That’s a good question; from ancient times humans have managed to use honey medicinally; The Egyptians and others used honey for wound treatment as well as for other medicinal purposes. I have used honey for my allergies and over time I can attest to a substantial state of allergy relief. What I cannot say with certainty is whether or not honey cures cancer because this has not scientifically been proven. There are various studies being carried out by scientists to address the possible capabilities of honey’s medicinal value and only time and our brilliant Scientists with the aid of current and ever improving technologies will let us know the answer to this question. However I do have answers to the next question. What is Sour wood honey?
Sourwood honey’s color and flavor varies somewhat from year to year depending on Mother Nature and beekeeper skill in the timing of placing their bees. It ranges from light to medium in color generally and is usually mild extremely aromatic with a distinctive rich honey flavor and very desirable for its taste. The purest Sourwood honey’s color ranges from very light to light amber with a slightly gray tint and its texture is defined by a smooth, caramel buttery quality; it is considered to be one of the best honeys by many and is produced mainly in the Southeastern Mountains of the United States, from Southern Pennsylvania to Northern Georgia, west to Alabama. Sourwood is indigenous to the United States; it grows and blooms from late June through July on good years. In the Southeastern United States beekeepers tend to keep their sourwood locations a guarded secret because it is common to find another zealous beekeeper invading on one’s favorite sour wood spot when June and Sourwood season rolls around. Our supply comes from a couple areas in the Southeastern corner of North Carolina and in the North Georgia Mountain.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum) is usually a medium size tree that can range in height from 33 to 66 ft tall with a trunk diameter almost 20 inches. Occasionally in extremely productive areas, this species can reach heights in excess of 90 feet tall and 24 inches diameter. The leaves are dark green in the summer, but turn vivid red in the fall; there are occasions where I have seen the leaves yellow rather than red in the fall. The blooms are white and bell-shaped, and grow on 6 to 9 inch panicles; they are referred to by many as “Lily-of-the-valley” or “Appalachian Lily tree” also "Sorrel tree", the blooms are highly fragrant and contrast nicely against the foliage; the fruit is a small woody capsule when mature. Sourwoods love acidic soil with minimal root competition. The leaves if chewed are sour to the taste which resulted in the tree’s name, but the juices do have the effective of a laxative if swallowed. Sourwood is renowned for very desirable nectar by honeybees, they love it; and by humans for the honey which is produced from it. Every August, Black Mountain, North Carolina hosts the Sourwood Festival which celebrates the beautiful Appalachian native Sourwood tree, and the delicious, unparalleled honey it produces. Hundreds of vendors and families attend this festival, which has everything from music and dancing to arts and face painting; there is even an Appalachian song for the tree. In times of old, the Cherokee and the Catawaba Indians used sourwood shoots to make arrow shafts.
Sourwood bloom period is typically quite short and beekeepers must time themselves accordingly in order to ensure that the bees do not harvest nectar from other flowering plants. If the bees are brought to the area too soon, they will harvest the sumac trees that bloom just before the sourwood and if they are brought too late, they will miss the beginning of the sourwood flow thus loosing precious honey. The duration of Sourwood bloom season is very sensitive to rainfall; also the trees need adequate sunlight in order to produce nectar, which can be difficult because sourwood trees are often shorter than the surround canopy. If the weather patterns are not conducive to good blooming, the beekeeper cannot harvest the honey target for that year. While production is inherently challenging, other factors conspire to make it even more so. The Sourwood tree population is limited and constantly threatened by development weather from mining as in Appalachia or urban development. Hats off to Dr Tammy Horn and her effort to reclaim part of Coal mined Appalachia maybe bees and beekeepers will see a future with more Sourwood trees because the world has an ever growing demand for Sourwood honey.
The parameters for classifying Sourwood honey are very strict so Mother Nature sure test beekeepers skills and abilities when June end rolls around and the topic of good Sourwood honey is at hand. Sourwood is sought after worldwide and is considered by many to be a “gourmet” honey of the world. Sourwood trees grow in very specific environments; and luckily for my girls and beekeeper me they thrived in our North Georgia area. Hears to a good Sourwood season!
I get this question from Customers and Friends many times; I always answer yes they do, and my answer always amazes the non-beekeepers. Folks would always reply “just how do they stay warm in all this cold?”
Depending on how much time I could spare right then, I give a concise version of the process bees use to stay warm in cold weather. Here I will try to give a little more detailed explanation of the complex wonder honeybees perform not only in cold weather, but during hot weather also to control their hive temperature.
Imagine coming over to my home
and I had these hives in my living room :-)
I keep telling about the wonders honeybees are capable of. My/Our girls are amazing little creatures who more than deserve our combined efforts, Beekeepers as well as non-Beekeepers alike, to make sure that we make this world a safer place for them to live in while they feed us.
They do feed us! Who would deny that Honeybees feed us?
Back to the feat Honeybees perform year-round cold or hot weather. Honeybee larva require a specific brood nest temperature between 32°C or 89.6°F and 35°C or 95°F so their brood/babies develop normally. The brood nest temperature is of extreme importance to the colony therefore it is controlled with utmost precision by the bees. Larva that are developed at 35°C become the intelligent forager bees while those developed at 34°C emerge as "house keeper" bees that feed larvae and complete hive chores. The Honeybee hive chores are divided up among the worker bees which are all female; there is a group of worker bees that is specifically responsible for warming the brood by vibrating their thoracic muscles and generating heat for brood and hive temperature regulation; this chore went undiscovered by Scientists until recently and this group of worker bees were dubbed “heater bees“ by Scientist; bees of almost all ages can perform heater function by either vibrating their abdomens or they can also decouple their wings from the wing muscles, so they could vigorously vibrate these muscles without actually moving their wings. Amazing! This muscle vibration heats the bee’s body to approximately 44°C or 111°F, which is about 9°C or 16°F hotter than a bee’s normal body temperature. The “heater bees” can also directly regulate the temperature of individual cells by standing over it and pressing their thorax against a cell. Scientists used to think this action was just the bees resting, but they later concluded the bees were actually vibrating their wing muscles extremely hard and transferring that extra heat from their body to the cell or cells in need of warmth.
Normally, honeybee jobs are primarily assigned based on the bee’s age, however, if the hive needs more bees that are naturally inclined towards foraging jobs rather than housekeeping jobs, the “heater bees” can adjust the temperature of certain larvae cells to accommodate the production of the needed worker group by raising the temperature of those cell to 35°C or 95°F rather than the 34°C or 93°F; that slight fluctuation in cell temperature will produce bees that are more inclined to prefer foraging jobs, over housekeeping ones, and vice-versa; this manipulation of brood cell temperature help make sure that the needs of the colony can always be met according to the current workforce demand. “Heater bees” are usually fed by other workers so they could remain on post completing their warming task.
During winter Honeybees cluster, together towards the center of the hive with the Queen in the middle for warmth. The hive temperature which is usually kept around 35°C or 95°F during warm weather is allowed to drop to approximately 27°C or 81°F within the center of the cluster and about 7.8°C or 46°F on the outside of the cluster, to help conserve energy. The bees on the outside of the cluster rotate in occasionally so all the bees could be kept warm enough to survive the cold. Typically, after the winter solstice (Dec. 21) the Queen begins laying again in cases where she had stopped for a period and the bees then resume maintaining the normal hive temperature of 34°C or 93°F in the areas of the hive where she has new brood/babies. In some strong hives with a lot of stored pollen; the queen, which can normally lay 2000 eggs per day may lay a greatly reduced number of eggs through the winter if it’s a mild one. I have heard of cases in the far north where there is usually a much larger fall bloom than here in the Southeast the bees can store a larger amount of fresh pollen, so some queens seem to lay a reduced number of eggs throughout the winter because of the large amount of pollen and honey storage present even though the North is so cold during winter.
During the heat of spring and summer the bees control the hive temperature for optimal brood rearing also they protect vulnerable brood; when heat stress is localized in a hive, they can absorb heat from the brood in distress by pressing themselves against the brood nest wall, this behavior is known as “heat-shielding,” the adults then pass this heat off in the air away from the brood. Also, the workers farther achieve hive cooling by ferrying from a quart to a gallon of water per day to the hive, depending on how hot it is, from as far as 300 meters or 984 feet away; they spread the water around the interior of the hive then they fan their wings together collectively creating a draft which cause evaporation of the water and a cooling effect results in the hive thus regulating the temperature to the required normal for ideal brood rearing. Is this not amazing? If the hive is so full that it is too crowded for the heat situation many bees will move to the outside of the hive in a process known as "bearding." Simply put, sitting on the porch :-)
I have said it many times Honeybees are truly amazing, hardworking creatures! Check this out. These Honeybee girls truly give humans the best of the bad world we keep creating for them to live in. I know that together we can make the world a better place for the Honeybee. What do you say will you help save our Honeybees?
Please Get Involved Citizens of the “Bee World.” We are all citizens of this “Bee World” not just the beekeepers. I say yes there are many causes for honeybee confusion. Friends and also my honey customers regularly ask me if the honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is still affecting honeybees. I then explain there is a complex of reasons which collectively are causing our honeybees the distress that results in bee colony failure. Colony Collapse Disorder is likely caused by a variety of interacting factors, including pathogens, loss of habitat and increased exposure to systemic and other pesticides. As a beekeeper I am quite aware of these factors because they directly affect my precious girls. I try to spread the word to my customers and friends in hopes they will join me and other advocates for the Honeybee in this critically important fight for protecting and saving our precious Honeybee resource.
We love and use lots of honey so most can appreciate the value of good honey for its taste and health benefits; as well as those who don’t use honey for health reasons still appreciate honey’s value as a money making commodity. So I vote that we all from honey lovers and users to honey brokers and sellers benefit from honeybees in some tangible way, join forces to save our Honeybees. Is there a way for everyone to participate in the fight to save our precious honeybee? Yes! Yes! As Citizens of the “Bee World” we owe it to each other to help in every little way we can so that our collective small efforts could combine into a saving achievement for our honeybees. How do you join the fight? Check out these details to get involved.
Reason one: Pesticides: These chemicals are designed, of course, to kill insects. But some systemic varieties specifically Neonicotinoids are worse for bees than others. The EPA allows the widespread use of this class of insecticide as a seed coating on crops like corn and soy; in fact, seed treatments are so common that farmers report it's nearly impossible to purchase commodity crop seed that is not covered in Neonics; poor Honeybees! The EPA does not count seed treatments as a “pesticide application,” therefore they do not track or regulate this use. Neonics are also added to many home use pest control products so unsuspecting Citizens buy these products and use them around their homes and gardens, thus unknowingly adding to the demise of neighborhood insects; so Honeybees continue being exposed in local communities and on farmland across the country. How can we help? We can make sure we purchase plants that are not pretreated with pesticides by asking questions when we shop for seeds and flowers. We can let our lawns grow a bit longer and leave the blooming clover for bees to enjoy. We can ask our elected officials to pass Town and County ordinances which minimize pesticide spraying, and we can also urge Corporations to stop making and selling Neonicotinoids.
Reason two: habitat Loss: As rural areas become urban, the patches of green space that remain are often stripped of all weeds and their flowers, which bees rely on for food. Anyone with outdoor space from a container garden to a large lawn can create a pesticide-free safe space for pollinators that will encourage native bees and other beneficial insects; Honeybees in your neighborhood will love you for it. Create a “Bee Haven” by having a yard or plants on your front step? Grow bee-friendly plants such as, Heathers (calluna), white clove (Trifolium Ripens), and keep the space pesticide free. Urge your Town or City to pass a resolution and become a “Bee Haven too!” Record your Haven on the map.
Reason three: Disease Pathogens carried by mites weaken bees which make them more susceptible to pesticide poisoning. On the flip side, if bees are already weakened by pesticides, they are more vulnerable to demise by bee disease. This vicious cycle combined with the previously mentioned factors above creates continued beekeeper losses of their Honeybees stock. We beekeepers find a big challenge to maintain our colonies free of pests and pathogens because of constant increased in resistance of honeybee pathogens to developed treatments. As a local hobbyist beekeeper I try to minimize the amount of “hard chemical treatment” I use with my girls even though this calls for great vigilance and diligent dedication to proper hive husbandry and management. I pledge to raise my girls with good husbandry and minimal deliberate chemical exposure.
Reason four: Climate change: Unusually warm winters have caused plants to shift their schedules. When bees come out of hibernation, the flowers they need to feed on have already bloomed and passed bloom to fruit. My girls find they are too late for dinner. I am afraid this will be a major challenge this season for bees and beekeepers. So many plants are already blooming due to these unseasonably warm days we are receiving here in the Southeast. This bloom usually occur during the first weeks of March after the bees have began building up so there is adequate pollen available to feed baby bees; when these plants bloom now before the bees buildup has began my girls and those of the other beekeepers close by would find a reduced supply of fresh pollen to feed their babies; real sad. There is also the case of a reduced supply of pollen available for collection by foraging bees to be stockpiled for winter survival. I say a resounding Yes to Honeybee confusion at this point in this Southeast region of our country the bees have been jumped by the plants; we have no control on Mother Nature we as beekeepers will just have to do the best we can to supplement our girls for any natural shortcoming caused by this “haphazard winter weather.”
It’s hard to imagine a world without bees, but we know the impacts on our food supply would be significant. Please join the fight to save our Honeybees!! Check out “The case of the vanishing bees.”
Honey bees are amazing; yes or no?
Honey is often referred to as a super food; the dedicated producers of this delectable super food are also responsible for causing the production by pollination of many plant based foods we eat and enjoy every day. The Honey Bee is that “wonder bug” responsible for this feat. I say bug because many of us view honeybees as bugs, either because they are genuinely allergic to insect stings or because they are just too afraid of the honeybee.
Many times people are stung by some type of wasp or even yellow jackets but, guess who gets the blame; of course the remarkable honeybee! “Your bee stung me is almost always the cry.” I have talked with many people who said to me, I love honey, but if I say to them would you look in my hive they quickly reply “oh no! “I can’t stand them things; I’ll get my honey in the store.” Sometimes I literally see the person or persons I am talking to about my girls shudder, or cringe if we are looking at pictures of my girls which I am always ready and happy to show off. Does this strike a chord with you?
I have come to the conclusion that we humans have a love/hate relationship with the honeybee. A lot of us love their honey, but hate them around. Fortunately there are those of us who really see the wonder and importance of our honeybees. “Liquid gold” as it is sometimes referred to, is a unique food for many reasons. Honey is literally ageless, it’s nutritious, it sweetens, and it even serves as medicine. Several attributes culminate and give honey its special properties that are not matched by any other food.
Honey is actually quite acidic with a PH between three and four; it is extremely viscous and water deficient. The normal percent of water present in honey is so low, 18% or less, that organisms find it difficult to live and or reproduce within. Honey is hygroscopic, absorbs moisture from its surrounding, therefore it will remove critical moisture from any organisms trying to inhabit it. Honey is also able to produce the slow release of hydrogen peroxide when it comes in contact with open wounds by the enzyme glucose oxidase hydrolysis of glucose causing this release. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria on contact, thus promoting healing.
Can you believe Archaeologists digging in the Pyramids and in Northern Israel have found honey in good edible condition after thousands of years in ancient Egyptian tombs? Some say “Yes this is true!” Imagine dipping your finger into a pot of honey thousands of years old and finding it as edible as today’s honey. Amazing! Only the skillful Honeybee can accomplish such a feat. There are other articles which say the honey found was not really tasted. But I still say Yes Honeybees are Amazing! But beware of diving into ancient honey jars; hee hee!
Did you know that the oldest honey was found in Georgia? Yes Georgia! Archaeologists have declared that the artifacts they examined contain the world’s oldest honey after they performed a thorough examination of some five-millennia-plus-old jars unearthed in Georgia. That caught my attention also, and caused me a moment of excitement too; but this in the end is not my Georgia; this one is bordered by, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Again that article carries on the story of the majesty honey encompasses. So please help us do whatever is necessary to make room for and to save our honeybees. You can begin by saving those dandelions and other bee-friendly plants because that could be your crucial part in preserving our majestic and special Honeybee.
There is a delicious honey that does not crystallize. Tupelo honey has a unique combination of Fructose to Glucose which results in a very high resistance to crystallization. The white Tupelo or sour gum tree is botanically called Nyssa ogeche. The Ogeechee Lime is one of the rarer North American Tupelos, but has the largest range; from Cape Cod to the old South, across the Southern US and then up the West coast to Washington State and Southern Canada. The Tupelo tree is a very versatile and beautiful tree; it is very adaptable although it prefers to grow near water and can often be found in swamp areas, or places where the soil is very moist.
White Tupelo grows up to fifty feet tall and can have a spread of thirty or more feet. The foliage is thick and usually creates beautiful shade during the summer heat. The oval shaped foliage is of a light green color. These unique leaves turn a bright red color during the fall. The bark is rough and often has lichen and moss growing on its rather thin trunk which sports a grey colored bark. The blooms produce some of the sweetest honey; male trees produce only male flowers which hang in clusters and are said to be more attractive to honeybees, whereas the fruiting plants carries solitary female flowers as well as flowers with both male and female organs. The female flowers becomes oblong shaped fruit which varies in color from dull yellow, olive brown, red or orange yellow, and ripens into a dark purple color. The flesh is acidic and the fruit matures during July and August and persists into November and December; Tupelo fruit are usually eaten by wildlife such as the American Robin, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Brown Thrasher, along with many other bird species, various Ducks, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossums and Deer. In Georgia Tupelo fruit is used to prepare marmalade, preserves and a delicious relish because of its sour flavor; the fruit is so sour it has been used as a lime substitute.
The Tupelo, also known as the pepperidge tree; genus Nyssa, is a small genus of about nine to eleven species of trees with alternate, simple leaves. It is usually included in the subfamily Nyssoideae of the Dogwood family. Five of this species are native to eastern North America from the extreme South of Canada down to Eastern Mexico; and can be found growing naturally near swamps, streams, rivers, and lakes. The other six species are found in East and South Asia from China South to Malaysia and West to the Himalayas.
Tupelo wood is only valued and used extensively by artistic woodcarvers, especially for carving pieces like wildfowl and ducks. Tupelo wood can be readily pulped and is usually used for high-grade book and magazine papers. Tupelo is valued as an excellent honey producing plant by beekeepers in the Southeastern United States, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. The town of Tupelo Mississippi was named for these trees. Tupelo produces a light-amber honey with a greenish cast, and a mild floral to fruity taste. In Southern Georgia and Northwestern Florida beekeepers place their beehives along the river and swamps on platforms or floats during tupelo bloom season so as to gather certified tupelo honey, which commands a high price on the market because of its flavor.
The name tupelo is a common name used for Nyssa, of Native American origin; it came from Creek Indian words “ito” meaning tree and “opilwa” meaning swamp; the term was in use since the mid18th century. Tupelo trees are most content when standing in several feet of water. An abundance of Tupelo trees are found in the Apalachicola and Chipola river basins of the Florida Panhandle. Tupelo bloom typically occurs between March and May; male Tupelo blossoms starts out as a round bud, about the size of a small pea; it then grows into what looks like a miniature cauliflower. Finally, it explodes with dozens of little spikes; the nectar is found at the base of each spike where honeybees find their "pot of gold."
Tupelo blossoms are very fragile and unpredictable. In excellent Tupelo years, the nectar flow typically lasts for a few weeks, while in other not so prime years the fragile blooms may be ruined just a few days after opening by hard rain, heavy wind, or unseasonably cold weather. Tupelo honey is certified if it contains fifty one percent Tupelo nectar, but in many cases the purest certifiable Tupelo honey is about ninety five percent Tupelo nectar; a pollen analysis is done to ascertain purity. Certified tupelo honey is not heated, pasteurized, or filtered. Caution, honey labeled Tupelo that is crystallizing displays a good indication that it is not pure. Tupelo honey is popular in the South to the point there is a song by Van Morrison and even a movie made in its honor.
Did you know according to the USDA, USA beekeepers can only supply about forty-eight percent of all the honey consumed and needed in the USA? That’s where honey consumers become vulnerable. The lacking fifty two percent of our needed honey is imported from forty one other countries; Americans consume about 400 million pounds of honey a year, which averages to approximately 1.3 pounds per person. Sixty-five percent of all the honey is used in industry for cereals, sauces, beverages, baked goods, and other processed foods; while the rest goes to household uses.
The really unsettling part of all this information is the fact that others along with Andrew Chneider from Food Safety News reported “More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produced, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.” Many trusted articles give extensive detail about how big the “fake honey” scandal is and how much it impacts American and World Beekeepers as well as all honey consumers.
So, what is the matter with Chinese Honey? It is banned from import by various European Countries, Japan, and the USA. In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission imposed an import tax to stop the Chinese from flooding the US marketplace with extremely cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business. However, to avoid this tax Chinese honey suppliers became creative; they shipped their honey to other Asian countries like, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and others that did not have US honey taxes levied against them. The honey was then illegally relabeled before being shipped as a product of those countries to the US for sale.
Did you know that even honey has a fingerprint too? Yes, honey’s origin can be identified by the type of pollen grains it contains, unless someone has deliberately cut off its fingers. By cutting off honey’s fingers I mean the deliberate removal of all traces of pollen from honey by the ultra filtration process which leaves the remaining liquid with no way of identifying its origin. Is the golden liquid in bottles on US grocery store shelves labeled honey from somewhere in the USA or did it leave China, take a tour to the country where it was relabeled before being ships to the USA? All Americans who shop for honey in grocery stores should think about this. Know your beekeeper so you know what is in your honey bottle!
Why is there so much dislike for Chinese honey? Similarly as with adulterated drugs coming out of China, there is evidence of honey suffering adulteration at the hands of Chinese honey producing practices. Weather it is because of the use of illegal drugs on their honeybees; Chinese Beekeepers used several Indian made animal antibiotics, including Chloramphenicol to fight “European Foul Brood” in their colonies. Chloramphenicol has caused major genetic damage in children and increases chances of Leukemia. Chinese beekeepers also store their honey in lead contaminated barrels which fouls the honey; they also add non-honey liquids like high fructose corn syrup to honey to attain more volume for sale at cheaper prices. To beat the pollen test on their ultra filtered honey, they combine some honey from the transient country to hide the fact of where their honey shipment really came from; Chinese honey has been found to contain illegal antibiotics and dangerous heavy metals, all this adds up to China’s honey having the awful reputation it carries.
So what do we the American honey consumer do? Should we even care where our honey comes from? Our collective decisions about the standard of honey we want on our tables and in our processed foods will play a role in the way our regulatory agencies like the USDA and the FDA allocate resources to enforce US laws about more stringent inspection of honey entering the American market from overseas. We American beekeepers need to spread the word, and encourage our friends and neighbors to spread the word around about what really happens to and with the honey we buy and eat from American grocery stores. Did you know any of this about your honey? Please tell a friend or neighbor about this or better yet encourage them to read this article also. Watch Hungarian beekeepers protest about Chinese honey spoiling their honey’s reputation.
Honeybees are one of nature’s most experienced Chemists; they follow a” hard wired” protocol when making honey; they visit flowers within their flying vicinity which is about, a two to three mile radius, beginning in the spring of every year. Forager bees leave the hive in search of a good nectar supply; upon finding a good source she returns to the hive with nectar sample where she performs the “waggle dance or the round dance” for her sisters as she shares a taste of her find along with precise description and direction to the nectar source. Her sisters who witnessed the dance and tasted the sample are then ready to go out and find the nectar source so they could ferry home the goodies. Nectar is sucked up from flowers visited by the worker and stored in the organ called the honey crop or honey stomach for transport back to the hive. An enzyme produced in the bee’s salivary gland, called Invertase is added by the bee to the nectar in her honey stomach during transport and that addition begins the transformation or hydrolysis of nectar into what becomes honey within the hive.
Nectar when collected from flowers is a highly diluted complex sugar solution which typically is eighty percent water; the Invertase addition by the worker begins the chemical breakdown of the sugars in nectar to Glucose an (aldo sugar), and Fructose a (keto sugar), which are two of the simplest forms of natural sugars. The forager bees pass their load off to one of the receiver bees at the hive and returns for another load. The receiver bee also adds more Invertase to the received solution furthering the chemical transformation (hydrolysis). Hydrolysis is the use of a water molecule to cause the splitting of the complex sugars found in nectar into two simple sugars, namely glucose and fructose in the case of honey production; this continued splitting of complex sugars by the honeybees account for the depletion of a lot of the excess water comprised in nectar. By the time the bees have broken-down all the complex sugars in nectar it has about twenty percent water left.
Glucose and Fructose are both single sugars with the same number of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen atoms (6:12:6), but they have a different atomic structure; Glucose forms a six carbon ring, whereas Fructose forms a five carbon ring. The difference in atomic structure of these two monosaccharide sugars accounts for the difference in sweetness intensity; Glucose is less sweet than Fructose. The human body uses Glucose in its metabolism process; and when we eat other more complex sugars they are broken down by the liver and pancreas working together, into glucose for use in our bodies. The worker bees pass the “in process honey” solution back and forth with each adding acids, other enzymes such as Sucrase, Sucrose Hydrolase, Saccharase, Amylose, Glucose Oxidase, and Catalas farther propelling the hydrolysis of nectar into honey. Hydrolysis continues in the hive until the water content is reduced to about twenty percent, at which time the honey is placed in the honey comb where farther evaporation of water is accomplished by the bees fanning their wings thus creating an evaporating draft, when a water content of between seventeen and eighteen percent is reached the honey filled combs are finally capped with beeswax.
So, why make honey? Honeybees need food to raise offspring as well as to feed themselves; during the spring and early summer is the time of year when most plants bloom; then in the fall there is also a short period of bloom by some plants. Since Honeybees depend on flowers for the collection of their food they need to make and store honey along with pollen for periods when there are no flowers around to feed from. We humans love honey as do other creatures; beekeeping is the method we humans have evolved so as to have access to larger quantities of honey in a more managed way. Today’s beekeepers do a relatively successful job of rearing, and managing their honeybee colonies to allow us the luxury of sweet honey on demand. Today some Australians beekeepers literally have their honey on demand with their new hive design.
Is your store bought honey really honey?
What percent of store bought honey is real and what percent of other stuff is allowed to be mixed in? Which honey would you prefer a hobbyist beekeeper’s honey, which is “raw,” meaning extracted from their own hives, not pasteurized, may crystallize, and typically cost a bit more per pound, and also not forgetting tastier too; or would you prefer the store bought honey, which is almost always cheaper, Pasteurized and very rarely crystallizes?
Many in the general public who buy honey in stores have no idea where their sweet stuff comes from or what it really contains; because the label says Honey it must be honey right? After all this is America.
In my opinion, “Raw honey” is the best honey because it is not pasteurized. Pasteurizing or what I call the overheating of honey changes the chemical structure of the sugars in honey along with subtle change in flavor; this change is not found in “raw honey” because typically raw honey is extracted and bottled without Pasteurization. During Pasteurization, the high heat causes a change in flavor, not necessarily bad, as well as a loss in the amount of natural honey antioxidants. There is no set standard for what "raw" means in the honey industry, but for hobbyist beekeepers it means never heating extracted honey above natural hive temperatures which is around ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit; the temperature at which honeybees incubate and raise brood (baby bees) in the hive.
Pasteurization on the other hand requires heating to high temperatures which chemically changes store bought honey structure forever. Between the Pasteurization and the high pressure straining of store bought honey all the bee infused enzymes, antioxidants, and allergy fighting pollen is systematically eliminated forever from Pasteurized honey; therefore what patrons end up with at the grocery store, is simply a shelf stable sweetener in a bottle with a label that says Honey; Sad! Sad! Sad! For those health conscious patrons. Store bought honey is fine for cooking and even for eating if one is satisfied with just a bottle of sweet golden substance with a label that says Honey and cost just a few dollars.
In recognition of what issues commercial beekeepers and bulk honey packers face; according to their position; their major concern is the yeasts that honey contain. In a honey bottling/packing facility these yeasts are not welcomed like the yeasts used in bread, vinegar and alcoholic beverages; because they cause unwelcomed fermentation to occur in honey effectively spoiling the entire batch. Honey is hygroscopic, which means it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air if it is left uncovered over time. During bulk harvesting of honey in large operations, many uncapped frames of honey, meaning the bees did not deem the proper moisture content attained in those frames, thus no capping, gets harvested and extracted; this extra moisture in commercial volumes of honey could allow the yeast within to begin the fermentation process.
Normally, when the bees are hydrolyzing honey (braking down the complex sugars in nectar to glucose and fructose) they also lower the moisture content to about 17 – 18 % before capping it in the hives; a low moisture content combined with the low PH of honey prevents bacteria and other harmful organisms from surviving in it which improves honey’s preservation and gives honey a small to high antibacterial property depending on the type of honey. This is the main reason why I a conscientious hobbyists beekeeper select only capped frames of honey for extraction; if my Scientist girls capped it I am certain the moisture content is correct. If honey’s moisture content goes above 20% a very high risk of fermentation results with yeast present, therefore big honey processers Pasteurize to protect their investment/livelihood, by heating to between 145ºF to as high as 160ºF for a specified duration of time. Heating of the store bought honey to these high temperatures will also cause a delay or slowing of granulation by dissolving any small sugar crystals present in raw honey. These crystals are blamed for initiating the granulation process; the heating of honey also reduces the viscosity (the resistance to flow) of honey thus making the liquid flow easier during micro filtration and automated bottling.
Yes!! The picture above is really Honey; in fact it is Award Winning Honey of 2016
I love the taste of my “raw honey,” and especially the darker variety; every time I eat some of my girls honey I remember Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Carotenoid. I think of all the good bee enzymes and the valuable antioxidants “raw honey” contain along with the pride I feel every time I receive a prize at honey shows. This year “We”, my girls and I won Double State Champion for Best Tasting Honey in Georgia at the Georgia Beekeepers Association Honey Show; and also we took the Best of Show Ribbon along with Best Tasting Honey at the Georgia Agricultural State Fair. Citizens are becoming more food and health conscious, so I am happy to help in raising awareness of food issues related to my small part of the world which is beekeeping and honey production. “Knowledge is power” was a regular saying of my late Grandparents. To all my Honey and Bee Products Patrons I say a special thank you for your support of hobbyist beekeepers. We appreciate you looking for and buying our “Raw Honey;” you do recognize the fact that we have not lost sight of the Honeybees meaning of Honey.
Here is an interesting video I found that gives a concise perspective of honey: Raw vs Pasteurized Plus.
For those who say yes why? Or why not for those who say no?
Generally Physicians and other healthcare Professionals advise against feeding your infant honey because of the real risk of your child contracting the potentially deadly Botulism bacterium, which could result in a rare but serious illness. The cause is a neuro-toxin made and released by the Clostridium botulinum as it colonizes the intestines of your infant. Feeding honey to the infant is one preventable way Botulism spores could be introduced to your infant; symptoms your infant is suffering from Botulism.
Kids under a year old tend to not have their intestinal bacterial garden fully developed so you run the risk of causing Botulism spore introduction if you or someone feed honey to your child at that age since those spores can be found in honey. When your child’s intestinal bacterial garden is fully functional, usually over a year old, the child’s ability to process honey without getting sick is much greater. The CDC as well as The National Honey Board also supports this theory in their published honey reference guide. For frequently asked questions about infant related Botulism.