Honey

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Copyright 1997 by Janice D. Green

HOW DO BEES MAKE HONEY?

Bees begin to make honey by gathering nectar from the flowers they find. This nectar mixture is carried back to the hive and placed into the honeycomb cells that the bees have made inside the hive. Honeybees carry the nectar and mix it with enzymes in a special pouch in their bodies. This begins the process of changing the nectar into honey. The bees then evaporate much of the water out of the nectar mixture to thicken it. Once it becomes honey the bees put a cap of beeswax over the top of each cell.
 

HOW DO BEEKEEPERS GATHER HONEY?

Beekeepers gather the honey from the supers in the hive. A super is a section of the hive that contains several frames of honey in honeycombs. These frames are made in a special way to make them easy to remove from the hive. Supers are placed above the brood chamber where the eggs are layed and cared for as they change into larvae, pupae, and eventually become bees. There is a special kind of screen separating the brood chamber and the supers that has holes that are just large enough for the worker bees to pass through but too small for the queen bee to pass through. This keeps the queen from laying eggs in the supers so the beekeeper can safely remove the supers from the hive without losing bees.

Before the supers are carried away from the hive, the bees that are working inside the super must be blown out. We do this with a leaf blower. The bees are blown in front of the hive they came out of so they will find their way back to the right hive.

GETTING HONEY OUT OF SUPERS AND INTO JARS

The supers are then taken to the honey house for extracting. An extractor is a machine that is made to spin the frames of honey until the honey spins out and drips down the sides of the extractor and into a tank of unprocessed honey. Before the frames can be placed inside the extractor, the caps must be cut or scraped off each side of the honey frames.

The honey must then be cleaned up. There are a lot of cappings, the caps that have been scraped off the honeycombs, that float on top of the honey. There are also "beesknees," parts of the bees, that float on the honey. There are also bits of propolis, a kind of glue the bees make, that falls into the tank. Other scraps and debris may also fall into the honey.

Because honey is thick and heavy, most of the debris floats and can easily be skimmed off the top of the honey. The rest sinks to the bottom. So the good honey is drawn from the middle of the tank, heated briefly to make it manageable and to liquify small crystals in the honey. It is then strained to be sure that all unwanted debris is removed, and packed into bottles.

Most serious honey users find that pollen is desirable in honey. Raw honey will still contain the pollen that is found naturally in honey. Other people do not want pollen in honey. Therefore, some honey producers pressure-filter their honey to remove all the pollen. They also heat the honey much hotter in this process. This excess heat causes the honey to lose some of it's flavor as well as valuable nutrients.

Honey will crystalize in the jar if it sits around long enough. Because of the extra pollen in raw honey, it will crystalize even faster. This does not hurt the honey. It can be eaten as it is or it can be re-liquified by heating it gently in a pan of hot water. Stir the honey often while heating it.

WHY IS SOME HONEY LIGHT AND SOME DARK?

The color and taste of honey depends on the kinds of flowers the nectar came from to make the honey. Clover makes a light colored, mild tasting honey that is usually found in grocery stores. Another popular variety is Orange Blossom honey made in the orange groves in Florida. Orange Blossom honey is usually darker than Clover. Wildflower honey is made from the nectar of a variety of wildflowers. Goldenrod is usually a major sourse of the nectar in Wildflower honey. Sourwood honey is a light, smokey colored, tangy tasting honey from the sourwood trees usually found in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Our Spring Berry Blossom honey is made from the nectar of wild berries such as blackberries, dewberries, sparkleberries, holly, wild plum, and other early blooming plants.

WHAT IS COMB HONEY?

Some people like to eat the honey right out of the comb. Many believe the honey is sweeter this way. They also enjoy chewing the wax. The wax may then be eaten or spit out. Honeycomb is good spread like peanut butter over a piece of hot toast.

Beekeepers sell comb honey in two basic ways. They sometimes place a piece of comb into the jar of honey. They also sell pieces of honeycomb in sections.

WHAT IS SPUN HONEY?

While many people frown when their honey crystalizes, other people like it best this way. It is easier to spread with a knife when it is in a more solid form. Therefore, many honey packers make spun honey. Very fine crystals are placed in the honey to encourage it to crystalize. It is also stirred frequently as it crystalizes. Then it is packed and sold as crystalized honey.

WEB PAGES ABOUT HONEY


National Honey Board's Honey Page All kinds of info about honey including recipies
 

Kutiks Honey The web page of the beekeepers on the Beekeeping part of this web page.
 

Bumble Barf Honey A humerous approach to marketing honey.
 

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