A specialist product
There are two species of heather that produce honey in any quantity, ling heather Calluna vulgaris and bell heather Erica cinerea (not Erica carnea as I have seen in some beekeeping articles. This is a different species). Bell heather honey has a gorgeous reddish tinge that has been described as "port wine" colour, which can be extracted in the normal way. Ling heather honey has a distinct flavour and aroma. It is thixotropic and won't flow easily without agitation, so can only be extracted in a conventional extractor after being agitated. It is usually pressed. When beekeepers speak or write of "heather honey" they generally mean ling heather.
Unfortunately I have no experience of working bees for heather, something I have always envied the lucky ones for. I think that heather honey has a superb flavour and, being a mead maker, I have always wanted to make heather honey mead.
When I took this website over from Dave Cushman, one of the gaps I felt needed filling was on heather honey. I have made several attempts to get experienced beekeepers to write short articles on the production of heather honey from two angles, firstly from the beekeeper who doesn't have to move their bees, secondly those who do. I have so far failed, so I have had to rely on my own interpretation of what I have heard and read from those with experience of producing heather honey on a regular basis. I realise this is a poor substitute for the real thing, but I have tried!
I understand the management of colonies before the heather blooms is absolutely critical. Colonies must be strong, with young queens, otherwise failure is almost guaranteed.
If anyone can add to this subject or write a short article that will help others I would welcome it. If anyone has the odd jar of heather honey, I can find somewhere to put it!