Honey is a very complex mixture of Sugars and other compounds all manufactured by the bees to ensure the quality of the Honey does not degrade with storage. This is the colonies life line through the winter months and periods of bad weather; they need to get this right and they spend a lot of time maturing and blending the sugars so the capped honey is suitable to keep the colony alive.
The main components of Honey are Glucose, Fructose and Sucrose; all different types of sugars that are produced at different times by different types of plants and trees. Where one crop dominates the “Flow” being harvested by a colony such as in the case of Oilseed-rape, this “mono-crop” honey can cause issues for the colony where the sugars are predominately Glucose.
This means any stored sugars will set as hard as concrete and may actually be unusable to the colony over the summer; this ironically may cause starvation as the bees need water to reconstitute the stored honey to liquid to consume it. OSR (Oil-Seed-Rape Honey) fills valuable storage space and uses up any stores they have collecting it; and for beekeepers to extract this type of crop from a colony they need to be able to remove it quickly from the combs as described below.
Oil-seed Honey can granulate rapidly in the combs and this can leave you with extraction issues as it can set solid like ivy Honey, a nice and simple explanation is on the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers website HERE
“Be prepared to extract the honey from OSR as soon as the nectar flow from it has stopped, when the flowers are dropping. The bees may become more aggressive with the loss to them of this source. Extraction should take place before the cells have been sealed. Test the ripeness of the honey by shaking in a downward movement with the comb face down over the hive. If very little nectar is shaken out the honey should then be extracted as soon as possible. The honey will granulate if the supers are left in a shed for a couple of days for example.”
You can place the extracted supers back on your colonies to be cleaned up, but watch out for any robbing behaviour; there may be some solid residue in later extractions.
Oil-seed honey can be later warmed and creamed for bottling, and can mixed with summer honey to produce other creamed varieties of honey products.
Any “Normal” crop of honey from a colony is dictated by the time of year and the locality the colony forages in, so spring the plants and spring trees are competing for pollination, and after hibernation they are competing to attract pollinators vigorously, so they use the nectar to do this.
Bees will collect the largest supply they can to build the colonies strength and will work the areas sources accordingly. Any “mono-culture” such as large numbers of trees and crops will be chosen;so any honey in the spring it seems will be from the easiest source to consume within the colony; consequentially spring honeys are lighter and may be more fragrant. Summer Honeys are usually much thicker and well balanced as the bees are working the Honey by maturing and blending it so it does not set in the combs.
However in the late summer months Ivy and other late flowering plants again compete for the bees attentions and produce high glucose nectar; if this is abundant it can again cause the bees issues as they store this for the winter months; this will set rock solid and if not blended with Fructose and Sucrose will again set so hard the bees will use valuable energy converting it so they can use it. Again winter bees can starve surrounded by cold frames packed with Ivy Honey.
“Normal” local Honey is therefore prone to the natural variations of when the nectar is collected and what the bees are feeding on, it also contains large quantities of pollen (protein) and enzymes prouced by the bees to mature the honey.
“Local Honey” will therefore sometimes granulate, as the pollen in the honey provides a “seed” around which heavier sugars will crystallize, and sometimes will separate into granular layers as the crystals have not been heat treated to “homongonise” the honey mixture; as you would find in shop bought honeys.
Shop bought Honeys are produced in large volumes and the issues faced by the Bees are also faced by the manufacturers of bulk honey sold in shops, if the honey is inconsistent it taints the “Brand” so the honey is always blended with a variety of products (including liquid glucose and molasses) to maintain consistency and pressure treated to sterilise it and filter out impurities like pollen.
The result is shop bough honeys are blended honeys from multiple countries and a variety of different types of crops; mostly based upon harvesting from large scale mono-cultures like Oil-seed, Almonds, Orange and flower crops.
A vast amount of honey is imported from China and the far east where Apiculture is less than regulated adequately, with large quantities of antibiotics and hydrocarbons having been measured in the imported Honeys; not to mention the large amount of adulteration and products you would not normally expect to find in Honey!
A few examples from the news about imported Honey:-
“Between 1991 and 2009 global honey production rose by 27% (notably in China, where it has risen by more than 60% in 10 years). In France, however, it fell by 28% between 2006 and 2010, and in Europe has only increased by 30% over the past 10 years.
A study by the Moselle beekeeping research centre suggests that 10% of the honey imported into France is fake, originating principally in China and Vietnam. Between 2002 and 2004 Chinese honey was banned in the European Union because of a lack of origin labelling and a risk that it contained lead.
It is now known that in China honey is collected too soon, before it has matured, meaning that it is of poor quality, is saturated with water and has a tendency to over-ferment.
Is the Commission intending to bring back the ban on imports of Chinese honey?
What steps can the Commission take in order to ensure that honey imports to the EU are equivalent in quality and do not pose a health hazard for consumers?”
“A leading Chinese agriculture official has launched a bitter attack on the European Union for imposing a ban on Chinese food imports.
The Chinese authorities say it has led to trade losses totalling several billion pounds and is causing widespread hardship in rural areas that depend on overseas companies buying their produce.
EU inspectors recommended the ban because they were so concerned about the routine use of antibiotics and hormone growth promoters in Chinese food production – and because of the lack of regulation governing the trade in veterinary medicines.”
Fake Honey exists, and it is being mass produced by large countries to gain revenue, they have no interest in Beekeeping, as their methods and the scale of production are harmful not just to bees but the environment and human health.
The Fad” for healthy Honey, primariliy Manuka honey is driving the criminlal activity and theft of bees in New Zealand and other locations.
“Kourtney Kardashian swears by it, Scarlett Johansson loves its “amazing glow” and Gwyneth Paltrow used to pour it in her smoothies. There is only one snag with New Zealand-made manuka honey, the high-priced, high-profile superfood much loved by celebrities and their fans: a lot of it is as fake as spray-on tan.
Research commissioned by The Sunday Times has found that honey sold under the New Zealand manuka label at up to £45 a pot may not be manuka at all.
Results of the research last week persuaded Fortnum & Mason, the upmarket London grocer, to clear its shelves of its own-brand manuka honey after tests showed it might not be genuine. Honey sold by Holland & Barrett and Amazon also failed the tests.”
One article pointed out that New Zealand exported 4000 Tons of Manuka Honey in 2016, world consumption was over 40,000 tons…..so either it was diluted very heavily or most of it was fake.
The Best Option
In short, good quality locally produced Honey if far better for you than anything you will buy in a supermarket; at least you know where it is produced, and if you ask nicely you could always meet the bees that produce such a marvelous substance and thank them personally! – WebBee