© 2017-2021, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

Buzz the Apiary

At 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 capping's. 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.

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

The 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 other honey produced in the coastal or piedmont regions of the state. Second, any ZBees honey with a specific honey type label receives scientific testing by the Texas A&M University, Palynology Laboratory of the Department of Anthropology for pollen content before final labeling.

This testing is not free and thus, there are beekeepers who may have no valid documentation meeting the 51% condition by North Carolina for specific honeys.

Example: A sample of honey was sent to Dr. Vaughn Bryant for testing. It was hoped that this batch of 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 Apiary 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 (Virginia Creeper), with the remaining percentages containing mixed floral pollens. Consequently, the honey is labeled as “Mountain Honey.”

Label used by ZBees Apiary

NC Certified Honey Producer

2018-2020; 2020- 2022

Honey Harvest and Production

21 July 2017

First comb of honey processed

Honeybees produce honey for various reasons and for human consumption, and they will 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 and 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, there is no valid way of discovering the actual pollen content of any honey without a scientific analysis of its properties.

Through observation, I have seen that by nature honeybees in our area go “high” for nectar and pollen, preferring the trees over the lower flowering plants, grasses, or shrubs. When tree sources are not so prevalent they will work the dandelions and flowers on the property, however this is seldom. Hence, the abundance of tree sources in these mountains of Western North Carolina takes precedence over other lower food sources. In addition, honeybees go for the best nectar and pollens- bypassing less desirable sources- and they will follow these sources upwards in elevation as trees and shrubs begin to flower.

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.

Foragers returning to hive with pollen

Foragers returning to the hive with pollen

NOTE: Some Western North Carolina beekeepers and farmers are members of the Appalachian Grown organization and may use this honey label. This label is generic to the whole Appalachian Mountain Region and covers states from Georgia to Vermont.

Raw honey contains both fructose and glucose in close amounts with good anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties, including hydrogen peroxide. Some people with a sore throat benefit from its use as a cough suppressant. In addition, raw honey is not a “cure-all” food, but it sure does soothe a sore throat. I know this from lots of personal usage. Raw honey can also serve as an anti-bacterial healing agent for minor cuts, scrapes, or skin rashes. Scientific research shows that amber color honey typically has a higher concentration of these anti-bacterial properties.

The task of the beekeeper is to separate the “honey” from the “bee” and offer you the same sweet nectar that they enjoy.   Performing this operation is rewarding to the beekeeper, however it does require adequate protection for the bees can become quite agitated during the harvesting process. They defend their hives with their life. Finally, one drawback of eating pure raw honey is the high number of calories and carbohydrates. However, when eaten in moderation honey is no less fattening than any other foods which are high in these categories.

Extracting Honey in a 4-frame Extractor

Extracting some liquid gold

ZBees Apiary removes only the wax particles through a double-screen strainer for most of its honey. Customers who desire “combed honey” receive this same process and sliced comb in the jar. Whatever pollens and nectars the bees process is exactly what our consumers receive.

Processing honey is an arduous process at best. First, the beekeeper must battle with the bees to get their liquid gold and that takes patience. Second, the beekeeper must have a way of extracting the honey in a productive manner and that requires proper equipment. Third, the beekeeper must consider the color and quantity of honey for bottling and that requires knowledge of nectar types and seasonal bloom times. Finally, the beekeeper must consider the branding of their product and present it in a manner which is appealing to the consumer.

ZBees Apiary attempts to excel in all of these areas and we will not sell any honey which does not meet the North Carolina State Beekeepers standards.  Our back label depicts our commitment to quality and honey standards.

ZBees Apiary back honey label

Another fine honey harvest

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

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 harvested at our apiary 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. Finally, testing honey is not free and thus, some beekeepers may have no valid documentation meeting the 51% requirement by North Carolina for specific honeys.

Tulip Poplar/Blackberry mix

Spring Honey

ZBees Apiary - processed honey in jars

Mountain floral

Early Summer Honey

Mountain Floral

Late Summer Honey

Back Label

Sweet locally harvested raw honey which tickles the taste buds beyond compare.

Early summer honey flowing from extractor