So I guess I’m still on a honey kick. Yesterday I posted about the possibilities of using honey instead of table sugar in recipes.
Well that got me to thinking, how is honey actually made. I know, I know, a bee goes to a flower, sucks up nectar, takes it to a hive, and then you have honey. But what really happens? It seems to me the more we understand how our earth works the more we appreciated it and what a wonderful gift it is.
For instance, did you know that honeybee workers must visit 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey? Did you know that the bee must fly around 55,000 miles to visit that many flowers or that it takes 300 bees about 3 weeks to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey.
Interestingly the foraging bee only gathers the nectar. Other bees actually convert the nectar into honey. As the foraging bee sucks up the nectar it is stored in a special stomach, a nectar sac, and not used for food. If, however, she gets hungry a special valve can open to allow some of the nectar to pass from her nectar sac to her own stomach.
When the nectar sac is full the bee returns to the hive where the nectar is delivered to another bee. At times, if there is a “bumper crop” of nectar, the nectar may be stored temporarily in one of the cells of the honeycomb for later processing. The nectar is then transferred from bee to bee inside the hive until the moisture content of the honey is reduced to about 20%. During this time enzymes in the nectar sac or honey stomach break down the complex sugars in the nectar into simpler sugars which are less prone to crystallization. It is this process that actually produces the honey.
The hive bees continuously beat their wings, fanning the nectar to reduce the moisture content to about 14-18%. Finally the honey is capped with beeswax.