Honey receives an official organic label, when as a producer you associate yourself with an organic production system of monitoring and control, and your system complies with the requirements. In the following summary from the Finnish Food Safety Agency (Evira), we outline the organic beekeeping production guidelines.
Organic products are closely monitored in Finland, and only controlled farms are allowed to use the official organic logo on products. Organic farms receive short notice visits once or twice a year. The supervisory authority checks hives, manufacturing facilities, production process and bookkeeping. The monitoring alone of organic food production requires a lot of paperwork that contributes to increased costs.
Location of the hives
Organic honey inspections pay special attention to the location of the beehives. Because bees fly approximately a three-kilometer radius from their hive, the beehives must be appropriately located away from air pollution, and that the available nectar and pollen sources consist mainly of wild or organically grown crops or forest. Additionally, the hives must also be located at least six kilometres away from any pollution source, such as busy roads with more than 6,000 vehicles per day, landfills and waste incinerators. Non-organic plants can be grown in the bees’ flight path, provided that the plants have a low environmental impact and do not affect the quality of the organic honey. However, within the area, genetically modified plants must not be present. The supervisory authorities are informed of each hive´s location and any re-locations must be notified within 14 days.
At the end of the honey season, hive colonies must be large enough and left with enough honey and pollen so the bees can survive the winter. Winter feeding for bees is only allowed after the organic honey is harvested. Only an organic sugar solution is given to the bees in addition to the honey left inside the hives for winter food. Organically kept honeybees cannot be fed soybean substitute for pollen.
Disease and parasite control
Drugs and the use of chemical pesticides to eliminate parasites and cure diseases are prohibited in organic honey production. Organic “varroa” mite treatment can only be administered with naturally occurring acids and essential oils, such as formic acid, oxalic acid and thymol. It is relatively common in non-organic honey production to use antibiotics and synthetic chemicals, such as Fluvalinate, that end up as residues in honey. It is estimated that one third of all honey in world market contains such residues. Instead of relying on synthetic chemicals and treatments to “cure” diseases, organic beekeeping focuses more on disease prevention, fostering an environment that produces healthy, disease-resistant bees.
Synthetic pesticide residues also accumulate in beeswax. As a result, the production of organic honey requires the use of a honeycomb foundation that is made of beeswax derived from organic beekeeping.
Hive Materials and Beekeeping techniques
Beehives must be made of natural materials such as wood or plywood for winter use. Clipping queen bee wings is prohibited.
Bees are free insects and they are free to fly where they want. Even when living in man-made hives, bees live a life according to their natural habits. Honey production uses few non-renewable resources and is an earth-friendly food. Beekeeping helps promote biodiversity and further organic farming principles. Also beekeeping is important to society because bees pollinate a major portion of agricultural and forestry plants.