SCOTLAND'S heather moorland is abuzz with productivity, and the bees and honey producers can thank red grouse.

Rural estates have reported a rapid increase in honeybee populations on grouse-managed heather moorland - heather being an essential part of the bird's diet despite the inclement summer.

With around 75 per cent of the world's heather being in the UK, and the majority of that in Scotland, beekeepers have been busy positioning their hives on estates across Tayside and Angus Glens. The aim is to increase the production of heather honey, which is fast becoming a popular gourmet product to rival the acclaimed manuka honey.

Hives placed in the last two months on the Hopes and Mayshiel Estates in the Lammermuir Hills are already reaping the rewards of heather honey production, with the bees producing a unique mixture of three sugars instead of the standard two.

Ian Elliott, head gamekeeper at Hopes Estate, and a member of the Lammermuirs Moorland Group, said: “The moorland heather, which is maintained to the highest standard as part of the integrated management of the estate, is favoured by beekeepers due to its rotational renewal. The heather is burned in strips in accordance with the Muirburn Code, which leads to its regeneration and more vigorous flowering and pollination which is perfect for the honeybees to access.

“We have hosted hives on the moor for decades and it adds another layer of biodiversity to the estate. We are delighted to work in partnership with local honey producers and it is exciting from our point of view that we can play a small role in creating a Scottish food product that is in demand around the world.”

One producer on the estates is the renowned Hood's Honey, which has been endorsed by Great British Bake Off Judge Paul Hollywood.

Owner, Stuart Hood, said the partnership between the estates and beekeepers was vital to the success of his business.

“My father worked with the estates in decades gone by and I’m pleased we have been able to continue this.

“Without the access to the heather our business would not be thriving in the manner that it is. We produce three types of honey per annum but the heather honey is our crucial crop of the year."