The lecture after tea on Thursday was Honey from Blossom to Jar by John Hendrie. It was a very technical talk full of scientific details. I took five pages of notes, some of which I can read. I shall just skim through the legible bits.
Definition of honey – from Apis mellifera only. He didn’t say what the products of Apis cerana, dorsata etc are called. Plants produce nectar through photosynthesis, using sunlight and CO2 to produce mostly glucose, which is soluble. It’s generally about 20% sugar and 80% water. The maximum load of a bee is about 40mg.
He then went on to the chemistry and I noted several formulae but as it’s well over half a century since I got my O level in that subject and haven’t used it since it didn’t mean a lot.
Types of nectar are basically sucrose dominant as produced by clovers and rhododendrons; equal glucose and fructrose – legumes and borage; glucose – rape; fructrose – blackberries. He showed Dade’s diagram of the bee’s mouthparts and explained how pollen is filtered out.
There follows a page of definitions that won’t interest you unless you’re studying for an exam so I won’t attempt to decyphyer those notes. Removal of the honey crop might be achieved in four different ways: physical by shaking and brushing; behavioural by use a Porter or rhomboid one way bee escape; chemical by using a repellant like benzaldehyde; mechanical – blowers.
He didn’t mention two methods I’ve sometimes used successfully: 1. If the bees are ‘runners’ put the super down in front of the hive and they’ll all walk home within a few minutes; 2. Put the super with bees in the back of the car, drive 100 yards by which time you won’t be able to see out of the back window. Release those bees to fly home, drive on a little way and repeat the process, turning round sometimes so as not to release them out of range of home, until they’ve (nearly) all gone.
Uncapping frames of comb: knife, fork, roller, plane, hot air blower, flame, flails.
Types of extractor: tangential, radial, parallel radial. He didn’t mention my small scale method of cutting out the prettiest comb to sell as comb honey, which fetches twice the price, then putting the rest in my fruit press to squeeze the honey out. Some will be left in the crushed comb which can be extracted with water and yeast, producing mead.
Processing honey: it can be strained through a small mesh sieve but filtering under presure is not allowed. It goes into a settling tank for a couple of days after which it can be bottled/jarred.
Commercial bottling plants use the Dyce process which includes heating the honey to temperatures which will Pasteurise it, killing off the enzymes that distinguish ‘living’ honey from cane sugar, but makes it look clear and pretty on the supermarket shelf.
John explained how to prepare set honey and also gave details of the labelling requirements and the honey regulations. As many of the readers of this blog aren’t in the EU they won’t necessarily apply there.
Keep your honey cool to extend the life of the enzymes.
Time for dinner: pork steak, chips and cabbage followed by cake and cream. Afterwards I walked westward down the road and got my day’s mileage up to 4.