By Jeff Rugg- I am sure you have heard the saying “stop and smell the roses.” Well, let’s say that we traveled 55,000 miles and stopped at over two million flowers. What would we get? Tired from bending over, for one thing, but if we were honeybees, we could have made some honey. It takes that many flowers and that much work to make only one pound of honey!
I doubt Winnie-the-Pooh has any idea how much work it takes to create what Aristotle called “the nectar of the gods.” When a land is described as “flowing with milk and honey,” it is not only a bountiful place but also a beautiful one.
An individual worker bee can visit as many as 5,000 flowers in a day. In its entire lifetime, a single honeybee will only be able to produce roughly one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. Not only does the hive produce enough honey for itself to survive the winter, but it produces extra honey that the beekeeper can harvest. An amazing 50 pounds or so of surplus honey each year! Now that’s a lot of frequent flyer miles.
All of this work does not go unnoticed by the flowers. They are pollinated by the bee’s efforts. The flower lures the bee to itself by producing nectar. The nectar is made of carbohydrate sugars, including fructose and glucose, that together make up about 70% of honey. About 17% is water, and the rest is a combination of other carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Honey is naturally colored and flavored by the flowers the bees visit. Darker honey is usually stronger in flavor. More than 300 flavors of honey can be found in the U.S., including avocado, clover and orange blossom.
Honey is a versatile food: It is not just a sweetener. It can be used as a thickener for barbecue sauce as well as a cough or sore throat medicine. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast and fungi.
The high sugar content, high acidity and other ingredients help it to treat minor skin irritations and prevent scarring. The downside is you might be followed around by bears that want to lick you. If you have some honey as a pre-workout energy source, you might outrun the bear, as it helps with endurance. It also helps athletes’ muscles recuperate after a workout.
Honey comes in several forms. It is normally sold as a liquid in the United States, but in other places, it is sold whipped into a finely crystallized form that is creamy and spreadable. Comb honey is often found at county fairs and roadside stands. It is honey in the raw and comes wrapped in the original container of the honeybees’ wax comb.
Liquid honey is extracted from the comb by centrifugal force or gravity. It is then strained of bits of wax. If your honey jar has old crystallized honey in it, just warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds to get it back to its liquid form.
Honeybees are interesting creatures. Not only do they communicate the location and distance of blooming flowers by doing a variety of dances, but they can see colors we can’t. They can also see polarized light so that they can navigate back to the hive by the different angles of light waves.