Honey Varietals of Ohio
Little known to so many, honey bees are a critical component and fragile part of our ecosystem and lives. Those of us who are involved in agriculture or who have a direct connection to a honey bee related industry realize the vital role that the bee has in our lives. The life cycle of the bee fulfills a necessary step of pollination for our fields and forest. Many of my friends that farm full-time have beehives just for this purpose. The honey bee is in danger though. Their numbers are decreasing, and it is not completely clear as to why. This makes understanding bees and taking care of them even more crucial. Additionally, most people including myself do not realize how hard and complicated raising bees for honey really is.
My family does not raise bees for honey, but we do feed the bees and are conscientious about not killing them. My aunt who owns "Julie B Honey" does raise bees though and there are members of my 4-H club who raise bees too. I have interviewed them about why they raise bees, and both said they started working with bees solely because they are becoming so endangered. Maybe public awareness is increasing. My aunt Julie who is located in Cleveland said that her honey is mostly clover and would be classified as wildflower honey varietal. She said that bees can fly up to 6 miles to gather nectar, so she cannot say for sure where her bees are gathering from. Based on the color, smell and flavor of her honey she thinks it is mostly clover. Her honey is lighter in color and flavor in the late spring compared to in the fall. In recent years, she has only collected in the fall though. Her reasoning was that she wanted to make sure that she did not hurt her queen, and to help ensure that the larvae would have enough nutrients to get through the cold winters in her region. Additionally, she read that the more you collect, the greater chance there is for mites and disease to get into the hives. She does not want to risk hurting the hive since preserving bees was her purpose for starting. The Bailey family in my club also only collects once a year in the fall in order to help keep the bees healthy. They said most of their honey comes from area trees and wildflowers. Their honey is much darker and richer than my aunts. This is a sign that it may be more of a tulip poplar honey or forest related according to my research. We live in a very forested area along the Ohio River, so this would make sense.
My Mom and I visited the "Jungle Jims" store in our area in order to do research for this paper. They have a honey section which showcases varietals from around the United States and even from other countries. I was able to try a number of different varietals of honeys. I could see the difference in color based on type and the time of harvest. I always thought that all honey pretty much tasted the same, but that was because I had only tried wildflower honey. One varietal that I found to be particularly interesting was lavender honey. I am not referring to honey infused with lavender oil. True lavender honey is made from lavender flowers and is sometimes infused with lavender buds. There are a couple of large lavender farms near us in southwestern Ohio. I interviewed Vivian from Jaybird Farms in Sardinia, Ohio. She said the lavender honey must be harvested in July to get the best flavor and even then, she will oftentimes infuse it with lavender buds but never oil. This flower creates a unique honey that smells so much like the flower. The reason I like this particular type is the effect it has had on my family. My Mom bought some to bring home for my brother whom she uses lavender oils with. My brother is autistic and has trouble falling asleep. He loves the smell and flavor of it and seems to calm down with it. This might be an effective marketing use for this type of honey. She uses it in tea but, I also found a recipe for lavender honey butter and for lavender honey ice cream.
Lastly, I interviewed my great uncle who I found out used to be a honey bee inspector for Butler County Ohio. He said that in our area the varietal is very dependent on the time of year that you collect the honey. In the spring it is mostly Black Locust and then the honey transitions to Dandelion. By late summer most of the honey in our area is clover. According to him, it is very difficult to sell honey as a particular varietal. This is one of the reasons why specific varietals are so expensive. Some of the types are very specific to an area and/or a season. You have to collect after bloomings to prevent the types of honey from mixing. You also run a larger risk of damaging the hive because you have to collect at times that might not be ideal for the bees. This is why people like my aunt who only collect in the fall have to call their honey "wildflower." It is a mix of all of the types of honey from throughout the year.
This essay, along with the tasting and interviews that I have done have been very infomative. Not only did I learn more about the dire state that our bee population is in, I also learned about the hard work and effort that beekeepers put into their hives. Raising bees and selling honey is much more difficult than I realized. They have to put a great deal of thought and planning into how to obtain the best and correct product, but also keep their bees safe and healthy.
Bailey. Brian. "Raising Bees.' 4 Jan. 2019.
Bengough. Julie L. "Raising Bees." 10 Jan. 2019.
Casey, Terrance. "Honey Bee Varietals of Southwestern Ohio: 12 Jan. 2019.
Jaybird Farm. Vivian. 'Raising Lavender and Bees.' 12 Jan. 2019.
Jungle Jim. Robert. "Taste Testing Honey: 3 Jan. 2019.