Many people love honey. They use it in recipes, as a sweetener in drinks, or on a hot, fresh-baked roll. Honey, however, can get expensive, especially since seeing a reduction in the honey bee population. Many people have asked:
Can You make Honey Without Bees?
It is not possible for people to make real honey. By definition, honey is elaborated out of the nectar of flowers in the honey sac of various bees. Bees have certain enzymes in the honey sac that help turn nectar into honey. This process keeps honey free of bacteria and mold.
We can make honey substitutes that are similar in consistency and flavor, but, because of the enzymes used, humans can’t make real honey.
But, that’s not all you should know about honey. Keep reading to find out more about this amazing substance.
How Is Honey Made
Real honey comes from bees that gather pollen and nectar from nearby flowers. They store the nectar in their honey stomach, or honey sac, where different enzymes are added. These enzymes start the process of turning nectar into honey by breaking down the sugars into sucrose and fructose.
When the bees get back to their hive, they share the nectar with other bees. Those bees add more enzymes. Bees continue to share the nectar until runny honey is made. At that point, they put the honey into honeycombs, dry it out, and seal it with wax.
This process helps keep bacteria and mold out of the newly created honey. It also helps honey stay fresh for many years so it stores easily.
What Type Of Bees Make Honey
Many types of bees can make honey. Hornets and wasps can both make honey, however, they only produce enough for their larva to eat while they are growing. Adult wasps and Hornets don’t eat it. Their young can also eat meat, this reduces the amount of honey needed.
Other bees such as bumblebees can also make honey but there is only one that produces enough to store away during the long winter months and to share with us. This bee is known as the honey bee.
A honey bee colony can consist of 50,000 bees and is made up of a queen bee, some male drones, and female worker bees.
The worker bees are the ones that scout for flowers, gather pollen and nectar, and make honey. They also help take care of the larvae, or baby bees. Honey and pollen is the main food source for the larvae. It is also the main food honey bees eat through the winter months or during droughts. This is why they make and store so much honey.
Benefits Of Real Honey
Did you know?
Bee honey has at least 10 health benefits some of these include:
- Nutrients. These nutrients are low in vitamins and minerals but do contain high levels of plant compounds.
- Antioxidants. Honey is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It can also help lower blood pressure.
- Better for those with diabetes. Sugar is not good for diabetics but if you need sugar, honey is the way to go. It can help lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol and can help reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
- Lower Triglycerides. High triglycerides increase the risk of heart disease. Honey has been shown to help decrease triglyceride levels, especially when it replaces sugar.
- Promote healing from burns and other wounds. Honey is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and so helps heal wounds while nourishing the skin.
- Cough Suppressant. Studies have shown honey to be a natural cough suppressant that works better than some medications.
One thing to keep in mind is that honey is still sugar and shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities. If used as a substitute for other sugars, you could see some of these benefits.
How To Tell If Honey Is Pure
Pure honey can be light or dark in color and its flavor can vary. The reason behind this is that not every flower is the same. For example, nectar taken from asparagus will taste and appear much different than nectar taken from lavender.
Unfortunately, not all honey is pure. Some companies will add other ingredients to make it look or taste a certain way. Most consumers believe that light, clear honey is the best since it is more visibly appealing but this might not be the case.
There are some ways to tell if your honey is pure.
- Check the ingredients on the label. If there is more than one ingredient it’s most likely not pure.
- Place a drop of honey on a paper towel. The honey won’t penetrate for a long time since there is very little water, if any, in honey.
- Place some near ants. Bees protect their honey against other insects and pests. Ants shouldn’t come near pure honey
- Pure honey will crystallize after a time.
What Is Raw Honey
Raw honey is taken straight from the hive without being processed in any way. This means that it hasn’t been pasteurized or processed. If it comes straight from the hive there could be some contaminants in it such as pieces of a bee wing, wax, or honeycomb. It can be warmed to a low temperature (not hot enough for pasteurization) in order for it to run more smoothly into containers and to filter out any bee parts or wax but other than that it is completely untouched.
Raw honey contains more antioxidants and other nutrients so it does have more health benefits since it hasn’t been processed. However, it is not as visually appealing so it isn’t sold in many stores.
Regular honey undergoes pasteurization that destroys the yeast. This extends the shelf life so it doesn’t ferment. It also goes through filtration. Filtration is more than just removing large particles such as bee parts and wax. It also removes smaller debris such as pollen and air bubbles. Unfortunately, just like cooked vegetables, it also removes some of the nutrition.
If you’re looking for pure, raw honey you should look at local farmer markets, find a local beekeeper, or visit a health food store. Buying local may have more health benefits such as reduced allergies but this has been unproven.
If honey is too expensive or if you’ve run out and need it quickly, there are several substitutes you can choose from. Light corn syrup is closest in flavor but you can also use maple syrup, molasses, and dark corn syrup. If using it in a recipe, these measurements are the same as honey.
You can also use agave nectar, coconut nectar, Stevia or syrups such as butterscotch syrup, brown rice syrup, or date syrup. You can also make your own. There are many different recipes but most contain white sugar, water, and flower blossoms.
You may not get the same health benefits when using honey substitutes but they will work for the sweetness that you might need.
Is Honey Vegan?
For many vegans, honey is not part of their diet but it depends largely on your belief as a vegan. Bees are part of the animal family and so honey is considered as an animal product much like eggs and milk.
One argument against eating honey is that it is the bees’ food storage for winter, droughts, or other times when nectar is scarce. When beekeepers replace the honey with sugar water or other similar foods, the bees aren’t getting all the nutrients they need.
How To Raise Honey Bees
Raising honey bees can be beneficial, especially for those living on a farm or growing your own garden. Here are some suggestions on what steps to take before you start raising your own honey bees.
- Make sure you study them. Get to know how the colony works, how bees work, and how the honey-making process works.
- Visit a beekeeper to see how the process works. Ask them questions and don’t be afraid to voice any concerns.
- Don’t be afraid of the bees (or be brave) when you’re around them.
- Buy the right equipment. Make sure your clothing won’t let any bees inside.
- Make sure your hive is near flowers and trees for the bees to get nectar and pollen.
Honey Bee Facts
There are a lot of fun and interesting facts about honey and honey bees.
- It takes nectar from about 2 million flowers to make just one pound of honey
- Each bee will only make 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime
- Bees will visit 50 – 100 flowers each trip to collect nectar
- Bees dance to communicate
- Honey bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by humans
- A colony of bees can be anywhere from 20,000-60,000 bees.
- Honey can be used to treat burns and wounds due to its antiseptic properties.
- Honey is often used in beauty products.
How Can We Help Honey Bees
In the last decade, the population of honey bees has drastically been reduced due to sickness, pesticides, or poor nutrition. If the decline continues food production will also decline so what can we do to help?
- Plant bee-friendly flowers such as flowering herbs in your garden and around your yard
- Don’t use chemicals and pesticides. Find other natural ways to get rid of unwanted pests.
- Create a bee bath by putting fresh water out for the bees to drink from
- Support your local beekeeper.
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