Who said only humans know the science? Bees know it too, in fact, better. Thus, they produce nature's best product, and we call it HONEY. Therefore, bees are called the greatest scientist and producers. However, it does not get ready in a day or two; there is lots of chemistry and stringent process behind it, which begins with collecting nectar.
In the end, we get a natural viscous supersaturated solution. It seems simple, but it's tough!
We have explained this complex composition of honey easily so that you can understand how hard bees work.
Beginning of Honey Making
The process of honey-making begins with the extraction of nectar found in the nectarines gland of flowers. It is a slightly sweet colorless liquid that mainly consists of sucrose and has high water content. Bees convert this nectar into honey through hydrolysis and evaporation that takes a few days and teamwork. Here is each step explained:
Bees suck or fill up nectar in their honey stomach (a separate area in their digestive tract). It takes around an hour to fill nectar weighing around 50 percent of their body weight. Most of the nectar is used for making honey, whereas the rest is used as a source of food and storage.
Nectar is a mixture of complex sugar composition and water. Around 70-80 percent of nectar is water; therefore, it's less viscous. Sucrose is the major sugar found in nectar, which is a complex sugar known as a disaccharide. However, it is hard to digest; thus, bees breakdown sucrose into monosaccharide (simple sugar).
Bees perform this tough task of breakdown with the help of their digestive enzymes. Following enzymes are used up in the process:
- Invertase is the major enzyme as it breakdown the complex sugar in nectar into glucose and fructose.
- Amylase is added during the process of ripening of nectar. It further breakdown the glucose into smaller molecules.
- Glucose is further converted into
gluconolactone by an enzyme called glucose oxidase. After this step,
hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid as by-products are obtained.
Glucose oxidase also maintains the pH value of honey acidity, and prevents the growth of bacteria.
- Catalase converts the peroxide into
oxygen and water.
- Acid phosphorylase separates the organic and inorganic phosphates from the remaining product.
No single bee can perform
this entire process of hydrolysis; it takes teamwork. The collected nectar is
thus, transferred to forager bees, who add more enzymes to it. It is then
passed to other bees and continues for 20 minutes or until 20 percent of water
is left in the nectar.
The hydrolyzed nectar is
then stored in the honeycomb and evaporated. Bees continuously flutter their
wings and maintain the temperature up to 35 degrees C to reduce the water
content from processed nectar.
The process continues until the water reduces to 18 percent. However, it increases the concentration of sugar in the nectar, making it a supersaturated solution.
Honey remains in the best
condition when stored at a lower temperature. But at high-temperature, honey
chemistry undergo several changes.
How Does Temperature Affect Honey Chemistry?
Temperature can change the
chemistry and physical appearance of honey. Here's how.
The high amount of glucose in honey can form
crystals, thus increasing the chances of fermentation. To prevent this, honey
bees seal the honeycomb's top with beeswax so that moisture and glucose do not
form crystals. Do not shake or preserve honey at high temperatures as it
results in crystallization.
Real honey is thick however, keeping it at a high
temperature affects viscosity. The higher the temperature, less is the
viscosity and vice versa.
Honey has a pH value of 4, which means it is less acidic. This slightly acidic nature of honey can result in browning or caramelization when heated. It happens due to the breakdown and reformation of molecular bonds upon heating. It is called the Maillard reaction.
Besides temperature, moisture content also affects honey chemistry. Therefore, it is always kept covered as moisture in the surrounding can ferment the honey. However, little moisture is needed for preservation, but fermentation begins when the moisture level goes beyond 25 percent.
Bees ensure that neither temperature nor moisture affects the honey stored in the honeycomb. Truly, they are the world's best chemists. Humans can only best preserve this hard work by bees keeping temperature and storage requirements in mind.
Geohoney offers the best monofloral varieties of honey without compromising with it’s taste, texture, and viscosity.