Honey & Beekeeping FAQ'S

Candlemaking FAQ's
Vineyard & Winemaking FAQ's


How much honey does a honeybee produce in a year?

Although a colony of honeybees (40,000 or more in the summer) can easily produce over a hundred pounds of honey, a single honeybee produces only about a teaspoon full in her life.

What has caused the massive loss of honeybees in the last few years?

Honeybee colonies are being decimated by varroa mites. Varroa mites are a mite the size of a pin head that grows on the honeybee pupae and causes the honeybees to weaken and die.

Recently, the beekeeping community has had large losses by people moving bees for pollination. This has been called "Colony Colapse Dissorder." I believe it is more problems caused by weakened hives, nutrition and varoa mite.

Do the honeybees make honey from pollen?

Flowers produce both nectar and pollen to attract pollinating insects.

The bees bring nectar back to the hive and concentrate it, sort of in the same fashion that maple syrup is made from dilute maple sap, and turn it into honey.

When they visit the flowers, they get pollen all over themselves and pack it into pouches on the sides of their legs, and bring it back to the hive. The pollen is then packed into cells around the brood nest.

The honey is the carbohydrate part of their diet, and the pollen is the protein part (think beans).

 Will bacteria survive in honey?

Honey has bacteria fighting properties! Honey soaks up water like a powerful sponge. Therefore, living organisms in honey tend to lose much of their life supporting moisture to the honey and their growth is effectively stopped. Honey has historically been used for wounds and first aid for cuts, abrasions and burns.

What is the difference between Creamed and Raw honey?

Not very much. Creamed honey sometimes has finely granulated crystals of honey blended in to insure a very fine texture. Raw honey is straight from the extractor. Most of our creamed honey is completely raw.

Do Bumble Bees make honey?

Yes, but only a few pounds. The bumble bee colony will average about 250 bees in the summer (honeybees about 50,000) and produce 1-2 lbs of honey (a honeybee colony will produce 50 - 250 lb). Only the queen will live over the winter.

To begin with lets take a look at a bumble bee and her distant cousin the honey bee, with whom she is most often confused. Unlike the honey bee the humble bumble is gentle and slow. As she trundles around the garden collecting pollen and nectar she is quite different to her streamlined relative who dashes about everywhere. Even her body shape is different. The bumble is round and furry and not at all like her more wasp shaped cousin. In fact there are three kinds of bumble bees, the large Queen, the smaller imperfectly formed female worker bee and the tiny male or drone bee. All are seen at different times of year. Only the Queen and the worker bees have a sting.

What is the difference between light colored honey and dark honey?

The specific flavor of each honey depends on the particular nectar the bees gather. When bees collect nectar from large growths of one certain blossom, the honey is labeled "single-flower" honey; examples are clover, lavender, sunflower and star thistle. Sometimes bees gather nectar from a variety of sources, making multi-floral honey called "wildflower". Flavors range from light and fruity to tangy and rich.

As a general rule, light-colored honey is mild in flavor, while dark honey is more assertive. Clover, acacia, basswood and orange blossom are some of the lighter varieties; they make wonderful sweeteners for cereal, tea, fruit salads and salad dressings. In the middle range, you find star thistle, Florida tupelo, sage, alfalfa and honeys from berry blossoms, which add a stronger flavor. Dark honey, such as buckwheat, is used like brown sugar or molasses; it works well on oatmeal and in pancakes and whole-grain breads. Flavored honeys are those to which flavoring agents, such as fruit or herb essences, have been added

In a study that analyzed 19 samples of honey from 14 different floral sources, University of Illinois scientists found that honey made from nectar collected from Illinois buckwheat flowers packs 20 times the antioxidant punch as that produced by bees that lap up California sage. Clover, perhaps the most common plant source tapped by honey bees, scored in the middle of the rankings.

Science Dailey

What do honeybees do in the winter?

Whenever the air temperature drops below 55 degrees or so, the honeybees start to form a ball shaped cluster inside the beehive. The colder it gets, the "tighter" the cluster is. Even with zero degrees outside the temperature inside the cluster may be 90 degrees.

Usually in November the queen stops laying eggs and raising more honeybees. In January the brood raising resumes with sometimes only a small patch of brood (baby bees) and then the bees gradually increase it as the warmer temperatures resume.

In the winter the honeybees maintain this inner hive temperature by consuming honey and "shivering" which creates heat. The outside layer of bees become very cold and they are frequently rotated inside the cluster and replaced with other bees.

The only time the bees leave the hive in the winter is when the weather breaks and it is 30 degrees or so and then the bees take short flights to relieve themselves of feces. Many times the beekeeper will see lots of bees in the snow that got too cold and never made it back.

 Why do Honeybees Swarm?



 Honeybees usually swarm in the Spring.

When the colony gets too crowded and not enough room inside or perhaps the bees decide that the queen is too old and not laying enough eggs, the honeybee colony will make preparations to swarm.

The bees will start raising queen cells - many of them - sometimes more than a dozen.

A week or so later about half of the bees will leave the hive with the old queen to look for a new location.

The rest of the hive will stay behind, one of the queens will hatch out, kill the other queens and the hive will start to build up again.

This is natures way of the colony reproducing itself. The beekeeper tries to avoid swarming as it reduces the honey crop.

Why does the honey from the sales stand vary from year to year.

The honeybees make honey from the nectar of the flowers that bloom over the summer, and this is influenced greatly by the weather - dry, wet, etc.

Some years the honey is darker or lighter than other years - the beekeeper does always not have a lot of control in this.

Some honey, such as star thistle will hardly ever granulate, and many of the clovers granulate quite quickly. This may make the honey you purchase from our bulk tank stay liquid longer in some years than others. Raw honey can sometimes granulate in a few months.

The honey in our tank also comes from many areas in Michigan - usually from our honeybees but in some years from other local beekeepers.

It is usually raw honey from this years crop, but sometimes the first few weeks that we are open, before the new crop comes in we have honey from last year. This honey has been warmed slightly and may not granulate as quickly as new raw honey.

Any variations in the honey we sell are caused by Nature and not by any additions of water or sugar as some people have asked. This kind of adulteration is illegal and not allowed in the USA.

What is the National Honey Board?

WHO they ARE:  The National Honey Board (NHB) consists of 12 members, including producers, packers, importers and cooperative members, nominated by the industry and appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

NHB’S BEGINNINGS : NHB began in the 1980s when honey producers and other industry representatives got together to discuss a powerful new idea: What would happen if they pooled their resources to spread the word about honey? By working together, the industry could advertise, conduct research and promote honey in ways that were simply too costly without a cooperative effort. In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Honey Research, Promotion and Consumer Information Act that created NHB. The Order, written by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to dictate how the Board operates, was approved in a referendum of honey producers and importers.


  • Offers consumers honey information through recipes and photographs provided to newspaper and magazineeditors, as well as other media.
  •  Works with the foodservice industry to educate chefs about honey and to maintain and increase honeyusage among restaurants, bakeries and other foodservice avenues.
  • Funds research projects designed to find new and improved uses for honey in foods and other products.
  • Funds research to find ways to help beekeepers maintain colony health.
  • Provides honey promotional materials for beekeepers and other honey industry members.
  • Promotes U.S. honey overseas, with help from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. 

The National Honey Board Website

Do the vines need the honeybees for pollination?

This question was prompted by an interesting question sent to us:

  • Hi Honeyflow farm, I'm a beekeeping hobbyist in South Carolina.  This weekend I was looking in to the relationship between vineyards and bees, wondering about pollination.  I never found anything, but it looks as if y'all might know. 
  • Do wine grapes require the kind of pollination that bees do?  If so, has anyone come up with the idea of marketing honey associated with a certain grape?  I can just see the Napa valley tasting shops selling Cabernet Honey at $28/lb. 

Response - Interesting ideas.  The bees that we keep at our farm have no connection to the vineyard.  The grapes do not need bees to be pollinated - they are wind pollinated. 

We rarely see honeybees in the vineyard during bloom.  Most of the time, like now, we do not even have honeybees on our property - they are at 10 different locations (farms) in the surrounding counties.

How do you substitute honey for sugar?

To use honey in any of your favorite baked goods, follow these tips:

  • Honey is one and a half times sweeter than sugar, so start by replacing up to half the sugar called for with honey. 
  • For every cup of honey, reduce the total liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup.
  • Because honey is acidic, add 1 tsp of baking soda for each cup of honey used.

How long can honey be stored and still safely eaten?

Apparently, honey can last forever, if stored well. The ancient Egyptians left honey, among other assorted luxuries, in burial chambers to make the dead happy. Some of it, unearthed in modern times, is still edible!

How to store honey on the Beekeeping 101 Website...

Did Honey exist in Biblical times?

In biblical times, one of the known sweetening agents in the world was honey.

Honey was valued highly. "Honey in the rock" was wild honey found in rock crevasses, contrasted to honey in the field produced by domesticated bees. Honey was recognized as a preservative. When Alexander the Great died in Babylon, his body was encased in honey before making the long trip home.

Do we purchase honey?

In some years, we cannot even come close to producing the amount of honey necessary for our customers that come to our sales stand. In order to take care of everyone we do purchase honey from other local beekeepers in our area.

These are small farms that produce honey just like we do. We consider these beekeepers our extended family since they are our friends, produce and extract honey in the same manner as we do, and we trust them. These farmers may be your neighbors - you just do not know it.

Their honeybees are harvesting honey from the same nectar sources that our bees do - most all in the Michigan Thumb area.

Where did Honey Bees come from?

Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers. The indians called them "White Man's Stinging Flies".

What beekeeping records are in the Bible?

Biblical Bee-Traders

Archaeologist have unearthed the 3,000 year old remains of honey bees (Apis mellifera) inside clay hives in northern Israel. The ancient insects don't match the local subspecies, suggesting that beekeepers imported their stock from hundreds of miles away. Among the fragmented bee parts, one leg and a couple of wings were intact enough to identify the subspecies. Based on their physical proportions, the appendage probably came from A. mellifera annatoliaca, which lives in cool, moist climates of Trukey. Importing these hives was probably worth the trouble: The Anatolian subspecies is more docile and produces more honey than Israel's native honey bees.

(PNAS 107 June 22, 2010; Reported in American Scientist)

Can a honeybee sting more than once?

NO - Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked.

Unlike the stingers in wasps, the honeybee's stinger is barbed. Once the stinger pierces a mammal's soft skin, the attached venom pouch pumps a mixture containing melittin, histamine, and other enzymes into the target. When the bee pulls away, the barb anchors the stinger in the victim's body. The bee leaves the stinger and venom pouch behind and soon dies due to abdominal rupture. When a honeybee stings another insect, such as a honey-plundering moth, she does not leave her stinger planted in the invader. As she retreats from the insect victim, her barbed stinger tears through the insect's exoskeleton.

  • A drone (male bee) has no stinger and cannot sting.
  • A queen can sting, but rarely does.

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