Councillor Juli Harris: Beekeeping and me
What are your pets’ names?
Coll, Effie, Ailsa and Scottish black bees.
What breed are they? A Skye terrier, a Scottie and a Cairn terrier, and the bees are a native variety.
How old are they?
Coll is nine, Effie is four and Ailsa is seven.
How long have you had the bees?
It started over 20 years ago, when a friend’s dad was giving up his hives and she asked if I would be interested.
Where did you get them?
I went off to Culloden to pick up two hives and put them in the car boot. Over the summer, each hive can have up to 70,000 bees.
What can they do?
They produce honey with local flavours from my apple and pear orchards, the farmer’s oil seed rape, clover – whatever is in season.
What do you love about them?
They’re so critical to the environment – without bees, there wouldn’t be civilisation as we know it. I have a garden they really love and it’s wonderful to sit and watch them.
What special talents do they have?
You see them going out, foraging, and coming in with pollen loaded on their legs. They have dances which tell each other how far the flowers are.
What’s the dogs’ best trick?
They quickly learned to avoid the bees.
What’s the worst thing the bees have done?
When I get stung I end up looking like the Pillsbury doughgirl. Once I was collecting a swarm from the orchard and the ladder started to swing back. I landed flat on my back with a boxful of bees all over me.
Do you think of yourself as a pet parent or pet owner?
I don’t own the bees, I’m just there to help them. It’s almost like the Borg from Star Trek, they are all given jobs the day they hatch and they take care of each other.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you have bought or done for your pets?
A fish van visits us twice a week and keeps salmon scraps for the dogs. They’ve almost got the visits on their calendars.
What’s your first pet-related memory?
We lived in Singapore because my dad was in the RAF, and we took in a local dog that was shunned because its markings meant it was considered unlucky.
What was the first pet you ever had?
It was that dog, Mr Binks. He had one white paw and the neighbours thought he was a devil dog, but we gave him a good life.
What would be your dream pet?
Lots of dogs – I’d like to buy the fields here and create a refuge for them.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
A hare, because they’re vegetarian like me.
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