honey

honey, sweet, viscid fluid produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. The nectar is taken from the flower by the worker bee and is carried in the honey sac back to the hive. It is transformed into honey by enzymes produced in the honey sac, which convert the natural sucrose (a complex sugar) in the nectar into fructose and glucose (simple sugars). The sugary fluid is stored in open cells, which are capped with wax when the material has reached the consistency of honey. The formation of honey is accomplished by the evaporation of the excess water in air circulated by the moving wings of workers. The honey required for an average colony to maintain itself through a year has been estimated as being between 400 and 500 lb (180–225 kg). The excess of the hive's requirement is used by humans for food. Honey is marketed either in the comb or with the comb removed by straining, by centrifugal force, or by gravity. The flavor and color of honey depend upon the kind of flower from which the nectar was taken, e.g., linden honey, lavender honey, and wild rose honey. Much of that produced in the United States is the pale, delicately flavored alfalfa and clover honey. Among the numerous other blossoms yielding nectar are those of the basswood, buckwheat, orange, palmetto, sage, and tupelo. The leading producers of honey are Argentina, Australia, Canada, and the United States. From earliest times until cane sugar became commercially important, honey was a major sweetening agent. Honey is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. It contains about 70% to 80% sugar; the rest is water, minerals and traces of protein, acids, and other substances.

See U.S. Agricultural Research Service, Beekeeping in the United States (rev. ed. 1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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