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Different types of honey

 
                                      
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I live near Philadelphia, and I like to get my honey from Reading Terminal Market; there is a booth there that has local honey from delaware, and one of my favorite things about it is that they have a variety of different types of honey, from your standard clover or orange blossom to more exotic honeys like blueberry, butterbean, eucalyptus, etc.

My question is this: since bees have a range of a few miles for collecting pollen, how do you know what kind of honey your bees are producing, without having several hundred acres of monoculture crops? How do I know my bees are giving me blueberry honey (for example), without having a 5-mile blueberry monoculture?
 
Saybian Morgan
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You dont, you can't, and you shouldn't.  Flavoured honey is a mono cultural product.
They move the bee's after flowering is finished. Predominantly there isn't an alternative for the bee's at each point in the year a pollination service is rendered.

If you can't isolate the bee's in an area, force them to be dependent on a specific flowering species, take the yield before moving to the next location, and of course feed them sugar water in between. There's no way to label the honey anything other than mixed or i prefer Everything brand honey.
 
Joe Skeletor
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Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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You COULD plant a very large amount of something (buckwheat cover crop, as an example) and it's possible to get a honey with a particular flavor...
That being said, we had a bunch of buckwheat cover crop in various sections of our farm, and the bee's seemed to enjoy it, but the honey is still mild w/ no buckwheat taste. So, I guess it could be true that only a mono-cultured crop would create a specific flavored honey? hmmm
 
Leila Rich
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Down South in NZ they're famous for their wild thyme honey. I'm sure it's 'multifloral', but thyme's very strong and would overwhelm less assertive flavours.
It's also a harsh and arid place with not much in the way of flowering plants for bees to choose from.
I don't get the attraction of 'monofloral' honey. Aside from environmental, ethical, etc etc concerns, it just seems like it would be a bit boring, like saying "I want chocolate to just taste like chocolate, none of those impure hints of caramel, spice, coffee..."
 
                                      
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Joe O' wrote:
I guess it could be true that only a mono-cultured crop would create a specific flavored honey? hmmm


It's not so much that the honey is actually flavored, like the little sticks you can get that actually taste like blueberry or oranges...but the different flowers give the honey different character and color. To keep using blueberry as an example (and I am really only going off of what the guy at the stall told me), it doesn't taste at all like blueberries, but it is much darker and more bitter than standard clover or wildflower honey. Sorry if I am stating the obvious, as I am sure you know much more about this stuff than I do.
 
Steven Baxter
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I have heard that bees will start collecting, I'll use blueberry, hahaha. But once they start collecting blueberry they will only collect blueberry. Or if it were clover they only collect clover. This doesn't feel right to me. Does anyone know?
 
Burra Maluca
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As I understand it, there are 'scout' bees who go off in search of things to collect.  When they've found something good, they will tell other bees about it using a special dance language which tells them which direction and how far to fly and they will then go off collecting that particular type of food from that place.  Those bees will keep collecting that type of food until there's none left in the area they were sent to, then they'll find another scout bee and get enlisted on another project. 

If there's only one main type of food around, all the bees might well get enlisted on that one food, but usually there's a choice and different bees get involved in gathering from different sources. 
 
Joe Skeletor
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Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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A local beekeeper around these parts sells a wildflower honey that is much, much darker and a bit stronger tasting than most spring honeys that I have tasted. I'll have to ask him how much acreage of wildflowers he has to get such a product. It's really great.
 
Marissa Little
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My bees collect whatever they can in the suburbs.  The honey looks like molasses it's so dark.  The weak stuff you can buy in the grocery store no longer appeals to me!



There are places/times when you can get a flavor just because it's the only thing blooming at the time.  For instance, whatever flower blooms early and first in the spring will give you a flow from that source.  We have too many things here for me to ever get a distinct flavor.
 
Len Ovens
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there don't seem to be that many honey bees around here, but lots of bumbles. From watching these ones, I would say they don't seem to care what they are collecting, they go from one kind of flower to the next. Of coarse they don't make enough honey to harvest...

I do wonder with honey bees though... if we have trained them to think monoculture. The beekeeper dumps a hive or 50 in the middle of what wants pollinating and the bees learn very quickly after looking around that they only need to look for one kind of flower... in fact that is all there is. Then the older bees teach the younger to always look for just one flower type once it has been found. Maybe if the hive was stationary that trait would breed out in a few years. Bees have how many generations per year?
 
Joe Skeletor
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Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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i remember hearing that worker bees live 22 or 23 days, so that's quite a few generations per season
 
John Polk
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I recall reading the USDA requirements for labeling "flavors" for honey.  There were strict guidelines for 'clover', 'buckwheat', etc, but for anything that could not meet those guidelines, it needed to be just labeled "Honey", or "wildflower" (meaning whatever else).

So, "buckwheat" is not purely buckwheat, but primarily buckwheat, etc.  Clover is probably the most commonly labeled flavors for the simple reason that it is the first abundant flower in spring when the honey bees break dormancy.

If we (mankind) don't quit using bees as our personal slaves, and killing them with pesticides, honey could soon become a luxury for only the wealthiest.  The "upside" for the bee keepers is that if the entire colony dies, he can sell all of the honey, as the dead hive has no use for it.  Have you ever watched an entire 747 unload bees from Australia just to make certain that there were enough hives to pollinate the almond crops in CA?  Makes you wonder about sustainability.
 
Marissa Little
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Joe O' wrote:
i remember hearing that worker bees live 22 or 23 days, so that's quite a few generations per season


Yes, but a queen only mates once in a lifetime and that is the basis of all the genetic material for the hive.  So you would have to consider that a generation of the colony is equivalent to the lifespan of the queen - maybe 3 or 4 years.  Unless you harvest the superseding queen cells and replace more often.  You could probably do that 2 or 3 times a year without totally damaging the colony.

My queens come from a honey farm that rears them and never moves the hives.  So I guess I'm pretty confident that mine are used to polyculture.
 
Isaac Hill
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John Polk wrote:
If we (mankind) don't quit using bees as our personal slaves, and killing them with pesticides, honey could soon become a luxury for only the wealthiest. 


Rather, good sir, it will be the "poor" people like me who actually keep bee hives that will be getting that luxurious local honey.

 
John Polk
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Right on, sir.  I have had hives before, and seriously consider doing so again once I get my own property again.  However, once I begin homesteading again, I will have so many pans in the fire, that maintaining hives might cause me to neglect other chores...way too many chores to be done in 'setup' the first few years to add more to my agenda.

My solution (at least for the first few years...possibly permanently) will be to contact the County Extension Agent, the local University, or a local chapter of bee keepers to find a local bee keeper.  If I am going to have multiple acres in clovers & buckwheat, plus hundreds of flowering plant species, and eventually early/mid/and late fruit trees, all grown in a 'beyond organic' environment, I am certain that I can find somebody that would be very happy to set out multiple hives on my property.  My 'share' from one good hive would satisfy my honey needs, while at the same time, provide me with an invaluable pollination service.

Heaven forbid, if I ever get all of my ducks in a row, I might need to find a good mead recipe!

EDITED to add side note.

As a side note:  whoever sets up hives on my property will need to do so in a manner consistent with the CNG guidelines:
http://www.naturallygrown.org/programs/apiary-standards
 
Jeff Mathias
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oracle wrote:
I have heard that bees will start collecting, I'll use blueberry, hahaha. But once they start collecting blueberry they will only collect blueberry. Or if it were clover they only collect clover. This doesn't feel right to me. Does anyone know?


Hi Oracle,

Something I read from or about Luther Burbank mentioned this. If I recall correctly when asked how he keeps everything from cross pollinating specifically in regards to hybrids in so small a space that was basically his reply. That if you followed a bee at first light as it came out of the hive and watched what it selected for the day you could continue to watch as that bee only went to the same type of flowers all day long. Even if others were closer or producing more nectar. Day to day could be different though.

Essentially what he said was that he was not concerned about bees causing cross pollination creating hybrids. From his observations on his property if a bee started out on cherries in the morning it would pollinate cherries all day rather than shift up and pick another plant. He follows up with that you do not find a lot of hybrids in nature for this specific reason.

I think "type honey" eg. buckwheat is possible more because of the vast monocultures available to place the hives in. I do not think you would or could produce a specific type of honey in a permaculture setting.

On a side note: I know you used blueberries just as an example;but it triggered a memory that bumblebees are actually better pollinators of blueberries than honey bees are. The bumblebees mouth parts are better suited to getting into the flowers.

Jeff


 
            
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We have about 20 hives on a somewhat wild piece of land in N. NM.  Lucky for us we have russian knapweed in abundance.  The Russian Olive flow is light and when the Knapweed comes on the bees really stay on it and the resulting honey is very dark and medicinal. Of course there are other sources of pollen and nectar at that time but the knapweed is dominant and I believe very few other plants are visited by the bees other than to make propolis.  Then after we harvest what we can the chamisa sp.?/rabbit brush flow starts and the honey is light again.  We do not harvest this last flow, its for the bees to survive the winter.  I do not feed ever. 

In the health food stores you will often find local raw honey.  The truth is that it is raw but the honey is from hives that are shipped to monoculture, fed sugar water, chemically treated, and not treated with respect.  How is this a natural or organic product?  The local label simply means that the person who owns the hives lives near you, not that the honey is local at all.  This truly annoys me!
 
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