Unfortunately, honey is mostly a very underestimated food today. You can find it cheap and in many forms on the supermarket shelf and we particularly enjoy it on the breakfast bread. However, if you deal more intensively with the topic, you will learn a new appreciation for honey. You can then understand why a beekeeper demands the sometimes significantly higher price than in the supermarket and what work it involves. In this post, we go into depth and deal with the questions: What is honey and how is it made? Why do bees produce honey at all? What types are there? And many more.
Honey - a pure, untreated natural product that was of great importance in ancient times
What is honey?
The Honey Ordinance (Quote, year 2004, Appendix 1, Section 1 under General) says the following:
“Honey is the naturally sweet substance that honeybees produce by converting, storing, storing, dehydrating and nectar from plants or secretions of living parts of plants or excrements from living plant parts from insects sucking on plants by combining them with their own specific substances store in the honeycomb of the beehive and let it ripen. "
If you break down the official German then honey is a food collected by bees, which mainly consists of natural sugar. Actually honey is collected by the bees as a reserve if there are not so many flowers or of course as a food supply for the winter. The ingredients essentially consist of three pillars: the vegetable nectar, the animal honeydew and the substances that the bees add during the further processing.
Humans made food for themselves from bees early on and honey still has a firm place in a balanced diet - despite the sugar.
How is honey made?
The flying out
The delicious honey that we spoon out of the jar here in Germany is primarily the hard work of the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) Thanks to. The minds of the arithmetic geniuses differ somewhat about the exact numbers, but even if they were halved, the performance of these small insects is unimaginable. In mathematical terms, a single bee would have to collect 20.000 flight missions to collect about one liter of honeydew or nectar. This liter in turn gives about 150 grams of honey, as we know it from a jar. Assuming that a bee has around 40 flight operations a day, it visits around 4.000 flowers. This means that around 10 million flowers have to be visited for a liter of honey.
As soon as the collector bee leaves the hive, it heads for flowers and trees. Here she picks up the nectar or honeydew with her trunk. Already while being sucked up, she salivates her groupage and adds the body's own enzymes to it. This is the first peculiarity: only through these enzymes can the plant juice be converted into honey at all. During the excursion, the bee stores the entire groupage in a special blister, which is also called honey stomach. It is about the size of a pin head. It returns the main part of the collected nectar to the bees when it returns, a small part it eats directly itself.
Although the collecting bee directly adds enzymes to the nectar, it has by no means become ready-made honey, it is still immature. At this fresh stage it still receives too much water, the consistency is still very fluid and if it were stored like this it would spoil. So that it loses its water as quickly as possible, the hive bees continuously reposition it. They let the honey run out of their proboscis into honeycombs and immediately suck them up again. Due to the high internal temperatures in the hive and the tireless work of the hive bee, the water evaporates relatively quickly and an almost ripe honey is formed. This is now stored in the honeycomb cells and the bees use the wings to fan the honey further dry so that the remaining moisture evaporates. This is how the typical honey slowly arises. When it has matured enough, the cells are completely filled and sealed with wax lids.
By the way, science does not yet know how the bees know when exactly the honey is ready to be sealed. Each nectar dries differently and there is no time for a honey to ripen.
How is honey harvested?
Bees must first be removed from the combs before harvesting. If bees sitting on the honeycomb are taken into the centrifugal chamber, this can have unsightly consequences. The bee sitting on the honeycomb flies back to its colleagues, tells where the feed is now, and the other collector bees set off to get their honey back.
We therefore carefully and thoroughly sweep the bees off the honeycomb. We then pack the free honeycombs into empty loot boxes on rolls and roll them into our shrine room. Here we uncover the honeycombs and throw out the honey. This work must be done relatively quickly, as the honeycomb must not cool down and should keep the temperature of the stick as possible. Otherwise the honey becomes firmer and can hardly be thrown out of the honeycomb.
After spinning, the honey begins to crystallize out relatively quickly. This is not a bad thing and a completely natural process. In order to slow down the crystallization a bit we stir the honey a few times for several hours. You can find out more in our blog post "Why is my honey crystallizing?"
Difference between creamy and clear honey
Fresh honey from the centrifuge is always golden and liquid, but sooner or later it starts to crystallize. How quickly it crystallizes depends on the glucose content, with some varieties this is very fast, with others it can take several months.
Difference between forest honey and blossom honey
Put simply, honey can be divided into two classes. On the one hand blossom honey and on the other hand honeydew honey, also called forest honey. The basis for blossom honey is nectar, which is collected from flowers. The origins of honeydew honey can be found on needles and tree leaves. In honeydew honey, bees collect the tiny secretions from the insects that get their food from the plants and convert them into honey. A mix of both is the forest and blossom honey, which contains parts of both. Since our bees are right on the edge of the forest, we often have a higher proportion of honeydew honey in the jar or bag.
Which honey is the best?
In a global comparison, the Germans are at the forefront of honey consumption. In mathematical terms, each of us consumes over a kilogram of honey a year. It is difficult to say which is the most popular type of honey. The round 150.000 beekeepers with a total of about 1.000.000 Bee colonies in Germany are unable to meet the demand. Only 20 percent of annual honey consumption can be covered by German bees. A large part of the missing 80 percent is imported from China, Brazil and Eastern Europe.
Of course, we recommend everyone to buy their honey locally or from German origins, as far as taste is concerned. Whether blossom honey, rapeseed honey, forest honey, linden honey or other domestic varieties is up to you. Ecologically speaking, however, it makes no sense for us to send honey halfway around the world, which then also comes from countries where the keeping of bees and the working conditions are questionable for people. We are particularly critical of the hype about exotic honey types, such as manuka honey, which is imported from New Zealand, which is why we refrain from including such honey in our range despite many inquiries.