At last there is some good news for honey lovers as Somerset beekeepers enjoy their best crop for three years.

Figures just released by the British Beekeeping Association show that hives in the west country averaged 30lb, up from the lowest point of just 7lb two years ago.

Reports from the county’s apiaries show a very positive picture in the main with some yields topping the historic average of 40lb per hive.

Bee farmer and member of Somerset Beekeepers Association (SBKA) Chris Harries of Sedgemoor Honey said the season started well: “The bees came out of the winter nice and strong because the conditions were excellent. I only lost one hive out of 300, which was fantastic as the national average for losses is about 10 per cent.

“Throughout the year there was plenty of moisture in the ground, the flowers the bees feed on flourished and the sun came out at the right time. All my 1,700 or so honey boxes were on a hive somewhere in Somerset at one time.”

Chris’s hives produced an average of 86lb of honey, totalling 11.2 tonnes together with 800 pieces of honey comb and 250lb of heather honey.

“I get about a third of my crop in the spring and two thirds in the summer. Although the winter was mild and the summer was pretty good, August was wet. Fortunately the warm September extended the season as the bees brought in more nectar.” Another Somerset beekeeper, Mary Rankin, said: “From what we’ve seen in the last two or three years, the number of honeybee colonies is increasing, there’s a bit better survival rate over-winter and there are also increasing numbers of beekeepers.”

Mary, from near Chard, harvested 60lbs from three hives and left boxes of honey on each colony to keep them going through the winter.

Rex Emery from Bath from harvested 120lb from just two hives, Downside School near Radstock reported its first harvest for three years with 36lbs from three hives and Rowena Kinsman, from Stoke St Michael, harvested 134lb from three hives and left a full honey box on each colony.

However some Somerset beekeepers reported another disappointing season due to a lack of forage while others lost colonies because of wasps.

Dr David Aston, President of the British Beekeepers’ Association, said on a recent visit to the county that the education work of SBKA’s divisions was helping members to improve their husbandry skills in dealing with pests and diseases.

He added: “From a beekeeping point of view, our real work starts at the end of the summer as we prepare our colonies for the winter.”