Posts Tagged ‘honey for sale’



It’s that time of year when I have finally extracted the honey from the hives and it is now ready for sale. The bees are located just outside Tunbridge Wells and I have a very limited amount that was taken off the hives at the beginning of August this year.

This is local honey and it is not the same as ‘supermarket’ honey, it has not been superheated and forced through ultra-fine filters nor blended with honey from multiple sources or indeed countries and it does not contain any sugar syrups. It is 100% natural honey from bees that forage in the countryside on the Kent and Sussex borders.

It has been manually extracted and naturally filtered under gravity but retains some of the fine particles of wax and pollen which give it the aromatic and health qualities that honey is famed for.

It costs £4.50 a jar, please let me know if you would some asap and if you are able to either collect from me in Highbrooms, near Tunbridge Wells, or to make another arrangement for collection.

I can be contacted at:  or via twitter @danieljmarsh


August arrives but still no joy for the bees….

What a wet year this has been …. July was again dominated by low pressure fronts bringing in cloud and wet conditions for the first three weeks then it was unseasonably hot but this only lasted for a few days before the unsettled weather returned. The bees have been unable to fly on many days and even though many plants have been late to flower this year the bees just seem to be playing catch up all the time.

By the beginning of August last year I had three full honey supers on two of my hives and two on the other, full of delicious golden honey ready to extract but then the bees took advantage of the exceptionally warm and dry spring, this year I have about 1 1/2 supers to extract and even that has not been fully capped yet and it is still ‘loose’ so is unlikely to be reduced enough yet to prevent it fermenting in the jar – I have decided to leave it on for a bit longer to see if the current warm weather and late flowering brings a late crop or if the bees decides to take the honey down for winter stores, then that is also fine.

Hive inspection

Hive inspection before removing this years honey

I started this beekeeping year with 3 strong colonies, I have lost queens, added new queens, lost swarms only to catch and rehouse them – at one point there were 5 hives on the go but now I am back down to four with one being queen-less and with so few bees (about 3 frames) that I am letting them go rather than merging them this late in the year and risk damage to a laying queen preparing for winter so I will enter winter once again with three very strong colonies and all with healthy fertile 2012 queens.

Fanning bee

Bee fanning at the hive entrance to help regulate the temperature for brood rearing and honey reduction

Having started this blog entry at the beginning of August I have waited until slightly better weather in mid-August before I decided to extract the honey. I attended the apiary on Saturday morning (the hottest day of the year so far) to shake the bees out of the honey supers as best as I could and place the clearer boards with bee escapes in over an eke (‘spacer’ box) above the hive. The idea of adding an empty eke or super under the clearer boards is that it allows a bit more space and prevents congestion as the bees leave the honey super through the bee escapes, which in turn do not allow them to return.

Uncapped honey

Uncapped ‘ripe honey’ being worked in the hive



The theory is that in 24 hours your honey supers are clear of bees and ready for you to carry off unnoticed… of course the reality each year is that the the supers still have bees in them that need brushing and shaking off . I do this frame by frame, placing the clear frames of honey in a super over an upturned roof with a towel over the top to keep the bees out. This year there was an added complication of lots and lots of wasps in the apiary, as soon as I lifted the honey super off wasps were carrying the dead bees from the crown board off to feed their young, guess that’s nature and it saves them going to waste but angry wasps flying around your head is very off putting even to a beekeeper!

Frame of capped honey

Frame of honey before extraction


The honey frames are removed to a wasp and bee free space and uncapped, literally cut open, to allow the honey to flow out and then placed into a centrifugal extractor when they are spun at high speed to allow the honey to fly out, hit the sides and drain to the base of the drum.



Once the frames are all emptied into the base of the extractor the honey is run through a coarse, then finer filter, to remove any larger pieces of pollen and wax, these won’t effect the quality of the honey, indeed they add much to it’s aromatics, texture and beneficial qualities that have been removed from highly processed supermarket honey to give it a longer shelf life as runny honey.

Uncapping fork

Using the uncapping fork
to ‘open’ the honey cells


As soon as the honey has been removed it is time to feed the bees with a heavy sugar syrup to make sure that the removal of the honey has not depleted their food stores so much that they would not survive the winter.

I always leave my bees in a ‘brood and a half’, over the winter months, effectively I leave an additional super on as this allows them to have a greater level stores in the hive to try and prevent them from starving and also gives the space for the queen to lay up a large brood early next year when they are fed a weaker syrup to give them a boost in the spring.

The bees also start their treatment to combat the Varroa Destructor, a parasitic mite that are present in virtually every UK hive these days.

Coarse honey sieve

Sieving the honey for coarse bits of pollen and wax

Once the honey has been filtered it is allowed to sit in a settling tank for at least 24 hours so that any air bubbles introduced into the honey during the rapid spinning at extraction escape, again this is purely for aesthetics – it wont affect the quality of the honey but people seem to think it looks much nicer without them. Finally the honey is run off into freshly sterilised jars and the labels are attached ready for sale, or in the case of a lower crop like this year, ready for eating and making more mead!

There are many European rules and regulations relating to the labelling of foods, including honey, and these can be found at the ‘Foods Standards Agency’ website by clicking here, but if you don’t have time to read all 23 pages there is a quick summary at the bees-online webpage here.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.


N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.

Spa Valley Honey

Spa Valley Honey

September is here already and its time to wind down the hives for winter

July and August have been a couple of busy months, extracting the honey crop and getting it jarred up and ready to sell and now it is  time to start thinking about getting the bees ready for the cold winter months ahead.

But before the bees are securely wrapped  up with chicken wire in place to keep the woodpeckers at bay, and the metal guards attached over the hive entrance to keep the mice out, they need to be thoroughly checked to make sure that they have the very best chance of surviving the winter and into next year. This involves checking each colony for a healthy queen, healthy brood, treating the hives for varroa mite (a problem in virtually all UK hives these days) and any of the other bee diseases and hive parasites (of which there are many!) and at the same time feedback sugar syrup to replace the honey that was taken whilst it is still warm outside and there is a sufficient number of bees left to reduce it and store it before the winter period.

Spa Valley Honey

Spa Valley Honey

I carried out three separate honey extractions this year and this produced a total harvest of about 160-170 1bs of honey from just three hives, although one of these hives only yielded about 30lbs of honey so the other two did exceptionally well, but then it has been an exceptionally good year for beekeepers right across the country with the long dry spring being the main period of activity for the bees, unfortunately the summer was once again a bit of a washout being generally cool and wet.

Honey for sale

Honey for sale

The colony is now reducing in size quite rapidly and the queen is currently laying the workers that will join her for the winter and then help her to build up a strong colony early in the spring. Most worker bees only live for about five weeks during the spring and summer months and they literally ‘work themselves to death’ but over winter the bees will live for about five months in the hive, clustering around the queen and keeping her warm, but using virtually no energy in a semi-comatose state. When she starts to lay eggs again early January they will once again raise the temperature of the brood area and that is when they will need the honey and pollen stored in the hive. Bees don’t starve in the autumn or early in the year – it’s at the end of February or beginning of March when there are no flowering plants to supply nectar but the bees need the food that the colony is most at risk of collapse.

I took up beekeeping due to the environmental concerns over declining numbers of primary pollinators in the UK (actually make that worldwide!!!) and the collapse of honey bee colonies  so I leave my bees in two brood boxes over winter, one deep and one shallow, and this allows them to retain far more honey than most beekeepers, or honey farmers, would leave on the hive. This doesn’t guarantee that they will survive the winter or prevent starvation but I am sure that it helps. When the bees start looking for honey in the spring they move up through the hive and may still starve with several frames of stores on both sides of the brood area  so I feed candy in January to counter this.

Apilife Var

Treating hive for mite with Apilife Var

During the most recent inspections I have been unhappy with one hive in particular as the brood pattern seems more erratic than normal and there have been uncapped cells with the un-hatched larva exposed. This looks to me to be a problem called ‘bald brood’ that occurs when the hive becomes infested with the lesser wax moth larvae. Hopefully the colony is strong enough to sort itself out and eject these unwanted visitors that crawl through the capped cells feeding on the cell linings. This time of year also sees a reduction in the bee population and the hive easily becomes over-loaded with the parasitic varroa mites. I am currently treating all the hives with thymol (apilife var) and am hoping that this will be as successful as it was last year.

Treating hive for mite

Treating hive for mite above the brood area

The new queen is also laying well but obviously the colony suffered by having a prolonged period with no queen and therefore no new workers coming into service, I am hoping that the colony recovers enough to see the winter through. Ironically the hive that I was most concerned about losing back at the beginning of August, due to the lost queen and egg laying workers, now seems like the contender for being both the strongest colony and the one with the greatest chance of surviving the winter, funny how everything can change in just a period of 4 -5 weeks!

First honey crop of 2011

Honey for sale

With the hives filling very rapidly this year and the bees getting ready to swarm it seemed logical to give the bees back some space and take off the first honey crop of the year. Each of my three main hives had two supers full of ‘capped’ frames with the honey ready to extract.

Capped honey in a frame

The bees cap the honey comb once the water content of the honey has been reduced to less than 19% and there is no risk of it being able to ferment. Due to the size of the colonies I only remove one super from each hive at a time to retain the bees space inside the hive, rather than taking two in one go and condensing the bees down into a smaller space during the very hot weather which may then encorage them to swarm earlier than normal.

Clearer board on a hive

I attended the apiary on the Friday evening and placed clearer boards with porter bee escapes in the hive under the honey super containing the frames to be extracted. The bee escapes are really bee turnstiles, as in they let the bees out of the honey super to be removed but not back in again. You have to be careful that you leave no bee space into the super to be removed as once the bees are out it is very easy for robbing to take place and all your honey crop can disappear in a day!

Returning on a very warm Sunday morning I wasn’t sure how well the clearing would have worked as last year it wasn’t that successful but this year it seemed to have worked far better, maybe this was due to the hives being taller with more hive space beneath and the clearer boards being in place for longer or maybe it was just due to the unseasonal heat. The full supers were swiftly removed and the few lingering bees guarding the frames of honey were gently encouraged to return to the hive. There is little more off putting then a few bees flying around your head whilst you try to extract the stolen honey!

Using the uncapping fork

With bees and honey separated it was time to spin out the honey. The wax capping that seal the honey in the comb are removed using an ‘uncapping fork’ and the frames are then placed in a centrifugal device that allows you to gently spin out the honey, then reverse the frames and repeat this process until the combs are virtually empty.

There will always be traces of honey left in the comb and a little ‘set’ honey and this will be fed back to the bees who will clean it from the ‘wet comb’ and take the honey back down deeper into the hive. Once the frames are cleaned and dry they will be removed and stored until required again.

Once the honey has been removed from the comb it is allowed to pass through a coarse filter and then a very fine filter to remove some of the wax particles, pollen and anything else that may have made its way into the honey. This seems to be the longest part of the extraction process with the honey slowly dripping through the filters.

Fine filtering

Following the extraction and filtering it is allowed to settle for at least 24 hours, this is allow any air bubbles introduced whilst spinning it out of the frames to rise to the surface. There is nothing wrong with these appearing in the honey but cosmetically it it better to lose them. The honey is then literally passed through quality control (tasted for sweetness!) and ‘poured off’ through the honey tap into the sterilised jars and labelled up ready for sale.

Quality control

The cappings contain a fair amount of honey and these are separated from the wax in warm water – this will now form the sugary syrup that will be the base for making this year’s honey mead – and probably form the subject of my next blog entry!

Labelling jars

Ten things you can do to help bees!

 1.    Plant bee friendly flowers and plants in your garden

Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive monoculture-based farming practices, pristine green (but flower-barren) sprawling suburban lawns and from the destruction of native landscapes. Just planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will help provide bees with forage. Avoid chemically treating your flowers as chemicals can leach into pollen and negatively affect the bees systems. Plant plenty of the same type of bloom together, bees like volume of forage (a sq. yard is a good estimate).

Lavender in the gardenFeeding bee

Here are a few examples of good plant varieties: Spring – lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria. Summer – Mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passion flower vine, honeysuckle. Fall – Fuchsia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena, toadflax. great list

2.   Weeds can be a good thing.

Contrary to popular belief, a lawn full of clover and dandelions is not just a good thing—it’s a great thing! A haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be so nervous about letting your lawn live a little. Wildflowers, many of which we might classify as weeds, are some of the most important food sources for native North American bees. If some of these are “weeds” you chose to get rid of (say you want to pull out that blackberry bush that’s taking over), let it bloom first for the bees and then before it goes to seed, pull it out or trim it back!

3.   Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden.

Yes, they make your lawn look pristine and pretty, but they’re actually doing the opposite to the life in your biosphere. The chemicals and pest treatments you put on your lawn and garden can cause damage to the honeybees systems. These treatments are especially damaging if applied while the flowers are in bloom as they will get into the pollen and nectar and be taken back to the bee hive where they also get into the honey—which in turn means they can get into us. Pesticides, specifically neo-nicotinoid varieties have been one of the major culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder.

4.   Buy local, raw honey.

The honey you buy directly sends a message to beekeepers about how they should keep their bees. For this reason, and for your own personal health, strive to buy local, raw honey that is from hives that are not treated by chemicals. It can be hard to find out what is truly “local” and truly “raw”–and even harder yet to find out what is untreated. Here’s a few guidelines: If you find it in the grocery store and it’s imported from China, don’t buy it. There have been a number of cases recently of chemically contaminated honey coming from China. If it’s coming from the grocery store, but it doesn’t say the words “pure” or “raw” and you can’t read in the description that it’s untreated by chemicals, don’t buy it. If it’s untreated, the label will say, as this is an important selling point. We recommend a simple solution for most people. Go to your farmer’s market and shake hands with the beekeepers you meet. There are beekeepers at nearly every farmer’s market selling their honey and other products. Have a conversation with them, find out what they are doing to their hives, and how they are keeping their bees. If they are thoughtful, respectful beekeepers who keep their bees in a sustainable, natural way, then make a new friend and support them!

Honey for saleLocal 'raw' or 'pure' honey for sale

5.   Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home.

You may not have known this one—but it’s easy and it’s true! If you have a lot of bees starting to come to your new garden of native plants, wildflowers and flowering herbs, put a little water basin out (a bird bath with some stones in it for them to crawl on does a nice trick). They will appreciate it!

6.   Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know.

What’s true for honey generally holds true for the rest of our food. Buying local means eating seasonally as well, and buying local from a farmer that you know means you know if that food is coming from a monoculture or not. This is much easier in the summer when you can get your fresh produce from a local farmer’s market. Another option is to get your food from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm. Keep in mind, USDA Organic Certification can be expensive and you may find many great farmers and beekeepers with excellent food and honey that isn’t USDA certified simply because they don’t produce a high quantity or opt for the expense of certification. Don’t let this get in the way of supporting them and if you’re worried about their products—have a conversation with them. (Ed. Note – A huge challenge for beekeepers is to keep their bees in an area where there is no chemical spray within 3 miles, as this is really what is required to guarantee truly organic honey. All the more reason for us all to avoid the use of harsh chemicals.)

Why not try Forest Garden Foods on the Kent and Sussex borders

Forest Garden Foods logo

7.   Learn how to be a beekeeper with sustainable practices.

Look up a local bee association that offers classes with natural approaches in your community and link up.

Checking the bee colonyChecking on the bee colonies build-up

8.   Understand that honeybees aren’t out to get you.

Honeybees are vegetarians. They want to forage pollen and nectar from flowers up to three miles from their hive and bring that food back to provide food for themselves and the beehive. Contrary to what the media might have us believe, they are not out to sting us. Here are a few tips to avoid getting stung. 1. Stay still and calm if a bee is around you or lands on you. Many bees will land on you and sniff you out. They can smell the pheromones that come with fear and anger it can be a trigger for them to sting you. 2. Don’t stand in front of a hive opening, or a pathway to a concentration of flowers. Bees are busy running back and forth from the hive, and if you don’t get in their way, they won’t be in yours. 3. Learn to differentiate between honeybees and wasps. Honeybees die after they sting humans (but not after they sting other bees!), wasps do not. Wasps are carnivores, so they like your lunch-meats and soda. Honeybees are vegetarians.

9.   Share solutions with others in your community.

There are so many fun ways to help and be a voice for the bees. Share about the importance of bees at local community meetings, at conferences, in schools and universities, and on on-line message boards and forums.

Kent Beepers Association

10.                        Let your local politicians know what you think.

Change has to happen from the top-down as well as from the bottom-up.

Information taken from the ‘Queen of the Sun’ webpages – go and watch the film when it is showing near you and keep supporting the bees!