Bee Limitless

CHEMISTRY OF HONEY

Bees make honey by gathering nectar from blooming flowers, and cure the nectar by concentrating its sugar and nutrient density and removing excess water.  Nectar is essentially a complex solution of water, sugar and plant based nutrients which the flowers use to entice bees and other pollinators to enjoy to further their reproductive needs.

Nectar begins at a moisture percentage of almost 80% – the processing of the honey by the bees removes more than half of the moisture in the nectar.  Raw honey is typically 15-21% water by weight, with an average ph of 3.9.  The remaining 80% of the honey is a mixture of the nectar's complex and simple sugars, with trace amounts of vitamins, amino acids, proteins and other plant based nutrients.The average content of fructose in honeys tends to be between 38-40%, and of glucose between 29-33%.  Fructose, the sugar found naturally in fruits and berries, is the sweetest tasting of all sugars, giving raw honeys a great natural sweetness with fewer sugar calories.  The remaining sugars in raw honeys include complex disaccharides and oligosaccharides, including sucrose, maltose and other natural complex carbohydrates.

The types and proportions of sugars in each jar of raw honey are dependent on the variety of the flower that is the nectar source, and the origin and environment where the flowers grow and bees work their magic.   It is these variations which give raw honeys their unique flavor profiles, complex aromas and rich textures.

When (horror of horrors!) honey is refined and cooked, the heating process breaks down these beneficial complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, destroying key health benefits of raw honey, and usually ruining its unique flavors and aromas.

The sugar molecules in honey are strongly attracted to water and bond to it.  Raw honey is in a constant state of drawing moisture from its environment.  This is one reason why raw honey is a viscous syrup, instead of a crystalline solid like table sugar (pure sucrose).   When people gently warm crystallized honey to re-liquifiy it again, what is occurring on the physical level is the honey is able to draw more moisture from the warm air around the honey molecules to slightly dilute the solid sugar molecules in the honey solution without destroying the honey's molecular structure.  This is accomplished through honeys strong propensity to attract water, not by "melting" the honey.

This hydrophilic nature of honey creates an additional anti-bacterial effect that raw honey possesses:  when bacteria land on raw honey, the honey molecules draw and absorb moisture from the bacteria, essentially drying and destroying bacteria on contact.  This accounts for the world wide use of honey as a topical antibiotic for patients with wounds and burns.  It is also for this reason that raw honey, when kept dry and at a normal temperature, will never spoil or go bad, since bacteria that would otherwise spoil a food cannot survive on the honey.

Additionally, it is for this reason that the only way honey can spoil is by adding too much water to it - this allows bacteria to thrive in the watery honey, nourished by its sugars.  Watery honey will ultimately ferment, leading to Mead or Honeywine, likely the first alcoholic drinks on earth.