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When Does Nectar Become Honey?


Something came to my attention earlier today that prompted me to ask this question: At what point does nectar become honey?


When it is masticated, enzymes added, put into cells and evaporated - 20% or less water - other wise it ferments - ie Sugar syrup


or the complex version http://www.hiveandhoneyapiary.com/howbeesmakehoney.html


Really cool video in that article, one heck of an observation hive and a few giggles, thanks Valli.


When the bees cap it.


Ok, I’ll reword the question. When does nectar become green (unripe) honey.


How long is a piece of string, Jeff? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I guess you could say that nectar stops being nectar as soon as a bee swallows it, because now it is mixed with enzymes and microorganisms. This is just a game of philosophy and semantics really, and I know you love stirring the pot @JeffH! :smile:


When the bees regurgitate nectar it into a cell, I guess. It’s still honey if more than 20% water.
Heather honey can be up to 23%
OSR (canola) is often extracted before it’s capped as it just as often crystallises under the capping.


Interesting little set of factoids I relearned today - the crystals in crystallised honey are glucose, suspended in a syrup of fructose. I suppose that means that OSR honey is high in glucose compared with other honeys. The optimal temperature for crystallisation is 5C to 17C for honey in general, and below 5C crystallisation is inhibited. It seems counterintuitive to me, but if you freeze liquid honey, it won’t crystallise at all.

Honey and bees are really fascinating! :blush:


No OSR is high in sucrose. The higher the percentage of sucrose the faster the set


Interesting, as sucrose is 50:50 glucose:fructose. I assumed it was mostly digested. I guess it is more complicated than that. :blush:


Hmmm, we never stop learning ! @ Jeff … I
Guess our minds don’t stop learning n wanting to learn til we’re “Ten Toe Up” as my mom use to say ! :wink: It’s been an interesting READ ! I’m certainly not adding to the thots !

Our in the cool rain showers enjoying my :honeybee:’s … Few dewy morning pix’s ! But my “Girls” are out foraging … Uploading… Have a great Mother’s Day ladies ! :ok_hand::cherry_blossom:. Gerald


Hi Gerald, thanks for the pics. Your bamboo looks impressive. I have a burgundy sugar cane plant that’s starting to look similar once I removed all the dead leaves. “Ten toes up”, I like that saying, that’s the first time I heard it.

I like the idea that we never stop learning.

On this particular subject, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer. You’ll read one thing that says the field bees take the nectar back to the hive & the house bees start the converting process. But then I read one day that the field bees start that process on their way back to the hive, using their special mouth part in the process of actually dewatering the nectar/honey. In this video “City of the Bees”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUOW1QbNow4 at the 9.36 mark you’ll see a bee clearly doing that.

My guess is that once the bees have converted the complex sugars into simple sugars, it can no longer be called nectar in it’s true form.


From the time the bees take in the Nectar the process begins. From flower to honey can take several days depending on the weather - personally it may be honey before it is capped, it may be “ripe” but the final product for keeping for our purpose is only when it is sealed with wax - a bit like the wax on Jam (the old fashion way)


Do they turn sugar syrup into honey as well?


Hi P’man, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that subject & my guess is they do. I don’t know much about the science of things with all those words that end in ose. I’m sure honey made from sugar/water would have a different chemical formula to just sugar/water syrup.


Well, depends on what you mean by “honey”. They swallow it, add enzymes and microorganisms to it, regurgitate it and concentrate it. They will even cap it when the water content is low enough. Does it taste like honey and have the same nutritional value? No. No pollen, no volatiles or vitamins from nectar, not much flavor other than sugary.

Household sugar is sucrose, and that is what we use to make the syrup when we feed. @JeffH is correct, what bees do with nectar is change the sucrose in nectar into a fructose/glucose mixture. So the chemical content of bee-processed syrup will be subtly different from the original.


Interesting, thanks.