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Honey

September 18, 2008 by  


Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid produced by honey bees (and some other species), and derived from the nectar of flowers.

ibn tufail 9-16-08 According to the United States National Honey Board and various international food regulations, “honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance…this includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners”. This article refers exclusively to the honey produced by honey bees (the genus Apis); honey produced by other bees or other insects has very different properties.

Honey gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose and has approximately the same relative sweetness as granulated sugar (97% of the sweetness of sucrose, a disaccharide). Honey has attractive chemical properties for baking, and a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners.

Most micro-organisms do not grow in honey because of its low water activity of 0.6. However, it is important to note that honey frequently contains dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to infants as the endospores can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in the infant’s immature intestinal tract, leading to illness and even death (see Precautions below).

The study of pollens and spores in raw honey (melissopalynology) can determine floral sources of honey. Because bees carry an electrostatic charge, and can attract other particles, the same techniques of melissopalynology can be used in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust, or particulate pollution.

A main effect of bees collecting nectar to make honey is pollination, which is crucial for flowering plants.

The beekeeper encourages overproduction of honey within the hive so that the excess can be taken without endangering the bees. When sources of foods for the bees are short the beekeeper may have to give the bees supplementary nutrition.

Honey is laid down by bees as a food source. In cold weather or when food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of energy. By contriving for the bee swarm to make its home in a hive, people have been able to semi-domesticate the insects. In the hive there are three types of bee: the single queen bee, a seasonally variable number of drone bees to fertilize new queens, and some 20,000 to 40,000 worker bees. The worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in the hive. They go out, collect the sugar-rich flower nectar, release Nasonov pheromones and return to the hive. These pheromones enable other bees to find their way to the site by smell.      

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