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Honey Viscousity? What affects it?


I just harvested honey from a flow hive last week- and it is the most thick honey I have gotten yet. It flowed out very slowly- I cracked the frames in increments and left them for 20 minutes between each turn of the handle. When I made the last turn I left them draining for an hour and a half- in total it took over 3 hours for all the honey to drain out. I tested some with mum’s refractometer and it came back around 14.9% moisture- which is very low I think? The honey is thick like treacle- it sticks to the spoon and has a fantastic mouthfeel… flavour is also awesome :wink:

This got me wondering about viscosity and what causes it- I know it is influenced by the nectar sources- but are there other factors that affect it? For instance my mothers honey has been consistently higher water content- around %17-18- my brother and I have hives and ours is closer to 15. Mum’s hive is located along the coast- and I have been wondering if there is any chance that the salty sea air could have anything to do with it?

The honey I last harvested was 100% capped- I am also curious if honey can continue to ‘thicken’ and the water content reduce after it is capped? I would have guessed no- that the wax is completely water/air proof- but I also read that occasionally honey can be capped- and yet still be unripe- I am wondering if such honey would ripen over time- or if once it’s capped the given water content is ‘locked in’?


I bet it is more to do with climate humidity. Coastal air will be a lot more humid, so a lot harder for the bees to dry out the honey. :wink:


that’s interesting- the coast here is kind of Mediterranean- it doesn’t seem to be more humid than inland a few km’s (where I am). This summer we have had quite a few days that have been more humid than is normal in South Australia- in general our climate and summers are quite dry.

Could the type/strain of bee affect the viscousity?


But that is the thing. Human senses are not very good at monitoring a few tens of percent change in humidity, but it can affect skin, nasal passages, plants, insects etc. You need a weather station to monitor it properly.

Right now, my outside humidity is 68% and I am about 100 feet from a bay filled with Pacific Ocean water. However, our hive is keeping humidity at 40-55% according to the Arnia hive monitor data. So they have a pretty good chance of fanning and evaporating their nectar down, even though we are coastal. :wink: If we weren’t coastal, I think they would do it even faster.

My bees are Italians, probably yours and your Mum’s are too. :blush:


Our bees are the ones with a darkish stripes- and quite a standard type of bee look… I think they are Ligurians but I’m not sure… My brother has what I think are Italians: more yellow, slightly smaller and more sedate moving? But then- I suppose Ligurians are a sub variant of Italian bees?

What would you say these bees are Dawn (they are my Mum’s bees- mine all look very similar):


Colder honey is more viscous. Drier honey is more viscous. Some particular honeys are thixotropic. Thixotropic is a quality of a liquid where its viscosity gets thinner when shaken, stirred or agitated and thicker when left undisturbed so that it becomes a gel. In the case of honey some honey sources have this quality such as heather and manuka and these often require special ways of extracting. Honey that is partially crystallized, of course, can actually become a solid sometimes…


Yes. See Chapter V of Honey in the Comb by Carl Killion for charts on how much he could lower the moisture content of comb honey with a dehumidifier. Here is his chart when using the dehumidifier:
Date Time Humid. Temp oF Water Removed
Aug 21 4:30 pm 66 65 (Started today)
Aug 22 8:00 am 8:00 pm 52 38 71 77 12 #
Aug 23 8:00 am 8:00 pm 33 30 84 79 13½ # (started fan)
Aug 24 8:00 am 8:00 pm 30 30 81 80 13 # (cut off extra fan)
Aug 25 8:00 am 8:00 pm 30 30 82 82 14 # (door opened for 2hrs)
Aug 26 8:00 am 8:00 pm 28 28 85 84 14 # (Humidry off til 8am 27th)
Aug 27 8:00 am 8:00 pm 48 40 75 80 5 ½ #
Aug 28 8:00 am 8:00 pm 40 38 80 80 17 #
Aug 29 8:00 am 8:00 pm 34 34 80 80 19 ½ #
Aug 30 8:00 am 8:00 pm 35 35 80 80 11 ½ #
Aug 31 8:00 am 8:00 pm 30 33 80 80 12 #
Sep 1 8:00 am 8:00 pm 33 78 7#
Sep 2 8:00 am 8:00 pm 31 32 75 72 7½ # (Humidry off)
Sep 3 8:00 am 8:00 pm 34 38 73 72 (started Hu-midry at 8pm)
Sep 4 8:00 am 8:00 pm 32 32 78 80
Sep 5 8:00 am 8:00 pm 34 34 80 80 21 #
Sep 6 8:00 am 8:00 pm 33 32 78 78 5 #
Sep 7 8:00 am 8:00 pm 32 32 78 77
Sep 8 8:00 am 8:00 pm 32 32 76 78 17 #
Sep 9 8:00 am 8:00 pm 28 29 64 74 8 #
Sep10 8:00 am 8:00 pm 28 28 72 74
Sep 11 8:00 am 8:00 pm 30 32 72 72 6 #
Sep 12 8:00 am 8:00 pm 32 36 74 74 7 ½ #
Sep 13 8:00 am 8:00 pm 38 30 73 74 12 #
Totals 23 days 32-av. 79+av 222½ #
Honey sample A 21.0 moisture (Aug 21)
Honey sample B 18.6 moisture (Sep 1)
Honey sample C 17.1 moisture (Sep 13)

Here is the text:

"Early in 1949 we learned of a manufacturer who made machines for moisture removal. We exchanged a few letters but did not get one of their machines. We were sure, however, the machine was the answer to our prayer. The manufacturer was in another state and we hesitated about asking for a free demonstration or renting one for experimental use. If we had used this machine it would have saved us approximately 150 nice supers of comb. Later in the season we found another machine near us that was built to remove moisture. This machine is made by the Carrier Corporation who also made air-conditioning units. It is called the HUMIDRY and will withdraw five times as much water from the air as the chemical dehumidifier. It acts like a refrigerator running in reverse. The local distributor for this machine was the Punzak Air-Conditioning and Sales Company, Springfield Illinois. When I gave Mr. Punzak the history of our honey fermentation he was very much interested and suggested we use one of the machines for our experimental work.

"The Humidry was placed in our comb room and turned on August 21 at 4:30 p.m. The outside tempera-ture was about 85 degrees and humidity 66 per cent. There were 130 supers in the room at the time, also the chemical units which had been there for several days. These units were removed when the Humidry was turned on. A sample of honey was removed from a section to take a water content; it showed 21.0 per cent (sample A). On September 1, sample B was taken and showed 18.6 per cent; sample C taken on September 13, showed only 17.1 per cent. Here was the proof! We had removed moisture from the comb! Temperature and humidity readings were recorded twice daily during our test, water was weighted daily. From 4:30 p.m. August 21 to 8 p.m. September 13 we removed 222 ½ pounds of water from the Humidry. During this period the average temperature of the room was 79 plus F. and humidity 32 minus per cent.

“After using the Humidry another season we should have a better report to make for we know this machine has a permanent place in our moisture control program. It should find a place with producers of cut comb and chunk comb, and even with the extracted honey producer who wants quality instead of quantity. We think we originated the idea that if excess moisture is removed from any honey the flavor is improved; if we did not originate it, we firmly believe in it.”–Honey in the Comb, Chapter V, Carl Killion, 1951


Thanks for that Link Michael.

I have a question: what’s the lowest water content you could find in honey? My last batch is SO thick- it took hours to flow out of the flow hive. Tested it came in at 14.9% water content. Is that pretty much at the lowest end of the spectrum?

From what I have read- in general- the lower the better- and water content is used as an indicator of honey quality? I imagine the flavours become more concentrated the lower the water level goes. I am also wondering if it is likely to candy a lot faster?


Dee Lusby’s honey in the Sonora desert is about that. I don’t know how low it can get but it would be related to the relative humidity how low it can get.


Sorry, Jack, I missed this question earlier. The light yellow-gold legs on the queen make me think she is Italian/Cordovan. Probably a mix, given her dark offspring, although even they have yellow fuzz on the thorax. I would guess the drone was Italian, contributing to their darker abdomens. Here is a very nice chart that @Valli posted last year, which gives you an idea of colouring:

Beautiful photos, as ever. You must be really good at your day job! :wink: