About time

Nearly there. Only a few weeks to the harvest. I can feel the excitement quietly mounting in the pit of my stomach as I look forward to a bountiful supply of honey but know too that I could be bitterly disappointed. All the hives could have supers(boxes) full of honey one week and if the weather turns sour and forage is poor, they will eat the lot of it to survive – as they rightly should.  I’m a bit edgy sitting on my hands as I wait, I hear my inner voice saying “Leave them alone, the bees know what they’re doing”, as uttered by my elder beekeeper mentor time and time again.  The bees do know what they are doing, they have been around for millennia: Prehistoric farmers were first beekeepers (BBC news article 2015) The Sacred Bee: Ancient Egypt (Planet Bee Foundation 2017).

Sometimes I wonder what’s the big deal with honey but all I have to do is look at a jar of clear golden honey and I’m mesmerised and full of wonder. Did you know that it takes 12 worker bees their life time to produce a single teaspoon of honey!  Such industry! Such focus! Such a fantastic collaborative effort by all the bees in the hive.

Honey is defined as the concentrated solution of sugars prepared by bees from the nectar of plants.” The Bee world, The composition and properties of Honey by J Payce-Jones.

For those chemically minded: “Honey is composed mainly from carbohydrates, lesser amounts of water and a great number of minor components” Research Gate publication

Honey is a good source of antioxidants, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and heals wounds. Medical grade Manuka is already used in hospitals in Ireland, I’ve seen it work on a persistent wound when nothing else would. I hope the medical profession will start using Irish honey soon too as the research into the use of Irish Heather honey and the research into the use of Irish Ivy honey is very promising. By the way, Irish beekeepers get annoyed when they see Ivy honey in the hive before the harvest because it blocks up the honey supers, it’s very hard to extract as it crystallises/hardens very quickly and causes all the rest of the honey to crystallize quickly too making our golden jars of run honey look cloudy.

Crystallized and clear honey

Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong or off about cloudy, crystallized honey; I consider it a sign of a good, genuine product, but most people like clear honey. Ivy honey is also very strong tasting (the taste mellows after a few months). Because it is difficult to extract, it can be expensive to buy. We beekeepers usually leave it all to the bees as part of their winter feed. What a waste of a valuable resource! I think it’s a bit like whey, the by product from cheese making, that used to be thrown out which is now considered a valuable source of protein… ask any weightlifter.  Heather honey is a funny one too, it’s dark, has a strong aroma and it’s thixotropic (like jelly) until you stir it when it turns to liquid and reverts to jelly again after a while when you stop stirring.

Bee collecting nectar and/or pollen (see rear legs) from an Ivy flower

Honey (any honey) soothes a sore throat. Geek/film buffs will know about Gollum Juice (Andy Serkis named it – ahem… sorry for this bit of a 5+ min worm hole). The Gollum Juice Recipe from Reddit is just water, ginger, honey and lemon which sounds an awful lot like my mother’s recipe for when I had a cold or cough as a child. I bet you have your own recipe.

“The two most powerful warriors are time and patience.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

I have to just wait now for the bees to finish their work. I hope they will give me a good crop of their excess honey again this year.  I will know by mid-end of August. 😊


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