The grouse season doesn’t officially end until the 10th December however many of the estates in the North York Moors have already finished shooting for the year.
Throughout the season estates test batches of shot grouse to ascertain the strongyle worm population within them.
The Strongyle Worm (Trichostrongylus Tenius) is the biggest killer of grouse, so it’s cycle and density needs careful monitoring. Grouse have a very interesting gut, different to other birds, with 2 extra sections of dead end gut called the caeca that lead back around the larger intestine, this is to drain extra nutrition from their diet. This dead end gut can be taken from the shot birds, sliced up, washed out and then the worms can be counted, this then gives an estimate of the worm volume in the grouse.
Once the worm counts have been completed the gamekeepers and estates make the decision on whether to put out standard or medicated grit for the grouse.
Medicated grit is only available by licence and a vets certificate is required to purchase it. The grouse that are shot on estates enter the food chain so medicated grit cannot be put out onto the moors until shooting has ended as it has an agreed withdrawal period of 28 days.
Once the heather on our North York Moors is in full bloom then it is very common that we get some special visitors moving in. For approx. 6 weeks the Moors will become home to bees (in their hives) and this enables the production of some fantastic much sought after Heather Honey. Unfortunately this year large areas of the North York Moors have been hit by Heather Beetle but luckily we still have some other areas that remain undamaged to house the bees. This year it has been even more important for the Beekeepers to work closely with the Estate Owners and Gamekeepers to find the best location for their hives.
NYMMO were very kindly donated a box full of jars of heather honey by local bee keeper Trever with funds raised going to help us put on more education days. Trevor places approximately 70 million bees and over 250 hives on the moors of just one NYMMO estate. We took the jars of Heather Honey with us to BBC Countryfile and they were an absolute sell out, the “Try Before You Buy” approach definitely worked with 1 person even wanting to buy the remainder of the sample jar as we had run out of full jars to sell. Heather Honey looks darker than the average honey, has a very unique taste and contains more proteins and minerals than other varieties of honey but young or old they all loved it.
It is commonly said that the best Heather Honey is produced on Grouse moors and this is down to their moorland management regime which incorporates a 5 year cycle of rotational burning. The heather is burned in patches so there is always old and new heather in close proximity and this regeneration leads to increased flowering and pollination which is perfect for the Honey Bees to work.
The Honey Bees are another great example of the Biodiversity shown on managed moorland and at a time when bee populations are in decline it is nice to know we’re definitely doing our bit to help secure their future as well as getting to enjoy some extra tasty honey.