Saturday, March 7, 2009

Munro Honey in Alvinston, Ontario

If you like white wine or light tasting drinks then you must try Mead. I had never had it before although I had heard of it spoken of as a popular drink from the Middle Ages.

Mead is made with honey and water and yeast that is then fermented.

History tells us mead is probably the oldest alcoholic drink known to mankind and there are many mentions of it in the historic writings.

See a brief history of mead on Wikepedia at

It is believed that the word 'honeymoon' came from the tradition to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility for a full cycle of the moon, hence the creation of the word honeymoon.

Munro Honey in Alvinston makes an award winning mead and if you've never tried mead, I suggest trying their blue label "Mead" or my personal favourite, the green label "Sweet Mead".

Munro Honey is a large scale commercial beekeeping operation.

Last summer I drove out to Alvinston, Ontario to pick up my supplies and had a brief tour of their brand new facility--sorry I didn't have a camera with me at the time. I was really impressed with all the large stainless steel vats for the mead making.

In the store they offered samples of the wine (no they didn't card me to make sure I was old enough to drink alcohol--those days are long since past). Of course they sell honey (raw, creamed, flavoured--just about all the ways you can package it) and they have a really quaint gift shop with bee and honey related items.

I found some great primary books there on bees - Honey in the Hive (

Munro Honey run around 2,000 hives and they supply many of the grocery stores in the surrounding cities with honey and honey comb.

My nephew Codie, had never tried honeycomb before so I made sure to buy some for him to try. He's addicted now and every time he comes over he looks through the kitchen until he finds it.

I bought my original hive boxes and supplies from Munro Honey last year and now that I've decided to give up procrastinating on finishing preparing my hives, I placed an order for my wax covered plastic foundation.

I'm moving forward, and here's the box of supplies just delivered.

The off-white sheets are wax coated plastic (permadent) which will slide into the frames for my honey supers.

The honey super is the box that goes on top and it's just for honey only.

This is where the extra honey will go and it's for the beekeeper's use. Beekeeper's only takes the extra honey from the bees that they don't need.

Both plastic foundations have a light coating of wax on them which smells great. It will encourage the bees to use this pre-molded foundation to build their honeycomb.

The surface of each sheet is pre-pressed with a honeycomb pattern which the bees will use as a guide when making their comb.

The larger black permadent is for the medium sized deeps where the bees will live and raise their brood. The medium deep is the box that sits on the bottom (that is if you're picturing the traditional beehive with two boxes, one on top of the other). Bees will store some honey and pollen on these black frames for their own personal use as well as using most of the cells to raise their brood.

Bees have special wax producing glands on their abdomen. These glands will secrete the liquid wax into little pockets on the bee's underside. The wax then cools and turns white.

The bees then remove these little scales of wax with their feet, chew it into a soft mash with their mandibles and shape it into perfect honeycombs... easy eh!!

(I can't even DRAW honeycomb accurately let alone make it yet this insect does it with no schooling, no drafting paper, rulers or anything!!!)

This new permadent foundation is black. I haven't seen black before in all my web reading. I think I may have seen a couple photos of frames with black foundation. I expect the advantage with black is that you can more easily see the tiny little white eggs at the bottom of the cells. That makes sense since white plastic has been used for years and when the combs are new the white really shows through making the white eggs very hard to see.

I'm thinking I might keep a couple of my honey frames with no foundation and put in a vertical dowel so that I can have honeycomb to eat.
When the plastic foundation is used, the honeycomb built on it is left intact to be reused by the bees to fill up with honey again. The foundation makes the combs stronger and more stable for handling.
To create honey comb, the bees are usually just given an outside frame that they can build comb inside. The honey and wax from honeycomb is delicious and even the wax can be eaten.

Each evening throughout March I'm determined to move forward by preparing for my bees in spring.
I have my hammer, wood glue and nails in the living room and I'm all set. So while it's snowing or raining in the evenings, I'll flip on the TV and work on nailing my frames together.

Ten frames go in the medium deep on the bottom and usually the honey super box on top has about 9 frames.
A healthy hive of bees can produce as much as 100 lbs of honey in a season. They also make the honey comb so when the beekeeper slices off the wax caps to release the honey, that wax is saved. It can be used to make all kinds of products from candles to furniture polish. Nothing gets wasted.

The more I think about bees and how special and important they are the more I can't wait to start.
I just got to keep thinking positive.
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