What is honey?

I know it involves flowers and bees, nectar and pollen. But what compnents do the bees use, and what do they do with them to make the stuff? And what’s up with honey not going bad? It’s sugary, why doesn’t it ferment on the shelf the way fruit juice does, and yet it can be made to ferment when we make mead?

I ate a beehive once. I got a hell of a buzz from it.

I don’t know what it is, but I know that honey doesn’t ferment because there’s not enough water in it. You have to get about a 4:1 water:honey ratio to make mead. The reason wine is so common is that just straight grape juice is the right ratio to ferment. So, if you mix honey with water to make a sweet drink and leave it sitting out, it’ll ferment.

How they figured out beer I have no idea. “Let’s just take some barley, and roast it a bit, and get it wet, and let it kind of, oh, I don’t know, cure for a while so it gets all caramelized, then make some tea with it that’s really sweet, then let it cool off, wait a few days and then try to drink it.”


Honey is basically bee puke. They eat the nectar from fowers and then cack up a sugar saturated solution to feed larvae.

The reason honey doesn’t ferment on the shelf is that it’s too dry. It needs a certain level of moisture before it ferments (i.e you have to mix it with water).

There’s not enough free water in it. All the water is molecluarly tied up with the sugar, so it’s unavailable for microbial growth. Occasionally a particularly hardy strain of mold will manage to make a living in it, but otherwise, it’s a dead end for the bugs.

Mead ferments because it’s more than just honey. I don’t know the recipe, but I assume it’s mixed with water or some water-based liquid.

Does the Bee actually do anything to the nectar, other than transport it? Does the nectar concentrate to form honey in the comb or in the bee?

Off-topic: Does ‘cack’ mean vomit in the US? It means defecate over here, so to ‘cack up’ would require serious skillz.

I can address the second part.

Honey doesn’t ferment/go bad on the shelf because pure honey has too much sugar in it. The little microscopic bugs that land in it are desicated before they can get their goings-on, uh, going.

When you dilute it for mead, you drop the concentration of sugar to the point where the little buggies can party.

As for inventing beer, I imagine that fruit juices were the first fermented drinks. Then people eventually figured out that anything sweet and wet could be fermented. And so they diligently set about finding things that were sweet. Honey first. Then maybe semisweet vegtables…you can make alcohol from pea pods. Then someone noticed that sprouted barley was sweeter than unsprouted barley. So off he goes to make something, anything drinkable out of the malted barley.

Oh, and nectar has much more liquid than honey. The bees have to concentrate the sugar and evaporate the water to turn nectar into honey.

I’m not an expert or anything, but my understanding is that they add some kind of enzyme to the nectar during digestion which infuses it with sugar. Then they regurgitate into the honeycombs and dry it.

In the bee.

I’ve only heard it used to mean vomit.

Well, yeah, I suppose it’s “bee puke”, but they have a separate stomach that they use for this purpose, as opposed to their normal stomachs. Two descriptions, one from somebody you may be familiar with:


Enzymes do get added to the gathered nectar. The extra water is evaporated from the stuff outside the bee.


But then there’s these guys:


FWIT, according to baby.com, honey can kill your infant.

I don’t know how true it is, but my grandchildren are 9 months old, and my daughter won’t feed them honey or corn syrup because…

“Although honey seems like a wholesome, natural food to
feed your infant, don’t do it until after he’s at
least 12 months. It isn’t safe to feed your baby honey
or corn syrup – or even cooked foods sweetened with
either one – until after his first birthday. Both
products can harbor spores of a toxic bacteria called
Clostridium botulinum. These spores are hardy –
cooking and pasteurization don’t always kill them. If
adults or children over 1 year old eat these spores,
it’s harmless, because their bodies can digest them.
But in babies, whose digestive and immune systems
aren’t fully developed, these bacteria can grow in the
intestines and cause infant botulism, a food-borne
illness that is rare but can be fatal, says the
American Academy of Pediatrics. The symptoms of infant
botulism include constipation followed by weakness,
loss of appetite, irritability, and a weak cry. If you
notice these symptoms in your baby, call your child’s
doctor right away.”

I hope I didn’t miss it above, but honey is “invert sugar.” This is an approximately equal physical, not chemical, mixture of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. This differs from glucose, which is a chemical mixture of the two simpler sugars, a bisaccharide. The ratio of the two can range from about 60-40 in either direction to a more usual 50/50 split depending on the bee and its food.

Honey is composed primarily of the sugars glucose and fructose; its third greatest component is water.:

Carbohydrates In Honey
			Average	Range
Fructose (%)		38.38	30.91-44.26
Glucose (%)		30.31	22.89-40.75
Reducing Sugars (%)	76.65	61.39-83.72
Sucrose (%)		1.31	0.25-7.57  

You can make artificial honey by heating table sugar (sucrose) with acid. The resultant sweetener is called Invert Sugar. Bees use an enzyme, invertase, to do the same thing to nectar.

Invert sugar and honey both contain a free ketone group. This makes them reducing sugars, and useful for such things, besides sweetening, as silvering mirrors.

It can also mean " to cum".

Honey, like all raw, unprocessed foods, can contain botulism spores. They’re in such low concentrations that adult immune systems can deal with them with no problems, but infants’ systems are still undeveloped, so there’s a greater chance of infection. Since botulism infection can lead to very serious problems, it’s safer to just let your baby wait a couple years before they try honey.

Oh, and just to clarify, there’s no real contradiction between my two posts. Bacteria (especially botulism spores, which are tough little bastards) can survive in honey, they just can’t grow and reproduce. Growth is essential to spoilage.

All you wanted to know about mead, and then some.

I was going to start a thread related to this, but I’ll just tag along.

So, since honey is basically sugar in another form, why do bees circle around sugary drinks and want to get some?

I knew about bee honey but not corn syrup. That’s interesting, Karo Syrup is still often indicated as a baby food sweetener/calorie replenisher in some parts of the world.

So, it’s probably best that I try to avoid using ‘cack’ as a verb, noun or adjective when I cross the Atlantic?

I’m guessing that “cack-handed” wouldn’t mean clumsy either?