that, we were able to take off the aprons and the hair nets and finally try some honey! There were many different types available including cinnamon, vanilla, African summer and winter honey and some local honey. After trying honey, we took our last pictures and headed back for school.

Stirling Castle honey proved very popular at our recent Christmas Shopping Fayre – all the jars sold out! A huge well done to everyone involved with The Hive!