Honey Harvest

What is Organically Managed Honey?

Organically managed means that I use no chemicals in the bee hives–you would be surprised what most beekeepers add to the hives, pesticides to kill mites and hive beetles, but which make the bees sick, medicines and antibiotics for the bees that are weakened from the chemicals, it’s awful. It also means I don’t provide artificial feed for my bees, many beekeepers give their bees corn syrup to feed the bees. Organic management stresses the need to have the bees gather nectar and not to feed the bees artificially as corn or sugar syrups, while sweet, are not good for bees, just as they aren’t for us (they upset the balance of the bees’ intestinal flora, making them more susceptible to illness). So rather than take all the honey the bees produce and feed them syrups, I take only a relatively small amount of honey and leave the majority for them to use as winter stores.

Videos of the 2012 honey harvest and extraction are here:

Here we are opening the hives and removing frames of honey for extraction. Aliya is responsible for the camera work, it’s not all pretty:

Here we are in the garage later that evening extracting the honey from the frames:

And after my mother called and interrupted the video we finished filming:

We do the extracting in the garage (because extracting makes everything sticky) at night, because that’s when the bees are back at home in their hives, and otherwise they would smell the honey and they would find their way into the garage where we spin the honey out and it would not be pretty.  I buy rolls of plastic tarps used for painting and spread it over the garage floor, then another sheet goes over the washbasin that the extractor is placed on to keep it up high enough to let us get the honey out of the bottom drum. Everything, from the extractor to the uncapping knife are cleaned and dried first, as are all the jars (which go in the dishwasher) and the lids (which I boil).

It makes for a late night, but one with no bees.  In the morning, I took apart the extractor and placed it in the yard on our picnic table. The bees made, well, a bee-line, for it, and hundreds of bees cleaned it out. They sucked up all the little droplets of honey along the sides of the extractor and they brought it back to their hives.  

I took the frames from which I’d extracted the honey and put those back on the hives as well–all the honey left gets used by the bees again. 

I didn’t get as much honey as I would have liked this year, but I did have a limited suppl available for sale, though at this point I’m sold out.  This year’s honey is delicious, with a distinct floral flavor and somewhat thinner than what you generally see. I use a refractometer to test the water content in the honey, it should be no more than 18%. My honey is well within the correct range, yet still not too viscous. If it’s not what you are used to in honey, it could be, that what you’re used to isn’t actually honey!  Seriously, for a product to be honey, it should be the evaporated nectar of flowers.  But many commercial beekeepers feed their bees corn syrup–yup, that GMO-laden stuff–the bees suck it down, deposit it in the wax cells, and flap their little wings to reduce the moisture level. When it’s at that 18% level, they cover the combs with a thin layer of wax and then the beekeeper calls it honey–it’s not!!  In addition, the commercial processing of honey destroys all it’s natural goodness.  Although stories last summer claiming that 75% of all honey sold in supermarkets is not really honey, that may be an exaggeration. However, the process of ultra filtration, and high heat that most supermarket honey undergoes makes it a totally different product than raw, organic honey in my book!  

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