Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Journey of Honey: from Flowers to your Kitchen

Have you ever wondered how that jar of honey ended up in your kitchen? Honey bees are the incredible creatures behind the making of honey, and their process is quite fascinating. Let's take a closer look!

To make honey, honey bees start with an important ingredient: nectar. Flowers produce nectar, and honey bees collect it and bring it back to their hive. Inside the hive, they store the nectar in hexagonal cells made of beeswax.

Honey bee collecting nectar from a flower.

Nectar in beeswax cells inside a honey bee hive.

Next comes a special step called "fanning." Honey bees fan their wings over the nectar-filled cells, creating a gentle breeze. This breeze helps to dry out the nectar. This drying process is what transforms the nectar into honey. When the nectar's moisture level drops below 18%, it officially becomes honey.

Once the honey is ready, the honey bees seal the cells with beeswax. This ensures that the honey is stored safely for a long time because honey has a low water content and a high sugar content, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. That's why honey never spoils as long as it remains sealed, just like the jar of honey in your kitchen.

Capped honey cells inside a honey bee hive.

When beekeepers harvest honey, they take frames filled with capped honey cells. They carefully scrape off the beeswax caps using a bread knife or an uncapping tool, revealing the honey inside. These frames are then placed in a machine called a honey extractor. The centrifuge spins the frames rapidly, and the honey is separated from the cells. It collects at the bottom of the machine and is drained into a bucket. Once in the bucket, it's ready to be bottled.

Beekeeper using a tool to scrape off beeswax cappings.

Honey frames in a honey extractor.

Did you know that there are more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States? The only difference between them is the flowers the honey bees choose to visit. Depending on where you live, you may have different honey varieties to choose from. For example, orange blossom honey, made from the nectar of orange blossoms on orange trees, is popular in Florida and California.

Honey is not only delicious but also precious. It takes the entire lifespan of 12 honey bees to produce just one teaspoon of honey. So when you enjoy honey, make sure to savor every drop and appreciate the hard work of those amazing honey bees.

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