|How do honeybees make honey?
[ 2006-06-28 11:12 ]
A honeybee starts the honey making process by
visiting a flower and gathering some nectar. Many plants use nectar as a way of
encouraging insects (bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.) to stop at their flowers.
In the process of gathering nectar, the insect transfers pollen grains from one flower to another and
pollinates the plants.
Most flowers' nectars are similar to the water mixed
with sucrose. Nectars can contain
other beneficial substances as well.
Enzymes that bees produce turn the sucrose into
glucose and fructose. An enzyme, invertase, converts most of
the sucrose into two kinds of six-carbon sugars, glucose and fructose. A small
amount of the glucose is attacked by a second enzyme and converted into
gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The gluconic acid makes honey
an acid medium with a low ph that is inhospitable to bacteria, molds, and
fungi while the hydrogen peroxide
gives short-range protection against these same organisms when the honey is
ripening or is diluted for larval
food. Honey bees also reduce the moisture content of nectar, which gives it a
high osmotic pressure and protection
the moisture has to be evaporated,
leaving only about 18-percent water in the honey. The physical change involves
the removal of water, which is accomplished by bees externally manipulating
nectar in their mouths and then placing small droplets on the upper side of
cells and fanning their wings to increase air movement and carry away excess
Thus honey is made to be a very
stable food. It naturally resists molds, fungi and other bacteria, allowing it
to last for years without refrigeration!