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About Honey

History of Honey

People have been eating honey for thousands of years.  Eva Crane's "The Archaeology of Beekeeping" states that honey history reaches back at least 10,000 years when humans began hunting for honey.  It is widely accepted that the ancient Egyptians managed bees and there are many artifacts from EgypHoney Bee Collecting Nectartian hieroglyphics that include the honey bee. Ancient Egyptians used honey to sweeten cakes and biscuits as well as embalming the dead.

Importance of Honey Bees

You can't really talk about honey without mentioning the importance of Honey bees.  Honey bees are fascinating creatures and the only insects that produce a food consumed by humans. Additionally, they play a significant role in pollinating plants. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about one-third of the human diet is derived from insect-pollinated plants (fruits, legumes and vegetables) and the honey bee is responsible for 80 percent of this pollination.

A single, healthy colony contains 40,000 to 60,000 bees. The worker bees gather nectar from millions of flowers to make just one pound of honey, with a colony producing 80 pounds of surplus honey each year.

Bees in the HiveEach worker bee flies up to 3 miles away to collect nectar. After returning to the hive, they digest and regurgitate the nectar (more than once) and then store the resulting honey in the hive’s honeycomb.  Initially, the nectar has too much moisture content, so the worker bees flap their wings acting as a fan and cause the moisture to evaporate for the resulting honey.  Once the moisture content is reduced the bees cap each honeycomb cell with beeswax to store the honey. 

Making honey is hard labor. Worker bees actually “work themselves to death” with a typical life span of 4-6 weeks in the summer. 
For more on bees, their life cycle and social structure, see About Honey Bees.

How Bees Make Honey

How to Make Honey

The Bees, Beekeepers and Honey Packagers go through a significant amount of work to get your favorite honey to the table.  Although the degree of sophistication in the honey production process varies depending on the size of the operation, the basic steps of how to make honey from "nectar" through "bottling" are shown in the Honey Production Process video.

Honey Production Process

Americans consume over 400 million pounds of honey each year.  Honey flavors differ depending on the type of flower the bees visit.  As a result, there are about 300 varieties of honey in the U.S. with California, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota being the top producers. Visit Types of Southern Honeys to determine which honey(s) is best for you.

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