How one man's passion saved the Bosnian bee

Michael Prestage on a county-show talk that led to a multinational honey deal

IT WAS to have been the usual talk on beekeeping to a county agricultural show - a tale of meadow flowers and pollination, fructose and sucrose, honeycombs and beeswax. But when Peter Rains delivered his presentation last August, he could little imagine it would lead to a 4,000-mile journey to war-ravaged Bosnia and a deal, done last week, that will revive that country's honey industry.

In the audience was an executive from Gale's, the UK's largest honey company. His enthusiasm for Mr Rains and his expertise led to an involvement between the man and the company, an appeal for help from a charity - and a journey to meet the Bosnian beekeepers.

After eight months of brokering by Mr Rains, aged 77, a deal was struck between Gale's and the Bosnians. To the delight of the apiarists, a fax arrived from Nestle, the parent company of Gale's, expressing the multinational corporation's interest in their honey. The details of the package are vital for the Bosnian honey industry: it has helped ensure that the beekeepers will be paid partly in cash and partly in much-needed equipment. That means 500 new hives, honey-making tools and bee medicine - essential to keep the deadly varroa, responsible for wiping out much of Europe's honey industry, at bay.

For the Bosnians, the deal is a godsend. More than a third of the country's estimated 1,500 hives have been destroyed by war or subsequent neglect. With each hive producing, on average, 100cwt of honey, the money from Gale's will be a vital fillip for their battered economy, and the pollination role of bees means the honey industry is also important for agriculture.

Mr Rains has been passionate about beekeeping since attending an agricultural show nearly 30 years ago. Since his retirement from estate agency in 1977, hegives regular talks and presentations as well as tending his 25 hives. "Beekeeping is my life and there is a bond between beekeepers in every country. My heart went out to the Bosnians when I heard of their plight. That such devastation could be wrought in such a beautiful country made me angry and sad."

Mr Rains became involved after he made a presentation at the Poynton Agricultural Show. An invitation followed to talk to shop-floor workers at Gale's.

His talk was well received and when a Christian Aid worker, Rod Howat, contacted the company, asking for help, they referred him to Mr Rains. Mr Howat had taken aid to Bosnia and on his travels had heard of the plight of the local beekeepers.

So, in October, Mr Rains boarded a Land-Rover laden with aid outside his home in Woodford, Cheshire, to drive to Bosnia to meet beekeepers, the country's agriculture minister and the directors of companies associated with the honey trade. "It has been a hard and in many ways a traumatic time," said Mr Rains. "The rigours of the journey were a physical strain and what I saw affected me mentally, but if some good comes from it all then it will be worthwhile."

On his return Mr Rains took a kilo of honey to Gale's which was delighted with the quality. The flavour and colour of honey depends on the kind of flower from which the bees take nectar, and in Bosnia the insects can feed on flower meadows akin to those which have all but disappeared in Britain. Mr Rains wants to return to Bosnia when the industry is back to its former glory. Meanwhile, there is the round of Women's Institutes and agricultural shows, giving a rather different talk on bees and honey than his traditional one.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'