Honey

The Venerable Bede writing in the 8th century said:

Hibernia … et salubritate ac serenitate aerum … Diues lactis ac mellis insula …
731 Bede, Ecclesiastical History

Or for you and I, Ireland has a fine climate, and is a land rich in milk and honey.

Honey has been called many things:

  • Food of the gods
  • The mead of Teutons
  • The Amrita of India
  • Spit from the gods, delivered by the bees
  • Sweetness of heaven, Honeydew.

So what is Honey and how is it made?

Main constituents Lesser Constituents
Fructrose 38 Higher sugars 1.4
Glucose 30 Gluconic 0.57
Moisture 17 Ash 0.17
Diastase 21 Nitrogen 0.4
Maltrose 7

PH value 3.9

Basically bees collect nectar from the plants as a reward for pollinating them. This nectar is a weak sugar solution (up to 70% moisture) but it also contains flavours, aromas and minerals from the plants.  The bee sucks this up with its tongue and stores it internally in its honey sack, it then continuously circulates it between tongue and honey sack, during which process the moisture content is reduced and enzymes break it down into honey as we know it.

On arrival at the hive the honey/nectar is passed to a house bee who continues the process and finally spreads it out in cells to dry before it gets finally stored and sealed with a moisture content of 18%.

The range of flavours, colouring and consistency of honey is boundless as there are so many variables; for example different plants, soils and weather.

Types of honey and characteristics

In Wexford most of the Honey is multi floral,  The ones that stand out are Canola (oil seed rape) which crystalises very rapidly and is usually white in colour.  Heather- Ling – honey is dark colour and jelly like in consistency and strong flavoured. Clover honey is almost clear and has a light flavour.  If we are lucky, and there is a nectar flow, some years we can get Hawthorn Honey which has a rich colour, aroma and taste.

Honey Shows

Gerry Boland receiving cup for 24 Jar class at Irish honey show from Micheal Gleason and Philip McCabe secretary FIBKA and Apimondia representative.
Gerry Boland receiving cup for 24 Jar class at Irish honey show from Micheal Gleason and Philip McCabe secretary FIBKA and Apimondia representative.

Honey shows offer an opportunity to compare different honeys, and establish the standard quality that should be aimed for. Honey shows are regularly held throughout the country, and some of our members have been particularly successful. If you would like to produce honey to show standard, then there is a wealth of experience available within the association to help you.