La Feria News

Making Honey

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Grace Heritage RanchThere are lots of reasons why we should appreciate honey bees. The main reason being pollination, but the tastiest reason is the honey that they make.

So how do honey bees make honey? Well, it all starts with a flower. Some plants produce flowers. Those flowers will have nectar (basically sugar water) deep inside them. The sweet nectar attracts insects that, in turn, pollinate the flower. Some insect pollinators will just eat the nectar directly. However, because honey bees live in a colony together, they face two challenges. First, they need to provide nectar for themselves as well as everyone back in the hive. Second, they need to store the nectar in such a way that it won’t ferment and spoil.

To solve the first problem, a honey bee “collects” nectar from a flower by sucking it into what’s called a honey sack instead of into her stomach and eating it. She carries the nectar back to the hive and regurgitates it into a beeswax cell. Then, other bees come and suck the nectar into their honey sacks and regurgitate it back in to the cell. This process mixes enzymes into the nectar that break down the single sugar, sucrose, into the many different kinds of sugars, including fructose and glucose. The process will give the finished honey its unique taste, but won’t keep the nectar they’ve collected from fermenting.

It’s the large amounts of water in the nectar that create an environment favorable to the bacteria that cause fermentation. To be able to store it, the honey bees must reduce the water content of the nectar. So they fan the nectar with their wings to evaporate most of the water. After enough of the water is gone, the nectar is transformed into sweet, sticky, delicious honey. Finally, the honey bees cap the cell with beeswax, and enough honey is safely stored for the whole hive and some extra for us.

To learn even more and get hands-on experience, join us at Grace Heritage Ranch for our Saturday morning tours. We are located just 30 minutes northeast of Harlingen, TX near Santa Monica. Please visit us at www.GraceHeritageRanch.com or www.Facebook.com/VisitGHR . For a recorded message, please call 1-855-447-8687. We offer both public and private tours.

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