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The Curious case of Thixotropic Honey


#1

My first extraction went well, an experienced beekeeper describing it as “fairly runny” honey.

Having removed the super I discovered gel-like honey, which I extracted by taking the frame apart. Its so ‘gel-like’ that I can hold a jar of it upside down for at least 10 seconds before a dollop succumbs to gravity.

One of the jars has quite a bit of wax in so I filtered the second jar, removing the wax but generating a lot of air bubbles. At ambient temperature the honey its so thixotropic that neither wax nor air bubbles are moving.

The "fairly runny honey is below 20% moisture - around about 19% or there abouts.

I was very surprised to discover the ‘gel-like’ honey in both jars has a moisture content of 24%.

Extracting honey from the flowframes is very easy, but given the quantity and tedium of the work, I did the extraction over two days, leaving the exposed ‘gel-like’ honey to the atmosphere. Could the honey have increased its moisture content because the frames weren’t in an air-tight box ?


#2

Yes. Honey is hydroscopic and picks up moisture from the atmosphere. I have not tried it, so I can’t swear how it will work for you, but thixotropic honey usually gets thinner when you move it it stir it. I was thinking you could open and close the flow frames several times to try to stir it to get it more liquid. You can’t do that with normal comb…


#3

Hi Adrian, honey is certainly hygroscopic. However the amount of moisture it gains over a 2 day period is highly dependent on the amount of humidity in the air at the time. I have found a honey spill will gain no water at all during low humidity days over a 2 day period. During high humidity days, it will gain lots of water & become quite runny. Regardless of the humidity, it’s always best to get honey into air tight containers a soon as possible.

I had some considerable experience with leptospermum honey earlier this year. I came to the conclusion that there would be no way you’d get that honey to flow out of a flow frame. No matter how many times you turn the handle. I could be wrong there. Maybe if my hives bring in the same honey at the same time next year, a local flow hiver will prove me wrong.


#4

thank you. I think that answers the question. As a newbee I wasn’t aware that honey was hydroscopic - my honey was left in a moist environment, so that must be the reason. Thank you.


#5

I had the same experience with my thixotropic honey - there’s no way to get it to flow out of the frames. Although tedious, it was easy enough to take the flowframe apart and manually scrape the ‘gel’ from the cells.

My next challenge is filtering out the wax. I tried using a conventional sieve and that removed a lot of wax BUT that process introduced air bubbles which are now suspended in the honey. Despite warming the honey to 40 degrees the bubbles show no sign of moving, and I can’t easily tell whether the air bubbles are obscuring smaller wax particulate.

I had rather hoped that I’d left sinks and sources behind at my Uni, Fluid Dynamics never fully revealing its logic to my brain. Does agitating the thixotropic honey, or stirring it, or putting it into a food processor, make it less viscous ? ie easier to flow through a filter. . . and if so, over time does the honey then return to a thixotropic state ?


#6

I bet you could get your hands on one of those paint shakers that they have in specialist paint supply stores, that would work! The only problem would be straining it right away. I would be inclined to sell the honey with “free beeswax goodness” naturally left in it… :smiling_imp:


#7

We warmed our leptospermum honey to 50degC. before straining it through a coarser strainer than usual. It finished up with lots a bubbles & bits of wax etc. suspended in the honey. That didn’t deter people buying it from us. The sample we sent away for testing came back with very high readings. If I get it at the same time & place as we did earlier this year, I wont bother getting it tested, I’ll assume it’s from the same plants.


#8

Perhaps the answer is marketing and branding rather than agitating and straining.

Here is a picture. The association I belong to has a honey show in few weeks, and having ‘come out’ as the owner of a FlowHive, I thought it would be interesting to show any of the doubters that heather honey can be extracted.

Thank you for your interest and help.


#9

Brilliant idea. :smile:

“Our honey is filled with tiny particles of natural wax from the hive, so you know that it is totally unprocessed. The wax is completely edible, and adds a buttery chewiness to honey spread on hot toast or crumpets. Enjoy and smile!”

I wish you every success. I would buy it if I was in the UK :wink:


#10

While I was at my bees, Wilma came across this thread during a Google search. She couldn’t work out why I misspelled “hydroscopic”, she told me that I put a g instead of a d. I told her that I was right & the others were wrong. A quick google search put her mind at ease.

PS, I nearly misspelled “misspelled”.