FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are a few questions we are commonly asked. If your question isn't listed here, please submit it to us!
WHAT IS "RAW" HONEY?
Raw honey has not been filtered, diluted, treated, or heated. It is the most untouched form of honey, and preserves the pollen and enzymes that naturally occur in honey. Raw honey is the most flavorful form of honey, and it also contains the most health benefits. Much (but not all) of the commercially-produced honey available in supermarkets is heated to kill all enzymes and yeasts, and ultra-filtered to remove all of the pollen. These measures ensure the honey will not quickly crystallize or ferment, both of which can happen to raw honey, but also destroy the honey's natural benefits.
WHAT IS "TREATMENT FREE" HONEY?
Most beekeepers will use various chemicals in and around their hives to control different kinds of pests. These chemicals can be harmful if consumed, so we never use them! While this can diminish our overall honey crop, we think it is worth the sacrifice to provide totally pure, safe honey. Not applying treatments to our hives also allows our bees to adapt so that they can withstand diseases without any help from us - improving the health of the overall bee population. More information regarding treatment-free beekeeping can be found here: http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnotreatments.htm
WHY DO YOU BOTTLE YOUR HONEY BY ZIP CODE -
DOES RAW HONEY HELP WITH SEASONAL ALLERGIES?
Raw honey from the area where you live can have a large impact on your seasonal allergies. To preserve the unique pollen content from the area, we bottle our honey by ZIP code. This ensures to you, our customer, that you are getting honey from as close to you as possible. Additionally, each ZIP code has its own special flavor, which varies harvest to harvest based on the conditions of that year. Don't settle for mixed or imported honey when our honey gives you the most authentic taste possible.
HOW SHOULD RAW HONEY BE STORED? WHY IS MY HONEY BUBBLY?
For the most part, honey can be stored in a cupboard at room temperature, but may keep better in the fridge. If you need to store it for a long period of time, the freezer is the best spot for it - this will slow crystallization and keep the honey the freshest. (Crystallization is covered in more detail in another FAQ further down this page).
Because raw honey is so jam-packed with active components like enzymes and natural yeasts, it is very quick to start fermenting if given the opportunity. If they honey's water content is below 18%, no fermentation can occur - we make sure to only bottle honey that is below this threshold. However, as the honey begins to crystallize and therefore sugar is taken out of the remaining liquid honey, the moisture content in the liquid honey rises and can exceed 18%, therefore allowing fermentation to happen. This fermentation can change the flavor of the honey, giving it a light sour note (some people actually prefer this flavor), and can cause pressure to build up in the honey jar. As the jar continues to crystallize and eventually fully crystallizes, the fermentation will typically stop. Mildly fermented honey is still fit for consumption, but to avoid it, consider storing your honey in a fridge or freezer if you're not using honey regularly. If you notice fermentation starting (evidenced by air bubbles throughout the jar, and the lid getting "domed"), we recommend opening the jar, giving it a thorough stir, and then storing it in the fridge until the crystallization process is finished.
WHAT IS "LOCAL" HONEY?
Although the USDA does not enforce a definition of "local", most beekeepers consider honey produced within 100 miles (and in some cases up to 400 miles!) to be "local". At Hidden Spring Apiaries, we take the extra time to separate and label our honey by the source ZIP code, allowing you to be confident about the source of your honey.
WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOUR BEEHIVES?
We are located in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, and keep beehives on several local farms. These beehives are kept on the farm year-round, ensuring all honey production is from the surrounding area. Check our shop to see honey availability by ZIP code - at time of writing, we offer honey from the 17522 (Ephrata),19540 (Adamstown/Mohnton), and 17543 (Lititz) areas, although honey production can vary wildly year-to-year.
WHAT ARE SOME USES FOR HONEY?
Honey is a wonderful product that has many varied uses. Our favorites include eating it straight, adding it to tea, using it as an ice cream topping, and using it as a baked goods sweetener. Here are some links explaining how to use honey for baking, cooking, and for its health benefits.
DO YOU HEAT YOUR HONEY?
Our honey is never heated above room temperature. Heating honey past 100-105 degrees breaks down many of the naturally-occurring elements in the honey, greatly diminishing the intricacies of its flavor. This is common practice for most honey found in supermarkets, and results in a flat, one-dimensional flavor. If you have never had raw honey before, try ours! You will be amazed at how complex and, well, downright AMAZING it is!
DO YOU FILTER YOUR HONEY?
Some beekeepers force their honey through a fine filter, removing almost all of the naturally-occurring pollen. At Hidden Spring Apiaries, the only filter we use is a large strainer to remove stray particles dislodged from the comb while extracting the honey, preserving the pollen content of our honey.
I PURCHASED HONEY, BUT NOW IT IS GRAINY? WHY IS IT NOT SMOOTH AND LIQUID?
Raw honey is prone to crystallization because of its high natural sugar content - this can actually serve as an indicator that your honey is indeed totally raw! There is nothing wrong with crystallized honey, and it is perfectly fit for consumption. To return it to its liquid form, stir it vigorously or partially submerge the sealed container in a pot of warm (not boiling) water. Do not microwave crystallized honey - this will kill the natural enzymes and damage the honey's flavor.
IS RAW HONEY SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION BY EVERYONE?
In general, yes, with one important exception. Honey, raw or otherwise, should not be consumed by infants under one year of age. Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism in infants. However, by one year of age, stomach acids are strong enough to nullify these dangers.
THE HONEY STORE IS SOLD OUT. DO YOU TAKE ORDERS BEFORE THE NEXT HONEY HARVEST?
We currently do not accept pre-orders. Managing bees is tricky business, and the honey harvest can vary widely year to year. Check back regularly to see availability (harvest is typically done in September). You can also subscribe to our mailing list by entering your email address at the bottom of the page to be notified when the store is restocked.
DO YOU OFFER ANY VARIETAL HONEY?
No, we only offer wildflower honey. "Wildflower" is a catch-all term for honey produced from a variety of source plants. Honeybees can range more than two miles from their hive, meaning that our bees draw from many sources in the South-Central Pennsylvania area.
YOU DON'T HAVE ANY HONEY FROM MY ZIP, WILL YOU BE ADDING IT NEXT YEAR?
We plan to grow our operation steadily over the next several years, and will be adding additional ZIP codes as we grow. Until then, keep in mind that bees can forage over two miles from the hive, so ZIP codes that are close to you will have many of the same benefits. Also, our honey is a great choice even if you live far away from our area, as it is still treatment-free and superb quality.
DO YOU FEED SUGAR SYRUP OR POLLEN SUBSTITUTE TO YOUR BEES?
Very rarely. As we harvest the honey each fall, we leave the hive enough honey to last it through the winter. In the spring, we check on the hives and feed sugar syrup to the ones that need a bit of help to survive until the first bloom. This syrup is almost immediately consumed by the bees, and has no chance of being included in the honey we harvest. Allowing the bees to keep some of their own honey is much healthier for the bees, and results in a stronger, healthier hive. Therefore, we only feed syrup as a last resort, and are careful to make sure the syrup never taints the honey that is harvested.