What is organic beekeeping about?
We like organic beekeeping because the standards and monitoring are a way of ensuring that the honey is pure, natural and produced in a bee friendly way andto the highest standards possible.
In order to become certified organic the beekeeper has to go through a rigorous process that can last up to three years.
Only when the beekeeper has proven that he or she can keep to organic standards does the certificate become awarded. Then the certificate has to be renewed each year..
These standards involve
- Hives being made purely of natural substances
- Hives placed so that all lands within the flying radius of the hives are organically farmed or are wild places where there is no use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and sources of pollution.
- Treatments used for varroa mite, the main threat to bee health, are to be made from organic acids or essential oils and treatment is carried out at a time of year when there is no risk of the honey become contaminated.
- Wax used to create bases for combs must be organic.
- If feeding is necessary due to prolonged bad weather to ensure the colony survives then the bees must be fed honey from an organic beekeeping unit, organic sugar or organic syrup.
- All activities concerning the hives must be recorded, such as extracting honey, feeding, depleting varroa-mites.
- Maps are to be kept of the hive locations and must be available for the inspectors.
- Extraction facilities must also follow organic principles so that the integrity of the honey is not compromised.
- Enough honey and pollen must be left to meet the bees needs
The whole chain from beekeeper to seller must be traceable to prove the integrity of the honey.
In addition, the certifying body will make unannounced visits to the hives to ensure the beekeeper is following organic principles.
The beekeeper will have to undergo an annual audit to show the amount of organic honey produced and that they have followed all the requirements.
Here at The Raw Honey Shop, we have to show that we keep full records of all the organic honey we receive and send out so that every jar is traceable.
The honey also has to be stored in such a way that it cannot become mixed up with non organic honey. Therefore, in our warehouse the organic honey is kept separately from the raw but not certified organic honey.
Most of the organic honey we sell is certified organic under the EUs scheme via the different organic certifiers in Europe.
Then that certification is ratified by the Soil Association, who are the UKs organic certifying body. So they check that all our honey meets organic standards and liaise with the various organic certifiers in Europe to verify that the certification we receive for the different honeys meets the required standards.
We have to provide to the Soil Association copies of the organic certificates from all the individual beekeepers and then they provide an overall certificate, which covers us for selling organic honey in the UK.
The Soil Association have some additional standards, above EU standards, such as honey cannot be fine filtered to prolong shelf life (keep runny) or heat the honey over 60 degrees centigrade.