Wildcape Honey manage 2700 hives throughout the Eastcape region. Over winter hives are placed in warm sheltered valleys around the Gisborne and Tolaga Bay districts. These areas provide the diverse floral sources needed in spring to allow the hives to rapidly build the bee population needed to gather a good honey surplus. A hive will normally winter with about 10000 bees but needs 40000 to 50000 to gather a good honey surplus. As a bee only lives for 6 to 8 weeks the queen needs to lay tens of thousands of eggs and the bees feed and nurture the eggs to provide strong worker bees. During this period we replace any queens whose egg laying ability is diminishing and ensure hives have plenty of honey and pollen to feed their larvae.
We are also able to harvest any monofloral honey surpluses that the bees store over this period. According to the season we may be able to harvest Rewarewa, barberry, and citrus honeys each with its own unique flavour.
As the manuka forests begin to flower we take the bees to gather the prized nectar. We select manuka forests that will yield Unique manuka factor honey UMF® (not all manuka forests yield honeys with these special properties).
Once on their manuka sites we place a layer of honey supers on the hives and add more as they fill the first.
Once the forests finish flowering we leave the bees to ripen the honey. Nectar is 85% water and the bees need to remove most of the water. Honey needs to be below 20% water or it will ferment. Bees circulate warm dry air through the hive to evaporate the water off they do this by lining up around the hive and fanning their wings pushing air to create the draft. You can see bees doing this, on the landing board of a hive, on a warm day. Once the honey is ripe the bees cap the individual cells with wax so that the honey cannot absorb moisture on damp days.
When the combs are sealed we remove the surplus honey by gently blowing the bees off the combs. These combs are taken back to our base in Gisborne to be put through large centrifuge’s which remove the honey but leave the wax comb intact for the bees to use again. The honey is put into bulk containers.
These containers are sampled and honeys tested (in independent laboraties) for the Unique manuka factor (UMF®) this allows us to select the finest honeys to pack into the wild cape jar.