Idaho Honey, Made by Bees in Idaho
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Idaho Honey

The Honey Factory

Ever wonder just how bees make honey? It's a fascinating process man can explain, but even with all his technology, can't duplicate!

Honey begins as nectar - that sweet liquid present from time to time in most flowers. Perhaps you have experienced a honey suckle flower in the summer time when a drop or two of a clear sweet liquid can be extracted from the flower that's nectar. Nectar contains as many as 30 different sugars and mostly water. To make a pound of honey, three pounds of nectar must be gathered - it will take 500 bees traveling more than 13,000 miles to do it! A single bee barely collects 1/10 of a pound of honey in its entire lifetime of about three months. The good news is there can be from 20 to 50 thousand bees in a single hive, and during the summer months, the hive can produce two to five times more honey than the bees will consume all year! It's only the surplus honey that we harvest; always leaving for the bees what they need.

The conversion of nectar to honey has two parts, one part chemical and the other part physical. First, let's look at the chemical change. It is brought about by enzymes produced by the bees and added to the nectar. The process starts at the flower as the nectar is collected and continues at the hive. As the bee gathers nectar from the flower, enzymes are added and the nectar is stored in the bee's honey sac which is essentially holding tank ahead of the bee's digestive stomach. The bee completes her load and returns to the hive where she deposits her cargo of nectar in a cell of the beeswax honey comb. Nectar contains many different sugars, the enzymes added will reduce them to the three sugars found in honey sucrose, glucose and fructose.

The second or physical part of the process begins at the bee hive and consists of reducing the moisture content of the nectar. Nectar can have a water content as high as 80% where the water content of the finished honey will be less than 18%. Drying or curing of the nectar occurs by evaporation aided by the bees fanning the hive for ventilation. On summer nights, the hive will literally buzz all night as the bees move air over their combs to cure the honey.

When the honey is cured, the bees do their final job of sealing the honey with a capping of beeswax. As beekeepers, that's how we know the moisture content is correct, the honey is fully cured and ready for harvest.

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