Honey is a sweet food made by bees foraging nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees (the genus Apis) is the one most commonly referred to, as it is the type of honey collected by most beekeepers and consumed by people. Honeys are also produced by bumblebees, stingless bees, and other hymenopteran insects such as honey wasps, though the quantity is generally lower and they have slightly different properties compared to honey from the genus Apis. Honey bees convert nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation: they store it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive.
Honey gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, and has about the same relative sweetness as granulated sugar. It has attractive chemical properties for baking and a distinctive flavor that leads some people to prefer it to sugar and other sweeteners. Most microorganisms do not grow in honey so sealed honey does not spoil, even after thousands of years. However, honey sometimes contains dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to babies, as it may result in botulism.
People who have a weakened immune system should not eat honey because of the risk of bacterial or fungal infection. There is some evidence that honey may be effective in treating diseases and other medical conditions such as wounds and burns. Overall the evidence; however, is not conclusive. Providing 64 calories in a typical serving of one tablespoon (15 mL), honey contains no significant essential nutrient content. Honey is generally safe but there are various, potential adverse-effects or interactions it may have in combination with excessive consumption, existing disease conditions, or drugs.
Honey use and production has a long and varied history. Honey collection is an ancient activity. Humans apparently began foraging for honey at least 8,000 years ago, as evidenced by a cave painting in Valencia,Spain.
Honey: You drink it in your tea and spread it on your bread, but what is honey, really?
A thick, golden liquid produced by industrious bees, honey is made using the nectar of flowering plants and is saved inside the beehive for eating during times of scarcity. But how do bees make honey?
Nectar — a sugary liquid — is extracted from flowers using a bee's long, tube-shaped tongue and stored in its extra stomach, or "crop." While sloshing around in the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it more suitable for long-term storage.
When a honeybee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee by regurgitating the liquid into the other bee's mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.
Once in the comb, nectar is still a viscous liquid — nothing like the thick honey you use at the breakfast table. To get all that extra water out of their honey, bees set to work fanning the honeycomb with their wings in an effort to speed up the process of evaporation.
When most of the water has evaporated from the honeycomb, the bee seals the comb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold winter months.
But bees aren't the only ones with a sweet tooth. Humans, bears, badgers and other animals have long been raiding the winter stores of their winged friends to harvest honey.
In fact, until sugar became widely available in the sixteenth century, honey was the world's principal sweetener, with ancient Greece and Sicily among the best-known historical centers of honey production.
Honey's color, taste, aroma and texture vary greatly depending on the type of flower a bee frequents. Clover honey, for example, differs greatly from the honey harvested from bees that frequent a lavender field.
How is Honey Made?
Honeybees use nectar to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In fact, if you have ever pulled a honeysuckle blossom out of its stem, nectar is the clear liquid that drops from the end of the blossom. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes and fruit tree blossoms. They use their long, tubelike tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and they store it in their "honey stomachs". Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach. The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar and when full, it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.
The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee's stomach through their mouths. These "house bees" "chew" the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive. The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it a thicker syrup. The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.