|By goGreen | July 24, 2012|
Many species of bees collect nectar which they convert in to honey and store as a food source. However, only bees which live together in large colonies store appreciable quantities of honey . These are bees of the genus Apis and some of the Meliponinae (sting less bees).
Bees prepare honey mainly from the nectar of flowers, but other plant saps and honeydew are also used. As each bee sucks the liquid up through its proboscis and into the honey sac, a small amount of enzymes are added and water is evaporated. The enzymes convert sugars in the nectar into different types of sugars – honeys always contain a wide range of sugars, varying according to the nectar source. After the liquid has been placed in the cell of honeycomb, bees continue to process it. The temperature of the hive is usually around 35C and this temperature together with ventilation produced by fanning bees, causes further evaporation of water from the honey. When the water content is less than 20% the bees seal the cell with a wax capping: the honey is now considered ‘ripe’ and will not ferment.
Honey consists of a mixture of sugars, mostly glucose and fructose. In addition to water (usually 17-20%) it also contains very small amounts of other substances, including minerals, vitamins, proteins and amino acids. A very minor, but important component of most honey is pollen.
Honey should be processed as soon as possible after removal from the hive . Honey processing is a sticky operation, in which time and patience are required to achieve the best results. Careful protection against contamination by ants and flying insects is needed at all stages of processing.
It is important to remember that:
Honey is a food and it must therefore be handled hygienically, and all equipment must be perfectly clean.
Honey is hygroscopic and will absorb moisture, therefore all honey processing equipment must be perfectly dry. Too much water in honey causes it to ferment.
Honeycombs from top-bar hives or traditional hives
Collect pieces of comb consisting only of sealed and undamaged honeycomb, cut them into neat portions and package them carefully for sale. Since the honey in the comb is untouched and is readily seen to be pure, honey presented in this way fetches a high price. Honey which has not been open to the air has a finer flavor than honey which has been subjected to processing in any way.
To prepare strained honey, remove the wax cappings of the honeycomb with a knife and break the combs into pieces, see Figure 1. Make sure that you do not use unsealed combs containing unripe honey or pollen. Use a cotton cloth to strain the honey from the pieces of honeycomb into a clean, dry container. Strained honey must not contain any trace of wax or other debris. It is best to use a fairly course strainer at first, to remove large particles and then to use successively finer strainers. Finally squeeze the combs inside a cloth bag remove as much honey as possible. Form the wax into a block by melting it gently in a water bath or solar wax extractor.
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