Frequently Asked Questions
Which varietal is your favorite?
Camille's favorite is the Tangent : Coriander. Henry's favorite is the Kiger Island : Clary Sage. If you're unsure of what to choose, we suggest purchasing the Wild Blackberry, Clary Sage, Meadowfoam Sampler or the seasonal honey sampler, both of which will give you a wide array of flavors.
Why is "pumpkin" honey called pumpkin honey or "wild blackberry" honey called wild blackberry honey? Do you flavor your honeys?
Our honeys contain no added ingredients or flavorings. The bees produce pumpkin honey by concentrating nectar from pumpkin flowers. Wild blackberry honey is made from nectar from blackberry flowers. The flavor of each varietal comes exclusively from the character of the nectar source plants.
Can or do you control what kind of nectar the bees gather? How do you know what the bees have been foraging on?
We do not limit where the bees can forage in any way, so the bees will fly up to three miles from the hive to find food. We do move our hives to different areas to take advantage of diverse nectar flows. We label our varietals with what we observe to be the primary nectar sources based on hive location and season. We do not consider any of our varietals to be strictly mono-floral.
Our honey program is divided into two broad categories, crop honey and wildflower honey. It is fairly easy to determine the nectar sources of the crop varietals because we place hives of bees in and around sizeable acreage of a single blooming crop (for example, clary sage, coriander, raspberry, pumpkin, meadowfoam). For a few weeks, the bees will have their nutritional needs met by that one crop and the minor amount of forage in the surrounding area, which does not significantly impact the flavor of the honey.
For our wildflower honeys, we observe what species are blooming in the area during times of honey production, and when we later harvest honey, we make notes about the nectar sources of that honey. Our wildflower honeys have more diverse nectar sources than our crop honeys, but generally one or two nectar sources will predominate either in volume of nectar or flavor of the honey.
Most "wildflower honey” from other beekeepers is the result of a single annual harvest. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we harvest our honey multiple times during the spring and summer, allowing us to produce small batches of varietal honey — each tasting unique. For example, when we harvest honey early in the spring, the bees have foraged on just early blooming plants such as bigleaf maple or poison-oak. Later on, the blackberry bloom predominates in our Coast Range apiaries, so honey varietals harvested in July are primarily made up of blackberry nectar with other nectar species present in lesser amounts.
Will I be able to tell the difference in flavor between two varietals?
Many of our varietals are distinctly different in flavor. You do not need a particularly sophisticated palate to taste the differences, especially if you try them side by side. Our wildflower honeys other than blackberry and crop varietals have particularly unique tastes. For example, the meadowfoam honey tastes like marshmallows and vanilla in contrast to the bigleaf maple honey which has a peppery eucalyptus and licorice flavor. The differences between some of the blackberry nectar-based honeys are more subtle.
I got some of your honey last year. Do you have that specific kind again this year?
Our wildflower honey varietals vary considerably year to year. Nectar availability varies depending on multiple factors such as weather and flower bloom cycles. Some years, we may not have a particular varietal available at all. If you find something you like, you should purchase it now because we may never have it again.
Our crop honeys are relatively more consistent from year to year, but we can't guarantee their availability in the future. For example, our coriander honey has been a customer favorite this year, but the coriander grower says he may not plant any next year (or possibly ever again).
How long does your honey last before it goes bad?
Properly cured honey never goes bad unless it has been contaminated. All honey will crystalize eventually, but you can still use it when it is crystallized. Crystallization does not change the flavor and does not mean that it has gone bad. If you prefer, you can liquefy crystalized honey by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water.
Why are your honey varietals priced differently?
We price our honeys based on several factors: quantity that we produce; availability of that varietal on the open market; effort involved in producing, harvesting, and extracting it; and unique-ness of the varietal's flavor. Harvesting honey multiple times a year — instead of just once at the end of the honey-producing season — allows us to offer interesting early-season varietals, but it also increases our cost of production. Something like bigleaf maple honey is rare on the open market, very unique in flavor, difficult to produce and extract, and limited in quantity. Because bigleaf maple trees bloom early in the year and only for a short time, the bees produce only small amounts of bigleaf maple honey each year — if at all. We harvest this honey before the unique bigleaf maple flavor is overwhelmed by later-blooming plants like blackberry. Because it costs us more to produce these more unique honey varietals, we charge more for them than for our blackberry honey that is widely available, mild in flavor, and easier to produce in large quantities.
Is your honey organic?
Organic standards for honey have not yet been developed and agreed upon in the United States, and there are few places in this country that are feasible for honey production and are also far enough removed from agricultural areas and human habitation for the honey to be free from all pesticide residue. The vast majority of certified organic honey in stores is imported from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, India, and a few other countries.
Though it's standard practice for beekeepers to apply frequent chemical treatments to their hives including miticides and antibiotics, Henry maintains his colonies with integrated pest management, probiotics and the use of organic-approved mite treatments.
What do people do with comb honey (honeycomb)?
Most people seeking comb honey are either planning to use it in a beautiful display like a cheese board, or they are nostalgic for a childhood experience with fresh comb honey. Eating honeycomb is certainly an interesting experience to try, but if you want a less expensive, somewhat more efficient method of consuming honey, liquid honey is great.
Will poison-oak honey cause me to have an allergic reaction? Will poison-oak honey cure my allergy to the poison-oak plant?
We are not medical professionals and are not qualified to give medical advice. If you have questions about allergies, you should consult with your doctor.
Poison-oak honey is derived from poison-oak flower nectar. The honey may also contain poison-oak pollen. There are no added ingredients in our poison-oak honey. The skin condition that can develop from poison-oak generally comes from contact with the oils of poison-oak leaves and stems.
I have seasonal allergies, and I've heard that local honey is supposed to help. What would you recommend?
We are not medical professionals and are not qualified to give medical advice. If you have questions about allergies, you should consult with your doctor.
Our Coast Range wildflower honeys are made from the nectar and pollen of native and naturalized plants including local trees and weeds. Our Willamette Valley crop honeys are made mostly from the nectar and pollen of those specific crop plants. All grasses are wind pollinated, so honeybees generally have very little interaction with grass and grass pollen.
Old Blue HQ in Philomath
Do you have business hours?
We do not have regular business hours. We are open for honey pickups by appointment only. Email us at email@example.com to schedule a pickup.
When is your next Fill Your Jar event?
We do not have any Fill Your Jar events scheduled for the foreseeable future.
Sales, Delivery, and Shipping
Where can I buy your honey? Do you sell at any farmers markets?
The best place to buy our honey is here on our website or at one of our sampling and sales events. Because of an abundance of caution regarding Covid 19, Old Blue will not be selling at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers' Market for the foreseeable future, but we are offering free home delivery in Philomath and Corvallis. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order for delivery.
You can also find our honey in these stores and restaurants in the Philomath/Corvallis area, Junction City, Dayton, and Portland.
Do you sell honeycomb?
We produce and sell a limited amount of honeycomb each year. We only sell honeycomb at in-person events.
Do you sell beeswax?
We do sell unfiltered beeswax for $12/pound plus shipping (1 pound minimum), but we don't always have it available. Email us email@example.com for availability.
Do you sell propolis, royal jelly, or bee pollen?
We do not sell propolis, royal jelly, or bee pollen at this time.
Do you sell honey wholesale?
We do sell wholesale to a number of restaurants, businesses, and stores in Portland and the Philomath/Corvallis area. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your business is interested in using or carrying our honey.
Do you sell queens, nucs, or packages?
We will be selling nucs and packages through Bee & Bloom in Portland spring 2020. At this time, we are not selling individual queens direct to customers.
I live near you. Can I order honey and pick it up instead of paying for shipping?
Honey is available for pickup at Old Blue HQ by appointment only. Email us with your order at email@example.com, and we can probably schedule a time to meet. If you order off the website, you will automatically be charged for shipping.
I live in Portland. Can I pick up an order at one of your events?
Do you ship internationally?
No. At this time, we do not sell or ship our honey internationally.
General Business Info and Beekeeping Practices
Why "Old Blue"? Is that the name of a truck or a dog?
Though quite a few customers have told us of trucks and dogs in their lives named Old Blue, our namesake Old Blue is a Mountain in the Oregon Coast Range near Alsea. It has particularly interesting ecology.
Where are you located?
Our home base is in Philomath, OR, and we move our hives seasonally among various rural locations within about 50 miles of home — ranging from Newport, OR on the Pacific Coast to Tangent, OR in the Willamette Valley. Many of our hives also pollinate almond orchards in the Sacramento Valley every winter, but all of our honey is produced in Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties.
How many hives do you have?
We own and manage between 400 and 500 honey-producing hives (or “colonies”) plus about 200 small hives. Beekeepers refer to these smaller hives as “nucleus hives” or “nucs” because they are used to raise new queens or start new colonies. Our exact number of hives changes almost weekly, generally increasing as we split hives in the spring and early summer and generally decreasing as we combine or lose hives in the late summer, fall, and winter.
Do you have problems with Colony Collapse Disorder? How are your bees doing these days?
Colony Collapse Disorder is a catch-all term for a complicated set of bee ailments including pests, diseases, chemical exposure issues, nutrition imbalances, and other factors. Like ALL beekeepers in the modern era, we have hives that die every year, though it’s hard to say if those losses can be attributed specifically to CCD. Some years are okay, and some years are bad. We plan on losing about 30 percent of our hives each year, but we produce replacement colonies during the spring and summer to make up for winter losses.
At Old Blue Raw Honey, we have an active breeding and selection program in which we produce queens with genetics that are better adapted to the conditions of the Northwest. In general, Henry's bees are darker in color than most commercial colonies, and they overwinter in smaller clusters. His bees exhibit several mite and disease resistant traits, such as varroa sensitive hygienic behavior and grooming. Though it's standard practice to apply frequent chemical treatments including miticides and antibiotics, Henry maintains his colonies with integrated pest management and the use of organic-approved mite treatments.
Are your bees exposed to agricultural chemicals?
Most of our wildflower honey varietals are produced in areas far removed from agricultural fields, so the bees' exposure to pesticides is extremely limited.
Many of our hives are used for pollination of conventionally grown crops. However, we only agree to bring bees in to pollinate for growers whom we know well. We work closely with these growers to limit the bees' exposure to agricultural chemicals whenever possible. For example, when placing the hives on cropland, we carefully locate them out of the way of pesticide or herbicide application areas, and we ask growers to spray at night when the bees aren't flying or wait to spray until after the bees have been moved out of the area.
What kind of bees do you have? Carniolan? Italian? Russian?
The majority of our bees are descendants of feral or wild bees that have been surviving and propagating their genetics in unmanaged colonies in remote areas of the Oregon Coast Range for decades. Henry has been keeping bees since 2006, and from the beginning, he has focused on building up his hive numbers by catching swarms of feral bees, rehoming bees that have been thriving without chemical treatments in bee trees and barns, and splitting his own hives and raising his own queens to propagate Northwest-adapted honeybee genetics. In general, Henry's bees are darker in color than most commercial colonies, and they overwinter in smaller clusters. His bees exhibit several mite and disease resistant traits, such as varroa sensitive hygienic behavior and grooming. They are similar in some ways to Russian and Caucasian bees.
Do you accept donations to support your bee breeding and selection efforts?
At this time, we are not accepting donations. If you would like to support our bee breeding and selection efforts, we would encourage you to buy honey from us.
I'm interested in getting into beekeeping. Where should I buy gear, bees, and queens?
If you're new to beekeeping and want good customer service, we recommend that you support your local beekeeping supply retailer. Nectar Bee Supply at Shonnard's Nursery is a good place to start in the Corvallis/Philomath area. If you know what you want, Mann Lake has a wide selection of bee gear and good prices, too. Whenever possible, choose to buy locally adapted bee colonies and queens.
I'm interested in learning more about beekeeping. What books or resources should I check out?
Honeybee Biology & Beekeeping by Dewey Caron
Beekeeping at Buckfast Abby by Brother Adam
At the Hive Entrance by H. Storch (NOT our H. Storch, possibly a distant German relative)
Media Inquiries, Presentations, and Visits
I am a member of the media. Can I schedule an interview or photo shoot?
Although Henry's availability is somewhat limited, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will try to schedule something.
Can you give a presentation to my class/group/organization?
Henry does give occasional talks on the subject of beekeeping in the Philomath/Corvallis area. He is not available to give presentations farther from home. His availability is limited because of his beekeeping commitments, but you are welcome to email us about speaking opportunities at email@example.com . You can also meet us at one of our honey sales events in Philomath/Corvallis or the Portland area.
Do you take on apprentices? Can I come visit you while you're working hives?
We are not taking on apprentices at this time. We are also unable to have visitors to our apiaries.