Honeybees don’t collect honey
Removing honey from the bees
De-Capping, Extracting, Filtering and Bottling
Honey facts, Honey in culture and folklore
Uses, Medicinal uses and health effects of honey
Types of honey
Please do not feed bees
Honeybees don’t collect honey but process it from the nectar collected on their many trips to flowers. Bees can travel up to seven miles in search of nectar. They forage for pollen and honey in most weather conditions but never, never in wet weather. Whilst collecting nectar they also inadvertently do the very important job of pollination which is crucial for flowering plants.
The study of pollen and pollen spores in raw honey can determine floral sources of honey. Every plant has its own distinctive colour and shape of pollen grains. Pollen can survive for millions of years. Forensic scientists use pollen to help with crime investigation.
Removing honey from the bees
The beekeeper encourages overproduction of honey within the hive so that the excess can be taken without endangering the bees. Honeybees store nectar in cells and ripen it by removing the moisture and when the moisture level is to their satisfaction, they seal it off with impervious wax (capping). No air or additional moisture can now get into the honey.
Honey is stored in the *super* frames and when the supers are full of capped honey they are ready for extraction but before bringing them home the bees must be removed. Various methods are used to remove bees but the simplest is to gently brush the bees off the frames.
At home one frame is removed from a super and a knife is used to remove the wax cappings. A capping scratcher removes any wax that was not cut off by the knife and the uncapped frame is placed immediately into the extractor. Then on to the next until extractor is full.
A simpler way of doing this is to leave an uncapped frame upside down to drip out over night then the comb would have to be reversed and the same done to the other side. This however is time consuming. Sometimes if the honey has set solid in the frame then the only option is to heat it gently and separate the wax from the honey when cooled and the wax has solidified. Extracted frames are usually given back to the bees for them to clean out the last remnants of honey.
Extracting and filtering
Uncapped frames are placed into an extractor which spins at a high rate of speed, slinging the honey out of the comb. Extractors can be manual or electrically operated.
The honey runs down to the bottom then out through a tap into a double sieve strainer placed over a bucket. The strainer filters out pieces of wax, bee legs, wings and other things that came off the frames. Most beekeepers filter their honey.
Very few things are exciting as much as seeing honey flow out of the extractor. All the hard work, stings and expense are worth it to see the honey start flowing with its wonderful smell and colour.
Honey is poured into clean jars and sealed with a lid. Labels are usually added with a tamper proof label. Bottles and labels are expensive.
Most honey will become hard over time. This is normal and does not mean the honey is bad but simply crystallized. This can be remedied simply by leaving a jar in warm water for a while or, as beekeepers do, by placing jars in a warming cabinet. Care must be taken not to overheat as this could destroy precious elements within honey. Honey does not need to be refrigerated and can be kept at room temperature forever without spoiling.
One drop of honey on the floor soon gets tracked all over the place but fortunately honey cleans up very nicely with water. Extracting is a messy and time consuming job finished off by cleaning all the equipment that was used. But it is oh so satisfying!
Honeybees are the only insects that produce food eaten by man.
Honey is a miracle food; it never goes bad if stored correctly. It has been said that archaeologists found 2000 year old sealed jars of honey in Egyptian tombs that were still OK (McGill University)! Honey does not support bacterial life so never goes bad once sealed, as described here by the Smithsonian Magazine.
Honey contains 85% sugar, water, mineral salts and vitamins and enzymes. In a single collection trip a worker bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers.
A bee will return to the hive carrying over ½ her weight in pollen and nectar.
The average worker makes only about ½ teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
The honey stomach can store 75 milligrams of nectar. To be filled, a bee must visit about 1,000-1,500 flowers.
One ounce of honey would fuel a bee’s flight around the world.
Forager bees in an average hive make 4.5 million visits to flowers in one day.
A colony of bees must fly about 55,000 miles and visit 2,000,000 flowers just to produce a single pound of honey.
A productive hive can process and store about 2 pounds of honey per day.
During winter honeybees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. About 40 lbs of honey is the amount they need to provide enough energy to survive an entire winter.
Honey in culture and folklore
In many cultures, honey has associations that go far beyond its use as a food. In language and literature, religion and folk belief, honey is frequently a symbol or talisman for sweetness of every kind.
Honey is significantly sweeter than sugar and has attractive chemical properties for baking. It has a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar & other sweeteners. It is used in cooking, baking, as a spread on breads and as an addition to various beverages such as tea. A small quantity of honey added to a pastry recipe will retard staling as it is an excellent natural preservative. It is also the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead.
Medicinal uses and health effects of honey
Honey has been put to good use since man evolved.
It is low in calories and useful as a sweetener for diabetics, people with heart disease, those overweight.
It is also a natural energy restorer – try a teaspoon of honey in warm water. This will not only restore your energy, but it will help your digestive track too.
Raw honey contains pollen, a variety of sugars, minerals, several vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes that help with digestion. It is effective when used in the treatment of gastric or peptic stomach ulcers.
It is also effective in the treatment of various wounds, infections and burns because of its antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal) properties. Generally the darker the honey the higher the antibacterial content. Honey may reduce odours, swelling, and scarring and it can prevent dressings from sticking to the healing wounds.
Some people claim that one drop of honey directly on the eye can treat mild forms of conjunctivitis and honey mixed with lemon is an old remedy for sore throats.
Pollen in honey can help hay fever sufferers
Precaution: Always get doctor’s advice before using honeybee products.
Types of honey
Honey from specific flowers has different tastes.
Blended – a mixture of two or more honeys differing in floral source, color, flavor, density or geographic origin.
Comb – The purest of honey still in the original bees’ wax comb.
Chunk – one or more pieces of comb honey surrounded by extracted liquid honey.
Churned /creamed /whipped – honey that has been processed to control crystallization. It is also called creamed honey, spun honey, churned honey, candied honey, & honey fondant.
Crystallized – honey in which some of the glucose content has spontaneously crystallized from solution as the monohydrate. Also called “granulated honey.” Honeydew – instead of taking nectar, bees can take honeydew which appears similar to honey. This consists of the sweet secretions of aphids or other plant sap-sucking insects. In the early morning sunlight, the droplets glisten like the morning dew, giving the name honeydew.
Monofloral – made from nectar from one type of flower.
Organic – honey produced on land that is certified as organic and within a radius of 5 miles from the apiary site.
Polyfloral – derived from the nectar of many types of flowers.
Raw/natural honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction but unfiltered. The tell-tale sign of pollen and wax floating on the surface of the jars means you have the real thing.
Set – all honey eventually sets or granulates but this process can be reversed by gently warming the honey to re-melt it.
Strained/filtered – this has been passed through a mesh material to remove defects without removing pollen.
Ultra filtered – mass produced and processed by very fine filtration under high pressure.
This process removes all extraneous solids and pollen grains. It is very clear & has a longer shelf life and so preferred by the supermarket trade. Mass produced blends commonly found on supermarket shelves have been heated and reheated. This also eliminates nutrionally valuable enzymes.
PRECAUTIONS Neither Honey nor any other sweetener should be given to children under 18 months old. Endospores in it can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in the infant’s immature intestinal tract, leading to illness & even death.
***Please do not feed bees ***
It is not a good idea to leave some honey out in your garden for the bees. Honey (especially imported) may have come from a disease infected hive and contain bacteria and spores that are very harmful to our honeybees. Your bees will find it, pick up an infection and pass this on to the rest of their colony resulting in death of the colony.
NB: Always wash out honey jars and dispose of them carefully. Please do not leave them outside your back door unwashed.