The sweet stuff: Vinduskas keep honey simple

News editor

When Candy Vinduska of Vinduska Apiaries of rural Marion sets up a booth Saturday at Art in the Park, she will have honey that is less than a week old. She and Bill Vinduska extracted and bottled honey Monday that they collected from hives over the weekend.

They were processing the honey rather than collecting more because it was a dark, rainy day. Bees stay in their hive during rain, and there temperament changes when the weather is gloomy, so collecting honey on Monday would have meant dealing with more and angrier bees than usual, she explained.

Collecting honey is hot work requiring heavy lifting. A full honeycomb weighs about 60 pounds, she said. After the combs are collected, the Vinduskas take them to their “honey house” where they extract, strain, and bottle the honey.

Extracting the honey begins with scraping off the wax caps the bees put on the comb to store the honey. The combs are then placed vertically in a centrifuge, called an extractor in beekeeping parlance, which forces the honey out. At this stage, the honey has air bubbles and visible particles in it.

The Vinduskas then roughly strain the honey before bottling it. Generally honey produced earlier in the year is lighter colored and has a sweeter taste. Late-season honey is often darker with richer flavors.

However, every year is different. Despite recovery from two years of drought, the Vinduskas’ bees produced little honey early in the year, but the honey produced this season has been light with a slightly fruity flavor.

Darker honey is often preferred for cooking, while lighter honey works better as a sweet topping for biscuits or toast.

There is no “typical” year for honey production, but in Kansas a hive will produce about 50 pounds of honey on average. This year’s summer honey is averaging 60 to 65 pounds per hive, Bill Vinduska said. The same hives averaged 25 to 30 pounds in 2012.

“Beekeeping is farming,” Candy said. “It depends so much on the weather.”

The Vinduskas keep busy with about 200 hives, and they keep their production methods simple to retain as much of the honey’s flavor as possible. Most large-scale honey producers run honey through finer filters and heat it to help it stay liquid for longer.

All honey will become granulated over time. Raw honey like the Vinduskas’ may granulate from two weeks to six months after it is produced, Bill said. But honey that has set hasn’t gone bad.

“Only in the United States do people expect honey to be liquid,” he said. “If it’s set, it’s not runny, so it won’t run off your biscuit or toast.”

If someone really prefers liquid honey, they can heat it to re-liquefy it.

Bill and Candy have each kept bees for about 15 years — 10 years separately, and together for the past 5 years.

Candy met a beekeeper through the Stillwater, Okla., farmers market. Her sons helped that beekeeper, who suffered eye problems, by driving for him. When they got too busy with girls and baseball to continue, she took over. She said she was hooked the first time she opened a hive and saw all the bees.

Bill picked up beekeeping from an ex-sister-in-law. He started with a single hive but found himself continually adding more. He has operated a bee removal service in Wichita since 2000, and that is the principal source of bees for Vinduska Apiaries.

Vinduska Apiaries will have a booth right by the front gate Saturday at Art in the Park.

 

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