Our Process

How our honey gets from the hive to you.

Local, raw honey is not the same product as mass-produced honey you find in the supermarket. We welcome you to have a peek behind our curtain to see exactly how we harvest the honey from our colonies and prepare it for delivery to you.

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Honeybees in managed hives live in one or more boxes called the "brood chamber" which contains all the young brood, pollen, and honey the bees need to survive throughout the year. The honey sold by Aberdeen Apiary comes only from the "honey supers," which are boxes placed on top of the brood chamber into which the bees will store only excess honey.

The bees are gently brushed from each frame of comb with a horsehair brush. Because the bees are oriented to their hive, the bees brushed away will take flight and find their way back home.

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Harvested honey can be left at room temperature if it is extracted within 48 hours. Any longer than that and pests such as wax moths and hive beetles which are naturally present in the colony and which are kept under control by the honeybees can cause damage to the stored comb.
So, honeycomb that is kept for a longer period of time is hard frozen. Once its time for extraction, the comb is simply thawed and it returns to its natural liquid state.

Honeycomb is essentially rows and rows of sealed hexagonal jars. Honeybees collect nectar from their local environment, mix it with enzymes in their stomachs which breaks it down into simple sugars, and then dry the mixture in open cell honeycomb until it reaches a moisture content of about 18% at which point it becomes permanently shelf-stable. Once the nectar reaches this state, it is considered "honey" and the bees seal off the "jar" with a thin layer of wax.

In order to extract the honey, these lids need to be removed.

How is this different from "regular" honey?

Though a bit more tedious, we use uncapping combs rather than heated knives to ensure that we do not burn any part of our honey and thereby alter the flavor.

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The uncapped frames are placed vertically into a centrifugal extractor which spins the frames at a moderate speed. Honeycomb is built to angle slight upwards and so by placing the comb vertically with the top of the frame facing outwards and spinning it, the honey will be flung out of the cells and into the tank. The process takes about 10 minutes and we can extract up to 12 frames at a time.

How is this different from "regular" honey?

Mass-produced honey is extracted in similar machines, though at a much larger scale. 100 or more frames of honey, potentially from as many different colonies are extracted simultaneously and mixed which creates one homogeneous product. By working in small batches, we are able to preserve the inherently unique flavor of honey collected by the individual colonies.

Extracted honey is then run through a fine mesh sieve to remove small flakes of wax and other debris down to 500 microns in size. This process results in clear, clean honey WITHOUT removing the pollen, which ranges in size from 10 to 150 microns, naturally present in the honey. Not only does this produce a complete, wholesome product, but by examining the pollen found in honey, it can be determined when and where the nectar made into honey was collected by the bees.

How is this different from "regular" honey?

Mass-produced honey is typically heated and filtered in order to produce a crystal clear product that will usually not crystalize. Heating causes the enzymes in honey to break down and changes the flavor while filtering removes all the pollen from the honey. Pollen is the usual nucleation point which causes honey to crystalize so your "store-bought" honey will usually remain liquid for years. However, removing the pollen also removes any possibility that the honey's origins may be traced. There have been reports that mass-produced honey has been adulterated with cheap honey of unknown origins shipped from overseas or simply by adding manufactured sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.

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Strained honey is then poured into jars for long term storage and delivery to you.

How is this different from "regular" honey?

Glass is inherently stable and will keep the honey sealed from outside contaminants, especially water, without any risk of imparting anything from itself into the honey. In addition, glass is infinitely recyclable and we are working towards eliminating single-use plastics of any sort from our product line.

Finally, the label is applied and the lid is sealed with shrink wrap to ensure that the honey remains untouched until is reaches you.

How this is different from "regular" honey.

Each jar of our honey is labeled with the name of the colony from which it was extracted. We are able to provide you with this unparalleled level of detail by carefully tracking our honey from harvest through extraction and into packaging.

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The final product is a jar of honey with unrivaled accountability, harvested respectfully and ethically, traceable to a specific three mile radius in northeast Grand Rapids. Very few people other than beekeepers have ever tasted honey as pure and unique as this.