Winning the honey contest makes up for expensive mistakes

As I’ve said many times, Amanda and I are relatively new at beekeeping. We manage to learn new lessons every day.

High on this year’s list of mistakes not to make:

  1.  Don’t use a weak queen bank. It’s hard on both the queens and the pocket book.
  2. Don’t steal too much honey. Bees don’t like it when their hives run out of food. Especially in winter.
  3. Don’t short yourself of equipment. Running around looking for boxes, covers, frames, lids can be expensive and time-consuming.
  4. Take time to properly filter and bottle your honey. Leaving it too late just causes problems.
  5. Don’t let bees rob out your extractor as a lazy way of cleaning it. Robber bees move on to weak hives. DUH!

One good thing we apparently have learned, however, is how to make some decent honey. Well, lightning does strike occasionally.

We didn’t get much honey this year, considering most of our efforts went into splitting hives and building colonies. We had just five honey-producing hives, from which we gathered about 350 pounds. Most of it went for sale to customers and friends.

We’d meant to hold back a little for the annual honey contest at the B.C. Honey Producers’ Association’s annual general meeting last week in Kelowna. However, we left things so late that by the time we thought about bottling for the contest the honey had crystallized. If you’ve ever entered a honey contest, you will know how imposing that can be. The rules are tough and the judges tougher. So much as a splash of honey on the inside of a lid can be the difference between a ribbon and a goose egg.

Amanda and I are not people to skip out of the annual honey contest, but we also didn’t expect to do very well. We gently warmed eight jars of honey in pots, and once they were liquified topped up six of them. We buffed the jars and brought spare lids to swap out just before entering.

We had two beautiful varieties, a richly golden early blueberry honey produced from our first pollination contract, and a deep, dark honey collected from the home hives in New Westminster. Some people told us we heated the honey too high – around 120-130  degrees – and we frankly expected to do poorly in the contest. Our dark honey, some suggested, had too caramel of a taste.

So imagine our complete surprise when both varieties took first place in their categories. And to top it off, the dark honey also won the Peoples’ Choice Award.

People came up to us raving about the smooth caramel  taste of the dark honey. Not a few times did I here people suggest this was Honeydew honey.  One person took it even further, swiping a jar each of the two winning entries.

Kerry Clark, the bee inspector from Fort St. John, consoled us by saying this was the sincerest form of flattery. We traded two more of our jars with him in return for one of his his beautiful clear white clover honey and a jar of creamed honey.

We’re not going to let the ribbons and awards go to our heads. And we can’t really take all the credit; it’s the bees that did it for us. But it’s a nice reinforcement considering all of the other things that can go wrong in beekeeping.

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