Honey is not bee poop. Nor is it bee vomit. I want to settle this issue once and for all.
A bee’s body contains a honey sac which is separate and apart from her stomach and intestines. A foraging bee collects nectar in her honey sac and brings it back to the hive for processing into honey. Her stomach and intestines are not involved in this procedure.
When foraging bees bring nectar into the hive, it contains about 80% water. The house bees must then reduce the moisture content to approximately 18% to make honey.
But that’s not all the bees do. They supply enzymes which give honey its unique properties.
These enzymes begin working on the nectar as soon as the foraging bee takes it into her honey sac. Upon returning to to hive, she transfers the nectar to a house bee and takes off for another load.
The house bee, in turn, takes the nectar into her body, adding more enzymes and continuing the curing process. She and other house bees deposit the honey into open comb cells for evaporation. Then, often at night, the colony gathers at the hive entrance to evaporate the water by fanning their wings.
Bees will not cap honey until it reaches the proper amount of moisture. Uncapped honey is said to be “green” and tends to ferment. Beekeepers generally harvest no more than 10% “green” honey in order to avoid spoiling the whole lot.
Honey keeps almost indefinitely if stored properly, and needs no pasteurization or other processing. It is said to be the only food that requires no digestion and passes directly into the bloodstream.
Honey comes in many colors, ranging from nearly colorless to almost black. Dark honeys are considered more nutritious, having a higher protein and mineral content. Most honey is sweeter than sugar, and less is required in cooking. Its flavor and aroma varies depending upon the flowers from which it was produced.
Honey is widely acclaimed as a health food, and has many medicinal applications. It is antiseptic and is used on wounds and burns to promote healing. It has also been alleged that a teaspoon at bedtime prevents bed wetting. Presumably, this is not a problem for bees.
Brother Adam who developed the Buckfast bee was said to have consumed a teaspoon of honey every day. He lived to be 98.
Honey is unquestionably the bees’ little miracle, and we should give it the respect it deserves!