Honeybees live in a very
structured ‘society’. The function of each bee is assigned and
carried out accordingly. Field bees fly out to collect nectar and
pollen from flowers. On coming back, they deposit the pollen on the
developing larvae and regurgitate the nectar from their honey sacs
into the mouths of worker bees. Once the honey is ready, it is
emptied into a cell which is sealed with – what else but wax. Honey
is stored in the hives for use in the winter months.
What happens to the
nectar inside the esophagus? A major portion of the sucrose sugar
content of the nectar is inverted into fructose and dextrose and any
excess moisture is removed. A beehive is formed of a double layer of
hexagonal cells. The ‘building material’ used here is a mixture of
beeswax which is secreted by the worker bees and ‘propolis’ a plant
resin collected by the worker bees. The wax is also used by humans
for various purposes like manufacturing candles, cosmetics and for
Honey is soluble in
water and may even granulate if exposed to high temperatures. Honey
contains about eighteen per cent of water.
Honey has found wide usage in the confectionery industry.
Honey has many natural medicinal benefits. It has been used by man
since time immemorial, being the only natural source of sugar
available. One of the main uses of honey is in preserving fruit.
Honey is such a good preservative that the Egyptians have even used
it to embalm their dead.
Animals like bears and
badgers love honey and it forms an important part of their diet. The
flavor and color of honey can differ from batch to batch. These
two factors differ based on the flowers the nectar is taken from.
The honey made from the nectar of clovers has been found to be very
palatable. Alfalfa is an excellent honey crop for bees. The
nectar from the blossoms of the common buckwheat yields a honey rich
in flavor and color. Honey from basswood flowers is also very
Apiculture or beekeeping
is practiced for the production of honey on a commercial scale.
Groups of hives are called apiaries and a person looking after them
may be called an apiarist or an apiculturist. Artificial hives are
made and bees are reared in them for honey productions. Honey is
extracted from the artificial hives without disturbing the colony of
bees. Beekeepers also provide another unique service – that of
locating their hives in areas that need the benefit of pollination.
The world's leading honey-producing countries are China, the United States,
Argentina, Ukraine and Mexico.