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Hi, hoping some kind souls might be able to help me. TL;DR: need references and referrals to companies who can test honey for pesticide residue (and anything else??).

My family grows citrus commercially in the Central Valley of CA. A commercial beekeeper who specializes in pollinating hives for almond orchards has used our groves for 20 years to store his bees for a few weeks to keep them healthy. In return, we get the honey from our own groves (about 20 cases). To be clear, the beekeeper does NOT make honey for sale commercially.

Beekeeper died, son recently took over, and my uncle, who ran our ranch, died a few years back. I recently learned that the beekeeper doesn't sell the honey we eat and give out commercially and now am concerned about possible pesticides in the honey. I don't trust the people who manage our ranches 100% to coordinate spraying away from the times when the bees are present, nor do I trust the beekeeper's son to have this knowledge and as I am not involved in the management of the ranch I haven't met him (maybe some of the honey we get is from other locations, or the bees I presume have a greater range than just our groves).

I proposed to my family that we should get the honey tested for pesticide residue as we are not organic farmers, and was laughed out of the room by a few of them, but am going to pursue anyway given the copious amounts we eat and give away. (He gives us the honey at the end of the year and he uses our groves to store them during springtime citrus bloom...so who knows, there could be honey from the almond bloom involved as well and I know they spray almond orchards during bloom.)

1. Can anyone help with references to labs that can do this? I have one reference to the lab AGQ Labs which has a 400+ multi residue screen for about $350. https://agqlabs.us.com/expanded-multi-residue-pesticide-screen/

2. Are there certain pesticides/toxins of more concern for humans that bees tend to collect in honey that I should watch out for and ensure the screen includes? Are heavy metals ever an issue?

3. Is this even a concern AT ALL? Or am I just paranoid? I assume even amateur bee keepers are careful about where they place their hives and test all honey for human consumption. I really don't trust anyone involved to give me a straight answer either.

Thank you, really any help would be appreciated!
 

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All I can say is that the $350 sounds reasonable if it tests for the pesticides used in the areas you are concerned about and no, not every beekeeper is careful about chemicals and no,I don't think anyone tests for anything except perhaps very large operations or their buyers. But keep in mind that beekeepers cannot always guarantee what is in their honey because the bees travel 2 miles+- Therefore, unless the apiary is in a very secluded area, all honey will contain "contaminants" of some sort. The issue is how much. In a heavy ag area with lots of spraying, its going to be more. J
 

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The reason he doesn’t sell the honey from your place is he lets the bees keep it to grow. It is the same with almonds. He probably makes honey during the summer, out of the valley (in seperate boxes added only for that time) and when he extracts and bottles that is what you get as rent for a location. I am speculating but that is a pretty common arrangement. It sounds like more communication is needed all around.
 

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I assume even amateur beekeepers are careful about where they place their hives and test all honey for human consumption. I really don't trust anyone involved to give me a straight answer either.
!
just sent the honey to the same place you send your fruit for testing before selling it, I would assume even an amateur fruit producer would test all producefor human consumption.. lol :lookout:

Not trying to be rude( and I come off that way, I know)... but lets put this in perspective, your worried about if the honey coming from your trees, that your family sprays is safe for your family and friends to eat
Where is the worry for the families that eat the fruit you sell off those same trees?

I don't trust the people who manage our ranches
nor do I trust the beekeeper's son
Then I would not eat the honey, food is a trust bond...
 

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Yes, you could send your sample to the USDA pesticide residue testing lab in Gastonia, along with 396 dollars. I would strongly suggest you do NOT do that. They do NOT test for herbicides, like Glyphosate, Dicambra, or 2-4d. A complete test costs around twice as much. One of the most trusted labs is in Germany.

Crazy Roland
 

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The beekeeper involved (if he's good beekeeper) will INSIST that the orchards his bees are in are sprayed on a safe schedule in order to protect his bees while they are present. But that schedule will be based on specific spray products intended to control insects (insecticides), and if he's on the ball, also for products intended to control fungi (fungicides) and certain combinations of the two ( so-called tank mixes.) Little attention will be given for herbicides.

There is no such thing as "organic" certified honey in the US. The reason is that bees forage outward from their hives as much as a couple of miles in all directions. No beekeeper could control that much territory to ensure that no non-certified chemicals were used. "Organic" honey from overseas can be legally sold because US standards for organic do not apply. And overseas standards are likely to be different.

Don't be surprised if the chemical screen comes back with residues. I would think honey made in pollination areas would always be that way. But as pointed out above, it's likely the honey "rent" your family receives was made elsewhere when the bees were not occupied "pollinating", and thus being exposed to growing practices in those crops. In order to assure excellent pollination, the hives are crowded into the blooming areas in a density that doesn't allow for them to collect sufficient surplus nectar with which to much, if any honey. But that isn't the point of most pollination contracts. The beekeepers are paid very well to put this short-term stress on their bees. If the pollinating bees could also make honey on the crop then pollination contract prices would be lower. (Or as in your family's case, they would be paying rent.) The bees probably go to your family's fields, partly to rest and gather themselves after that big exertion. The bees will be re-stocking their own pantries, first, before being moved to another pollination assignment, or to an area such as the upper west (ND, ID, MT) where collecting surplus nectar to make big honey crops is much easier and more productive.

Nancy
 

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The beekeeper involved (if he's good beekeeper) will INSIST that the orchards his bees are in are sprayed on a safe schedule in order to protect his bees while they are present. But that schedule will be based on specific spray products intended to control insects (insecticides), and if he's on the ball, also for products intended to control fungi (fungicides) and certain combinations of the two ( so-called tank mixes.) Little attention will be given for herbicides.

There is no such thing as "organic" certified honey in the US. The reason is that bees forage outward from their hives as much as a couple of miles in all directions. No beekeeper could control that much territory to ensure that no non-certified chemicals were used. "Organic" honey from overseas can be legally sold because US standards for organic do not apply. And overseas standards are likely to be different.

Don't be surprised if the chemical screen comes back with residues. I would think honey made in pollination areas would always be that way. But as pointed out above, it's likely the honey "rent" your family receives was made elsewhere when the bees were not occupied "pollinating", and thus being exposed to growing practices in those crops. In order to assure excellent pollination, the hives are crowded into the blooming areas in a density that doesn't allow for them to collect sufficient surplus nectar with which to much, if any honey. But that isn't the point of most pollination contracts. The beekeepers are paid very well to put this short-term stress on their bees. If the pollinating bees could also make honey on the crop then pollination contract prices would be lower. (Or as in your family's case, they would be paying rent.) The bees probably go to your family's fields, partly to rest and gather themselves after that big exertion. The bees will be re-stocking their own pantries, first, before being moved to another pollination assignment, or to an area such as the upper west (ND, ID, MT) where collecting surplus nectar to make big honey crops is much easier and more productive.

Nancy
Thank you all for the very helpful replies, I really appreciate it. The one thing i'll say is that it's definitely orange blossom honey, I can tell, but we do get it only at the end of the year so maybe it's mixed in with something else or he uses other citrus groves. Anyway I know this might sound silly but becuase of family issues I am not able to have a direct relationship with the beekeeper and already caused strife even suggesting we get our honey tested.

I did consider that the bees might collect from a much larger area that we can't collect from. He has said he does use our groves to keep the bees healthy so maybe the claim that he gives us the honey from our groves as rent was just a tall tale anyway.

I guess bottom line is that it doens't hurt to test but take with a grain of salt? I understand the logic about why be worried about the honey vs the crops if you use so much chemicals but citrus is picked and processed differently and the peel prevents absorption and most of the chemicals break down by harvest time and are undetectable after they come out of the packing house. Honey I would assume would accumulate a lot more, even if the concentrations aren't enough to hurt the bee (? this is a question not a statement of fact! ?)

Anyway thanks for the helpful insights.
 
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