For 10,000 years beekeepers have kept bees in hives to produce as much honey as possible. Beekeeping has been important in this area, especially since The Conwy Honey Fair was authorised by King Edward I in the nearby town’s Royal Charter over 700 years ago, allowing beekeepers to sell honey within the town walls for one day each year on 13 September.
Beekeepers prefer to work with bees that are easy to manage, hard-working and adapted to the local climate. They generally get their bees through their local Beekeeping Association, although some will use ‘bait hives’ to attract a swarming colony.
The Ugly House, where volunteers have created a bee-friendly garden, is an ideal location for rearing bees to meet local keepers’ preferences. It is relatively isolated so the bees are unlikely to be contaminated by other strains. The bees at the Ugly House are closely related to the sub-species Apis mellifera mellifera, the European dark bee.
Queens are bred from good local colonies using grafting methods and then brought to the Ugly House in small hives from which the virgin queens fly to mate with locally reared male drones.
Healthy mated queens are supplied to beekeepers for re-queening, introducing a new younger queen to an existing colony, or with a nucleus of work bees for building up a full sized colony.