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Honey - Honey Bees

Honey | Honey Bees | Beekeeping



Honey is a sweet viscous liquid derived from the nectar of flowers, by bees.  Over 300 varieties of honey are produced annually in the U.S. alone, the flavor and color of which are largely determined by the flower from which the nectar is gathered. Common flavors of honey include clover, orange blossom, gallberry, blackberry, blueberry, buckwheat, and tupelo honey.

Honey is used largely in baking, because it is hydroscopic meaning it draws moisture from it's surrounding environment. A small quantity of honey added to a pastry recipe will thus keep it fresh longer than use of other sweeteners. Raw honey also contains enzymes that aid in its digestion, and it contains several vitamins and antioxidants, the latter of which also retard oxidation and thus spoilage. When honey is cooked, it appears to acquire additional, functionally important antioxidants, according to related studies at Clemson (S.C.) University. It is an excellent natural preservative.

Honey itself does not spoil, so long as it's moisture content remains below 17%. Natural, raw honey varies from 14% to 18% moisture content. Because of its high sugar concentration, it kills bacteria by osmotically lysing them. Natural airborne yeasts can not become active in honey because the moisture content is too low. Honey found in earthen vessels in the Egyptian tombs, although buried for centuries, was unspoiled.

Honey has numerous medicinal properties as well, and has been used as a folk remedy for burns, cataracts, ulcers, and wounds; all conditions in which oxidation can play a substantial role. Antioxidant-rich honeys may also find a role in skin-care products. Honey can be used to produce alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), a vital ingredient in the growing market for skin creams and moisturizers. Several manufacturers already use honey in the preparation of moisturizers, and because antioxidants can protect key components of the skin's cells from damage, many firms add antioxidants to their products, especially sunscreens. Beeswax is also commonly used in cosmetic products and lip balms.

The study of pollens and spores in raw honey, Melissopalynology; can determine floral sources of honey and is used to combat fraud and inaccurate labeling of honey. By determining the plant from which the pollen spores originated, it is also possible to determine where the honey was produced. 

Honey production in the U.S. totaled 186 million pounds in 2001. California, North Dakota, Florida, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota accounted for 63 percent of production. Exports of U.S. honey packaged for retail sales totaled nearly 3.6 million pounds in 2001 while bulk honey exports totaled over 3.7 million pounds. Sizeable quantities of honey are exported to a wide range of countries in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Honey imports into the United States in 2001 totaled 145.0 million pounds. Argentina accounted for 31% of the imported quantity, China 27%, Canada 16%, Vietnam 9%, and Mexico 6%.  The remaining 11% came from an assortment of countries around the world. Based on producer stocks, imports, exports, domestic production, and resident U.S. population, U.S. per capita consumption of honey was about 1.21 pounds per person in 2001.


Honey Bees


Honey Bees presently live throughout most of the world, however this was not always the case. Honey Bees evolved in the old world - the European, African and Asian continents, where they were confined until the 16th century. As with most things, man introduced the Honey Bee elsewhere in his travels abroad. The first documented evidence of Honey Bees in North America is established around 1638. The first Honey Bees were introduced to Australia in 1822, and New Zealand in 1842. Honey Bees were introduced to the west coast of North America around 1850, landing in California from whence they were taken to Oregon, and on to British Columbia. 

Honey Bees common to much of the world's honey production today are descendants of one of the European races of - apis mellifera - Italian, Caucasian, Carniolan, etc. Most of the bees common to Africa are a subspecies of Apis mellifera adansonii. Although extremely aggressive by nature Apis meliferra adansonii is an excellent producer. The strain was introduced to Brazil in 1956 in attempts to hybridize existing colonies and increase production. The resultant Africanized hybrid, although a better producer proved even more aggressive. Commonly known as "Killer Bees", the Hybrid has over the last 40 years spread over most of South America, Central America, and into the southern portions of the United States.

Honey Bees native to much of the Asian continent are of species - Apis Cerana. These honey bees resemble Apis meliferra in many respects, although they are slightly smaller. The European honey bee has proven a better producer and is replacing common production stocks throughout much of this part of the world. 

The Melipondae or Stingless Bees are also known honey producers in tropical regions. Different species of this Genus are native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Central America. Although stingless these bees have other means of defending themselves that are equally displeasing to their enemies, including man.

For more on Honey Bees and Beekeeping in general see Wikipedia the Open Source - Free Encyclopedia.




Beekeeping hasn't been around forever, but man robbed honey from bees' nests in the wild even in primitive times. A painting discovered in a rock shelter in the mountains of eastern Spain depicting this pre-beekeeping event, has been dated 7000 B.C. In early times the colony of bees was often killed in such forays. However, man began to safeguard the future of the his bee colonies over time, and thus beekeeping was born. Early beehives were likely sections of hollow trunks cut from the tree. In other regions such as the middle east, pottery vessels were and still are often used to hive bees. Clay pipes were used in some areas, as were woven baskets used in many farming regions.

Beekeeping was introduced to the modern beehive, by American beekeeper Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, in 1851. The Langstroth beehive utilized a 3/8 inch bee-space between movable combs, which the bees respected and did not build additional comb in, lacing the hives contents together. This had been a common failure in previous attempts at movable comb hives, and proved a turning point for beekeeping as we know it today. By 1861, the Langstroth movable comb hive was broadly used in the United States, and was soon thereafter introduced to other countries.

Beekeeping saw further advancement with introduction of the centrifugal honey extractor, invented around 1865. The Queen excluder, also invented around this time, enabled the beekeeper to confine the queen bee to the brood chamber, and thus too separate the honey and brood combs. The pattern of modern beekeeping is thus defined as having been established from during the period from 1850 to 1890.

Migratory Beekeepers account for about two thirds of the 3 million colonies of honey bees in the United States, these are  beekeepers that travel from honey crop to honey crop, and state to state with their honey bees. The seasonal migration at Thomas Honey begins in South and Central Florida as early as March with the Orange Blossom honey flow. From there migrating to North Florida and the Florida Panhandle for Gallberry, Wildflower and Tupelo honey. The bees are then shipped to North Dakota mid-June for the clover honey crop, where they remain until early September. At least a portion of the Bees upon their return to Florida, are moved to pollinate produce crops in south Florida, where they remain until the following spring when the migration north resumes. The remainder are kept in North Florida where they are fed sugar syrup over the winter, and attempts to grow replacements for the colonies lost over the year are undertaken. Often said losses will exceed 30% of the total operation throughout the year.

Pollination is another means of potential income for the modern day beekeeper. It is only in the latter half of the last century that pollination practices have become common place. Because of the mobile nature of honey bees in commercial beekeeping, and thus the ability to move large numbers of bees into a crop in expeditious fashion, they are unsurpassed as pollinators. Crop yields benefit substantially from the introduction of bees, often seeing yields increase anywhere from 30 - 60%. It is estimated that approximately 1/3 of the total human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect pollinated plants. Honey Bees provide about 80 percent of that pollination. In California where over half of the world's entire almond crop is grown, it is estimated that over a million hives of bees are needed to pollinate the almond crop alone.

Although beekeepers have battled a number of diseases in Honey Bees for many years, in recent years Bee Mites and Hive Beetles have presented a greater problem. Miticides and pesticides are available to rid the hives of these pests, however they leave residual traces of their active ingredients and thus cannot be used during the honey flow. At least a portion of the bees on the Asian continent fight these pest naturally, and attempts to breed this trait into apis mellifera, the common honey bee are underway.

For more on Honey Bees and Beekeeping in general see Wikipedia the Open Source - Free Encyclopedia.


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