How We Make Raw Honey - Flower to Hive...Hive to Jar
Raw Honey's origin is sweet flower nectar.
Every flower has different nectar in terms of its taste, color and texture, which carries through to the raw honey. That's why single-floral honeys are so distinct! Flower nectar is comprised of mainly carbohydrates (sugars), but also of nitrogen compounds, fats, organic acids, nucleic acids, vitamins and minerals. Given the opportunity, bees generally pollinate only one species of flower at a time due to their familiarity with extracting nectar from a particular flower.
We move the beehives into a "honey flow," which is an abundant nectar source.
There are three main Hawaiian honey flows that bloom at different times of the year: 'Ohi'a Lehua, Wilelaiki and Macadamia Nut. Accordingly, three times a year, we move the hives by loading them onto flatbed trucks at night when all of the bees are in the hive and not foraging. The bees are unloaded at the new site in the same configuration as the previous site so the bees are not disoriented when leaving their hive in the morning.
Bees leave the hive to find nectar using their keen smell and vision.
One of the bees' main activities is to harvest pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive.
Bees have color vision and are especially attracted to the vibrant hues of flowers. Bees also have a keen sense of smell and are able to discern one nectar aroma from another.
When they find honey, they "dance" to alert others.
When a bee finds a nectar source, it will return to the hive to perform a "bee dance" to alert other bees. The direction of her dance indicates the direction of the flower, the length of her steps indicates the distance to the flower, and the intensity of her dancing indicates how abundant the source is. The dancing bee also carries a lingering floral aroma and nectar samples for the other bees to taste. Read more about Bee Dances.
Forager Bees then collect nectar in their honey sack and bring it back to the hive.
A full honey sack weighs nearly as much as the bee itself (70 mg)! Because a beeís body is hairy, pollen sticks to bees as they extract nectar from flowers. Bees also collect pollen by brushing it with their legs into "pollen baskets" on their hind legs. Upon returning to the hive, forager bees are met by house bees.
Then, the house bees take the nectar and put it in the honey comb.
The house bees take the nectar from the forager bees' honey sacks and transfer it into honey comb cells.
Next, worker bees fan the nectar with their wings to evaporate its water.
They then fan the combs with their wings so that any water in the nectar will quickly evaporate. The nectar becomes pure raw honey once it has only 18% water.
Finally, the worker bees cap the honeycomb with beeswax.
Worker bees cap the finished cells with beeswax. And, their honey-making job is done.
We check the hives regularly by lulling the bees from their hive with smoke.
Once the honeycomb is full of pure raw honey, the bees' work is done and the beekeeper takes over from here.
When a honeycomb frame is full, we remove it.
When the raw honey is ripe (the frames are filled and capped with wax) we remove the frames except for what the bees need for food (enough raw honey to tide them over to their next honey flow). We bring the honey laden frames back to our warehouse to be extracted.
Then, we remove the beeswax cap from the frames.
First, we uncap the frames to remove the beeswax. We do this by using an uncapping machine to shave off the layer of beeswax.
Next, we extract the raw honey using a centrifuge and gravity.
The frames are then placed into a centrifuge which spins the raw honey out of the wax cells and into a pipe which drains into a settling tank. The tank is on a lower floor which allows for the raw honey to settle and be gravity strained. The wax particles float to the top, and after settling for a day or two the raw, natural honey is drained from the bottom of the tank into barrels. The honey is then strained to remove large particles of beeswax and other hive parts, preserving healthy enzymes and pollen.
Finally, we put the raw, natural, organic honey into jars.
Each 9.5 oz. jar of Big Island Bees honey is the result of 683 bees flying 32,550 miles to visit 1,185,000 flowers to collect 5.93 lbs. of nectar. Thatís a lot of work. But, it is so worth it!