Questions & Answers
HOW IS HONEY MADE?
Honeybees collect sugar-rich flower nectar, which is almost 80% water and contains complex sugars, or aphid honeydew to make honey. Bees use their long, tube-like tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and then store it in their honey stomachs. Bees have two stomachs and the honey stomach is used to hold almost 70 mg of nectar - almost as much as the bee weights itself. There collecting bees break down the nectar into simple sugars to support the metabolic activity of their own flight muscles during foraging but mainly to store it as honey in the bee hive. Honeybees will visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honeystomachs.
When the collecting bees return to the hive the partially digested nectar is passed on to worker bees which work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion for as long as long as 30 minutes until the honey reaches storage quality. During this time, bee enzymes are breaking the complex nectar sugar sucrose to a mixture of glucose and fructose which is more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria.
The honey is finally placed in honeycomb cells and left unsealed as the hive bees flutter their wings constantly to circulate air and evaporate the water from the honey to a content of below 18%, thus raising the natural sugar concentration and preventing fermentation. All our honeys must have a water content of less than 18% since this is an important honey quality requirement as demanded by the German Honey Purification which stipulates the quality criteria for German honey and provides extremely strict standards for honey purification, original natural ingredients, sugar and also water content. The bees finally seal the honeycomb cells with wax to ensure a long honey shelf life.
WHY DOES HONEY CRYSTALIZE?
Honey is a highly concentrated natural sugar solution. It contains more than 70% sugars and less than 20% water. This means that the water in honey contains more sugar than it should naturally hold.
The overabundance of sugar makes honey unstable. Thus, it is natural for honey to crystallize since it is an over-saturated natural sugar solution. The two principal sugars in honey are fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (grape sugar).
The content of fructose and glucose in honey varies from one type of honey to the other. Generally, the fructose ranges from 30- 45% and glucose from 25- 40%. The balance of these two major sugars causes the crystallization of honey, and the relative percentage of each determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly.
What crystallizes is the glucose, due to its lower solubility. Fructose is more soluble in water than glucose and will remain fluid. When glucose crystallizes, it separates from water and takes the form of tiny crystals. As the crystallization progresses and more glucose crystallizes, those crystals spread throughout the honey. The solution changes to a stable saturated form, and ultimately the honey becomes thick or crystallized.
Some honeys crystallize uniformly; some will be partially crystallized and form two layers, with the crystallized layer on the bottom of the jar and a liquid on top. Honeys vary in the size of the crystals formed. Some form fine crystals and others large, gritty ones. The more rapid honey crystallizes, the finer the texture will be.
Crystallized honey tends to set a lighter colour than when liquid. This is due to the fact that glucose sugar tends to separate out in dehydrating crystals form, and that glucose crystals are naturally pure white. Darker honeys retain a brownish appearance.
Hexapi Honey - Retaining the Blessings of Nature!