From beehive to bottle!
08 Feb 2017 - 11:37
By Huda NV | The Peninsula
Beelicious honey is made painstakingly; the transformation from nectar, produced by plants, to a few drops of golden sweet honey requires teamwork.
Industrious honey bees work relentlessly to make their food-the honey- which for us is something delectable.
Harvesting honey is an ancient craft that begins with honey bees.
In Qatar, much has been invested to promote this sector by helping apiaries in different parts of the country to tremendously increase their production. Through the national honey bee project the Ministry of Municipality and Environment has been facilitating the sector since 2012.
Honey bee national project aims to promote indigenous honey production in Qatar by providing financial and technical support to farmers.
Since the launch of the national project in 2012, the ministry has set up a programme to support and popularise bee farming. Around 10 beehives and apiaries were distributed to 30 farms in the first part of the project in 2013.
In the second phase of the project in 2014, some 50 farms were given the supplies. Currently there are some 130 farms in honey production, according to experts.
“The project aims to support farms producing honey and many farms have doubled their output over the past years, with support from the ministry. We also have experts to assist farmers in every phase of honey production who train workers and follow-up honey production with routine farm visits. The ministry is providing guidance and training to farmers on the best methods for the production of honey, and this year we have also included packaging training so that the honey can be marketed locally in best possible way,” Yousuf Al Khulaifi, Director, Agricultural Affairs Department at the ministry, said.
“There is much support from the government to promote bee keeping. They also have the annual honey festival which does bring the local farmers an additional profit,” Engineer Mohammed Abu Zeid of Al Taher Farm in Qatar told The Peninsula.
Honey is made from nectar, gathered by bees from flowering plants. The nectar thus collected is regurgitated and passed around among the bees in the hive, until it gets thicker. The partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb cell. Together with the warmth of the hive and bees’ fanning their wings, the water content is further evaporated . When it gets thick enough, the bees seal the cells with beeswax. This way, cutting air and moisture, honey can be stored indefinitely for eating during times of scarcity.
The honey comb frames are placed in a centrifuge extractor that spins the frames, extracting the honey. The resulting honey is filtered to remove any particles and is kept intact for few days. One beehive box can produce 8kg of honey in a season.
“ With more than 50 boxes, we have been able to produce 400kg twice an year. The honey is kept untouched for few days after filtering and then packaged. We do not do any extra processing like heating and so all the nutrients are kept intact,” Abu Zeid said.
“In Qatar, most of the farms harvest honey twice a year. Honey is classified according to the flower from which the bees extract nectar. The colour and flavour of the honey are determined by the type of plants visited by the bees. It can be either mono-floral , coming from a single type of flower or poly-floral,” he said.
Depending on the time of the year and which flowers are available, the colour and taste of honey will be different.
“In Qatar, the poly-floral honey is produced in November, when the flowers begin to bloom. Usually the flowers, including the vegetable flowers in the farms and also the wild ones that bloom during this season provide the nectar needed for the poly-floral honey,” said Abu Zeid.
However, the most popular honey in the Arab region as a whole is the Sidr honey. The honey is considered to be one of the finest and most expensive honey in the world.
“Honey bees feed themselves exclusively on the nectar of the Sidra trees . It is darker and thick honey with a rich buttery sweet taste. Sidra flowers bloom in late autumn and hence the harvesting of the mono-floral honey begins in late September or October,” said the expert.
Some 750gm of Sidr honey was sold at rates starting from QR200, at the recently concluded honey festival. High price of Sidr honey is because of its medicinal properties and limited availability. It is the most expensive honeys due to its believed healing properties that include rejuvenating properties in addition to its cosmetic and aphrodisiacal qualities.
The flavour, purity, quality and medicinal value, have increased the demand for the locally produced honey. “An important factor affecting honey’s curative qualities is purity. Only crude, unprocessed and unadulterated honey is shown to be effective. People also have a trust in the purity of locally produced honey, which are do not go any treatment unlike the ones available in shops,” he said.
However, wrong weather can affect the honey yield. Bees can detect changes in air pressure. If it’s going to rain and air pressure drops, they stay in their hives. When it is cold or windy, they cluster in their hive to stay warm. They use the honey that they make for food during the cold months when nectar is scarce.
“Honey bees will not fly in extreme weather conditions. Windy weather, extreme temperature and rain takes its toll on honey production,” Abu Zeid said.