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Honey from special bees at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park has won an award and been proven to have antibacterial properties. Now, it’s to be sold in the Zoo shop.

The Zoo currently has three colonies of bees thanks to the B4 Project (Bringing Back Black Bees) which is working to conserve the Cornish black bee.

Beekeeper Gerry Stuart, from the B4 project, explained: “This bee is tough, long-lived, has a low tendency to swarm, a good brood cycle and a strong drive to collect pollen. It has been replaced by other species in many parts of the country, but it is clinging on in Cornwall.”

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant helped pay for scientific research into Cornish populations of the species and allowed the group to work with bodies such as the Eden Project, The Duchy of Cornwall, the University of Plymouth and the National Trust.

Gerry looks after the Paignton Zoo hives: “The observation hive can produce about 120 pounds and the other two hives about 90 pounds each.” Two hives are on the giant tortoise lawn and the observation hive is near the rhinos and gorillas.

“The texture, colour and taste of honey will vary depending on how the bees forage and what plants they focus on.  The Zoo honey is excellent – I have never tasted anything like it, I believe it’s down to the excellent array of exotic plants.” At the British Beekeepers Association winter honey show in Paignton the Zoo honey won first prize.

In 2015 the total harvest was about 300 pounds. It’s hoped the honey will be on sale in the Paignton Zoo shop by half term. This is not the first time that a product made by animals has been sold at Paignton Zoo – in the past the shop has stocked Zoo Poo garden compost and note paper made from rhino dung.

Samples of honey were supplied to researchers at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Testing was conducted by Jenny Hawkins at the Cardiff School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical science; she confirmed that the honey from the Zoo kills MRSA in its neat form. 

Other raw honeys have been shown to have this property, though processed honey from supermarkets has been blended and pasteurized and natural enzymes in the honey destroyed. The anti-bacterial properties are topical and do not apply when the honey is eaten.

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