Last year, out of frustration that I know that a lot of us have faced when buying honey, I wrote this post. Luckily for me it was read by a beekeeper (whose sister saw the article and sent him a link)

This bee-keeper who was obviously knowledgeable and passionate about bee keeping answered a lot of questions in that post and of course that got my interest. Several emails back and forth, he has answered a few questions that readers like yourself submitted. 

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I think it is always a good idea to know who is addressing one so I will let our bee-keeper introduce himself here:

My name is Femi and I founded Earthly Produce after attending a beekeeping presentation on a friends farm in Kwara state in 2009. I am a city boy turned tree hugger and spend way too much time dreaming about bees, trees and horses (my family does get squeezed in, sometimes).

I am a big believer in reforestation and conserving indigenous plants and trees, and exploring the benefits that can be sensibly exploited from them. I count amongst my favourite trees the majestic Iroko, and the noble Black Afara and the mighty Baobab all indigenous trees that are gradually being wiped out of our landscape. I am also partial to the smell of Ewuro (bitter leaf) flowers in full bloom.

Let's begin with the question that was asked the most. 

How can I tell when Honey is Authentic? Real?

This is a question I have to battle with most of the time and really, I don’t have a quick answer for it. As a bee-keeper I don’t have to worry about it because I know what I produce, as a honey packer I have built a strong relationship with my network of bee-keepers and that relationship is based on trust!

For you the consumer, there are many old wives tales on how to determine pure honey, I tend not to rely on these due to the poor science backing them up. I am not saying they are not true but I for one do not rely on them.

For instance I have heard people say that if ants cover it, it is not original! I ask the question, is it a particular ant that does not eat honey or ants in general?

One of the biggest prayers we have in the apiary is that ants do not descend on our hives because it is a battle the bees cannot win! Ants are resilient, once they discover honey, that hive is as good as gone!

So we take precautions to oil the base of the hive stands, remove any low hanging branches especially in the rainy season when the soldier ants migrate!

I don’t think there is a way to recognise pure honey without resulting to scientific testing....Femi of Earthly Produce

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The US is suffering from this same issue in preventing agro-chemical contaminated honey from countries like China.

It is a tough job for them! My best advice is to get to know your beekeeper! And be prepared to pay a premium because a lot of effort goes into producing it both for the bee and the beekeeper!

What is the difference between Raw Honey and Pure Honey?

Raw Honey is still in the Honeycomb while Pure Honey is harvested and packaged honey with no additives.

I recently got a new brand of local honey. Why is it that when I opened the bottle of honey, it made a "pop" sound like it was fermented?

Honey is hygroscopic in nature, which means it has a tendency to absorb moisture from the surrounding areas (scientist should please forgive my crude definition).

Once the bees deposit nectar into the honey comb, they dry it (remove excess moisture) by flapping their wings and evaporating the moisture in the honey and keep it air tight by placing a wax cover over the cell.

Wax, as we know is water proof!

Once the honey is sealed we say it is ripe, (that is the moisture content has been reduced to below 20% roughly).

It is stored that way in an airtight cell till the bees are ready to use it.

We make every effort to harvest only ripe honey and ensure that the equipment we use is clean and dry to avoid contaminating the honey.

If the water gets into the honey in significant quantity it could begin the process of fermentation and ultimately destroy the honey. We try to avoid harvesting unripe honey (honey with high moisture content) as this may initiate the fermentation process.

People say that honey attracts ants. The honey I have in my kitchen has never attracted ants. Why is that?

On the issue of ants and honey, I know from my experience in my kitchen that ants LOVE honey.

Once I finish harvesting, pressing etc, we have to clean the place carefully to ensure there are no traces of honey to avoid inviting the tenacious ants!

But I also know that some plants have insecticidal properties. Whether the honey of such plants carries these properties as well is subject to scientific study!

If my honey leaves some particles at the bottom of the container, what does it indicate?

Bees Honey Pollen Hive Nigeria

When honey is harvested in our part of the world, we cut the honeycomb, crush it into pieces and place it into a cloth and press it, squeezing out the honey.

Sometimes in the cells of honeycombs, you have pollen, wax residue, bees legs, wings, dust etc…these sometimes get into the honey. Depending on the harvesting and processing method, a lot of this may find its way into the honey.

We try to take a lot of care in our processing and there is a lot to be said for letting the honey settle after pressing.

Undoubtedly, there are individuals who do not take as much care in selecting combs to be pressed or using good filters to process their honey and this is where one ends up with less than perfect quality.

It must also be said that developed countries take presentation to another level and in so doing remove some of the “good bits” in the name of presenting a perfect bottle of honey to you the customer.

So how should you store your honey?

Use clean, dry well sealed containers to avoid moisture getting in. Storing in a dark, cool place in my opinion depends on the amount of honey you have.

Those that store 5 litres or more of honey at home should be more cautious, I would treat it as you would your keg of palm oil. Treat it with care, it is food! I store mine in well-sealed food grade plastic containers and I try not to keep it directly on the ground for fear that it might begin to crystallize but this is folly. Almost all honey will crystallize/ granulate at some stage depending on the properties.

Another thing to avoid is direct heat, Honey is stored in the hive away from direct sunlight in sealed cells, we should try our best to replicate that! Bear in mind that there are reports of 3,000year old honey! The longest I have kept honey is almost 2 years! If stored properly in proper containers with an airtight seal, it should last forever, more than I can say for us!

About Earthly Produce Limited
Earthly Produce Limited was founded in 2010 as an Apiary set in 5 acres of farmland a few miles outside Iwo in Osun state, Southwest Nigeria, we expanded to 15 acres in 2012. The main ethos driving the farm is based on sustainability, so we try our best to exclude agro-chemicals from our operations, this has not been very easy! We are strong supporters of indigenous trees and as such most of the original trees that were acquired with the land have been preserved. Since acquisition of the land, we have embarked on an indigenous tree planting scheme focusing on trees that are favourable to bees to sustain our colonies and provide as close to an all year round food source producing a wide variety of flavours.

At the heart of it, we are beekeepers and we do all we can to ensure that our bees are raised as naturally as possible with as little interference as possible! Beekeeping is a gradual process, our goal is to produce high quality honey that can be considered the best in Nigeria.

24 Comments

Nedoux

Hello NN,

Very informative, thank you.

Lol, my mum swears by that old wives’ tale about ants not swarming around original honey. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to make understand that honey is sweet and ants have a sweet tooth. In fairness to her, I have observed that the honey she purchases never ever attracts ants! 😀

Have a lovely weekend.

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Maryam

Owk very informative but I live in kaduna and I have bought honey from different people but they all attract ants the last one I bought was worst it was fermented but the lady assured me that it is original but after using it and having to battle to keep ants away from my kitchen I am not impressed at all. And I was told that some people mix honey with sugar to increase the quantity…is it true?.I just want to no where to get high quality honey in kaduna. Thank you in advance

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Femi

Hello Maryam, try the Beekeeping Extension society in Zaria, they should be able to find something for you. Google them.

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Feyikemi

hi Femi, do you train apiarists or can you give a referral as to where to get trained. Thanks.

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Femi

Hello Feyikemi,

Are these beginners or people with some beekeeping experience? If they are beginners then we can put together the basics of beekeeping (both theory and practicals), this will be enough to get you started with your own hive. Let me know what you have in mind. But you refer to apiarist, so I am not quite sure the level of experience they have. Please clarify.

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IfeomaK

I served as a youth corp member in a remote Born village. I was privileged to eat honey in its raw unadulterated form. We bought from Fulani herds men coming from the bush/desert. They sold the honey still in honeycomb. I observed that sometimes they brought dark brown honey and a times very light yellow gold shade. When I asked why the colour variance, I was told the colour depends on what the bees fed on in their immediate surrounding. It made some sense in that the honey harvested from rocky desert places were the light shades while those from densely vegetative environs were dark in color.

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Femi

I would be careful with the conclusion you are drawing from your observation. While I agree that the vegetation (hence the nectar consumed) is responsible for the colour of the honey, I would not conclude that the terrain has much to do with it. I am in what I would term grassland/ semi Forrest and I harvest both light and dark honey. No rocks in sight!

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Femi

I would also like to know what the honey tasted like. Honey hunters are known for using fire to burn the hives or excessive smoking.g of the hives before harvesting. Some, not all!

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Grace

I love raw honey and enjoy chewing on the comb. However, I bought honey with honeycomb in it and it was not pure. They mixed the honey with sugar syrup, then put the comb back in so it would look legit. My parents have a hive at their house now, so I can get honey from them when it is harvested and even bee pollen too which is supposed to be really good for you!

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Femi

Sometimes, the beekeeper feeds the bees during the dearth period when there is no food. E.g. during the rains. The bees convert this into food that will carry them through this period. Sometimes, there is some of that “honey” leftover. I am not giving this as a reason for adulterated honey!Ibut it does happen. I take chances with my bees antryry not to feed them, this results in migratory swarming. Itmeans we lose our colonies and have to build them up from scratch sometime between August and October. Not efficient I know …

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Ariella Fitness

very informative piece. please where can your honey be found. We are in lagos

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Funmi

hi Femi, I would like to know if your honey is available in Lagos. I trust NN for quality and I’m sure we can trust you too. This issue of getting authentic honey is a big one. I resort to buying imported sometimes but wouldn’t mind buying local if it can be trusted.

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Femi

Hello Funmi & Ariella. We have a pick up point in Magodo Isheri and we can probably deliver as well. Please bear in mind that the apiary is in Iwo, Osun state.

I understand your concern with the availability of authentic honey.

I would like to point out that honey is a seasonal crop. Think of mangoes, you are unlikely to find really good quality mangoes outside the season, this goes for honey as well. In the Southwest, honey flows (period when there is an abundance of nectar being secreted by flowers in bloom) between late October to somewhere before the onset of the rains, typically late April. early May. Most responsible beekeepers in the Southwest would not go past this as they have to leave some honey in the combs for the bees to feed on during the rainy season. I like the fresh late Dec honey/ early Jan, just after the harmattan.

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Fola

pls, can I have a contact address or a phone number for the pick up point at Magodo? thank you. great work!

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Abiola

Hello Femi

Thank you for the information. This is the first time I am hearing or reading the truth about honey. I would love to swap sugar with honey and I will definitely tell the health freaks at my place of work. Thank you so much.

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Oluwanifesimi

I bought honey from Earthly Produce a couple of months ago and I was impressed with the product and with their customer service. My mum who is highly critical of local honey was also impressed. Keep up the good work.

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Toroko

Hi Femi,
Thanks for sharing. how easy is it to have a personal bee hive? Just for family consumption.
And can you deliver to Port Harcourt?
Cheers:
T

Reply
Femi

Hello Gloria & Toroko,

Yes we do deliver outside of Lagos. Please send your request to honeybees@earthlyproducelimited.com.

Toroko, having a personal beehive is possible. It however depends on a few things.
1. Since it is for personal use you will probably want it close by. So how close can you have it considering that you may probably live in a residential area. You have to visit quite often.
2. If it is in a residential area, you need to consider the type of vegetation in the area, are there lots of flowering plants that can provide nectar, pollen and water that the bees need to survive. I had a hive in my compound in Old Bodija, Ibadan which still has a lot of trees and is close to the secretariat (which had a number of fruit trees) and Agodi gardens so there is a lot of forage material within a 3km radius which should suffice for a colony of bees.
3. If it is a residential area then you need to consider the temperament of bees in our part of the world. They can be a bit defensive especially when the combs are full of honey, they go into defensive mode at the slightest disturbance. So watch out for this. I had a small trap hive in the compound and never tried to harvest it
4. If it is a residential area then you have to worry about the harvest. Naturally you would harvest late in the evening but you need to make sure all windows are shut since the bees would look for the nearest source of light and may decide to vent their displeasure there. And you hope that they would have settled by the morning and carried on with business as usual. Never harvest in the daytime., unless you want to REALLY PISS OFF your neighbours and passersby!
5. If none of these conditions apply to you then it is a wonderful idea. A note of caution, word gets around quickly that you have your own source of “honey on tap”, DO NOT EXPECT TO ENJOY IT ALONE! Very soon you will go from one to two hives and before you know it, you have an apiary!!! Pure Honey is highly addictive, your family would settle for nothing less afterwards! All the best Toroko and thank you for the question.

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omowunmi

Mr femi. Am into skincare and Essence products and so I use honey a lot. Am from Ileogbo .Locating u wouldn’t be a problem, pls can u forward ur contact to 08091010854. We really need to talk more on this.

Reply

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