Five years ago, Stacy Cronly-Dillon started beekeeping as a hobby, to help her unwind from her stressful career as a marketing executive.

Now, the pressures of her office job are just a distant memory after she packed it all in to start a business based on her bees.

The 44-year-old has established a venture, Sunnyfields Apiaries, which involves not only selling the produce of her hives, but also making the insects an attraction and focus of interest in their own right.

She offers a variety of sessions at her property near the Norfolk-Suffolk border offering beekeeping experiences, from training courses to corporate team events.

"My career before starting the bee business was in brand management, marketing for large food and drink companies in Essex and Hertfordshire," she said.

"I worked with well-known brands and it was a glamorous lifestyle; photoshoots, TV adverts, celebs, events etc, but very stressful too.

"The bees helped me feel grounded and eventually they became more important than the career I’d carved out for myself."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Stacy Cronly-Dillon inspecting a hive with gleeStacy Cronly-Dillon inspecting a hive with glee (Image: Stacy Cronly-Dillon)

She and her husband Mark, a director for a construction company, moved from Essex to Hedenham, near Bungay, in 2021, part of a wider trend of people moving into rural areas during the pandemic.

The following year, her father, who has multiple myeloma, a type of bone cancer, moved into the annexe at their property.

It was after moving to the Norfolk village that Mrs Cronly-Dillon, 44, started to focus more on her bees and to develop her business - another trend observed during the pandemic, of people considering major career changes.

"The beauty of being here meant we have so much space, it just all seemed to perfect to create my own business where I can offer exclusive private tours and give all my attention to the bees and the garden," she said.

"Essex was wonderful but hectic and loud. Now we’re half a mile from our nearest neighbours and surrounded by nature and all kinds of wildlife.  

"It’s idyllic and sometimes I feel like I’m in a storybook, it is a dreamy living.

"As Sir David Attenborough said: people can live without mammals, but people can't live without insects.

"Insects are cool, they're amazing in fact, and I want to impart my enthusiasm to visitors about bees and insects because they are so important to the health of our planet."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Stacy Cronly-Dillon with a smoker/smokepot, a device used to calm honeybeesStacy Cronly-Dillon with a smoker/smokepot, a device used to calm honeybees (Image: Stacy Cronly-Dillon)

Nature had always been part of Mrs Cronly-Dillon's life having first been captivated by the intrigue and peacefulness of her grandfather's woods in Essex.

"My grandad was a wood keeper and they had many visitors, I used to tag along and remember fondly people coming to see the door mice and moths.

"So from this young age, I had an appreciation for wildlife and nature, my love of nature throughout working life was there, and it was born with my grandad," she said.

Her new bee business is not without its own stresses, however.
She said that climate change presented a constant challenge to beekeepers.

"Weather, an issue made worse by climate change, is an issue which keeps me up with fear for my bees at night," she said.

"It causes such difficulty because our winters are generally now warmer, but then we can have erratic and unpredictable weather such as a snowy week after a warm week.

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Stacy Cronly-Dillon is delighted to now make a living through her hobbyStacy Cronly-Dillon is delighted to now make a living through her hobby (Image: Stacy Cronly-Dillon)

"The problem with warmer winters is that it confuses the bees to believe that spring has returned which is the season they will usually hibernate until.

"The bees will remain nice and cosy in their hive, with enough food supplies to rest until the arrival of spring.

"Then during random warm spell in winter, they will then leave the hive thinking they can collect pollen, but for the trees and flowers to be bare.

"Upon leaving the hive they will use up so much energy, that when evening falls and the heatwave passes they use their energy to warm the hive up.

"Not all bees will be able to heat up in time for the dropped temperatures in evening.

"Those who do will then eat food supplies to regain the lost energy, this then means they are susceptible to starvation."

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Stacy Cronly-Dillon showing us one of the trays in her hives and we eagerly look on trying to spot the queen bee...Stacy Cronly-Dillon showing us one of the trays in her hives and we eagerly look on trying to spot the queen bee... (Image: Bruno Brown)


There are around 25,000 hobbyist beekeepers in the UK and 400 commercial ones.
Between them, the commercial beekeepers - who move their colonies around to provide pollination services to farmers and growers - manage around 60,000 hives, accounting for around 35-40pc of the country's total hives.

The economic benefit of insect pollination to crop production has been estimated at more than half a billion pounds.

The UK currently supplies only 14pc of its honey market, compared with France which satisfies 60pc of its domestic demand.

The growing interest in bees and beekeeping in recent years has helped niche companies like Mrs Cronly-Dillon's, which offers more than just produce and pollination services but also 'experiences'.

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Honey bees (apis mellifera) swarming togetherHoney bees (apis mellifera) swarming together (Image: Bruno Brown)

Beccles & Bungay Journal: For more information about Stacy's journey and her business see her website: www.sunnyfieldshoney.comFor more information about Stacy's journey and her business see her website: (Image: Sunnyfields Apiaries)

Beccles & Bungay Journal: Stacy inspecting her beesStacy inspecting her bees (Image: Ant Jones/Box River Studios)

Beccles & Bungay Journal: One of Stacy's hives in her gardenOne of Stacy's hives in her garden (Image: Ant Jones/Box River Studios)