Bee keeping has changed radically due to introduced diseases and parasites. Thirty years ago, a colony of bees could be set out in the woods, abandoned for six years, and be in good shape when you returned. Today, if a colony is not properly cared for it will usually die off in a year or two. Tracheal mites, Varroa mites, Nosema, Wax Moths, and Small Hive Beetle are some of the main parasites, fungi, and pests.
The hive to the right consists of 3 supers. The bottom two are "deep". A colony is usually started in a single deep super. As the colony grows, a second deep super may be added to give more room in the brood chamber. This is know as a "double deep". The smaller super on top, a "medium", is placed on the hive during honey flow for honey production. When full it will weigh about 50-60 lbs and contain about 4 gallons.
Honey flow is a period when plants with large amounts of nectar producing flowers bloom. Most of the surplus honey is gathered during these short periods. As this area is heavily forested, the bulk of our honey comes from two trees. In early spring, a reddish, stronger flavored honey comes from the tulip poplar.
Later in the season, the sourwood tree yields a lightly flavored, whitish honey. Of course honey is also made from blackberry, locust and even poison ivy blooms. But if anything happens to these trees, such as a late frost that kills the poplar bloom, or hail or drought that affects the sourwood bloom, there will be little surplus honey to harvest and the bees may find their winter survival dependent on being fed sugar/water syrup by the bee keeper.
Raw Honey has not been filtered or pasteurized. It tends to crystallize faster than filtered honey because the pollen grains seed the crystals.
Strained Honey is passed though a nylon mesh to remove the larger pieces of wax and bee parts from the honey. It has no real affect on the taste or quality of the honey.
Filtered Honey is heated and forced through a filter under pressure, removing the smallest particles of wax and pollen. This prolongs the period of time before the honey will start crystallizing. The heating may affect the taste of the honey and removing the pollen may reduce it's effectiveness (if any) in reducing pollen allergies.
Pasteurized Honey is heated to 140 degrees F for 30 minutes or even higher temperatures for a shorter period of time. This kills the yeast that naturally occurs in honey and prevents the honey from fermenting when the water content in the honey is too high. Pasteurization does tend to affect the flavor and properties of honey.
Most honey will crystallize, depending on the source of the honey and storage temperature. Crystallized honey is not bad and can be liquefied by heating it in a hot water bath. A microwave or direct heat is not recommended because the honey can burn.
Bees as pollinators: Complete list of plants pollinated by bees.