More ABout Honey

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Even if you’re not a fan of bees, you have to give them credit for creating one of the most delicious substances on earth.  Not only is honey great for sweetening a spot of tea, or spread on your toast in the morning, it also has some incredible properties that set it apart from all other food products.

Stock up on 10 surprising facts about nature's all-natural sweetener!

1.  HONEY NEVER SPOILS

When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life.  There are even reports of edible honey being found in several-thousand-year-old Egyptian tombs.  Honey’s longevity can be explained by its chemical makeup:  The substance is naturally acidic and low in moisture, making it an inhospitable environment for bacteria. 

A lot of hard work from bees goes into imbuing honey with these magical properties.  While transforming nectar into honey, bees flap their wings so hard that they draw excess moisture out of the initially water-filled substance.  Bees also have a special enzyme  that helps to break the nectar down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.  It's the hydrogen peroxide which acts to further prevent the growth of bacteria in the honey and also gives honey it's antiseptic property.

2.  BEES MAKE A LOT OF HONEY

A typical beehive can produce anywhere from 100 to 160 pounds of honey a year.  The bees will consume around 100 of honey each year in their day-to-day activities - honey is their carbohydrate food for energy.  To produce a single pound of honey, a colony of bees must collect nectar from approximately 2 million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles - that's 2.25 times around the world!  This amounts to a lifetime’s worth of work for around 800 bees.

3.  BEES SURVIVE ON HONEY IN THE WINTER

Bees work hard all summer to ensure they’ll have enough honey to sustain the hive through the winter.  During the colder months, bees occupy their time by clustering themselves around the queen and shivering their wing muscles to fill the hive with warmth.  All that shivering burns a lot of calories, so honey makes for the perfect high-energy diet - and over the winter months they will consume up to 40lbs of their honey stores.

4.  HONEY WAS A HOT COMMODITY IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE

In 11th century Germany, honey was so highly valued for its beer-sweetening abilities that German feudal lords required their peasants to make them payments of honey and beeswax. 

5.  HONEY IS MEDICINAL

Evidence of honey being prescribed as a medical treatment dates back as far as ancient Mesopotamia.  Because the substance is so inhospitable to bacteria, it was often used as a natural bandage to protect cuts and burns from infection.  Today, honey is still used as a natural treatment for dandruff, stomach ulcers, and even seasonal allergies.

However, as there is still no medical evidence to support the medicinal claims of honey, doctors are reluctant to advocate the use of honey as a treatment for some ailments.

6.  FOR BEES, A LITTLE HONEY GOES A LONG WAY

On average, a honey bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over the course of her life.  To put that into perspective, two tablespoons of honey would be enough to fuel a bee’s entire flight around the world.  

8.  BEES HAVE MADE HONEY FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS

Around 130 million years ago, flowering plants first appeared, and a few million years later, bees began separating from wasps.  At some point after that, bees began producing honey, with one fossilized honeycomb dating from around 3 million years ago.  Humans, meanwhile, have been harvesting the sweet stuff for thousands of years.  An ancient cave painting was discovered in Valencia, Spain, that depicts a human figure removing honey from a hive, and it could date from as far back as 15,000 years ago.

7.  THERE ARE DIFFERENT FLAVOURS & COLOURS OF HONEY

Honey’s depth of flavor is determined by the source of the nectar it was made from.  Linden honey (Lime Tree) is delicate and woodsy while heather honey is strong with a mysterious coffee/caramel/chocolate flavour that lingers in the mouth for a long while.  Every time a beekeeper extracts honey from a hive - it's flavour is unique and can never be repeated.

9.  BEEKEEPERS ONLY TAKE WHAT’S EXTRA 

A productive bee colony makes two to three times more honey than it needs to survive the winter.  When harvesting honey from a beehive, beekeepers try not to take anything the bees will miss.  If necessary, beekeepers will feed bees sugar syrup in the autumn to compensate for the honey they take. 

10. EVOLUTION ALLOWS US TO EASILY FIND THE HONEY IN THE SUPERMARKET

In 2007, researchers took men and women on a circuitous route through a large farmer’s market, showing them a wide variety of foods and having them rank the food and stalls.  They then took the subjects to the center of the market and had them point in the direction of each of the food items that they had sampled.  Women were, on average, 9 degrees more accurate than men.  But both men and women were most accurate when pointing towards the high-calorie foods, like honey and olive oil - even if they didn’t particularly like them.  It’s believed that this power for locating high-calorie foods can be tied back to our time as hunter-gatherers, when locating honey was a prime goal.