A Taste of Hebridean Wildflowers
Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey is unique, not only because of its taste, although amongst honeys it is ranked with the best; but also because of its provenance, as bees and quality honey are something of a rarity on small windswept islands.
This honey is not another sweetener to go into the cupboard with supermarket honeys, jams and syrups. It merits a place on the top shelf alongside the Malt Whisky. It is a honey that should be savoured, with the thought that each spoonful is simply the concentration of nectar from thousands of Hebridean wildflowers ..... a gift from the industrious bees.
What gives Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey it's special flavour?
Honey gets its flavour and consistency from the floral nectars on which the bees are foraging. Each nectar varies in the type of sugars, proteins, minerals, trace elements present and also importantly in the small quantities of aromatic oils that differ between all flowering plants. Monofloral honey comes from the nectar of flowers of one species, eg. heather, clover, oilseed rape, orange blossom; polyfloral honey from several different species of flower. Bees will forage 2-3 miles from their hives; it is the mix of nectars within that foraging area that make up the stored honey and determine flavour.
Industrial farming has laid waste the natural bee forage of most of Britain. Hedges uprooted, every weed sprayed, grasslands fertilised by nitrogen instead of clover. Only now at the margin, in places such as Colonsay, can a wide diversity of wildflowers still be found. Colonsay and Oronsay have varied habitats from the machair near the shore, to non intensive farmland, hedges, woodland and open heather moorland. Over 50% of all British wildflower species grow in this small area. A very mixed and varied feast for the bees!.
The important nectar flows that make the bulk of the honey are sycamore and bluebell in the Spring, hawthorne, bramble and clover in the summer months and then the bell and ling heathers of the autumn. But it is the fragrant nectars of the numerous wildflowers that gives Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey it's unique and special flavour. The strong aromatic oils of the wild thyme, growing on the sandy machair, are just one example.
The colour and taste of Colonsay honey will vary and depend on the season and the weather when the different plants are flowering and so which honeys are present in the combs when extracted. The heathers normally make up 60-70%. Honey is extracted and filtered with minimum heat to preserve the essential oils and their unique flavours. I try to ensure that the texture is consistent - softset and smooth, without granulation.
What you need to do to order Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey
We are always happy to fulfil postal orders for Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey. The honey will be sent on receipt of your order and cheque.
Orders should be sent to:
Isle of Colonsay
Cheques should made out to: Andrew Abrahams
Please print your name and address clearly on the order and remember to include your postcode.
Allow at least 10 days for delivery as mail to the island can be slow.
Honey is supplied in 454gms (1lb) glass jars.
Total charges for the honey including post & packing are as follows:
1 x 454 gms £15.00
2 x 454 gms £30.00
3 x 454 gms £45.00
4 x 454 gms £60.00
5 x 454 gms £75.00
6 x 454 gms £90.00
7 x 454 gms £105.00
8 x 454 gms £120.00
9 x 454 gms £135.00
10 x 454 gms £150.00
12 x 454 gms £180.00
For further information contact Andrew Abrahams by
telephone on 01951 200365
The bees - some facts and figures
The bees that gather the Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey are a strain of the native Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera). This strain derives from the bees that recolonised Britain and northern Europe after the ice age some 10,000 years ago. The species of bee makes no difference to the honey we get, but the Black Bee is much hardier than the Yellow or Italian Bee ( Apis mellifera ligustica) common in much of England and southern Europe. This hardiness allows the bees to gather nectar on cool sunless days, and forage in a wind that would keep most colonies indoors. The same harsh climate that has selected the Highland cattle and Blackface sheep has created the Black Bee, that winters well on little honey and cautiously expands it's numbers in the spring, lest a cold, wet summer lie in wait.
Colonsay and Oronsay sustain around 50 colonies of bees. Yields vary with summers but are below the U.K. average of 30lb per colony. There are few beekeepers on the West coast of Scotland, the climate being too wet for commercial beekeeping. Colonsay lies to the west of the rain shadow and it's high sunshine hours make beekeeping viable, if marginal.
The bees on Colonsay are isolated from mainland stocks and are largely disease free. No chemicals are used in the hives to control diseases.
Some facts of interest
A strong colony of bees will have around 40,000 workers at any given time in summer, a few drones and one queen. 200,000 bees are reared in a season.
A colony will gather some 400lbs of honey and 100lb of pollen during the summer, only 20-50lbs is available for harvest; the rest keeps that hive of activity going!
A bee will visit from 100 to 1,000 flowers each flight or outing from it's hive, to bring back only a twentyfith of a gram of nectar, which is half it's own body weight. It will make over a dozen such flights on a good summer's day.
It takes as many as 50,000 bee flights to gather a pound of honey.
A bee will live for only six weeks in the busy summer months but six months if it is part of the wintering population.
Reflect on the work of the bees, when you enjoy a teaspoon of honey!
Colonsay became well known for it's woodland gardens with it's extensive collection of Rhododendrons. Rhododendron nectar is one of the few plant nectars poisonous to both bees and man; as a beekeeper I often get asked about this. If you are interested, read my article which appeared in the Scottish Beekeeper January1998, and goes into the problem in more depth.