Our bees, one year on

Audley Chalfont Dene Buckinghamshire honey beehives

Our local Buckinghamshire honey supplier, Honest Honey installed Beehives in the grounds of Audley Chalfont Dene one year ago. The first harvest produced 200 jars of pure honey, and we are expecting more this year. 

We asked the team at Honest Honey how they feel the first year has gone, and what our honeybees have been up to over the winter.


  • Four beehives were installed at Audley Chalfont Dene in May 2024
  • There was one summer crop of honey which was harvested on 26 July 2024, yielding 51kg (approx. 144lb) of honey, most of which came from just two of the hives.
  • Most beekeepers aim for around 40lb of honey per hive, so the total harvest was slightly less than anticipated, although two of the colonies were very young, having only been established in May.
  • After the honey was extracted, the bees were fed a replacement food, to ensure they had sufficient stores for winter.
  • The bees were also treated with a veterinary medicine for a parasitic mite, varroa, which has devastated bee colonies since it was first reported in the UK in 1992.
Audley Chalfont Dene Buckinghamshire honey for sale

Interesting bee facts

All of our colonies survived winter! Winter can be a difficult time for bees, due to the cold weather and absence of flowers – this is why honeybees produce honey, to provide a source of food and energy to last until spring.

Did you know, bees do not hibernate in winter but snuggle together for warmth? When there is brood being raised by the colony, it must be kept at between 32-36ºC, even during the winter months. In the depths of winter, there is often a short period where there is no brood, although even then the colony temperature must not fall below 20ºC.


  • Having come through winter strongly, all four colonies swarmed in April.
  • Swarming is a natural process of colony re-production and is generally a sign of a healthy colony.
  • During the swarming process, the old queen leaves the hive with roughly half the bees to find a new home. The bees will have already started the process of raising several replacement queens, one of which will go on to lead the colony. The bees do this by feeding a special diet of ‘royal jelly’ to the female larva which they have selected to become queen. This royal jelly, produced by young bees, affects the physical development of the female bee. 
  • Swarming is not good news for the beekeeper however, due to the loss of workforce and the potential to cause nuisance.
  • There are several measures the beekeeper can take to manage the swarming process. Firstly, by aiming to reduce the swarming urge and, if this fails, to perform an ‘artificial swarm’, which aims to divide the colony in a controlled manner, making the bees think they have swarmed!
  • Typically swarming occurs in the UK in May and June. The early swarming this year occurred before the swarm control measures had been enacted. Fortunately, all swarms landed in a convenient place and could be quickly collected and re-homed.
  • Interesting fact: once a bee colony has swarmed, the colony which remains in the original hive will not accept the old queen back, even though she is mother to all the bees!
Chalfont Dene bees swarm to keep warm in winter
Chalfont Dene bees swarm to keep warm in winter


  • Since the colonies swarmed, they have raised new queens and the colonies are building up in size.
  • Unfortunately, because of the depletion of the workforce caused by swarming, followed by the cold, wet weather in April and May, there hasn’t been a spring honey harvest.
  • The weather looks to be getting warmer in the second half of June and with blackberry and other summer flowers in bloom, the next honey harvest should be ready by end of June or early July.
  • Jars of Chalfont Dene honey will soon be available to purchase and take home.
Protecting local bees against Asian Hornets


  • You may have heard in the news that Asian Hornets are an invasive species now threatening the UK. 
  • Asian hornets are a particular risk to honeybee colonies as they prey on the bees – each Asian hornet can eat around 50 honeybees a day!
  • These hornets were accidentally introduced to France in 2004 and since then have spread widely, decimating French honeybee colonies.
  • There have been Asian hornet sightings in the UK since 2016, mainly around the south coast and none as yet in Buckinghamshire.
  • Up until last year, there had only been a handful of sightings a year and it was believed that this invasive pest had not become established.
  • However, in 2023 there were 72 Asian hornet nests found in 56 locations, so it sadly looks like they are here to stay.
  • A list of Asian hornet sightings is maintained by The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
  • Asian hornets should not be confused with European hornets however, which are not a threat to honeybees or humans.
  • Asian hornets are slightly smaller than European hornets. Asian hornets have darker bodies with yellow legs and an orange face.
  • Smartphone users can download the Asian Hornet Watch app, for identifying and reporting Asian hornets, available for Apple and Google devices.
Honeybee on flower, credit: Adobe stock


  • A quick reminder that bees are wild animals and have a sting to protect their colony.
  • A bee dies when it stings, so usually does this as a last resort.
  • Foraging bees on flowers are very unlikely to sting.
  • Bees can be more defensive around their hive.
  • Safety tips:
  • Don’t get too close to the hives and avoid standing near the entrance
  • If bees buzz round you, walk calmly away from the hives
  • Never try to swat bees away as they will sense danger and are more likely to sting
  • Bees’ eyesight is not as detailed as humans although they are very good at detecting movement

Read more about our bees, when we introduced them to their new home at Chalfont Dene last summer.

The first harvest produced 200 jars of pure honey. More jars of Chalfont Dene honey will soon be available to purchase and take home.