Every early spring, beekeepers start getting calls about local honey. Especially in Tampa, the oak pollen is bad and everyone's allergies are acting up. It is common wisdom is that honey is good for reducing allergy symptoms, although there are no scientific studies that prove it. Unprocessed, raw, local honey contains small bits of local nectar and pollen. Believers contend that by injesting a tablespoon of honey from hives set within a 5 mile area of where they live and work, they are innoculating themselves.
The problem is that in early spring, there is no honey. The bees have been hunkered down in their colonies all winter trying to survive on last year's honey stores, provided the beekeeper has not taken off too much honey in November. Bees begin harvesting nectar and honey when the maples bud out. They take in oak pollen to feed the new babies. The bees are jubilant when the citrus trees blossom, provided the farmers have not decided to spray Sevin dust on the trees and kill the bees. (That's a topic for another blog post.)
Oranges and other citrus bloom for about a month. There is so much nectar, the bees are able to produce a lot of honey in a short period of time. Usually, a month after the citrus starts blooming, beekeepers can harvest some of that honey. Other plants are also in bloom, like ligustrums and roses, but bees will take citrus before anything else.
Note: Orange Blossom Honey can only legitimately be labeled as such if the beekeeper has located the bees in a grove that spans 5 miles in any direction from the hive, because that is how far the bees fly to collect it. If the grove is smaller, and most are, the honey is more properly labeled wildflower. Don't pay a premium for what you're not getting.
This goes for organic honey, too. Honey cannot accurately be labeled organic unless the beekeeper knows for certain that for a five-mile area around the hives, no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides have been used. Most organic certifiers only certify the processing in the plant. "Processing" raw honey consists of pouring it from the bucket through a sieve into a bottle. It is not heated or treated.
Back to allergy sufferers and the hunt for Spring honey. Unfortunately, just when the allergy plagued need honey the most, it is unavailable. The only honey available in early Spring is honey left from the November harvest. And even that is rare.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a beekeeper and sell my surplus honey. I only have two hives, and so I don't sell much. And, sorry, I don't have any left. Try in April.)
Authentic spring honey will not be available until early April at best. You can tell early honey because it is light amber. Dark honey is late summer or early fall.