Different countries have varying ways of making sure the bees get ample nectar to feast on. In the UK, beekeepers keep their hives in one area whereas in China, beekeepers have a nomadic lifestyle and travel across the country with their bees over the six months of the beekeeping season.
One of the Chinese beekeepers we work with, Zhou, explains a little more about beekeeping in China.
How did you get into beekeeping?
I have relatives in beekeeping so it’s something I grew up with. I’ve been a beekeeper now for over 20 years and I love what I do; I see it as more than a job. In fact, we move around throughout the season to make sure the bees have enough nectar to forage. We move in a group and I set the route and time in each area. We generally start in Zhejiang, with a number of stops in between before finishing in Gansu.
What do you love about beekeeping?
I have nearly 300 beehives, so the most rewarding part for me is the harvest. That’s when we extract the honey and see just how busy the bees have been! We can harvest honey from the rapeseed forage from March to September, honey from the vitex forage from May to August, honey from the acacia forage from the end of April to early June, and honey from the sunflower forage from July to September.
What varieties of flowers do your bees typically forage on?
The bees forage on quite a wide variety of flowers as it depends on what’s in bloom at different stages of the season. But the varieties include rapeseed, acacia, sunflower, and vitex, which grows in warm temperate and subtropical regions.
Does the honey differ depending on which flower the bees forage?
Yes! Rapeseed honey can be thinner in texture, which is heavy with the scent of rape flowers. Vitex honey smells fragrant and tastes sweet. Acacia honey is quite thick, with a strong floral aroma and a mild and sweet taste. Sunflower honey also has a strong aroma, with a thick texture and a delicious taste.
How is honey typically eaten in China?
We mainly use honey in baking and for making drinks. My favourite drink is honey mixed with lemon and grapefruit, it’s delicious.