James Middleton has previously opened up about how beekeeping helps him unwind, and now he's revealing that it was his family — including big sister (and future Queen Bee!) Kate Middleton — who helped him cultivate the hobby.
"While I’ve been intrigued by the natural world for as long as I can remember — as a child I used to have an ant colony and worm farms — I suppose my fascination with bees dates back to reading about Winnie-The-Pooh and his honey jar," James wrote in a new article for the Daily Mail. "I’d always harboured a longing to keep bees, but it wasn’t until I turned 24 in 2011 that the wish became reality."
"Then, my family —mum, dad and my sisters Catherine and Pippa — clubbed together to buy what for me was the most fantastic birthday gift imaginable," continued the entrepreneur, who just launched Ella & Co, a freeze-dried raw dog food company in the U.K.. "A delivery van arrived with a large buzzing box with the cautionary label: 'Live Bees.' Inside was the nucleus — the start — of my colony: 1,000 Buckfast bees."
James, 33, recalled being "delighted" by the present's arrival — although the delivery man was less thrilled, and James had to pick up the box from the van himself.
Samir Hussein/WireImage Pippa, James and Kate Middleton in 2016
Nearly a decade later, James now has half a million bees across eight hives in a meadow at his parents' home, Bucklebury Manor in Berkshire. He explained that he has "whiled away many happy hours with them during lockdown."
"I love spending time with my bees, checking, monitoring, treating them and collecting their honey: it is soothing toil; a balm for troubled minds," Kate's brother wrote.
James Middleton/Instagram James Middleton
James, who has been open about his battle with depression, first shared his love for beekeeping on Instagram last summer.
"Bee keeping to me is a meditation," he wrote. "It’s a chance to escape my mind and be so consumed by something that hours can pass by without knowing it. Meditation is a wonderful tool to help with stress, anxiety, depression and doesn’t just need to be practiced sitting down!"
And he’s not just producing the honey (while battling bee stings!), he’s consuming it.
"Honey is one of natures finest medicines. From antibacterial properties, aiding digestion, hay fever, colds, energy and even as cure for sleeping disorders the list goes on. I have a teaspoon of honey every day and couldn’t recommend it more," he said. "So as this little homage to the honest little honey bee ends remember raw local honey is best & yes I do get stung all the time but its worth it!"
James Middleton/Instagram James Middleton's bees
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James, who had to postpone his May wedding to French financial analyst Alizee Thevenet due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also credited his dogs with providing emotional support as he fought depression.
“I recognize, too, the role my dogs — Ella, Inca, Luna, Zulu and Mabel — have played in my recovery,” he wrote.
“Ella, particularly, has been my constant companion for ten years and she’s been with me to all my therapy sessions. In her own particular way, she has kept me going,” he continued. “As a result, Ella and I now volunteer with the Pets As Therapy charity and Ella is a fully-fledged therapy dog for PAT.”