Of Bees & Honey
Honey is made from flower nectar; the type of honey depends on the type of nectar source. It consists of fructose and glucose. Nectar is 75% water, with many minerals in it.
Apiculture is the science of beekeeping. It dates back to 700 BC. In mythological times, it was a symbol of life and wealth, attributing to medicinal properties. Honey was used as a purifier, antiseptic, skin toner, a sedative, a digestive aid, to reduce fevers, and stimulate the appetite. The oldest know record of honey harvesting is a 7000 BC rock painting in Spain.
Honey was the most important sweetener of the Middle Ages. It was used as a condiment. In Greek mythology, it played an important role. Native Americans used only honey as a sweetener until the import of sugar cane. They also used it as a preservative, a cooking liquid, and for its medicinal properties.
Since the science of beekeeping is known as apiculture, the hive structure is known as apiary. Bees actually use honey as a source of nourishment.
So How do we get Honey?
The worker bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers.When the bees collect pollen, the pollen will stick to the bees legs because bees are negatively charged. The bees won't mix varietals within their hives. It is sorted by color and type. It is very possible that their could be more than one type of honey in each hive. When the weather drops below 50ºF, the production of honey slows greatly.
- a jar of nectar
The nectar is projected in to a honey sac, which is in the bee’s
esophagus, where it mixes with the bee’s saliva. It is brought back to the hive with along with a substance know on propelus. Propelus is "bee glue". Propelus is used to cover all surfaces as a sterlizer.
Honey is created by the action of enzymes in saliva and gastric juices. This produces glucose and fructose. This honey is then deposited in the cells of the bee hive. The internal
temperature of the hive is 96ºF. Bees with pollen on their legs
As the honey cools, the flavor may vary.
Honey is used to feed the queen and the broods (baby bees). Bees will only have one queen per hive. Drones are male bees. A queens job is to lay eggs and take care of the broods. She will mate with up to 18 drones in a life time. A queen can lay up to 200 eggs a day. Eggs that are fertilized will either turn into a worker bee or another queen. Unfertilized eggs turn into drones. After a bee egg is laid, it takes three days to hatch to a larvae. Then 12 days to become full grown. Worker bees only have a lifespan of about 42 days.
Man made bee hives are boxes which contain frames.
In the frames, the bees build beeswax cells.
Each layer of the hives has 8 frames. Frames consist of 5 sided cells that bees construct with a self-made wax.
Smoke is used to calm the bees by disrupting their pheromones
Bees building new comb
After removing the hives from the frame, they are drained of excess honey on a slightly vibrating conveyor.
A hot knife slices off the wax cap. This is known as capping. The wax is then heated, strained and pressed. This is sold as scented beeswax.
The frames are then placed in an extractor, or slotted centrifuge that spins the honey.
Honey draining from the centrifuge
Raw honey out of the centrifuge
The raw honey is then strained of the beeswax.
Honey is then heated to remove impurities. It is collected, then distributed into 55 gallon drums to be sold wholesale, or then to bottling.
The wax is then melted, strained, and molded then sold as beeswax.
Grade A, Grade B, Grade C beeswax
It takes almost 5 gallons of nectar to produce 1 gallon of honey. One quart of nectar can range from 20,000 to 100,000 trips for bees. In a colony, there are approximately 30,000 to 60,000 bees. One colony of bees can produce two pounds of honey a day.
People who are afraid of bees stings, shouldn't be- unless they have a known allergy. Only female bees have stingers. When a bee stings the stinger is usually ripped off the bee, which kills the bee eventually. So it is not the mission of the bee to sting. The problem is that there are other members of the Family Colletida who enjoy feasting on honey and propelis- yellow jackets, wasps and hornets, and they will show no fear in stinging anyone who bothers them. A word of caution though- if you are near a hive or colony of bees and you smell "bananas" that is a sign the bees are going to swarm, and you should probably leave the area.
Honey comes in a few different forms. Whipped honey is finely crystallized honey that it is creamy and spreadable. Comb honey contains liquid still in the chewy comb- with bee-made bees wax. Chunk style honey is honey that contains little pieces of the honeycomb. Liquid honey is extracted from the comb and pasteurized to prevent crystallization. Cream or spun honey is processed into a crystallized stated so it is firm at room temperature, and spreadable. All types of honey should be stored in a tightly sealed container. “Pure” honey has not been adulterated with something else, like corn syrup.
Honey Comb Honey Pearls Cream Honey Honey Mead Bee Pollen Unfiltered Raw Honey
Honey is collected twice a year. The first harvest produces the finest honey. It is collected in the early summer months, usually May or June. The second harvest is usually at the end of summer.
There is over 300 varieties of honey collected in the United States; more than 3000 worldwide. There are over 181 substances identified as influencing the taste of honey. Most hive honey is a multi flower honey, known as floral or country honey. Beekeepers will either restrict bees’ activity by allowing them to go to one bloom, then removing the hive or by placing the hive near a particular type of bloom for a while, then removing it.
The color of honey ranges from white, brown, red, blond, yellow, and black. Usually the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.
(Lightest to Darkest): Orange blossom, Holly, Key Lime, Sage, Eucalyptus,Tupelo, Blueberry, Locust, Sourwood, Clover, Wildflower, Gallberry, Kudzu (red), Palmetto, Buckwheat (brown)
Honey is great for cooking and baking. Honey is hygroscopic, meaning is absorbs and retains moisture. Breads, cakes, and other baked goods stay moister longer. If using honey to replace sugar, use 1 part honey to every 1-1/4 parts sugar, (or 80% of the amount sugar). Since honey is in the liquid state, decrease the main liquid by 1/4 cup. Honey is heavier than sugar, so increase the amount of baking soda (or add to the recipe) by 1/2 teaspoon. You also need to decrease the oven temperature by 25ºF. Sometimes heating honey may alter its taste.
Honey may contain clostrium botulism, which causes botulism. Honey should not be fed to babies less than one year of age. People who suffer from allergies in the environment benefit from consuming natural, locally produced honey. The pollen that is used to make the honey may help reduce the symptoms caused from allergies. Also, consuming propelus can help alleviate symptoms.
The legend of the honeymoon is from Eastern Cultures. Honey is poured into newlyweds hands. They must lick it all off. It is a sign that they will take all of their food together. It also symbolizes the husband will not lift hand to wife except to caress her, and none but loving words will come from wife's lips. The brides father also had to provide the couple with four weeks (or one moon cycle) of honey wine (or mead) to start their life together. In Greco Latin Cultures, golden yellow is the most sacred color.
Why are we so concerned by the declining population of bees?
Bees are extremely loyal to their hive and their queen. There is only one queen per hive, and as new hives are made or introduced, a new queen is brought up. The bees will follow the queen, and follow the hive. Most beekeepers are migratory with their hives and will move them from crop to crop through out the year, even if it is across country. This is beneficial for both the farmer of the the crop and for the beekeeper. Bees are needed for pollination. The honey they produce is just a sweet benefit.
About one third of our food requires pollination by bees. This includes crops that feed livestock. Therefore, that is why beekeepers share their bees. Beekeepers will move their hives from farm to farm, land to land- even if it is across country. Not only does the bees then pollinate the new crop, the beekeeper also has a new batch of honey to sell. A winning combination. Problems that are plaguing the bee population include Africanized bees, bee mites, and pesticides that are used. Urban sprawl and the decline of natural habitat and plants are also harming the In the winter, sometimes bees need to have a supplement of nectar available to them.
What Can you do?
Support local farms and beekeepers especially those that support organic practices. Reduce the amount of pesticides, herbicides and mitacides that you use. Grow plants and flowers that attract bees naturally:
If you need help controlling or removing bees, call a local beekeeper or bee removal service, instead of killing them yourself. They will take care of the problem for you, and keep the local bee population strong.
most pictures and data collected from:
Dave Westervelt Apiary, Umatilla, Fl 3/14/07
Dave Mikas Apiary, Groveland, Fl 4/8/08
Mario Jakob's Apiary, Umatilla, Fl 11/18/05
Paul Allison Apiary, Winter Garden, Fl 12/1/16
© 2017 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger www.FloridaChef.net
cite me: Denlinger, J. (July 7, 2017) Of bees & honey. Feasting Florida. Retrieved from www.FloridaChef.net