By Howland Blackiston

Preparing honey for competition is an exciting step for beekeepers to demonstrate their attention to detail at the show bench. Honey judges are trained to scrutinize each entry for a perfect presentation of honey samples.

Judges follow strict guidelines that are understood by the entrants. Air bubbles that create unsightly foam during extraction, debris, wax, lint from cheesecloth during straining, overly dark comb from propolis, early crystallization, fermentation, and even small holes in the wax cappings are just a few errors that can disqualify even the most delicious honey.

Judges look for defects and take note of all these factors on score cards that serve to aid the entrant in understanding how and why the judges came to their final decision. Moisture is a significant factor in fermentation of samples and can be quickly determined by a hand-held refractometer.

beekeeping-refractometer
Courtesy of Misco Refractometers

A refractometer is used to measure the water content of honey.

Surprisingly, identifying flavors is not as highly important to the judging process as a seamlessly prepared sample with a pleasing flavor. Look for honey competitions in your local region. You’ll also find national and even worldwide honey shows. The rules, regulations, and judging criteria vary from show to show, so be certain to ask for a copy of the judging criteria and a honey application.