Raw Honey: Beekeeping is the only way to produce raw honey or bee honey and bees are the only insects capable to produce honey. So, if you like to produce honey, practice beekeeping either as hobby or side business or full time business in large scale. Beekeeping is really fun and good way to pass your time. Bees contribute to pollination of crop, beekeeping is environment friendly and greatly influence the agriculture and national economy. Read and learn more about how to process raw honey.
Bee Honey – Raw Honey Collection
Without beekeeping you can collect or harvest honey from natural beehives found in any tree or forest areas. But it’s not so profitable and you have no any control over the hives. If you like to produce raw honey commercially, beekeeping is the only way.
Remember, the bee collects nectar from flowers, together with enzymes honey is created inside honey-stomach. To produce one Kg of honey, about 60,000 flights are necessary while one bee visits about 3 to 5 million blossoms. It contains sugar, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, organic acids, proteins, tanning agents, and huge number of antibiotic active components.
Bee Honey harvesting season
In east Asia region including Bangladesh, raw honey is harvested mainly from December to March mainly from the mastered oil flower, in a large quantity by commercial bee keeper. This harvested raw honey is required to be processed again to keep moisture & other ingredients in tolerable limit, such as moisture, enzyme, gluconic acid etc. And moisture should be in between Eighteen to Twenty Two percent (18% – 22%).
Bee keepers use specialized equipment to commercially extract Raw honey. But new bee keepers can collect and sell comb of honey without much special equipment and who is a beekeeper as hobby can start like this as relatively inexpensive way.
A commercial bee keeper may be fully equipped and usually they start out in an organized form with full preparation. Although it’s expensive but he knows selling honey and it can be a lucrative business for him.
Glass or ceramic or similar bottle is the best for honey packaging. Plastic is not so good as it has a negative impact on honey that generate a bad smell. Plastic may change the color and quality of honey also if you keep long time. Remember, pure honey will not rotten 2/3 years with proper packaging. Plastic container may be used only for short term. At harvesting season beekeepers usually use 50 Kg containers to handle huge quantity of honey.
How to process Raw honey at home?
Probably most of the people are not aware of how the raw honey is processed. They think bees collect honey from flowers. But actually flower does not contain honey; it contains only nectar or glucose which is converted to honey afterward. This honey processing is performed naturally inside the stomach of bees when fly from flower toward the hive.
This process is a chemical reaction that converts the nectar/glucose to honey. A bee has two stomachs, one for honey processing and other for food digestion. Honey processing stomach is completely separated from the other digestive stomach.
Do you know, every year million tons of nectar/glucose from flowers are remaining uncollected by bees? And finally it is destroyed naturally. So, we need more bees to collect honey. Our current apiary can cover only small portion of the flower fields, keeping the vast area uncollected and untouched.
Raw Honey can be processed manually or by automated machine. A fine processed honey will last long and all of its ingredients remain in acceptable limit. Processing by automated machine is simple because it’s easy to control the temperature. Over heat will damage its ingredients and hence lose nutrients. For a commercial project you need a processing plant which very costly, and not feasible for mini project.
Beekeepers with few beehives are recommended to buy and use a simple and cheap power blanket.
Benefits of power blanket:
1. Easy to maintain ambient temperature to 110°F and that is required for honey.
2. Works on both poly and steel buckets or pails.
3. Prevent overheating & crystallization.
4. Keeps your honey at hive temperatures and prevent to lose nutrients.
5. Certified by ETL to UL, CSA & CE Safety Standards.
Processing or Pasteurize or Evaporate Raw honey manually
Even if you don’t have Power Blanket or honey processing plant, still now you can do the same thing manually at your home with the help of few kitchenware. But you have to be very careful and aware of honey ingredients. Your main goal is to reduce moisture level and keep at 18% to 22%. You should not apply direct heat to the honey & don’t rise temperature too high. Follow the instruction as stated below:
01. Arrange 2 rice cooking dishes
Arrange two rice cooking dish/sauce – one is larger and the other is smaller so that smaller dish can seat inside the bigger.
02. Separator between dishes
Keep the bigger Dish in woven and put three wood pieces inside the dish. These wooden pieces will keep the smaller dish separate from the bigger.
03. Fill the space with water
Now keep your smaller dish on the wooden pieces and fill the spaces between dishes with water. Water level should be less than the height of bigger dish.
04. Keep honey in the dish and attach thermometer
Put your honey in the smaller dish and cover it. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and fully immerse its tip in the honey.
05. Raise heat at 145˚F
Start your oven and raise its heat slowly until the temperature of honey reach to 145˚F. Turn down the heat to keep temperature steady at 145˚F.
06. Keep moisture at range of 18%-22%
Keep this temperature 30 minutes or until its moisture comes in expected range (18% to 22%). Use a moisture indicator or honey Refractometer and stop the oven when you get your expected moisture.
Find here to buy a Refractometer: High Measuring Range Honey tester 58%-90% – Beerkeeping, bees Tri-Scales for Honey Moisture – Ade Advanced Optics Brix Refractometer.
07. Filter honey
You have to check several times the temperature and moisture. Finally Pour the honey into a clean container after pasteurization/evaporation. After harvesting beekeepers need to filter several times in different stages. And hot honey is easier to filter then cold.
Filter is not so expensive and beekeepers should not be lazy to filter whenever needed. You have to filter it until you see it’s free from any type of contaminant.
08. Keep honey on the jar or container
Keep your honey in the jar or container & Place a cap tightly on the jar or container to prevent any unwanted contaminants. Remember, glass or ceramic container is better than plastic for long time storage. But for a short time or while harvesting you can keep in big containers like 5 Kg, 20 Kg, 50 Kg jars or buckets.
Now you may think why we don’t apply direct heat for raw honey processing. Direct heat can damage many ingredients of honey and as a result you will get inferior quality of honey. Overheat also can damage honey ingredients.
The above process can be done while you buy raw honey from market.
After honey production you can consume it yourself or prepare for sale. Usually hobbiest Honey-bee farmers can collect honey for consumption, but professional beekeepers need to sell their product in market.
For doing so, they have to take approval from the authority and seal of such approval must be attached in the level of honey bottle or packaging.
Then they can sell honey either in bottled or liquid form or as natural comb or a combination of both called chunk honey. For bottling you need fresh and blank bottle that you can buy from any super market like Walmart or Target etc.
Even you can buy it online from Amazon or similar store. Fine here to buy plastic bottle: 24-Pack, Plastic Squeeze Container, White Flip, Top Lid, Mann Lake CN245 for filling 1-Pound.
Remember, an attractive packaging, reasonable price and product information is very essential to market your product and grow your business.
Sources of Information
01. Experience of own honeybee project
02. Bee Journal