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2 questions about honey

 
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I have harvested very little honey. Like maybe a pint total. Top bar hive. The small harvest leads to 2 questions.

1. Can a person conclude that store bought honey is primarily made from sugar water? I have fed mine very little, just in the beginning. It's been a year since i have fed them. My honey is darker than anything i have seen in stores which leads me to theorize about the sugar water.

2. What about combs that are not 100% honey? When i did my micro harvest i could not find a comb that was just honey. It had open cells that were a dark brown. I assume that larvae hatched out of them. Does this darken or add an off taste to the honey?

I am planning to add 1 hive per year til  i can't. Lol. While i have 2 top bars i am thinking of going with the regular boxes for the next couple of years. If these questions are issues,  would the other style hive resolve it?
 
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wayne fajkus wrote:I have harvested very little honey. Like maybe a pint total. Top bar hive. The small harvest leads to 2 questions.

1. Can a person conclude that store bought honey is primarily made from sugar water? I have fed mine very little, just in the beginning. It's been a year since i have fed them. My honey is darker than anything i have seen in stores which leads me to theorize about the sugar water.

2. What about combs that are not 100% honey? When i did my micro harvest i could not find a comb that was just honey. It had open cells that were a dark brown. I assume that larvae hatched out of them. Does this darken or add an off taste to the honey?

I am planning to add 1 hive per year til  i can't. Lol. While i have 2 top bars i am thinking of going with the regular boxes for the next couple of years. If these questions are issues,  would the other style hive resolve it?



A lot of the honey sold in stores is adulterated or misrepresented. Even local honey can be the same due to people feeding sugar, overharvesting etc. Also, a lot of beekeepers treat their hives with miticides, keep bees on foundation, do not rotate out old comb often enough (comb will store all the heavy metals and chemicals and should be rotated out after a while). Treatment-free is the first step, which means breeding locally adapted genetics that need no help from you (seems like you already know this?). Look up Fedor Lazutin's book "Keeping bees with a smile" and after that read Thomas Seeley's latest book "Lives of bees". You generally cannot tell whether honey is adulterated just by looking at it. Buckwheat, for example, will produce a dark honey. Black locust will produce a light honey. So will clover. So on and so on. Your environment is next. Your land will determine the carrying capacity - how many hives you can feed off just your land. Obviously, bees do not recognize land boundaries but if you provide forage during the year they are out foraging, chances are they will mostly stick to your stuff. Although there are no guarantees, in 2018 I planted 4 acres of buckwheat and they literally did not touch it, opting instead for the field of white clover that we planted, they are opportunists and will go for what they prefer and probably what gives them biggest bang for the buck (least work, most nectar?). Good luck and feel free to ask any questions you want. I keep in TBH and Lazutin (double-deep horizontal hives). Cheers.
 
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Honey color naturally varies depending on many factors. Mostly their food but there are other factors. I'm going to play nice with a polite answer & just say your honey is almost guaranteed to be far superior compared to some large commercial brands. You're asking a good question. Perhaps a short browse through a few large bee supply catalogs or websites for "bee food" will provide insight. I think some is definitely better than others but judge for yourself. Color can be an indicator of flavor but in & of itself is not a reliable foolproof mark of quality. I've had amazing peach honey (very light) & amazing sourwood honey (almost black).

Bees don't necessarily read the same books beekeepers do. A small amount of unused cells or a little uncapped honey is not a problem. The wax darkens with age & use. If it seems to affect color or taste something else is probably wrong.

Langstroth hives typically produce more honey than top bars. Or so I'm told & have read. Never actually tried top bars. I started with the one new hive per year plan & it snowballed. Still haven't caught up to the free brand new boxes that came my way.





 
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Hi - only just seen this thread, so will reply even though it's a few months old. My experiences my be very different than yours - we have 4-5 TBHs in northern Argentina - we have warm winters, African bees, forest--fed bees. I left my hive for nearly two yers before even opening it to look inside, then we were amazed - we harvested 24 kg of honey without even taking out half the bars. We gave the bees a lot of room from the start - Kenyan box 120cm long - and were also very surprised and pleased that the bees had made comb long the centre of our bars with no crosscombing. The bars had grooves cut into them with a little beeswax to encourage straight middle of bar comb-building.

So, based on my limited experience, I'd say, give your bees lots of space, then leave them alone as long as you can and you may be as pleasantly surprised as we were! Plus, with TBHs, you get lots of wax for candle-making, etc.
 
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I had top-bar hives for several years and found it to be enjoyable work with little reward. In the northeast US, where I live, the cold winters make honey production a difficult chore for the bees, and my experience was not unusual. That said, I was not the most attentive beekeeper and did not use any poisons in the hives. There are plenty of organic pest control methods I might have employed, but I did not. My hope was that the bees would become stronger by my neglect. That hypothesis was proved false.

There is some amount of sugar water in honey, if only because many bees are fed sugar water when nectar is in low supply. I don't know whether honey is deliberately stretched with sugar, but I have heard rumors and expect this is the case, given the difference between high-quality, $12/pint honey and the honey you can buy for a couple of bucks. Nobody can afford to raise bees on nectar and sell the honey for only a few dollars, in the same way that nobody can raise free-range, healthfully fed chickens and charge only $2 per dozen for their eggs.

In the end, I realized that, at least in New England anyhow, one has to have secondary and tertiary justifications for keeping bees in top-bar hives without pesticides. If one's only reason is to procure calories from plants and animals, there are simpler ways to do it. :D

I imagine you have found the work of Michael Bush "The Practical Beekeeper" on the subject of natural beekeeping methods. If not, it's worth a read.

Enjoy!
 
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wayne fajkus wrote:I have harvested very little honey. Like maybe a pint total. Top bar hive. The small harvest leads to 2 questions.

1. Can a person conclude that store bought honey is primarily made from sugar water? I have fed mine very little, just in the beginning. It's been a year since i have fed them. My honey is darker than anything i have seen in stores which leads me to theorize about the sugar water.

2. What about combs that are not 100% honey? When i did my micro harvest i could not find a comb that was just honey. It had open cells that were a dark brown. I assume that larvae hatched out of them. Does this darken or add an off taste to the honey?

I am planning to add 1 hive per year til  i can't. Lol. While i have 2 top bars i am thinking of going with the regular boxes for the next couple of years. If these questions are issues,  would the other style hive resolve it?



As mentioned, adulterated honey is definitely a thing. But like any industrial agricultural pursuit it is really hard to understand the scale when looking at it from the hobbyist perspective. For commodity scale honey we are talking about operations made up of enough hives to fill large flat beds, being moved so that they are always in the midst of a blooming orchard that is 1000's of acres in size. No real winter to speak of as the so California pollination season starts in February I believe and they usually overwinter somewhere warm enough to have forage for the bees.

As to your other question and your general question about.hive styles I've.got.nothing. but I've seen industrial scale honey operations being transported and set up and they are massive undertakings, and there is at least many hundreds of.those massive.operations just in the US. Start adding in Mexico, Brazil, China, Russia, S. Africa, etc.. And the barrels of honey start really adding up
 
pollinator
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wayne fajkus wrote:
1. Can a person conclude that store bought honey is primarily made from sugar water? I have fed mine very little, just in the beginning. It's been a year since i have fed them. My honey is darker than anything i have seen in stores which leads me to theorize about the sugar water.

2. What about combs that are not 100% honey? When i did my micro harvest i could not find a comb that was just honey. It had open cells that were a dark brown. I assume that larvae hatched out of them. Does this darken or add an off taste to the honey?

I am planning to add 1 hive per year til  i can't. Lol. While i have 2 top bars i am thinking of going with the regular boxes for the next couple of years. If these questions are issues,  would the other style hive resolve it?


Well, to a certain extent the hive style does have an impact.
I am working with Dadant (look like this: https://www.multi-sweet.com/product/Dadant-beehive.html) and there you have strictly separate rooms for brood and for honey - even the format of the frames is different so you can't mix them up by mistake. This will keep the honey quite pure as the cells are never used for hatching but only for the nectar.
Some beekeepers (with other hive types, not Dadant) wíll also be too cheap to change their frames often so they will get some off taste, even smoke taste if they use the smoker often.
So this is basically regarding question 2.

Question 1:
I can only tell you about the legislation in Germany. Honey may not be adulterated or contain bee feed.
So usually you can harvest end of May and probably a second time beginning of July/ mid July.
You may only treat for Varroa after harvesting the honey (counted from January on) and usually only organic acids (lactic acid, formic acid) which will dissipate completely after some weeks.
Immediately after harvesting the honey you will feed the bees, and in autumn they should have enough to get into next April.
In summer, fall and winter (shortly before Christmas) you will make your varroa treatments, but not after New Year.

The only possibility of some sugar water in the nectar is when you have a starving hive around March.
But usually the bees will use it all up and not have anything left when you put on the honey supers.

I sometimes find frames full of nectar in early spring that probably contain some sugar water from last fall. But by that time it is dark in colour and as tasty as usual honey. It has been processed several times by the bees and thus is not plain sugar anymore.

If the honey you can buy in a supermarket (and here it usually contains a good deal of Chinese honey and is in fact a mix of origins if not stated otherwise) is equally pure is a different story.
I would always buy from a beekeeper and not a supermarket.
gift
 
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