The Beekeeper and His Great Honey
By Erika Cornish, CanadaIn response to 15 Sep 2011 Post by Aleksandr the Beekeeper
I have a couple of comments that I would like to make on this subject. I am a beekeeper, and in fact beekeeping has been in my family for four generations. Wherever people work honey bees around the world, you will find differences in what the bees can and can not do naturally.
First and foremost I need to comment on ‘Aleksandr the Beekeeper’s post on the 15 Sep 2011’. The first comment Aleksandr made was that many colonies in one yard = the need to feed bees because there will not be enough nectar for all the bees naturally.
This may be the case in his part of the world, however where we keep bees in Canada our season is so intense that 50-75 colonies could easily be sustained in one yard naturally. (I say our season is intense because we only have about 2 months where our bees can produce honey. In this short period of time a good, strong hive on a good year can produce up to 400 lbs of honey.)
It is the beekeeper that choses to have a smaller yard so that it is easier on themselves. Ourselves for intense do not like to work yards with more than 20-30 hives because we feel it is best for the bees and the beekeeper if we are in and out of a yard in a timely manner.
The second comment that Aleksandr the Beekeeper made was that “If the beekeeper has more then 500 hives and uses limited help to maintain them (only 2, 3 people)there is a great chance they are cutting corners.” This is simply NOT TRUE. My husband ran 500+ hives this summer doing ALL the work himself. My father before him ran 1000 hives himself, only recruiting 1-2 people for the summer to help him with the harvest.
Please speak for yourself because we work very hard and DO NOT ‘cut corners’. In fact, if anything we work even harder then the average beekeeper because we produce Natural Comb Honey Rounds. In order to produce this type of honey we must spend a lot more time with our bees to ensure we get strong honey producing hives.
The last comment I need to make about Aleksandr the Beekeeper’s post is his ‘opinion’ about pollination. Again his opinion, I assume, is based only on his limited experiences. We do not participate in pollination ourselves however we have very close friends who do in our part of the world. As I mentioned earlier, our season is very intense and pollinators in our area are able to pollinate as well as produce a sizeable honey crop without even trying (because that’s what bees do – make honey).
Moving on, I would like to say a little something to those who were concerned that when they put their honey in the fridge it crystalized and so it must not be pure honey. This is a common misconception and in fact it is the opposite that is true.
You see, ALL natural honey will granulate, it is simply a matter of when this will happen. There is a certain temperature range in which the granulation process is accelerated and the temperature that the refrigerator is set at is exactly the perfect temperature to speed up the granulation process. So the people that posted below that when they put their honey in the fridge and it granulated right away, they probably had very pure honey.
I mentioned above that all natural honey will granulate, it is just a matter of when. Granulation timing differs because of the different nectars that the bees work to make their honey. Some honey’s will stay liquid for generations before they begin the granulation process while others may begin to granulate within several months. It is simply an issue of which flowers are in your local area and what the characteristics of the nectars from those flowers may be.
Granulation is a problem that we personally deal with quite a bit because as I mentioned above, we produce the specialty honey product of Comb Honey and the nectars in our area tend to granulate more quickly than some other areas.
To solve this problem we keep our honey comb in a freezer that is set to -15C until we are ready to sell our honey. This prolongs the liquidity of the honey in the honey cells. We tell our customers to keep the honey comb in the freezer until they are ready to sell it or to leave it on their counter as they eat it, and to NEVER refrigerate it.
I thought this might also be the right place to talk about beekeepers feeding their bees. In the last couple weeks I have had a few calls from people asking me if we do such a thing, in fact it sounded very accusatory and like they were trying to CATCH me doing something that shouldn’t be done. It is very frustrating talking to people like this because as you have seen from my above discussion we work very hard to keep our bees strong and to provide quality PURE honey for our customers.
I cannot speak for all beekeepers but what I do know about ourselves is this: There is always separate honey making equipment that is used in the honey flow season. It is the equipment that is designated strictly for extracting pure liquid honey or for making our comb honey during the flowering months. When an honest beekeeper must sometimes give their bees some feed is when they are preparing their bees for winter.
We always harvest the honey we use for sale by the end of August and that leaves the bees all of September (and sometimes even into October) to store honey for themselves to make it through winter. When we are preparing our bees for the long Canadian winter that is ahead of them, if the hive is strong and heavy enough we leave it to it’s own devises.
However if the hive is weak and very light (which means they have not stored enough honey for themselves to get through winter) then the beekeeper must chose to leave the hive be, in which case it will not survive our harsh winter, or give the hive some feed and increase its chances of surviving winter, most beekeepers choose the later.
You see, beekeepers work very hard and care for their bees. They do not want to lose their hives to a long hard winter simply because the average population does not understand what is involved in keeping healthy bees and so does not feed them when it is absolutely necessary simply because people view this as taboo. A BEEKEEPER’S WINTERING EQUIPMENT AND PRACTICES HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EQUIPMENT THAT THEY USE TO PRODUCE HONEY FOR SALE.
I have absolutely nothing wrong with people questioning the beekeeper about their honey production practices and which flowers their honey comes from, in fact I believe people should know this. What bothers me is when people do not understand the facts and act like they are trying to catch you doing something wrong. Because quite frankly, especially with my experiences with Canadian and American beekeepers, they are just honest, hard working people trying to make a small living doing something they are passionate about.
Thank you for providing people with such an interesting and informative site about honey products. As honey and other products from the hive truely are nature’s most bountiful gifts to mankind.
Summit Gardens Honey Farms, Canada
18 Nov 2011 (Republished on 24 Feb 2022)