We all know bees make honey. It’s something you learn as a kid, and maybe because of that you never really question it. But take a moment to think about it…
Bees. Make. Honey.
That’s AMAZING! Spiders don’t make chutney. Snails don’t make Vegemite. If they did our minds would be blown, but when it comes to bees, everyone just accepts it!
And it’s not like honey is just a by-product that happens to taste nice. Honey is known as a superfood, and it’s not hard to see why. Its chemical make-up is astonishing. Honey is high in Calcium, Iron and Potassium, with the majority of its content made up of fructose and glucose. It tastes sweeter than sugar and NEVER spoils.
So, how do bees make honey?
One healthy bee hive will make 50kg (110lbs) of honey in a single year. Considering how small bees are, that’s a lot of hard work. Honey is made from nectar, but it doesn’t come out of flowers as the golden sticky stuff we know. A bee will drink the nectar from the flowers with its enormously long tongue, and store the nectar in one of its two stomachs.
Now we’re talking about very small portions of nectar here, and a honey bee might have to visit up to one thousand flowers before filling its special honey stomach up to capacity. When full, the stored nectar might actually weigh as much as the bee itself, so the flight back to the hive is quite a struggle. But the process of turning the nectar into honey has already begun. Inside the bee’s honey stomach are special enzymes, which start to break down the complex sugar in the nectar into two simple sugars; fructose and glucose. This process is called inversion.
Back at the Hive
Ok, things get a little gross here, but bear with us. Once back at the hive, the bee then regurgitates the nectar into the mouth of another bee. Yeah, you read that right. Then that bee does the same to another bee. And so on and so on. This image of the bees passing on the nectar might seem disgusting, but it’s an essential part of the honey making process. Each bee adds extra enzymes to the nectar, helping with the inversion process, breaking it down into fructose and glucose.
Once the nectar has been broken down from long-chained complex sugars into simple sugars, it’s then added to what we call a cell. This six-sided cell will be familiar to you- it’s what gives the bee hive its hexagonal honeycomb look. Now, at this point, it’s not quite honey, but almost. There’s just one more step in the process; evaporation.
The nectar is around 70% water, but honey is less than 20% water, so to get rid of all that excess moisture, the bees beat their wings and raise the temperature in the hive, kicking off the evaporation process. Once this stage is complete, we now have honey, and the bees seal the cell with a wax they secrete from their abdomen.
Nothing lasts forever- except honey
Because of its low water content and acidic Ph levels, honey isn’t a very inviting place for bacteria or yeast spoilage. This means honey doesn’t go off, and practically lasts forever. Ancient Egyptian tombs have been found with sealed jars of honey, with their contents pretty much unspoiled. Although if you’re that desperate for honey, we suggest ordering from us.
Bee Plus specialises in Manuka Honey. Unique to New Zealand, Manuka Honey is renowned the world over. Made from native New Zealand flowers, each batch is independently tested using rigorous criteria set by the UMF Honey Association. If you have any questions about our honey, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Or you can order our exceptional manuka honey here