Traditional Honey Harvest and Extraction Process
Traditionally honey was extracted in the month of Jan. Look around you all the native flower plant and herbs bloom by end of aug till Jan. So the honey contains nectar and pollen of these wild herbs. Introduction of cash crops like cashew, rubber etc spoiled the essence of honey. Even wild mango trees bloom between mid of November till December. However hybrid mango trees bloom anytime. Same with almost all wild trees. However there are certain seasons when flowering can delay.
Traditionally honey was considered as medicine and consumed as and when required along with combination of herbs. It is also an adaptogen because the nectar and pollen of wild herbs has adaptogen qualities (Ashwaganda is one of the best adaptogen, trust me there will be no stress if you consume it, body recovers very well, provided you get naturally grown ashwaganda), honey also has the ability to carry medicine and other nutrients to each part of cells, as per ayurveda it is known as “yogavahi” which helps and accelerates the bioavailability of the original drug. Since honey is already digested by bees, so it was considered medicine. But look at modern day marketing; honey is being used instead of jam and other spreads for daily basis.
Honey from cash crops has absolutely no medicinal value. Not just the quality it is also loaded with antibiotics fed to bees and other chemicals sprayed onto the tree which gets passed on to the honey. Modern day honey, in my opinion, is just glucose and few other sugars with chemicals. A waste of money.
Commercial mango orchards spray copper sulfate just after flowering so that they stay intact for longer time. If the flowers shed off then the production drops drastically.
Agmark or any other certification doesn’t test honey for it’s medicinal value. It is just certified hygienic for consumption. Almost all the honey you buy, including the Agmark ones,are supplied by farmers which are extracted from cashew and rubber plantations in Kerala. Rubber honey is not from its flower rather from leaf shoots. This is true in other parts of the world too as most honey is derived from mono-plantations.
Even organic honey is no good as it will be from a mono crop. Wild is absolutely not possible to be sold on large scale and the unhealthy ways tribal’s extracted it will never get passed by any certifying organization. Having said that, there are some great quality honeys still available like the ones extracted from the Himalayan mountains, northeastern states, Sundarbans and the Nilgiris. However, once it reaches the hands of merchants it’s quality becomes dubious.
Honey is to food what gold is to metals. Honey does not lose any of it’s quality or quantity even over 100 years. This is the only exception in our entire range of edible foods. More than 3000 year old honey was found in an Egyptian pyramid which was found to be edible. So why does honey from modern farms get spoiled and it has an expiry date?
It takes minimum of 7 days for bigger bee to store honey in each cell and seal. Bees then vaporize moisture and seal the cell; this procedure is common knowledge among researchers now. But I am sure there is a resting period which may explain the expiration date. Modern day apiculturists don’t even wait for 7 days. Some extract honey on 3rd or 4th day before bees are done extracting all the moisture. After honey is extracted most farmers heat it in-house before sending for distribution.
The traditional practice was to extract honey on full moon day in the month of January. This honey doesn’t get spoiled and is of good quality. Also gives a chance for bees to recover and collect honey for the coming year.
So coming back to Stingless Bee’s Honey Extraction process
List of things required.
- Sharp Knife
- 2 to 3 spoon
- Muslin cloth
- Glass jar
- Pot shaped vessel with some water and cotton cloth to cover its mouth.
Since stingless bees don’t have a particular pattern, so it is difficult to extract honey by centrifuge method. So far, separate honey chamber for stingless bees are not yet very popular in India.
It is advised to build your bees in a cylindrical shape hive (large bamboo is ideal). It is very easy to extract honey from bamboo. Just open the two half’s and cut out the honeycombs and place it in a bowl. Make sure you don’t use your hand. Even the vessel and tools should be clean. Yes it’s as simple as that. Make sure you cover your ears and eyes. This is where they attack and trust me it’s really difficult to work.
Using a spoon, squeeze the piece of honeycomb against the walls of the bowl. Scoop out the residual wax into another container. Now place the honey in strong sunlight for 1 to 2 hours. This will reduce the viscosity of the honey. Now tie the muslin cloth on the mouth of the glass jar.
Now pour the honey onto the muslin cloth very slowly and deliberately. The speed of the flow should be controlled. IT SHOULD NOT BE MORE THAN THE THICKNESS OF A 1 INCH NAIL. If flow is too fast then it will overflow.
Once filtered, add one or two corns of black pepper and seal the jar.
How to Process Bee wax (Propolis)
Now place the pot shaped vessel with water on flame and then tie a piece of cloth on the mouth. And on top of the cloth keep the bee wax. (Image)
After a few minutes when water starts to evaporate bee wax will melt. Let the whole wax melt and keep moving it gently so that wax drains off. Don’t waste too much time on this part as complete extraction of wax is not possible. Now let the water cool. On top of the water there will be hard wax settle. Preserve it in a good container.
This wax has many benefits. Traditionally it was used for cracked heels. However, now we know that matured ghee is better for cracked heels. Cracked heel is a sign of disturbed vata as per ayurvedic text.
Do share if you are aware of different ways of handling sting-less bee honey and wax.