Everyone knows that honey is a sweet substance made by the honeybee. It is sold in supermarkets and grocery stores. However, with all this talk of bee populations declining, have you ever wondered how there is so much honey available? If you have tasted honey straight from a hive, you will soon realize that the stuff you buy in stores tastes completely different. This is because mass-produced honey goes through much more processing than local honey, and it has a variety of substances added to it.
How do Bees Make Honey?
When conditions are right, honeybees can make a lot of honey. But they do this as a colony. Each bee makes around one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime. If you consider that a settlement can make up to 200 pounds of honey in one year, you are talking about many bees! So, how do they do it?
Every bee in a colony has a specific job, but the worker bees make the honey. Foragers go out looking for nectar and pollen. They use a special mouthpart known as a proboscis to suck the nectar from the flowers, which is then stored in the bee’s special honey sac (stomach). A foraging bee can visit up to one thousand flowers in a day and hold up to eighty percent of its body weight in honey before returning to the hive.
When the worker bee returns to the hive, it will transfer the honey to the mouth of other waiting worker bees. These worker bees are house bees who chew the nectar to remove the water before passing it on to another house bee. This process continues until the nectar contains less than twenty percent water, transferring it to the honeycomb cells before being capped with beeswax. In perfect conditions, bee colonies can produce up to three times more honey than they need for food during the winter. The beekeeper can remove the surplus honey for personal use or sell locally.
How is Mass Produced Honey Different from Local Honey?
Most people assume that the price is the biggest difference between local and mass-produced honey. Yes, local honey is much more expensive than commercial honey, but it is also completely different in terms of taste. And the taste of local honey depends on the flowers from which it foraged.
Commercial honey tends to have additional sweeteners, colors, and flavorings to ensure that it always tastes the same. Furthermore, it will be highly processed and pasteurized to give it a clear appearance. However, this tends to destroy the nutrients in local honey.
Should We Eat Honey?
With bee populations in decline, it is hard to comprehend how they can make so much honey for our consumption. And the question of whether we should even be eating honey crops up from time to time. Some people believe it is wrong to take love from bees because they do not make it for humans. Others feel that without a market for love, many species of the bee would be in further danger because there would be no beekeepers ensuring their survival.
The good people at Project Honey Bees, sponsoring bee adoption with each piece of bee jewelry they sell, say that local honey is best but that we should only consume it in moderation. This will help to support local beekeepers while also ensuring the survival of the honeybee.