Honey Producers - Beekeepers
Massachusetts is home to a large and diverse beekeeping industry as current estimates indicate that we have between 4-4,500 beekeepers managing between 40-45,000 hives. Over 45% of agricultural commodities in Massachusetts rely on bees for crop pollination. In addition to pollination, bees such as honey bees also provide other valuable products including wax, propolis, royal jelly and honey.
Honey bees collect nectar from flowers and using special enzymes in their stomach and evaporative behaviors in the hive they turn it into honey. Honey is stored within the hive in wax covered cells. A single worker bee produces only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. It takes about 2 million flowers and worker bees flying 50,000 miles to make one pound of honey. Given this it is amazing that by working cooperatively, a hive of bees can produce several hundred pounds of honey within a year. Bees use some of the honey they collect for food and then store the remainder for winter. Honey bees tend to produce more honey than they can consume and this excess is removed by beekeepers to be sold for human consumption.
Honey may be sold in several forms but the most common is comb, extracted/liquid and whipped/butter honey. As the name suggests, comb honey consists of large pieces of honey-filled combs taken directly from the hive. Extracted honey is the most common and preferred form consisting of the liquid portion that is left after being separated from the comb. Most liquid honey has a natural tendency to crystallize or turn from a liquid to a semi-solid state over time when stored at temperatures between 50-59⁰F. Honey with a higher glucose to fructose ratio crystallizes more rapidly. Crystallization does not affect the quality or flavor of the honey and instead only alters the color and texture. Whipped honey is characterized by mixing crystallized honey with extracted liquid honey until it forms a creamy and smooth texture. This form of honey is considered to be a specialty product and may not be as readily available. Depending on the supplier, honey may only be seasonally available since it is collected fresh from beekeepers in the Commonwealth throughout the year. Click here for honey producers in Massachusetts.