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A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey, the first of a planned series of thought-provoking evenings at Fair Trader, certainly plugged into the zeitgeist and was a sell-out. Three speakers each gave us a different slant on their relationship with bees.

Shop volunteer Judy Griffiths started the evening by telling us of her family’s long experience of  bee-keeping. In fact, the bees in her own hives at Briestfield are the direct descendants of those kept by her grandfather. Judy started by explaining the structure of a hive – by assembling one in front of the audience! She showed us her protective suit but sadly didn’t wear it during her talk. By her own admission an enthusiastic amateur, she successfully put across in layman’s terms the roles of the different bees in a hive – queen, drones and workers.  She explained the reasons for bees swarming and what to do when it happens: in essence – Don’t Panic!

Judy Griffiths and Ryad Alsous

Judy Griffiths and Ryad Alsous
The next speaker, Ryad Alsous, has this month become a local celebrity with press coverage in The Times, The Yorkshire Post and the Huddersfield Examiner of his Buzz Project which has hives on land at Tunnel End, Marsden. A respected academic and bee-keeper in his home country of Syria he and his wife were forced to flee the violence and joined family already settled in this area. The Buzz Project aims to give refugees and unemployed a sense of purpose through bee-keeping. Sustainability is at the heart of the project: hives are made from recycled wood; pollen and nectar come from abundant local flowers such as heather, hawthorn, buddleia, fields of rape and even the dreaded Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. Ryad’s hives are populated by local British black bees from an original swarm donated by a lady in Manchester. He explained that these indigenous bees are especially suited to our climate and as a result are more resistant to disease than the widespread imported bees. Ryad’s dream is that while giving its volunteers skills and a purpose the project will expand to make home-grown honey and bee-related products more widely available and so reduce the 90% market share of imports from China, the US and Spain. Certainly Fair Trader hopes to be an early stockist. The project’s progress can be followed on its Facebook page.

Sarah Sheard

Sarah Sheard, a local author of children’s books and passionate organic gardener, was the final speaker. Originally inspired by Michael Morpurgo she aims through her writing to introduce children to what might be regarded as difficult ideas. Her book, ‘The Redwings and The Field of Ideas’, covers the decline of bees due to the use of pesticides. Sarah spoke of the inevitable disease problems caused by mass bee transportation across the US to California for industrial-scale pollination and of a crisis in China caused by lack of bees.

During the break the audience enjoyed tasting the shop’s range of honeys on delicious bread supplied by The Handmade Bakery of Slaithwaite. Various bee products were on sale including two new gift boxes, Taste of Honey and Bee Beautiful. These are available in the shop and will soon be added to the webshop ready for Christmas.

The evening was completed by promotion of ‘The Vanishing of the Bees’ which covers the decline in bee populations and the part played by neonicatinoids. This film was supported by The Co-operative movement and is available from

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