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What is Honey?

What is Honey?

Often overlooked by the public is the honey bee's greatest contribution to agriculture, namely their pollination service. The body of the bee is covered with very small branched hairs, that readily accumulate pollen grains as the bee flies from flower to flower gathering nectar. With each new flower visited, some pollen is inadvertently dropped off, and some is picked up. The bees then carry the nectar and pollen back to the hives to feed their young. Pollen is the bees' source of protein as nectar supplies their carbohydrates.

Many people, honey lovers among them, are unclear as to what honey is and how it is made. Simply stated, honey is a concentrated solution of simple sugars, mostly fructose and glucose manufactured by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. The foraging honeybee draws nectar up from the host flower's nectar glands and stores it temporarily in her honey crop. During the return flight to the hive, she adds enzymes to the nectar that begin to break down the nectar's sucrose into simpler sugars.
 
 
Customarily, once bees in a hive have been alerted to a new honey source through several different and distinct dances, the foraging bees will "work" that source until it's exhausted. Then they will move on to another flower.
 
Once home, the field bee gives these contents to the hive bees, who store them in the cells of the colony's wax combs. At this point the un-ripened honey has a water content of between 50 and 75 percent, and would spoil if left as is. The honey must be protected from deterioration to be of use to a hive of bees, which may store it for months or even years before it needs to use the honey. So the bees quickly reduce the moisture to less than 18 percent by fanning their wings to circulate air throughout the hive.
 
 
When the proper honey density has been reached by this process of evaporation, the bees seal the finished product in cells with a wax capping and the job is done. Honey supplies the carbohydrate (energy) portion of the bees diet. Pollen, also collected from the flower, and stored like honey, provides the bees with protein.