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 erroneously 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 (jelly like) and won't flow easily without agitation, which can be done by the use of a "heather honey loosener", then extracted in a conventional extractor, otherwise it is usually pressed in the traditional heather honey press. 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, because there are many beekeepers who live in or close to a heather district. The management of colonies before the heather blooms is absolutely critical and not simply a case of strapping up and moving colonies that have worked the summer crop. Colonies must be strong, with young queens, otherwise failure is almost guaranteed. I therefore wanted good sound information from experienced and successful beekeepers who could pass their knowledge on to others, to help avoid failures.
The buttons on the left take you to two articles. One is from notes I made at a lecture given by Scottish beekeeper, Archie Ferguson, in Gormanston in 2015, the other is by well known Yorkshire beekeeper Tony Jefferson. Until Tony offered his material all I had was my notes from Archie, so I am grateful to Tony for his contribution.
If anyone can add to this subject or write a short article, especially about heather honey production where there is no moving of bees I would welcome it. If anyone has the odd jar of heather honey, I can find somewhere to put it!