Does your honey have that new-car smell?
I have been avoiding this post largely because it speaks more to personal preference than stone-cold logic. Still, I was asked my opinion, so here it is.
I go to great effort to keep plastic out of my hives. First off, I can think of nothing natural about plastic, so if you are practicing so-called “natural” beekeeping, it makes sense to stay away from it.
Plastics are made from petroleum. The chemicals used to improve the flexibility and durability of plastic materials are called plasticizers. Plasticizers are nasty chemicals that tend to evaporate from plastic products as they age or leach into liquids that are contained within them—including food and drink.
The plastic becomes brittle and stiff as the plasticizers leave, and the surrounding materials pick up the smell and taste of the plasticizers. That “new car smell” or “new shower curtain smell” is the perfume of plasticizers. Worse, the migration of chemical seems to happen faster in warm or acidic environments—think beehive.
Some people are more sensitive to the flavor of leaching plastic than others. In blind taste tests, I can easily pick out honey that has been stored in plastic, and I’m sure other people can as well. Believe me, it is not pleasant.
Over my beekeeping years, I have tried to give plastics a chance. I have tried plastic foundation, plastic drone frames, plastic feeders, and plastic sections. But I have moved as far away from plastic as I can. When I open a beehive on a hot day I want to smell wax and honey and brood and nectar—not plastic.
Now if I use any foundation at all, I use wax. I’ve replaced plastic drone frames with homemade wooden ones, I’ve gone back to wooden section boxes, and I try to avoid feeding syrup by keeping plenty of honey on hand. Sometimes I feed pollen patties or candy cakes, but I stay away from liquid feed because of the plastic issue. (Although I admit to using the occasional baggie feeder when I’m out of other options.)
So there you have it—plastic-free beekeeping has become an obsession with me. I can understand those who feel differently because plastic is convenient, cheap, and readily available. Nevertheless, if you are selling honey to those who are interested in organic, natural, treatment-free, or environmentally friendly products, plastic-fantastic honey might not be the best choice.