Report On Visit To Jutland
Report by Tom Robinson
This is an account of The British Bee Farmers Associations Spring meeting to West Jutland, Denmark in the spring of 2003.
On Thursday 13 March we flew from Standsted to Esbjerg taking the bus to Rinkobing Fjord to stay in our base of the Hotel Fjordgarden where David Ashton, who is a BFA member and who met us, lives in Denmark. David was with us all the trip and his experience and local knowledge were invaluable despite the Morbor stories he insisted on telling us.
On Friday, we visited Knud Hvam’s home farm, which previously belonged to his grandfather. The premises are large with space to store equipment and process honey for 2000 colonies, all on standard Dadant equipment. His hives and indeed all the equipment we saw in Denmark are made of polystyrene are neatly stacked and contain frames with new foundation. All old frames are stripped and cleaned with caustic soda and we realised that new brood comb is introduced each year, honey being taken from brood boxes. Extraction of honey is carried out on his premises not only for himself but also for other beekeepers in the area, their frames being cleaned also. In his canteen facilities, we had our mid day meal with either soft drinks or beer and snapps.
In the afternoon, we visited his honey bottling plant at Aulumgaad which was purpose built three years ago. Our first view was the reception area where honey in barrels and some buckets is received and stored from all parts of the world. We then walked into the warm warehouse filled with barrels and a stack of buckets where roof fans moved the air around at a temperature of 45C, it apparently takes about a week for the honey to liquefy before it is blended. The honey is then pumped into huge double skinned vats where iced water is circulated to reduce the temperature and where the honey is either blended or selected honeys are retained. The honey is filtered at every stage and is then pumped to six separate automated bottling stations. Creamed honey is bottled at 4 tonne an hour, I calculate this to be in jar each 2 seconds, or for clear honey the process is slowed down to 1 tonne an hour to retain its clarity.
Knud employees 20 full time staff and processes and packs 3000 tonne a year. This is sold through the Danish supermarket Netto which in Denmark is a high-class shop or through the Danish co-op chain. He also sells his products throughout Europe including the British market.
Knud visits his plant each morning to discuss progress and see to any problems before either going out to see to his honeybee colonies or he goes out hunting. He says, “I employ good people.” Knud also has a programme to get young people into his employment or introducing them to beekeeping. As we saw he needs a constant supply of honey. Knud and his partner Jorgen Tjener Mikkelson, took us to three apiaries where up to 100 colonies were situated. The weather was good and the bees were flying well, with some smoke but no protective equipment, colonies were examined. Most of these colonies were headed by young 2002 queens which were destined to re-queen the honey colonies. We saw how all the colonies had been put on new comb the previous autumn and had been fed and were still being fed with inverted syrup, each colony having a full kilogram of apifondant to stimulate brood production. In Denmark, there will be no honey flow for another six weeks and feeding will continue until then. Honey is taken not only from the honey supers which are full brood box size but also from the broodbox.
On Saturday, we had a lazy morning walking round Ringkobing which is an old town and harbour. We walked by the sea and around the coast, seeing the factory where wind generation mills are produced not only for Denmark but for around the world.
In the afternoon we visited the home farm of Jorgen Tjener Mikkelnson where we saw a barn in the farm being converted to a honey house. He had prepared 6000 brood comb, the woodwork being produced in Lithuania and the foundation being done by his lady friend who is also from Lithuania. He also has standard polystyrene hives stacked up ready for the honey flow. After a feast prepared by his mother, we drove over the heather moors where ancient Juniper bushes grew.
Our non-beekeeping partners had an interesting trip up the coast visiting the St George museum, this was the flagship of Nelson and were then taken to the home of the guide and after being shown the house were entertained with wine.
On Sunday, after a long journey, we visited the Queen rearing establishment of Poul Eric Soresen. He first showed us his beeswax business where he takes in other beekeepers frames and extracts the wax for which he charges. All the frames are cleaned with caustic soda and then spray washed and kept separate for return to the individual beekeeper. He produces 40 tonne of beeswax per year, and converts the best wax to foundation, which is then packaged for resale by himself or mostly by Sweienty, of whom later. Older discoloured wax is sent for industrial use and the residue is used to heat the boiler for his house.
Poul raises over 2000 queens annually although he sells many virgin queens. He has many lines of queens and raises them for gentleness, quietness on the comb and he also tests for hygienic behaviour by the freeze brood method. He says he will raise 30 sister queens but after selection only retains about 5. He discounts any with chalkbrood. Or any with signs of nosema He starts grafting on 20 May and grafts every day until 20 July aiming to produce about 85 grafts daily, after the starter colonies he moves them to finisher and when sealed he has an incubator. It was evident he has good accommodation with plenty of indoor space. He uses mini-nucs which, without drones, go to an isolated island site off the coast of Jutland.
On our final day, Monday after a long drive we visited the premises of Swienty in Sonderboug, which again is situated in an old impressive farm. We were welcomed by Anna Marie and Bernhard and the rest of the family and were fed Danish food and drinks. We were of course allowed around the premises and saw honey packing equipment for the small producer, wax making equipment with foundation making facilities attached as well as the usual host of beekeeping equipment. The firm are regular exhibitors at Stoneleigh sell polystyrene national hive equipment.
During our stay in Denmark, we were all impressed by the efficiency of the beekeepers we saw and by the large premises available to them in redundant farm buildings. The farmland has been rationalised larger farms being more efficient and consequently farm buildings are available for other purposes.