How Do Bees Make Honey

Foraging bees collect nectar from flowers, sucking it up with their tubelike tongues. They carry it back to the hive in one of their stomachs. The nectar is transferred to other bees who “chew” it for about half an hour, mixing it with enzymes from glands in their mouth. Then they place it in hexagonal cells made of beeswax and fan it with their wings to dehydrate it. After the water content is reduced to less than 18 percent, the cells are capped with a thin layer of wax. Capped honey can keep almost indefinitely.

Why do Bees make Honey

Bees depend upon honey for food. A standard-size hive of bees needs between 20 and 30 pounds [10 to 15 kg] of honey to survive the winter. But in a good season, a hive can produce some 60 pounds [25 kg] of honey.

The wax from which bees construct the honeycomb is produced by special glands in the bee’s body. The hexagonal shape of the comb’s cells allows the thin walls of the comb—one eightieth of an inch [1⁄3 mm] thick—to support 30 times their weight. The comb is thus a marvel of engineering.

 Honey’s Medicinal Properties

In addition to being a marvelous food—a veritable storehouse of B vitamins, various minerals, and antioxidants—honey is one of the oldest known medicines in continuous use.Dr. May Berenbaum, an entomologist with the University of Illinois, U.S.A., comments: “Honey has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical problems like wounds, burns, cataracts, skin ulcers and scrapes.”

Commenting on recent interest in the medicinal value of honey, the CNN news organization reports: “Honey fell from favor as a wound dressing when antibiotic dressings were developed during World War II. But the new research—and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—are putting this old-time folk remedy into the contemporary medicine chest.” For example, one area of research has involved the treatment of burns. It was noted that patients had a faster healing time and less pain and scarring when honey dressings were used.

Studies show that because of an enzyme added to the nectar by the bees, honey has mild antibacterial and antibiotic properties. This enzyme generates hydrogen peroxide, which kills harmful bacteria.Additionally, applied topically, honey has been found to reduce inflammation and to promote the growth of healthy tissue. Thus, New Zealand biochemist Dr. Peter Molan says: “Honey is becoming accepted as a reputable and effective therapeutic agent by practitioners of conventional medicine.” In fact, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved honey as a medicine, and medical honey is being marketed as a wound dressing in that country.

Note: Honey is not a recommended food for infants because of the potential danger of infant botulism.

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