How do bees make honey?

In our region, honeybees spend the spring, summer, and fall visiting flowers, pollinating them, and bringing nectar back to their beehives to make honey.  It's a lot of work...bees will visit 2 million flowers to make 1 lb of honey! How do they do it? The bees start by building the honeycomb with wax they produce from their bodies. Meanwhile, foraging bees collect nectar from flowers, which they bring back to hive. Once home, there are bees waiting to meet them at the entrance, who in turn carry the nectar high up into the hive and pack it into the honeycomb cells. Work isn’t done yet! The bees then use the heat of the hive to evaporate the nectar until it is less than 18% water. And finally, as a last step, they seal each honey-filled cell with a beeswax cap- their own tiny little honey jars, each storing liquid gold! 

How do we harvest honey?

Honeybees make a lot of honey - often 2-3 times the amount that they need and we can harvest the surplus.  When the honey is ready, we gently brush the bees off the honeycomb so that they can fly back into the beehive.  Then, we can either cut the honeycomb into pieces to be used as is, or if we are preparing the honey for bottling we will remove the wax capping from the honeycomb, exposing the fresh honey underneath.  The frames are then spun to remove the honey from the frames of comb.  The honey is now ready to be bottled.  

How do we get different types of honey?

As the season progresses, bees will pack nectar of the same type together in the honeycomb.  When we harvest, we can separate the frames of honeycomb by honey colour and flavour.  We can also place beehives in special locations to ensure specific types of honey.  For buckwheat, for example, we can place beehives near fields of buckwheat, which farmers plant to enrich their soil. 

What is raw honey?

Raw honey is honey that hasn't been heated.  Heating destroys the beneficial enzymes and properties of the honey and compromises its taste, but it slows the crystallization process (a natural tendency of honey).  

What are the benefits of raw honey?

Honey is the only food that never spoils! This is because it is naturally antibacterial.  It also contains antioxidants, minerals, and a quick energy boost from the natural sugars from flowers.  Honey has been scientifically shown to be as effective for cough as over-the-counter cough syrup.  

Why does honey crystallize?

Honey is a supersaturated solution, meaning that it contains more dissolved natural sugar than a liquid can hold.  Over time the sugars will start to form small crystals, which spread through the honey, eventually turning it solid.  It is still perfectly wonderful in its solid state and its flavour is maintained.  Some types of honey will crystallize more quickly than others depending on the types of sugars contained in the nectar the bees used to make it (i.e. the ratios of fructose, to sucrose, to glucose).  All honey can be restored to a liquid by gently heating it.  If you prefer your honey liquid, you can set your glass jar of honey in a pot of hot (but not boiling) water.  The crystals will melt back to a liquid, allowing you to drizzle honey on your favourite dishes. 

How should I store honey? Does it expire?

Honey is best stored at room temperature in your pantry.  If you store it in a cool place or in the fridge it will crystallize more quickly.  Because honey is naturally antibacterial, it is the only food that never spoils. 

How can I use honey?

There are many ways that you can incorporate raw honey into a healthy, balanced diet.  There are so many ways to use it - here are just a few ideas... Honey can be added to smoothies, drizzled over fresh fruit and yogurt, as a replacement for processed sugar in baking, or as a sweetener in your morning tea or coffee.  A spoonful of honey has been shown to be as effective for cough as over the counter cough syrup.   For more ideas, we invite you to subscribe to our newsletter and visit our blog .

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