Two years ago South Hill Forest Products started up a Beekeeping project on the Ithaca College campus. Our project included two different styles of hives: Langstroth Hives, presently used by most commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, and Top Bar Hives, an old method of beekeeping which has recently made a comeback due to speculation regarding increased bee health and vitality. While we do hope to enjoy the sweet benefits of honey and other hive products, establishing healthy colonies is the main goal, especially during our first year. We purchased our start up nuclei colonies from a local beekeeper in Stanley, New York, who does not use medications or supplements for her bee colonies. The bees we have are Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica) mixed with native species, well known for cold-weather resistance–a good thing in the harsh Ithaca winters!
Our honey is raw, natural, and delicious-harvested and processed right here on campus!
Honey is virtually limitless in its uses. Honey is obviously DELICIOUS and can be used for consumption in myriad ways. Use it a sweetener, bake with it, make salad dressings or sauces, put it on sandwiches or in yogurt…eat it by the spoonful!
Honey also has properties that make it a great moisturizer, burn treatment, throat soother…you name it! Local honey also tends to contain trace amounts of local pollens, and rumor is that consuming local honey can reduce seasonal allergies.
So…What is Honey, Exactly?
Honey is essentially the dehydrated nectar that bees collect on their foraging missions to flowers. The nectar is sucked up through the bee’s proboscis and stored in the honey stomach for transport back to the hive. In the honey stomach, the nectar mixes with specific enzymes, and back in the hive it is deposited into a honey storage cell to begin its evapo- ration process into honey. As worker bees fan within the hive and accelerate the concentration process, each honey cell is monitored and when it has been sufficiently dehydrated (to about 17% water content), the cell is capped and the honey is ready.
Properties of Honey
Honey is about 17% water, 38% fructose, 31% glucose, 7% maltose, and 7% miscellaneous sugars (other “-oses”). There are also trace amounts of acids, pollen, minerals and enzymes. It is amazingly long-lasting and, if stored correctly, will never go bad. You’ve probably heard about archaeologists finding honey in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Because of its composition, honey is very viscous, hygroscopic (absorbs water from the air), and tends to granulate. Granulation (sometimes called “crystallization”) happens when there is more glucose dissolved in the water than it can maintain over a period of storage. Granulated honey is perfectly fine to eat, but if you’re not a fan of the crystals, slowly heating your honey in water to 160 degrees (not much hotter) will re-liquefy the honey.
We’ve been developing several methods of rendering beeswax this year, and have produced a good amount of wax from the honey frames we’ve harvested! In the spring, students applied for a grant to buy an industrial-size steam wax extractor, and we also developed a technique using old t-shirts to filter wax and old beverage cartons to mold it. We have experimented with making lip balm and candles with our wax, and hope to try making soap as well! Additionally, we use wax we’ve rendered to rub on new top-bars so that the bees know where we want them to build new combs. We hope that beeswax becomes a major form of revenue for South Hill Forest Products.
Propolis, or “bee glue” is a strong, sticky substance bees use to patch holes and waterproof their hives. It has been shown to have a host of medicinal properties as well. It’s highly antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and more. Propolis tinctures (basically propolis dissolved in alcohol) let you use this magical substance to treat sore throats and boost your immune system. We’ve been experimenting with tincture ratios and methods as well.
View our Warré Hives HERE!
View our Steam Wax Extractors HERE!
Check out any of our blog posts tagged as “bees” for other beekeeping updates, tips, and techniques!