Honey producer traces product back to the plants it came from
By Darren Lum
Published Jan. 22, 2019
At the back of Ron Lofthouse's Haliburton home, his apiary of bees is quiet, hibernating for the winter. It's a complete contrast to spring and summer when the bees are busy, coming and going from his yard.
He always wondered where his honey came from and decided to have an analysis performed to find out.
In November, Lofthouse, a small scale honey producer, received the analysis results from the Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault, or CRSAD, where he sent two samples of honey to be analyzed. One sample was 43.5 per cent from the linden (or basswood) plant. The next highest content was sweet clover at close to 20 per cent and just behind that was bird's foot trefoil. Other identified plant pollen came from viper's bugloss, sumac, fragrant water lily, white clover, St. John's wort, alfalfa, golden rod, mint and yellow water lily.
Performing the test was Melissa Girard, a melissopalynologist, who was impressed by the level of basswood pollen, describing its taste as “wonderful.”
These results will be kept for two years. The remaining honey or pollen samples will be kept for one year.
His other sample contained white clover and crucifer. This sample's contents were not listed as a percentage because pollen grains were difficult to identify.
Lofthouse said the exercise satisfied his curiosity and will be part of his marketing, emphasizing the local qualities of his product.
“People like as close to local as possible. The closest agricultural area to us outside of Haliburton is Lindsay and that's where the Lindsay/Orillia area is considered local,” he said.
The information can be used for reference, which he will use to compare to a planned future analysis.
“It's always of great interest to me. I've been a beekeeper for 50 years. I just love to be part of their activity,” he said.
The next time he sees another beekeeper he plans to share the data he received as an example.
“This is what you can do with your own honey,” he said. “So that you can see where your bees have been and you're more knowledgeable about the products that they're going to.”
Part of the motivation to do the testing came from a comment from a customer who tasted mint in Lofthouse's honey at the Haliburton Farmers' Market this past year. Lofthouse wasn't sure.
“It's questions like that ... you'll see in the analysis. There is mint in the honey,” he said.
A beekeeper for five decades, which includes 10 years at his home in Haliburton, his knowledge comes from studying at Cornell University and the University of Guelph, Ridgetown campus. He also teaches a beekeeping workshop at Fleming College, which has moved to the Haliburton Highlands Museum. The upcoming workshop is Feb. 23.