All the buzz...

Marketing food has become some-what of an art these days. Tags and catch phrases like "organic," "local," "raw," "natural," "cage -free," "free-ranged," and "home-made" seem to give folks more comfort in what they buy. However, without knowing what each of those things mean, it really gets confusing.  One tag that recently caught my eye is “raw honey”. What does that mean anyway? Well, with all the buzz words……it depends.

source:  goo.gl/oe7s6       

source: goo.gl/oe7s6

 

 

Most store bought honey is pasteurized to reduce the moisture content and avoid any possibility of spoilage, appear clearer, and more appealing on the shelf. When heated, the taste, as well as the yeast and enzymes which activate vitamins and minerals in the body, are destroyed. It’s also filtered to the point that it actually loses other health benefits like microscopic particles of pollen. This makes it no longer "raw."

Further, most store bought honey is of mixed origins, including USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and others. That makes them not "local," and therefore greatly reduces the benefits that honey can have on reducing seasonal allergies.

Lastly, "organic" honey pretty must doesn’t exist. Since bees can forage up to 5 miles from their hive, one would have to certify all that land, for 5 miles in all directions, as also organic.  I’ve seen honey labeled as organic that was from Brazil, but it was commercial honey that was certainly not local and more than likely pasteurized.

So, where does Finny Farm honey fall?

Finny Farm honey is raw honey. That translates to unpasteurized (unheated), local (Coweta County) minimally filtered (only enough to remove small bit of wax) honey. Basically it goes from the hive, into the extractor, through a sieve, and then into bottles. That’s it!

The good Lord gave us these amazing creatures that make for us an amazing product. Why then do we think that we can improved upon it?

~ Bobby

A small side note: Our chickens are cage-free, meaning we let them roam within a generous enclosure. They are not free to roam our property as they please, meaning they are not "free-ranged"- we simply were tired of providing easy prey to the hawks. 

Just the facts...

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live”.- Albert Einstein.

I thought I would share a few honey bee facts that help folks realize how amazing these little critters really are….

JUST THE FACTS

 

1.     Honey Bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.

2.     Honey is the original “super-food”. It’s the only food that includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals, water, and pinocembrin (an antioxidant associated with improved brain function).

3.     Honey Bees’ wings beat 200 times per second and they can fly at 15 miles per hour.

4.     Each worker produces approximately 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.

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5.     Foraging bees fly 55,000 miles to product one pound of honey.

6.     They are fuel efficient. It would take approximately 1 ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world one time.

7.     A single honey bee visits 50-100 flowers on each trip out.

8.      A colony of bees consists of 15,000 to 70,000 bees.

This little lady with the yellow dot is the queen!

This little lady with the yellow dot is the queen!

9.     Worker bees live for only 6 weeks in the summer months as they literally work themselves to death.

10.                        Queen bees can live 4-5 years, but are most productive in their first 1-2 years.

11.                         A queen bee can lay up to 1500 eggs per day and she determines if she lays a fertilized egg (female worker bees) or an unfertilized egg (male done bee).

12.                        Drones (male bees) die after mating. L

13.                        Honey bees are not aggressive by nature, but getting stung does hurt. But, it would take 1100 stings to be fatal.

I don't suggest you try this, but this guy was not harmed by these gentle creatures!

I don't suggest you try this, but this guy was not harmed by these gentle creatures!

14.                        Honey bee account for over 70% of all crop pollination.

 ~ Bobby

 

 

Honey Extracting

Extraction-

According to Merriam Webster, extraction is the act or process of getting something by pulling it out, forcing it out… In terms of honey, extraction it is simply how to separate sweet, luscious honey from its natural container, or comb.

There are two basic methods to extract honey. 

The first, and most rudimentary is the crush and strain method. This is exactly how it sounds. You simply take frames of honey, scrape them into a bucket, and mash them up. This will open up each individual cell containing honey. Then it’s poured through a strainer which separates the honey from the wax comb.

This is certainly the easiest way and the least expensive. All that is needed is a bucket, knife, and something equivalent to a potato masher. While this is done worldwide and while it’s simple enough, I don’t like it. Bees expend a huge amount of resources and energy to make comb. If the comb were saved, they could use this time making more honey instead of new comb. This is why I choose to use a honey extractor.

A honey extractor is also fairly simple. Using a knife, you cut off the very end caps of the honey comb, thus opening the cells. Then the frames of uncapped honey are placed in the extractor and spun around.  Through centrifugal force, the honey flies out of the honey comb, thus preserving the comb to be re-used.

The honey still needs to be strained to remove the wax cappings, but beyond that, it’s then ready to bottle.

While this isn’t the most fun or "sexiest" part of beekeeping, it is the final effort needed in order to dip you finger into a jar of sweet goodness!

~ Bobby

The Sweet Stuff

There are said to be over 300 distinct types of honey. This is because the Lord has blessed up with such a variety of trees and flowers. Since honey differs in taste, color, and texture, it’s often hard to decide your favorite. Honey is definitely not just honey.  As I was extracting a few supers of honey this week, I began to think of the vast array of honey flavors available and what makes them all so different. Here is a quick explanation….

Flavor and Color:

Honey gets its flavor and color according to which flowers the bees visit. Some common varieties are Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Sourwood, Tupelo and Clover honey. More uncommon varieties are Avocado, Firewood and Blueberry. Flavors can vary from a very light, sweet flavor of Sage Honey all the way to a dark malty and molasses flavor of Buckwheat honey. Typically, a single flavored honey is one that is set in the middle of the field or forest from which the nectar is found. Example, if you drop a hive in the middle of huge pumpkin patch, you will end up with Pumpkin Honey. No, you aren’t allowed to put this on your pumpkin spice latte, because that’s just wrong…

There are also different types of textures:

Liquid is the most common here in the US. It pours out nicely from a bottle and is convenient, but a bit messy and sticky.

Whipped Honey or Creamed Honey is finely crystallized honey that is creamy and spreads almost like peanut butter. This is becoming more readily available in the US, but this is the typical honey found in much of Europe.

Comb Honey is the rawest honey you can get. Its honey that is still in the comb and cut out of the hive. Yes, you chew the comb to get out the honey. We call it God’s candy.

What do our hives produce?

We produce Wildflower Honey. Wildflower Honey or Multi-floral Honey is honey where the bees are kept in an area to travel wherever their taste buds desire and collect whatever is available. Since bees can travel up to 2 miles to forage on available nectar sources, you will likely have 50+ different types of nectar combined. This spring, my bees have feasted on clover, blueberry, black locust, red maple, privet, sunflower and a host of other sources. Wildflower Honey is said to be the best to counter-act seasonal allergies because it has such a diverse makeup.

As autumn approaches, Aster and Goldenrod provide the bees with the majority of their food stores for the winter. It’s completely different in color (think brown) and very pungent. Some people describe goldenrod honey as smelling like sweaty socks. It’s not something that most people want to eat, but the bees apparently have a different opinion.

So, grab a bottle at your local farmers market. Talk to the beekeeper. Enjoy!

~ Bobby

P.S.- Don't eat too much, or this might happen....

Ask the beekeeper...

There’s a saying among beekeepers that if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question you will probably get 11 different answers. Yes, there are a lot of opinions out there and I have some as well. But the basics are the basics.

When people hear that I keep bees, they assuredly will have a lot of questions. They are normally the same questions that I’ve answered before, but I’m always happy to talk about bees, so it’s ok. For this post, I decided to give some answers:

this is a relatively young hive, a two-story nuc started about 1 month ago

this is a relatively young hive, a two-story nuc started about 1 month ago

Typical questions asked to beekeepers:

Why did you get into beekeeping?

I started reading about it, learning about it and yes, the thought of getting lots of sweet honey crossed my mind too. Once I began to understand the lifecycle, the bees’ organizational structure, and the biology of a colony, honey became the last thing on my mind.  I decided that I wanted to dive head first into this crazy, mysterious world that only the amazing creator could design. 

Do you get honey?

Yes, though some years certainly produce more than others. Everything depends on….well, a lot of variables:

-The weather: there must be a certain amount of cold or freezing days here in Georgia in order for different species of plants to bloom properly. So, if it’s too warm, the spring nectar won’t be as bountiful.  You also need winter and spring rain, but not too much. Too much rain washes the nectar from the flowers. If it keeps raining, the flowers don’t have time to fill back up, but before it gets washed off again.

-The size of your hive: You have to get your colony to the maximum number of foragers at just the right time without them swarming. If they swarm, you lose 50-65% of your colony. That does not make for a good harvest.  

Do you get stung and do you wear protections?

Yes. Though it’s not fun, it’s part of it. I wear a jacket, veil and gloves. Though they can sting through them, normally I just wear jeans. The stings get better over time, but it’s not too bad. 

Are you allergic?

I swell a little bit, but if I were truly allergic and still did this, you could call me stupid.

How much honey does one hive make?

Again, with the variables….. In 2015, I harvested nothing. I could have taken a bit for myself, but decided to just leave it to the bees for their winter stores. That was because I was expanding the hive numbers, thus sharing the wealth, plus the spring rains kept washing all the nectar off the flowers. However, it’s not unheard of for a mature hive to product 150+ lbs of honey in a year. I’m looking forward to those years.

Do you use a smoker and why?

When bees get “smoked”, it mimics a forest fire or some other type of attack. Their natural reaction is to fill their belly with honey and get ready to flee. I know if my belly was full of honey, I would be less aggressive. This is exactly what happens with bees. They settle down, enjoy the fruits of their labor and let me do my work. Basically, they are calmer. Yes I use smoke, but as little as possible. I only use it with larger hives, which tend to more feisty. If I’m working a small hive or a nuc, I try not to use it at all.

So, the next time you find out that someone is a beekeeper, don’t worry, ask as many questions as you’d like. I guarantee, they won’t mind a bit.

~ Bobby

 

Bobby catches the Bee-keeping bug

As a child, I remember going to my Grandparents house every summer in the suburbs of Savannah, GA. Their backyard seemed like an odd place to have them, but 4 big white bee hives backed up to the chain link fence. At that age, I really didn’t know what they were or what they did, but it was always interesting for a 5 or 6 year-old bug-lover to see what seemed like thousands of bees buzzing about in the mid-day heat. My only direct interaction with them was an occasional bout of courage that would propel me to throw a pine cone in their direction and hit the side of the hive. Other than that, I knew like every other child, that I liked honey. Its sweet, distinct flavor that came from a jar in Grandma’s cupboard was hard to resist.

Around the same time, but very far away, my lovely wife, who grew up in Germany, also had many childhood memories of buzzing bees. Her Opa was a bee enthusiast as well, though on a much larger-scale than the one in Savannah. I’m told that at one point, Opa had over 100 hives throughout different meadows in the Black Forest. Wald honig, or forest honey, is some of the most flavorful sweetness that you will ever experience.

I guess it’s in our blood.

And so, around 5 or 6 years ago, I started reading about how to become a beekeeper. I thought it would be fun. What I didn’t know however, is that the more I read, the more I learned, and yes, the more YouTube videos I watched, the more I became sucked into the science, the biology, and the mystery of what goes on in the hive. A simple word of warning, don’t get too close or you will get stung by a bug called beekeeping…..

~Bobby