Collecting Honey
Photo by:
G. I. Bernard/Oxford Scientific Films
Honey, sweet, thick, supersaturated sugar solution manufactured by bees to feed their larvae and for subsistence in winter. The nectar of flowers is ingested by worker bees and converted to honey in special sacs in their esophagi. It is stored and aged in combs in their hives. Bee honey is an important constituent of the diet of many animals, such as bears and badgers, and is put to many uses by humans. Other insects, such as the honey ant and various aphids, manufacture a honeylike substance from flowers, from the honeydew of plants, or from the sweet secretions elaborated by other insects.

Bee honey is composed of fructose, glucose, and water, in varying proportions; it also contains several enzymes and oils. The color and flavor depend on the age of the honey and on the source of the nectar. Light-colored honeys are usually of higher quality than darker honeys; white honey is derived from the Californian white sage, Salvia apiana. Other high-grade honeys are made by bees from orange blossoms, clover, and alfalfa. A well-known, poorer-grade honey is elaborated from buckwheat.

Honey has a fuel value of about 3307 cal/kg (about 1520 cal/lb). It readily picks up moisture from the air and is consequently used as a moistening agent for tobacco and in baking. Glucose crystallizes out of honey on standing at room temperature, leaving an uncrystallized layer of dissolved fructose. Honey to be marketed is usually heated by special processes to about 66? C (about 150? F) to dissolve the crystals and is poured into containers that are then sealed to prevent crystallization. The fructose in crystallized honey ferments readily at about 16? C (about 60? F) or over. Fermented honey is used to make honey wine or mead.

Honey is marketed in the original comb as comb honey, or centrifuged out of the comb and sold as extracted honey. Chunk honey consists of pieces of comb honey suspended in extracted liquid honey.

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