October Newsletter – All About Honey

Hello Beekepers!

Hoping both you and your bees are keeping well.

Firstly, apologies for the delay in writing this but, as will be explained later, we were waiting for confirmation as to when and where our next presentation is to take place.

Fancy a free jar of association honey? Scroll to the bottom of this post for details of our upcoming LIVE meeting & certificate presentation for our preliminary exam students!

The hard backbreaking work has come to an end for another year and, surprisingly, I’ll miss it. I will miss having a peep into the hives and will often think of the bees, hoping that they will overwinter well. Will they have enough to eat? Will they be warm and cosy? Will they stay healthy?

As promised last month, I’ll now try to advise you on how to jar your honey. This is the highlight for many and the reward for all the hours of work, not to mention all the reading, etc. For those of you who harvested honey this year, CONGRATULATIONS. For those of you who have yet to harvest, a very special event awaits.

Jarring Honey

Getting back to the predatory wasp: they really can do awful damage to the colony and, while not

As a beginner with one or two hives, you could save yourself the expense of having to purchase a heating cabinet and settling tank, and jar directly from the extractor. As the honey pours out, place a strainer beneath the outflow tap and jar directly. As with any food product, hygiene is a foremost concern. Even though I buy my jars new, I ensure that they are spotless before the honey is poured. I wash them in the dishwasher at a high temperature and do not use detergent. I then place the jars in a preheated oven ensuring that they are thoroughly dry.

If you have stored your honey in a food-grade bucket, the process is different. By the way, although the bucket lids are generally airtight, I always cover the lidded bucket with a layer or two of clingfilm. Air and honey are not good bedfellows! Honey prepared like this will not win a prize in a show but it will still be delicious and nutritious. I’m finding that an increasing number of people are asking for ‘natural’ unstrained or barely strained honey, loving the fragment of propolis, pollen grains, bits of wax and maybe even a bee appendage (this bit I try to have removed!)

Honey for sale to the public requires a much higher spec level and is a topic we’ll talk about at a later date, eg. best-before date, lot number, weight, etc.

Jarred honey on display.
Jarred honey on display.

Honey Granulation

Almost all honeys will granulate (harden and have a grainy, crystally appearance). Some honeys granulate very quickly, e.g. Oilseed rape. Some people think ‘Oh no, the honey has gone off!” when they see the granules appearing. In fact, this is completely normal and is partly due to air bubbles coming out of solution on granulation but mostly due to the dextrose constituent of honey crystallizing. I happen to like the texture of granulated honey but several do not.

So how do you bring your honey back to a liquid state when you have stored it in a bucket and then cannot pour it into jars?

I have an old fridge which I’ve upcycled. The motor and shelves are removed so that a 20-litre bucket can be accommodated. The fridge cavity is heated by a light bulb (the old fashioned lightbulb) and works in unison with a thermostat ensuring that temperatures do not exceed 52 degrees. For those of you who are technically minded, this should be simple. As for myself, Mike most certainly takes the credit!

The heat will bring the honey back to a liquid state and the bonus is that when honey is heated, it is much easier to strain and jar. Even if the honey is not crystallized, this is how I jar all of the honey.

Sections & Cut Comb Honey

Some beekeepers use honey directly from the comb, avoiding the jarring process completely. There are a couple of options here. For ‘sections’, there are super frames designed specifically for this; you’ve probably seen section honey for sale and it commands a very high price. Alternatively, for ‘cut comb honey’, comb is cut directly from (unwired) super frames and the pieces are put into containers weighing maybe half a pound. Most of the honey we produce is sold or gifted in liquid form.

See pages 253-257 in Ted Hooper’s book.

A super frame designed for creating sections.
A super frame designed for creating sections.

Mark Your Diaries – A Real Live Meeting!

Even though we’re now in October, there is still work for the beekeeper and jobs that can be caught up with. We’ll cover those in next month’s newsletter. In the meantime, we have an actual real live meeting to look forward to!

Date: Sunday, October 17th at 2 pm.
Location: Riverside Studio (above The Riverside Cafe), Skibbereen

We have the honour of being visited by Mr Gus McCoy, the FIBKA Administration secretary, who will not only talk to us about his beekeeping practice but will also present all the successful students who sat their Preliminary Examination with their certificates. The Southern Star will be there too. Facemasks should be worn and if people want to chance a cuppa afterwards, disposable cups will be available.

Our association produced honey and a jar of this will be given to all attendees. At least when you’re pouring it over your porridge, you can sit back and take some credit. Okay, the bees did most of the work but our little association helped them a bit too!

In Closing

Please browse through this month’s An Beachaire magazine as the proposed educational structure is explained. Send your voting preference to FABKA by email, i.e., YES or NO to the new system. Thanks in advance! Both Mike and I favour the proposed changes.

Looking forward to seeing you all then and if there is anything Mike or I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to give us a buzz.

Happy Beekeeping,

Mairead Love & the team at FABKA