|Refractometer, used for measuring water content of honey. Refractometers are job specific. Example, for testing honey, you need a refractometer meant for honey. Don't purchase the wrong one. |
|Refractometer readout. |
We have had a humid summer. Looking forward a week, the dew points are supposed to drop and be much more pleasant. But the past month has given us many humid days and nights. The high humidity may have brought stored honey in honey supers on our hives, to a high level of water content.
To be considered U.S. Grade A honey, the honey has to have a water content of 18.6% or less. When honey has a water content of above 18.6%, the honey will ferment with time.
So a beekeeper needs to find out what the moisture level of the honey is, then take the appropriate actions to ultimately have U.S. Grade A honey.
The upcoming week with the lower dew points will help to lower the moisture content of stored honey even on the hive. Frames of honey that is capped with beeswax may not be grade A honey. The moisture content may be too high. But the good thing is, the wax capped frames are hygroscopic. If something is hygroscopic, the substance can pick up or give up moisture relating to the relative humidity. This means during a time of low humidity the frames of honey can lose water content and bring the honey down to a lower level.
There are many types of Refractometers, and they are specific to their industry. Refractometrs are used for measuring machine tool coolant and glycol levels in heating and cooling systems for example.
Beekeepers need a Refractometer that is used for honey. If you look at the pic above the measured scale says Honey moisture. Many times beekeepers see a "good deal" on a refractometer and end up buying the wrong one.
Refractometers can be purchased from a bee supply store. They range in price from around $75.00 to $475.00. Or you could bring a sample of honey to Nature's Nectar LLC and they will test your honey for free. When you bring a sample, in a container, fill the container with the honey sample. Putting a thimble full of honey in a quart canning jar will give you a false reading, because the honey sample just absorbed any humidity that was in the jar. A full jar of honey works great, the sample used, can fit on a couple of toothpicks.
Testing frames of honey before you extract is many times inaccurate. The moisture content on honey frames can be all over the place. You can check different places on the same frame and come up with a different reading.
The safest way to get your honey right, with the proper moisture content, is to put the full honey supers in a room with a dehumidifier for a week before you extract. Getting the humidity in the room down to 40% is the desired level to have. Removing the high moisture from honey before the frames are extracted is easier to do than after the honey if extracted.
When extracting, the safe bet is to extract the mostly capped frames of honey first, then extract any uncapped frames separately. Usually uncapped honey can have a higher moisture content, but not all the time. Sometimes the only reason the honey was not capped, is that the nectar flow ended and the frames were never filled. The honey could be grade A.
Moisture in honey can be a big issue, knowing what the moisture content will give a beekeeper an idea where they stand.
I will put a video on in the future on how to lower moisture levels in honey.