How is Honey Made?
This subject came to my mind this morning as I was pouring a spoonful of beautiful golden honey inside my lime, ginger and mint herbal tea. I was just amazed when I remembered that this wonderful substance came from our friends the flowers!
Honey is created by bees as a food source, in cold weather or when food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of energy. People have been able to semi-domesticate the insects, and harvest their excess honey. In the hive you’ll find three types of bee: a single female queen bee, a seasonally variable number of male drone bees to fertilize new queens, and some 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees. Leaving the hive, these worker bees collect sugar-rich flower nectar and then return. In the process, they release Nasonov pheromones, these pheromones lead other bees to rich nectar sites by “smell”. Honeybees also release Nasonov pheromones at the entrance to the hive, which enables returning bees to return to the proper hive.
In the hive, the bees use their “honey stomachs” to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested (Yuck!). The bees work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion until the product reaches a desired quality. It is then stored in honeycomb cells. After the final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed. However, the nectar is still high in both water content and natural yeasts which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the nectar to ferment. The process continues as bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft across the honeycomb which enhances evaporation of much of the water from the nectar. This reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration and prevents fermentation. Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by a beekeeper, has a long shelf life and will not ferment if properly sealed.
I find this hole process quite incredible, nature never ceases to impress us, in the mean time I decided to randomly eat a spoonfull of honey! Cheers!