Bzz! Exclusive interview with Zac Tatam, the new Tŷ Hyll bee keeper
Zac Tatam met his partner Lorenza while working at the Towers Outdoor Education Centre, a stone’s throw from our flagship property, Tŷ Hyll (the Ugly House). They live in Dolgarrog with their baby daughter Izzy, a small flock of Shetland sheep and two collies and they manage seven beehives in Snowdonia.
As amateur beekeepers, Zac and Lorenza were fascinated by the Honeybee Project at Tŷ Hyll, and jumped at the chance to take on our woodland colony earlier this year.
In November, Snowdonia Society Engagement Officer Claire Holmes caught up with Zac over a panad at The Towers to find out more about their plans for our fuzzy friends’ future.
Claire: Zac, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’d half expected you to be sporting your bee suit!
Zac: (Laughs) Well, we’re approaching the time of year where we leave the bees to their own devices so I’ve pretty much packed the bee suit away for the winter.
Claire: It sounds like you’ve had a busy year. When did you take on the hive?
Zac: At the end of April this year. We’d been beekeeping for around two years and completed the 10-month course at Bodnant Garden so were ready to take on a new project when we heard that the Snowdonia Society were looking for a new keeper.
Claire: And how did the Tŷ Hyll bees take to you?
Zac: Oh I think they could tell we were beginners! They were definitely more aggressive than our other colonies although they’re Welsh black bees, which are known have a bit more edge than other subspecies of honeybee!
Claire: We had a harsh winter too with the ‘Beast from the East’. Would this have affected them?
Zac: Absolutely. Bees can handle the cold but not combined with damp. They were in a poor state when we started with them in April but thanks to the fantastic summer we had, the bees really took off and we had an amazing honey harvest when we came to extract in August. Right now it’s a strong and healthy colony.
Claire: That’s fantastic news. And what did you do with all that delicious honey?
Zac: We collected around 11 kilos of honey which went into our Izzy’s Bees collection. Things like lip balms, waxes and candles. We sold these alongside jars of raw honey at the Conwy Honey Fair in September and were able to donate a quarter of the profits to the Snowdonia Society.
Claire: What a brilliant outcome. Tell us more about Izzy’s Bees: Is there a reason it’s named after your baby daughter?
Zac: Yes. We bought the beehives and equipment to set up a small business for Izzy when she’s older. We set aside some of the profits from the sale of our products into the fund, so that she has a good start in life when it comes to going to university or buying a house in the future.
Claire: That’s a wonderful idea, and a real example of making life in the National Park possible for the next generation…
Zac: Yes. We really wanted to establish something in Snowdonia that’s alive and thriving for Izzy, and to pass on our love for bees and the natural world to her.
Claire: Absolutely. It’s great to see that kind of energy going into supporting honeybees locally. So at the beginning of the interview, you said you’d put your bee suit away for the winter. Does that mean you’re taking a step back after the busy summer?
Zac: Yes in a sense. The hive needs to be kept closed so the bees stay warm through the winter, so I won’t be checking it until the spring. Before I say goodbye for the season though, I’ll be putting a slab of bee fondant into the hive to keep them going.
Claire: Bee fondant – is that like marzipan for bees?!
Zac: Pretty much, yes. It’s a solid block of sugar, fructose, egg white and pollen that sits inside the top of the hive as a back-up nutrient source. Hopefully they have enough of their own honey, but it’s a belt and braces approach in case we have a very long harsh winter
Claire: Fascinating stuff, and very appropriate what with Christmas just around the corner…
Zac: Absolutely. We’re looking forward to seeing how they weathered the winter when we open them up again next spring.
Claire: Well it certainly sounds like our bees are in safe hands with you both. Thanks for your time today, Zac, and all the very best with your ventures!
Zac: Thank you.
The Snowdonia Society would like to thank Zac and Lorenza for taking on the hive at Tŷ Hyll and to Max who cared for the hive for six years previously. To find out more about Zac and Lorenza’s business venture, Izzy’s Bees, go to their Facebook page here.
The Tŷ Hyll honey has sold out this year but there will be more on sale at next year’s Conwy Honey Fair, on September 13 2019.
Stay tuned with Tŷ Hyll events and woodland volunteer opportunities online.