Welcome to the ultimate honey knowledge page. We’ll give you a smooth ride through the most compelling facts about honey based on scientific evidence.
Let’s dive in!
Honey is a sweet, thick liquid created by bees. It ranges in color from nearly colorless to dark brown and varies in flavor and aroma depending on several factors, including flowers it’s made of, age, and exposure to heat.
How Do Bees Make Honey?
Bees work extremely hard to make honey.
Worker bees first collect the sugary juice called nectar from a variety of flowers (each bee visits 50–100 flowers in a single trip).
They suck the nectar out of the flowers with their tongues and store it in the honey stomach called nectary. This stomach is separate from the one used for food.
The enzymes in the nectary break down the nectar’s complex sugars and turn them into the simpler ones that are less prone to crystallization.
Then worker bees pass the nectar to the house bees that chew the nectar and pass it from mouth to mouth for about 30 minutes until it slowly turns to pure honey.
By chewing it, house bees slowly convert the sucrose in nectar to different forms of sugar and add antibacterial substances like gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which serve as preservatives.
Honey is then stored in honeycomb cells. Since honey is still wet at this stage, bees flap their wings at it to make it drier and more sticky.
Finally, bees seal the honeycomb cells with wax to keep the honey clean until it’s time for it to be used.
The Bee Colony: Facts About Honey Bees
A single honeybee colony comprises 10,000 to well over 60,000 bees. It houses three types of bees that have different functions — the queen bee, worker bees, and drones.
The queen bee has a characteristic smooth, extended abdomen, and her primary function is to produce eggs. This type of bee is literally the mother of the colony, and while other types of bees come in hundreds and thousands, there can be only one queen bee.
Drones are the male bees hatched from unfertilized eggs laid by worker bees, and their only role is to fertilize a young queen bee.
Worker bees are the smallest in size and are all female. They’re the most numerous and practically do all the work in the colony:
- They secrete wax and create honeycombs from it.
- They gather pollen and nectar, which they later turn into natural honey.
- They produce royal jelly used to feed young larvae and the queen bee.
- They remove dead bees from the hive.
- They defend the hive from the predators.
- They maintain the optimal conditions in the hive by regulating temperature, etc.
Bees are herbivorous insects that use nectar and pollen as their main food source. However, when food is scarce, worker bees might start killing and eating larvae to survive.
Both stinging and stingless honey bees produce honey, but honey produced by stingless bees is thinner in consistency and more prone to spoilage.
Types of Honey
Just like the processed one, organic honey comes in a variety of different colors, consistencies, flavors, etc. The main factor contributing to honey’s properties is undoubtedly the source of nectar.
So, let’s check out some of the varieties!
This honey originating from Canada and New Zealand is also the most consumed honey in North America. Its color ranges from white to amber-gold, mainly depending on the clover variety and location). It also has a mild aroma and a faint sour aftertaste.
This honey variety, characterized by a pleasant floral flavor, has a higher fructose concentration than many other types of honey, so it takes longer to crystallize. So, this is one of the best options for those who like their honey to stay in a liquid form longer.
Here are some more interesting facts about this honey variety.
Acacia honey is low in sucrose, which makes it an excellent, healthy choice for diabetes patients. Furthermore, it’s got incredibly potent antibacterial properties, making it an excellent option for topical wound healing.
This type of honey is made from the nectar of the sweet and verdant linden tree flowers, and it’s one of the most popular honey varieties harvested in Europe. Linden honey is pale yellow, and it’s got a mildly sweet flavor.
Furthermore, this honey variety contains substances that give it mildly sedative properties, making it great for managing anxiety and inducing sleep at bedtime. It can also help remedy colds, bronchitis, fever, and other common respiratory infections.
Orange Blossom Honey
Orange blossom honey originates from Spain and Mexico, but it’s also fairly common in the US (especially in warmer regions, such as Florida and California). This natural honey has a soft and delicate texture and a light citrus flavor, which makes it an excellent tea sweetener.
Dandelion honey is less common than other honey varieties, but it’s a real treat. It’s got an intense floral flavor with a tangy, slightly tart finish. This honey variety is darker in color (dark amber), and it’s grainy in texture due to its tendency to crystalize quickly.
Wildflower honey is made from the nectar of wildflowers. It’s got an intense fruity taste, but its flavor varies greatly, as it depends on the type of wildflower it came from.
It’s rich in antioxidants, and according to some sources, it can help reduce seasonal allergies.
Manuka honey is native to Australia and New Zealand, and it’s sourced from the tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium bush). It’s got a robust, lingering taste.
Here are some interesting facts about honey sourced from manuka bush.
Thanks to the high content of methylglyoxal, a potent antibacterial substance, this honey variety is often used as medical-grade honey.
There’s some evidence it’s effective for treating (or preventing) various conditions, including:
- Minor burns
- Minor wounds
- Acne and pimples
- Sore throat
- Plaque buildup
- Stomach ulcer, etc.
Avocado honey originates in southern Mexico and is predominantly present in California, Central America, and Australia. It’s one of the rarest honey varieties (mostly because avocado blossoms at the same time citruses, the honey bees’ favorite, do).
It’s rich and buttery and has a taste reminiscent of molasses, which makes it an excellent sugar and molasses substitute.
Like other honey varieties, avocado honey is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so it’s found many uses in treating minor health issues.
Avocado honey health benefits:
- Speeding up the healing of burns
- Cut healing
- Seasonal pollen allergy relief, etc.
Tupelo honey is sourced from tupelo trees native to Florida. Tupelo honey can be sourced from a variety of tupelo tree species, but the most valued one is the one sourced from the white tupelo tree.
Due to the scarcity of this tupelo tree species and the expensive production process, honey sourced from white tupelo trees is the most expensive honey out there.
Tupelo honey is also one of the sweetest honey varieties, so it’s excellent for anyone with a sweet tooth. Its incredibly high fructose content gives it yummy sweetness and prevents it from granulating.
This highly nutritious honey is made from the nectar of buckwheat flowers. Since buckwheat flowers are minuscule, bees have to work incredibly hard to obtain the nectar. Its color is mostly amber with a touch of red, but it can range from dark purple to black.
Buckwheat honey is also known as one of the healthier honey varieties. It isn’t as sweet as other types of honey but tends to have more antioxidants and vitamins.
Benefits of honey made of buckwheat flower nectar include:
- Soothing sore throat and cough
- Wound healing
- Boosting antioxidant levels in the body
- Reducing cholesterol levels
- Stopping DNA mutations that cause various illnesses and cancer, etc.
Sage honey, which is characterized by low moisture content and slow crystallization, can be made of the nectar of numerous varieties of sage, the most common of which are black button sage, purple sage, and white sage.
Expectedly, the sage variety determines the honey’s flavor, taste, and color (ranging from golden to almost black).
California is the world’s biggest producer of this honey variety.
Aster honey is a light-colored, floral-scented honey variety of thick, smooth, and consistent texture. It crystallizes faster than other types of honey, and it’s mostly used as a beverage sweetener or consumed straight from the jar.
Eucalyptus honey is the honey variety with the most distinct taste, intensity, color, and aroma.
Here are some fun facts about honey made of eucalyptus tree flower nectar.
It’s amber in color with a dark or greenish tint, and it’s got a truly unique flavor reminiscent of damp wood and a cooling menthol-like aftertaste. It’s also sweet-tasting with slightly salty and acidic undertones.
Eucalyptus honey’s benefits are mostly related to the respiratory tract — it can effectively relieve sore throat, cough, and congestion. But it can also be used to prevent urinary tract troubles, boost the immune system, etc.
Furthermore, it’s among the most preferred honey variety in aromatherapy as it promotes relaxation.
Sourwood honey is native to the Appalachian region (North Carolina, North Georgia, upper elevations of South Carolina), and it’s generally scarce elsewhere in the US.
Despite its name, this light amber-colored treat isn’t sour at all. On the contrary, it’s characterized by a mild, sweet, buttery flavor and a caramel-like aftertaste.
Raw Honey Nutrition Facts
Nutritional profiles of honey may vary depending on the source of nectar, environmental factors, etc.
In general, a tablespoon of honey contains 64 kcal and 17 g of sugar, as well as trace amounts of amino acids, enzymes, and the following micronutrients:
- Pantothenic acid
Honey Health Benefits
Raw honey has been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments due to its medicinal properties.
So, let’s check out some of the honey’s main health benefits:
It’s an Antioxidant Powerhouse.
Raw honey is rich in many different plant chemicals with antioxidant properties. What’s more, some honey varieties contain as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals that may damage cells and cause premature aging, as well as an array of medical issues, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It Helps Fight Bacterial and Fungal Infections.
Honey contains propolis — an antifungal and antibacterial substance. Therefore, raw honey is effective against fungi and bacteria in both topical and internal treatments.
It’s a Great Source of Phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are protective compounds found in plants (they help protect the plant from harm from insects, UV radiation, etc.). Phytonutrients are also thought to be the substances responsible for honey’s antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. They’re also believed to give pure honey the immunes-system-boosting properties.
It’s Can Help Alleviate Digestive Issues
There’s limited scientific evidence that honey can help with diarrhea. It’s also thought it can help treat Helicobacter pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers. Additionally, honey is rich in prebiotics that can help maintain optimal levels of good bacteria in the gut.
It Helps With Cough and Sore Throat
Honey has long been used to treat sore throat and cough, especially with hot tea and lemon.
And for a reason — a 2021 review found that honey may be more potent than some conventional medications in treating upper respiratory tract infections due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Honey vs. Sugar
Though honey and sugar can be used interchangeably in some recipes to sweeten your dish or beverage, they’re far from identical. They greatly differ in terms of nutritional profile, calorie content, etc.
Though honey and sugar are both carbohydrates consisting of glucose and fructose, their glucose and fructose content differs. Namely, their ratio in sugar is 50/50, while honey consists of 40% fructose and 30% glucose.
Besides glucose and fructose, honey also contains water, pollen, and various minerals (e.g., potassium, magnesium, etc.).
While both increase blood glucose levels upon consumption, sugar is quicker in doing so due to its lack of minerals and high fructose content.
Furthermore, though honey is slightly more caloric than sugar, it’s more nutritious, and unlike sugar, it doesn’t provide you with empty calories.
The only advantage sugar has over honey is that it’s much cheaper.
Now let’s take a look at the most compelling honey facts that you’ll surely find fascinating, regardless of whether you’re a honey fanatic or not.
Honey Never Spoils.
Honey is one of the few foods with an everlasting shelf life. Reports indicate that several-thousand-year old honey found in Egyptian tombs was still edible upon discovery.
The factor responsible for honey’s longevity is its chemical makeup. Namely, honey is naturally acidic and low in moisture, so bacteria can’t thrive in it.
Bees Live Primarily on Honey in the Winter.
During the winter months, bees bundle up around the queen and shiver to maintain the optimal temperature in the beehive. They spend a lot of energy shivering, so they need a caloric, high-energy diet to survive the winter.
Luckily, there are enough calories in honey (63.8 kcal per tablespoon) to sustain them.
Bees Work Extremely Hard.
A single beehive can produce 30–100 lbs of honey a year.
This is a remarkable feat, considering that a single pound of honey requires nectar from approximately two million flowers and 55,000 miles of flight. This translates to 800 bees’ lifetime work, as each bee can produce only about 1/12 tsp of honey in its lifetime.
Honey Is Both Medicine and Food.
Honey is a great source of calories and energy. But, due to its antibacterial properties, this sweet treat has also been used to treat many ailments, especially burns and cuts, since ancient times.
The Global Market Value of Honey Was $8.17 Billion in 2021.
According to recent honey statistics and projections, the global honey market could grow to $11.88 billion in 2028.
Bees Use Little Honey.
Mere two tablespoons of honey are enough to fuel a bee’s travel worldwide.
Bees Pollinate $20 Billion Worth of US Crops.
Bees directly or indirectly pollinate one-third of all US foods.
Honey is one of the few food items produced by insects. Honey is incredibly healthy, but that doesn’t mean you should go overboard with it. Believe it or not, there’s an upper limit for daily honey consumption, and it amounts to 10–12 g a day or a small spoon.
What is honey?
Honey is a thick, sticky, golden liquid produced by bees. This nutritious food can be made of the nectar of various flowers (e.g., wildflowers, dandelion, sage, clover, etc.) and can vary in color (from white to dark amber), flavor, and other properties.
What is natural honey?
Natural honey is honey that doesn’t contain any additives (e.g., artificial flavors, colors, or synthetic ingredients). Still, natural honey may be processed.
How is honey made?
Worker bees collect nectar by sucking it from flowers. They store the nectar in their honey stomachs, where it’s mixed with enzymes and broken down into simpler sugars. Then they pass the nectar to house bees in the beehive that’ll chew it until it turns to honey sticky.
After that, house bees will store the newly-produced honey into beeswax cells and dry it by fanning their wings at it until it reaches the right consistency, stickiness, and level of moisture.
Is honey vegan?
No, it isn’t.
Vegans avoid any foods made by animals to protest animal cruelty. Since commercial honey is produced in a similar way to other animal-originating foods, it’s widely avoided by vegans.
Commercial honey production often entails bee exploitation and harmful practices that jeopardize bees’ health (e.g., replacing honey in the beehives with high fructose corn syrup that weakens bees’ immunity to diseases and herbicides, clipping queen bees’ wings, etc.).
What is honey good for?
Honey is good for relieving various ailments, including:
- Minor burns
- Minor wounds
- Sore throat
- Digestive issues (including Helicobacter pylori), etc.
What is raw, unfiltered honey?
Raw, unfiltered honey is essentially the honey that doesn’t undergo pasteurization or any kind of processing.
It’s harvested straight from the beehive, strained through a mesh or a nylon cloth to eliminate impurities (e.g., dead bees, beeswax, etc.), and finally, bottled.
In other words, unfiltered honey is honey in its original form and state, the way it exists in a beehive.
What is the difference between raw honey and regular honey?
As mentioned above, raw honey doesn’t undergo pasteurization or processing, while regular honey is processed, at least minimally.
Here are some interesting facts about honey in raw vs. processed form:
- Raw honey is more nutritious than regular honey (regular honey undergoes pasteurization that can eliminate numerous nutrients).
- Unlike regular honey, raw honey contains pollen, which is linked to various impressive health benefits.
- Regular honey has a longer shelf life than raw honey due to pasteurization.
- Regular honey may be contaminated with sugars or sweeteners (e.g., high fructose corn syrup).