A short explanation about honey bees
Honey bees, like ants, termites and some wasps, are social insects. Unlike ants and wasps, bees are vegetarians; their protein comes from pollen and their carbohydrate comes from honey, which they make from nectar. Social insects live together in groups, cooperate in foraging tasks and the care of young, and have different types, or “castes,” of individuals. There are three castes of honey bees:
Re productively underdeveloped females that do all the work of the colony. A colony may have 2,000 to 60,000 workers.
A fully fertile female specialized for producing eggs. When a queen dies or is lost, workers select a few young worker larvae and feed them a special food called “royal jelly.” These special larvae develop into queens. The only difference between workers and queens is the quality of the larval diet. There is usually only one queen per colony. The queen also affects the colony by producing chemicals called “pheromones” that regulate the behavior of other bees.
Male bees. A colony may have 0 to 500 drones during spring and summer. Drones fly from the hive and mate in the air with queens from other colonies.
MOUNTAIN GREY CAUCASIAN HONEY BEE
Georgia is a homeland of the world known Mountain Grey Caucasian Honey Bee (Apis mellifera caucasica-Georgia). The complex climate and the vast biodiversity of flora of Georgia has led to the evolution of the breed and has given it extraordinary characteristics, making it unique compared to other honeybee breeds. The breed has the longest tongue among honey bee species, which gives it the ability to reach the nectar tissues, where no other species can. However, this is not the only reason that it is one of the most productive honeybee breeds in the world.
Caucasian honeybees can work under less ideal conditions, such such as rain or cold winter conditions. The breed also produces propolis in larger amounts than others. It also allows them to overwinter better than other breeds. These bees generally overwinter with a smaller cluster and less honey. The queen is very frugal in her egg laying. When the incoming nectar slows down, these queens slow down in laying to have ample storage for the winter.
The Caucasian bee stores honey near the brood, typical for a mountain bee. It also uses a minimum number of combs for storing the honey; in other words, it doesn’t proceed to a new comb until the previous one is completely filled. Thus, at the end of harvesting there are no half or partially filled combs, a great advantage for extracting the honey.
The non-aggressive character makes the breed one of the gentlest honeybee in the world.
The Georgian beekeepers are concerned about preserving the purity of the breed and ardently protect it from the import of other breeds in the country.
All these characteristics have been recognized at international exhibitions and the honeybee received three gold medals at the International Exhibition of Gardening in Erfurt (Germany) in 1961; at the 20th APIMONDIA International Congress in Bucharest (Romania) in 1965; and at the 23rd APIMONDIA nternational Congress in Moscow in 1971.
Honey production in Georgia
Georgia, the birthplace of wine, is also known as the land of the oldest honey discovered; Home for 13,000 flora species, blooming from semi desert to sub-tropical and alpine zones, Georgia is a true bliss for Caucasian Grey bee to make honey of distinguished taste. More than that, Georgia is one of the few places in the world, where wild bees are used by local people to produce wild honey called Jara.
Different kinds of honey
A rare honey for consumers who prefer a bittersweet and intense aroma. Chestnut is a mono floral honey. Honeybees create it from the harvested nectar of the flower of the chestnut tree (Cestane Sativa). Chestnut honey is classified as blossom honey over 84 %, with the rest as honeydew honey. The chestnut tree is indeed a very good source for nectar and pollen, but it also provides a lot of honeydew. Honeydew is a sweet and sticky liquid excreted by certain insects, usually aphids. Although honey bees prefer floral nectar, during times of dearth—especially in the late summer—they will often collect the honeydew, transport it in their honey crop, and process it just like nectar. Chestnut honey is dark in colour with a reddish tone. Chestnut trees are mainly widespread in Western Georgia. The honey is harvested in the middle of the summer. The level of fructose is very high which makes the honey crystalize slowly. It is distinguished by bactericidal properties and prescribed for angina and healing of wounds; it is believed to benefit blood circulation, stimulate bile production and is used for the treatment of digestive system diseases. It also said to regulate arterial blood pressure and works to prevent thrombophlebitis, phlebismus and prostatitis.
A highly prized polyfloral honey harvested in the meadows of Georgia’s alpine zone. Honeybees collect the nectar of the vast array of alpine flowers, many of which are endemic in Georgia, blooming at altitudes of 1700- 2500 meters above sea level. It is harvested at the end of the summer by beekeepers engaged in transhumance. The honey harvested in the alpine zones differs throughout the regions due to the geographical location, where specific types of flower grow differently. Thus the taste of alpine honey is more complex and aromatic than others. It contains a higher level of glucose thus alpine honey crystalizes faster than some other honeys. The honey is golden-yellow, sometimes yellow-brown with pleasant aroma (very sweet)and has a pleasant sweet taste. It contains a lot of nutrients. This is honey with strong antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
A polyfloral honey harvested from the nectar of miscellaneous and undefined flowers widespread in Georgia. The color varies from amber to dark amber, some of them are even darker indicating that it contains honeydew. It can contain pollen of various flowers such as clover, currant, Caucasian comfrey, linden, white willow or drupaceous plants. It can have different aromas, but has a delicate and somewhat spicy taste. The ratio between glucose and fructose can be different depending on dominant flower. The honey has different healing properties. Locals usually use it against flu, diarrhea, fluid retention and viral respiratory infections.
It is one of the most popular honeys in the world for its mild taste and lightly fragrant bouquet. Honeybees create it from the harvested nectar of acacia. The various types of acacia are widespread throughout Georgia including the dominant False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia). Georgian beekeepers harvest acacia honey at the end of the spring. The honey has a light transparent colour with a rose-gold tint and sweet orange and floral notes. It is mild and easily digestible. Due to the high consistency of fructose, it crystalizes more slowly than other types of honey. As it is very sweet, it is used as a healthier alternative to sugar, even recommended for people with diabetes; has anti-inflammatory and bactericidal effect and is used as a prevention of stomach and duodenum ulcers. It is a natural post workout recovery food.
Amono floral honey made from the nectar of the linden flower of the lime tree. Tilia Caucasica, the Caucasian Lime tree is widely spread in Georgia, which blooms in the beginning of the summer. The colour can vary from amber to darker colour, but generally it is lighter in colour. Darker linden honey is more characteristic of Western Georgia where the blooming period of linden matches that of chestnut and other honey flowers making the aroma more distinct. The flavour of the honey can be described as fresh and woody with a hint of mint, balsamic and camphor aromas. Linden honey is sweet sometimes with a touch of bitterness. Glucose prevails slightly in the sugar ratio which makes the honey prone to crystalize faster than acacia or chestnut honey. Linden honey contains a brilliant combination of vitamins, micro- and macronutrients, minerals and acids which makes it perfect additional cure for many diseases. It is highly recommended for use during flu, coughing and high temperature.
Solidago or Goldenrod honey is a mono floral honey made from the nectar of the Solidago flower or Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea ssp. Caucasica). It is widespread in the Kolkheti lowland of Western Georgia. Solidago blooms at the beginning of autumn and the honey is harvested at the end of October. The honey has a light transparent colour but it crystalizes very fast as the glucose content is very high. Beekeepers usually use it for feeding the bee colony during overwintering.
Matrobela which translates from Georgian as drunk honey is a toxic honey harvested from the nectar of endemic flowers such as Rhododendrom ponticum and Rhododendrom luteum. Locals gave it such a strange name due to its hallucinogenic and laxative effect. It is also known as a “mad honey”. The honey contains grayanotoxin (andromedotoxin) which is responsible for creating the effects. The toxin is secreted by rhododendrons for defense against herbivore animals. In certain circumstances, honeybees collect the nectar from that flower species and transmit the toxin into honey. Depending on the dose, intoxication can have several symptoms such as low blood pressure vomiting, salivation, in some cases even loss of coordination, muscular weakness, paresthesia and irregular heartbeat. Beekeepers try to avoid getting such honey in their hives. However, there are consumers around the world who prize this exotic honey. This honey is used for medical purposes and the treatment of various diseases.
Jara honey is a very rare top-quality organic wild honey found in Georgia. It is 100% pure and wild.
Wild beekeeping techniques are rare these days, but Georgia is one of the few places in the world that has preserved wild beekeeping in remote dwellings located in the subtropical and alpine zones of Western Georgia. Here, only a ten dozen beekeepers continue the difficult but ancient tradition of the domestication of wild bees – which is an excellent example of mutually useful coexistence of wild nature and humans.
Jara hives provide an opportunity to create true and uniquely flavoured wild honey through the replication of the tree hollow concept – the natural home of wild bees, without artificial wax and free from the involvement of beekeepers. Jara honey is also served with the honeycomb. This is top-quality honey produced from wild flowers, earning a place of honour on your table.
There are three major types of Beekeeping in Georgia: wild, half-wild and domestic beekeeping. Wild beekeeping implies collecting honey and wax in the wild. During half-wild beekeeping, bee families are taken from the wild and put in a log or clay hives. The hives are located on predetermined destinations such as rocks or forests. Domestic beekeeping means building special hives for bees and observing their reproduction and life cycles domestically.
In 2014, Georgia produced 4,100 metric tons of honey, but only exported 5, generating export revenue of US$ 54,000, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 87% of total exports, followed by China (10%), and the Republic of Korea (1%). While currently negligible, honey exports have the potential to expand in coming years, granted the local beekeepers scale up, increase efficiency, and comply with international certification standards. According to the Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, up to 1,500 metric tons of honey can be exported to the EU under the DCFTA, which implies a potential $10mn in annual export revenue.