From to Nectar Collection to Comb Uncapping
Here you can learn all about how our honey is made from start to finish. At Raw Honey MKE we not only process our honey in the warehouse, but raise our very own bees on the rooftop of our headquarters. After all, the honey is created by the honey bees!We do our part to keep our bees healthy and happy through natural beekeeping, and don't filter out the good stuff. This creates the purest, rawest, most delicious and effective honey in the Southeast Wisconsin area. If you have allergies, our raw honey will help build up your immune system by introducing small traces of pollen and beneficial propolis. Or if you want to get your hands on the most sustainable and succulent combs around to pair with your restaurant's favorite premiere Burrata cheese dish, we've got your covered. Read more about this amazing process below.
Honey Production Pt 1 - Bee Work
Honey starts out as nectar, which forager bees must collect, store, deliver to the hive stores. The forager bees suck in nectar through their straw-like tongues, also called the proboscis.
Nectar is about 80% water, and is secreted from flowers as a sort of sugary oily reward for pollinating creatures. Nutritionally it's a carbohydrate for bees. Through the use of enzymes in their salivary glands, bees are able to convert the complex sugars in nectar into more simple sugars. This is why honey sugars (glucose and fructose) are more easily digested than the regular table sugar (sucrose) we eat. This process is called hydrolysis.
After sucking in the sugary liquid, bees add their first enzyme, invertase, and transport the nectar. It begins the process of breaking down the sucrose into glucose and fructose in a special organ assigned to the task of transport, called the honey storage stomach. Upon arrival to the hive, the forager bees then exchange the nectar with the house bees by way of reverse flow, where more enzymes are added in the house bee's bellies. This enzyme-adding process continues each time another bee picks up the nectar.
Honey Production Pt 2 - Bee Work
Honey bees are truly nature's chemists. Using internal enzymes and dehydration, these little scientists are able to change sugary nectar into a supersaturated power food right inside their bodies.
After invertase is added, other enzymes are added which aid in making the honey taste better. Amylase for example, is an enzyme added that helps break down amylose into glucose. Glucose is easier to digest and it’s what makes honey sweeter. Another enzyme, glucose oxidase, then breaks down the glucose and stabilizes the pH of the honey. Finally, catalase changes hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. This keeps the hydrogen peroxide content low.
Once the house bees complete this process of enzymatic digestion and regurgitation, the nectar gets to a concentrate of around 20% water. It is then deposited in the honeycomb cells, where the bees fan it to speed up the evaporation process and further condense the honey. The bees stop fanning when the water concentration is between 17-18% and cap it off for their winter storage. Thus, through the use of evaporation and enzymes, a supersaturated delicious solution known as honey is formed.
Honey Production Pt 3 - Human Work
The next part of the honey production process is from keeping up our end of the deal. We keep our colonies populated, healthy, and thriving, and in turn get to harvest honey. So when you eat our honey, you are supporting the livelihood of our bees!
Our owner-operators and scientists, Slava and Vera create and administer the unique probiotic mix given to our bees. Our processing experts, brothers Dan & Nick collect the frames in the hives containing honeycombs and organize, uncap, extract, and package up our honey for sale.
Pictured on the left is Nick as he uncaps one of our frames harboring a honeycomb. The bees cap off the honey for winter storage, though they keep producing honey all season until winter comes. One hive creates a lot of honey, so much that it becomes excess, which we can eat without harming the bee's winter supply.
Honey Production Pt 4 - Human Work
We then take the uncapped frames and place them in our extractor machine where it spins the frames inside like the drum of a dryer machine, the momentum throwing honey to the sides and bottom until it settles. We then open the valve and let the honey pour forth; a fount of rich, sweet golden flow.
The honey is strained of natural materials and debris such as comb caps, wax, and parts of the comb structure as it leaves the extractor (as seen on the right).
Once cleaned, it is filled into jars, sealed and is ready for delivery.