Whew! We have been very busy the past few days robbing, slinging, bottling, labeling and of course eating – HONEY!
This yummy, delicious, golden morsel of goodness comes directly from lots of hard working honeybees. It is so very often that God truly blesses me and I have definitely been blessed the past few days thinking about all the hard work and miraculous formation of honey from our friendly honeybee colonies.
For those of you who are not familiar with how honey is formed, here’s a quick breakdown of the process:
In the colony different honey bees must perform different jobs. Some of these bees go out into the world and collect nectar from different species of flowering plants. These bees search for flowering plants and drink the nectar found within the flower, and then store the nectar in what is called the honey stomach. The honey stomach stores the nectar for transport – the bee actually does not digest the nectar, it simply transports the nectar back to the hive depositing the nectar into the crop of another bee which stays near the entrance of the hive.
The bee then goes back into the world to search for more nectar while the other bee takes the nectar to the honeycomb (near the top of the hive) and deposits the nectar into what we see – the hexagonal honeycomb wax cell. Once the nectar has been placed into the hexagonal wax cell it needs to ripen.
The bee who deposited the nectar into the honeycomb cell adds an enzyme to the nectar called invertase to the nectar every time they make a deposit into the honeycomb. The nectar that the honeybees deposit consists largely of sucrose (table sugar) and water. The enzyme invertase helps to break down the sucrose into two simpler sugars: glucose (blood sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). According to various research that I have done, honey contains less than 19% water, but the water usually makes up approximately 70% of the nectar.
Back to ripening the nectar – the bees must “dry out” the nectar. The bees “dry out” the nectar by fanning their wings! The fanning process creates air circulation around the honeycomb and promotes water evaporation from the nectar.
Once the nectar has ripened into honey, it contains very little water which provides an environment that is not desirable of microbes. This means the honey can not be contaminated by bacteria or fungi as long as the bees “cap” the hexagonal honeycomb cell with an airtight seal. What happens if the wax seal is not airtight? Moisture can enter the hexagonal cell and can increase the amount of moisture in the honey, thus making the honey susceptible to bacterial or fungal growth.
So, make sure you tighten that jar of honey when you have finished adding it to your biscuit, tea, oatmeal or other delicious goodie!
Now that you’ve read the process of making honey – imagine how hard those little guys work to produce that golden goodness! Now, go enjoy a little bite of yummy delicious honey!