As the summer-like weather continues, flower blossoms are lingering. They look good but unfortunately as our drought drags on, they have very little nectar and just a scanty supply of pollen for our hungry bees. The situation is critical at this time of year, since September is their last month to stock up for winter. They were left with lots after harvest but added supplies may be needed before the snow flies!
Have you ever wondered how we know the nectar source of the various honeys we carry? There are a few different ways to identify a specific flower source (varietal), but the summer honey our bees make is a combination of multiple origins (multi-floral) - primarily alfalfa, clover and wildflowers. We know that because those flowers surround our hives and bees (like people) tend to favour a food supply that's close to home. Our spring honey is primarily dandelion, which is the only nectar source available at that time of year. Dandelion honey also has a distinctive flavour, colour and smell. Interestingly, health benefits attributed to the dandelion plant are also available from the honey! The mint honey we carry is similar to our multi-floral because the beehives are in the midst of expansive fields of spearmint grown in southern Alberta. Mint blossom honey has a herbal taste with only a slight menthol finish.
Many of the other honeys we carry - blueberry, raspberry, sunflower and orange blossom - are from hives used to pollinate those specific crops so the rule of proximity applies. We identify other honeys such as fireweed and knapweed by their distinctive colour, flavour and rate of crystallization. For imported honeys, a test of the pollen within them (called the melissopalynological method) provides a fully scientific result.
Determination of honey purity will be the subject of our next Hivelights!