Bees working in a lava field
Honey comes from the nectar of flowers. There are three main blooms or “flows” on the Big Island: Lehua, Christmas Berry and Macadamia Nut Blossom. When an area, like a macadamia nut orchard, begins to bloom, it’s time to move the bees in so they can collect the emerging nectar.
A honey bee colony is mostly comprised of worker bees (all female), whose main function is foraging for nectar and pollen. Flower nectar is made up of a combination of different sugars such as sucrose, glucose and fructose in their most natural forms. Each flower type has a unique combination of these sugars, which ultimately determines what the honey that comes from it will taste like.
Using their keen senses of smell and sight, bees leave their hive to scout for nectar. They return to the hive and use a special dance to alert the other forager bees of its whereabouts. Bees do not communicate with sound; instead they make precise movements or “dance” to share information. Once a bee finds a tree or shrub laden with nectar-filled flowers, it’s only a matter of time before it is filled with the buzzing sound of bees.
When a forager bee returns to her hive, she transfers the nectar she’s drunk to another bee that fills honeycomb cells with it. It is during this important time in a bee’s honey sack that special enzymes are passed on to the nectar, and later found present in the honey. No other creature but a honey bee can impart these special and health-giving properties. Once filled with newly-collected nectar, the honeycomb cells are fanned by the wings of another set of worker bees to reduce its water content by almost 75%. That’s all that honey is: concentrated flower nectar with some special bee magic-enzymes added.
After all the necessary water is evaporated, the honeycomb cells are capped with wax and sealed. This honey will stay stored for the bees to eat, as needed. Once a hive is heavy with lots of honey-filled honeycomb, we take it back with us to the farm to extract the honey from it. There is always plenty of honey left in the hive for the bees to eat.
The honeycomb is neatly sealed with the wax cappings, so we shave off the top layer to open the cells and allow us to access the honey inside. The uncapped frames are placed in a centrifuge and the honey is spun out of them. It then runs into a settling tank where the remaining wax floats to the top, and the honey settles down toward the bottom.The honey gets strained to remove wax particles then pumped into our bottling tank.
Royal Hawaiian Honeys are the result of a labor-intensive collaboration between our farm crew and our bees. We take good care of our colonies, and they make our livelihood possible. A good beekeeper never forgets this.