by Heather Morris
July is National Honey Month and to celebrate we’re going to share some interesting facts about this wonderful, sweet treat. Have some fun this month trying out some of its various uses and see for yourself how versatile and beneficial it is.
Local Honey Season: Honey season in Maryland (the gathering of bees making honey) typically runs from Tax Day to Independence Day (April 15-July 4). Local beekeepers generally harvest the honey in mid-July/August.
How is Honey Harvested?
- Bees extract nectar and pollen from a variety of blooming flowers and deposit into their honeycombs.
- By vigorously beating their wings, bees fan moisture from the nectar, which is broken down into simple sugars and eventually turns into honey.
- Bees cap the honeycombs with wax, which is removed by the beekeepers to collect the honey.
- Honey is collected by the beekeeper in a machine called a honey extractor, which spins and throws the honey out of the honeycombs.
- The beekeeper then strains the honey to remove any leftover pieces of wax and bottles it. No additives needed.
Fun Facts about Honey
- There are 300 different types of honey in the United States, each originating from a different flower source. Alfalfa, avocado, blueberry, buckwheat, clover, dandelion, and manuka are just a few.
The Local Scoop: The abundance of black locust in the area provides one of the main sources of nectar for our local bees. Fruit trees and orchards as well as wildflowers (dandelion, clover, etc.) and poplar are also common local favorites.
- The variation in color of honey is a result of the type of flower nectar it comes from. As a general rule of thumb, lighter honey is more mild and darker honey has a stronger flavor.
- Climate (temperature and rainfall) can affect the flavor. So even honey from the same place can vary in flavor from year to year.
- Honey is the only insect-created food.
- “Raw honey” is a natural, more pure form of honey. Processed/pasteurized honey is heated and bottled in a factory and tends to lose some of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
The Local Scoop: Raw honey can be found locally at places such as Baugher’s, Bullock’s, Evermore Farm and Hahn’s Pork N’ Beans. Some of the best places to find it are also at local farmers’ markets, the 4-H/FFA Fair, festivals and local beekeepers’ Facebook pages, like Elizabeth’s Fancy Apiary. Keep your eyes peeled for signs on the road advertising honey for sale. You may have hit the jackpot and found a local beekeeper’s stash! You can also email the Carroll County Beekeepers Association at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will put you in touch with a local beekeeper who has honey available.
- A colony is made up of about 50,000 bees. 95 percent are female (the worker bees), and the rest are male (drones). Their mama, the queen bee, can lay an average of 1,500 eggs a day
- Female workers bees have stingers, but their brothers, the drones, don’t.
- A colony of bees has to collect nectar from around 2 million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey.
The Local Scoop: Most bees stay within a few-mile radius of their hives to collect their nectar and pollen. It is important for local beekeepers to keep the bees’ food supply clean (pesticide-free) and plentiful.
- A beehive can produce approximately 100 pounds of honey in one year.
The Local Scoop: Due to the overuse of insecticides and herbicides, beekeepers in some areas have seen their production drop dramatically.
- Honey doesn’t spoil. The process of the bees flapping their wings so vigorously helps remove excess water, giving it a long shelf life. If you notice your supply is turning solid, or crystalizing, just stick it out in the sun on a nice, warm day for a bit and it will liquefy again. You can also place it in a warm, water bath — but don’t microwave it!
The Benefits of Honey
Honey is known for its medicinal, nutritional and cosmetic benefits.
- Honey has antioxidants and bacteria-fighting properties to fight infection (especially manuka). It has been used for years to treat wounds and burns.
- Eat a spoonful of honey to relieve a sore throat or cough.
- Eating local, raw honey is believed to help with seasonal allergies. The repeated exposure to the pollen in the area is believed to help relieve symptoms.
- Eat honey for a quick boost of energy in the morning, or at night to aid in digestion and to get a good night’s sleep.
- Honey can help prevent acid reflux by lining the stomach and esophagus.
- The phytonutrients that give honey its antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties contain immune-boosting powers.
- While honey has many amazing medicinal properties, do not feed it to children under one year old as it can cause a rare form of food poisoning called infant botulism.
- Honey is made up of glucose and fructose. It also contains minerals including iron, calcium, phosphate, sodium chloride, potassium, zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamins B and C.
- As a natural sweetener, honey can be used as a healthier alternative to added sugar. You can use less because it is sweeter tasting. Be careful though — it has more calories per teaspoon than sugar and is high in carbohydrates.
- Due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, raw honey has been used to combat a variety of skin care issues.
- Natural moisturizer for dry skin/cleanser to open pores: Apply a thin layer over your face and leave on for several minutes before washing off with warm water.
- Spot-treat acne: Dab a bit of honey on a blemish to help with breakouts.
- Dandruff. Mix 3 tablespoons of raw honey and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 cup of warm water. Spray onto your hair and scalp, leave in for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
- Beeswax is very moisturizing and is used to make products like lip balm and lotions. It is also used to make candles. The Local Scoop: McDaniel Honey Farm (mcdanielhoneyfarm.com) in Manchester sells lip balm, lotion and tapers made from local, raw honey and beeswax.
This honey information came from a variety of sources including local bee farmers and the Carroll County Beekeepers Association, but we always encourage folks to seek professional medical advice when making decisions on health and wellness.