Buzz the Apiary

© 2017-19, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

AAt ZBees Apiary our policy is to harvest and sell only pure natural mountain floral honey without any added sugars, pasteurization, supplements, or ultra-filtering and according to the North Carolina Certified Honey Producers guideline. Each jar of honey we harvest contains all the natural pollens and nectars which the bees bring into the hive.  Consumers receive only the “pure raw” product. We never harvested honey “during” or “after” any hive treatments to control various pests. In addition, the bees receive no “sugar-syrup” during the active honey flow seasons, which can vary depending on the current climate. We puncture the comb capping's then, the frame goes inside an extractor for processing. During extraction, the honey drains from the extractor outlet into a double layer strainer to remove all wax cappings. After straining, the honey sets for a time in a sealed container to allow the air bubbles to rise to the top. Finally, the bottling of the honey immediately follows to prevent it from absorbing any excessive moisture in the air.

There are producers who practice the unscrupulous production method of “diluting” honey with by-products such as; sorghum, molasses, or white corn syrup. These action give consumers the impression that beekeepers out for a “quick buck” and a great discredit to all reputable beekeepers. The North Carolina State Beekeepers Association frowns heavily on this practice of honey production, as does ZBees Apiary.

Labeling of all honey at ZBees Apiary has two primary methods for identification. First, our standard honey is “Mountain Honey” instead of Spring, Fall, or Wildflower honey. This correlates to the pollen sources in the mountains of Haywood County North Carolina and distinguishes it from honey produced in the coastal or piedmont regions of the state. Second, any ZBees honey with a specific label receives scientific testing by the Texas A&M University, Palynology Laboratory of the Department of Anthropology for pollen content before any labeling. This testing is not free and thus, there are beekeepers who have no valid documentation meeting the 51% condition by North Carolina for specific honeys. Example: In August 2018, I sent a sample of honey to Dr. Vaughn Bryant for testing. My hope was the sample contained enough Sourwood pollen to qualify as sourwood honey. It did not, in truth the test results showed no sourwood pollen in the sample batch, not a single grain according to Dr. Bryant. The analysis revealed the honey did not qualify for labeling as sourwood honey because it contained 53.4% clover pollen, 13.1% Asteraceae (sunflower-type), and 8.9% Parthenocissus (Virginia Creeper), with the remaining percentages containing mixed floral pollens.

The First Jar of Raw Honey

NC Honey Producer

Honey Harvest and Production

21 July 2017

First comb of honey processed

Honeybees produce honey for various reasons and for human consumption, though they become defensive when the beekeeper starts to harvest it. This “liquid gold” which gets one’s taste buds to moving into high gear. It mandates hours of work by the honeybee and the beekeeper and let no one fool you. Beekeeping IS NOT a hobby… it is a science. To get great tasting honey, the beekeeper must place their apiaries in locations where plenty of foliage exists for the honey the beekeeper hopes the bees will produce. Remember, honeybee have a preprogrammed instinct to harvest what they feel is the best pollen and nectar source, not what the beekeeper wants them to pollinate and harvest.

Let me explain this science. Within two hundred yards of ZBees Apiary there are trees of basswood, black locust, dogwood, holly, magnolia, red maple, silver maple, sourwood, tulip poplar, white pine, and wild cherry. Further, there are flowering plants and shrubs like; buckwheat, crocus, daffodils, milkweed, tulips, sumac, white clover, and zinnias, not to mention all the wildflowers growing in the woods. There is no guarantee that just because sourwood trees bloom near a hive the honeybees will naturally migrate to that pollen source. Case in point, one hive sits under a sourwood tree and for two weeks I watched bees leave this hive and fly ninety degrees in the opposite direction towards an unknown pollen source. When the sourwood season experiences high rainfall the bells do not fully open. Thus, the honeybees cannot harvest the nectar and similarly for tulip poplar trees.

There is foliage like Alder, Bartlett Pear, Flowering Cherry, Sumac, and many other flowering trees within the 1.86-mile average foraging range of the apiary, and many flowering plants or bushes. Ponder these truths about honey. First, the beekeeper has no scientific conclusion of where or what pollen and nectar the bees are gathering. Second, one can speculate a pollen source based on season and the colors of pollen the bees are bringing back to the hive: lemon-yellow, yellow, gray, orange, or whatever. However, such speculations cannot guarantee any definitive pollen content. Third, North Carolina beekeepers have the NC Flowering Chart to help them discover what foliage should be in season, but again, the beekeeper can only assume the honey the bees produce is of a particular pollen. Finally, beekeepers have no valid way of discovering the pollen content of the honey without scientific analysis of the honey


Gathering Pollen

By nature, honeybees go “high” for nectar and pollen and go “low” when many trees are not in bloom. Flowering plants, shrubs, and trees bloom at various times in the mountains of Western North Carolina and often based on the elevation. .In addition, they follow the nectar and pollen upwards in elevation as mountain trees and shrubs begin to flower from lower to higher elevation. At ZBees Apiary, we adhere to the NC State Beekeepers Association Standards for classifications of honey and take great care to ensure our honey meets those standards. Below is a summary of the standards for North Carolina certified honey. See the NC State Beekeepers Association Honey Standards for full descriptions:


  1. Only honey produced in the state can be labeled as North Carolina honey.
  2. Honey labeled and identified as originating from any main floral source, such as “Sourwood” must meet the following:
  1. NC honey cannot have any added water or other liquid during the extraction or packaging for sale or resale using the word “honey” and the moisture content cannot exceed 18.6%.
  2. Sugar Content in Honey
The Science of  HoneyFORAGERS RETURNING TO THE HIVE WITH POLLEN

Combed Honey

Foragers returning to the hive with pollen

All honey produced and processed at ZBess Apiary is labeled in two primary methods for identification. First, our standard honey is not called “Spring Honey,” “Fall Honey,” or “Wildflower Honey,” as most honey is labeled. The honey produced at our apiaries is labeled as “Mountain Honey,” denoting the fact that the pollen sources are in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This distinction denotes the difference between NC honey produced in the costal or piedmont regions of the state. Second, any honey that is specifically labeled is tested by the Texas A&M  University, Palynology Laboratory of the Department of Anthropology for pollen content before special labeling is applied. This testing is not free and thus, some beekeepers may have no valid documentation meeting the 51% requirement by North Carolina for specific honeys. Example: In August 2018, a sample of honey was sent to Dr. Vaughn Bryant for testing. It was hoped that our ZBees Honey contained enough Sourwood pollen to qualify as sourwood honey. It did not, in truth the test results showed absolutely no sourwood pollen in the sample batch, not a single grain according to Dr. Bryant. How revealing this was to ZBees Apairy and thus, that batch of honey could not be labeled as sourwood honey. The test results revealed 53.4% clover pollen, 13.1% Asteraceae (sunflower-type), and 8.9% Parthenocissus (Virgina Creaper), with the remaining percentages containing mixed floral pollens.

Some North Carolina beekeepers may may use the local label for Appalachian Grown honey. This label is generic to the whole Appalachian mountain region and covers states from Georgia to Vermont.

Honey Extraction and Processing

Raw honey contains both fructose and glucose in close amounts and good anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, including hydrogen peroxide. Some people with a sore throat benefit from its use as a cough suppressant. Raw honey can also serve as an anti-bacterial healing agent for minor cuts, scrapes, or skin rashes. Our task is to separate the “honey” from the “bee” and offer you the same sweet nectar they enjoy. In addition, raw honey is not a “cure-all” food, but it sure does soothe a sore throat- I know from personal use. Also, scientific research shows that amber color honey typically has a higher concentration of these anti-bacterial properties. One drawback of eating raw honey is the high number of calories and carbohydrates.

Combed Honey