Honey is amazing stuff. It is a great all-purpose natural sweetener that the body usually doesn’t have a great deal of difficulty digesting. It contains substances that give it antibiotic properties, to the point that in a pinch, it can be applied to minor cuts, scrapes and punctures to both disinfect them and to hasten healing. There is a lot more facts about honey and honey bees that most people either don’t know or have never thought about, though.
Honey does contain glucose, but most of the sugar comes in the form of fructose or fruit sugar. Raw honey is healthier than regular honey, because it is not heated above 115 F, so the enzymes aren’t destroyed. Among the substances that honey contains are antioxidants, so honey may be useful in preventing or fighting cancer.
Most honey that is sold in stores comes from European honey bees. However, there are more than 25,000 species of bees in the world, only four of which produce honey. In recent years, populations of European honey bees have started dwindling and entire hives have been lost, in large part due to diseases. The American honey bee is mostly immune to many of those diseases.
Not only is honey the only edible substance (for people) that is produced by an insect, it is also the only food that apparently never spoils. Honey found in clay jars inside Egyptian tombs and carbon dated at over 4,000 years old was still edible. It was crystallized, however. This said, if honey absorbs enough moisture, it can ferment, which isn’t the same thing as spoiling.
Crystallization occurs when the honey is at the right temperature for the sugars to form crystals. Crystallized honey isn’t spoiled. If it is thoroughly heated to no more than 115 F, it will normally become a liquid again that is perfectly good to eat.
One of the properties of honey is that it has the ability to absorb and hold on to moisture. This is useful in baking because if honey is used instead of sugar, breads, cakes and cookies tend to remain moister longer. Remember that the next time you bake chocolate chip cookies. If you like soft chocolate chip cookies, use honey instead of sugar.
Most of the honey that is sold in stores isn’t pure honey even if the label says that it’s pure. Other sweeteners, most often corn syrup, are usually added. This is mostly to increase profits, since corn syrup is much less expensive to produce than honey. By law, the honey can be sold as “pure honey” as long as it contains less than 5 percent of the additives.
If the honey is pure, it will usually be slightly cloudy, even after filtration. The cloudiness comes from beeswax and pollen contained in the honey. Adding corn syrup can cause the wax and pollen to separate out, resulting in a fluid that is transparent, though colored.
According to the American Beekeeping Federation, on average, a worker bee lives no longer than eight weeks and in that time, it will produce about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. The main cause of their death, though, is that their wings wear out.
The Utah County Beekeepers Association adds another interesting tidbit:
“To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 768 bees.”
Honey and honey bees are interesting topics and both are astonishing in many ways. Hopefully you now know more about both than you did before you started reading this.