Into the Hive. Chapter 1: The honey chamber

Winter is coming

Why do bees make honey?

In winter there aren't any insects around, right? But where are they?

Well, most of them only have a short span of live throughout the warmer months, leaving only their spawn to survive the winter in a save place. Even other colony building insects like wasps and bumble bees die in autumn with only the new queens surviving through winter.

Not so the honeybee.

To the climax of summer in late july a honeybee colony can contain up to 50.000 individuals – and it will overwinter with still around 10.000 members, which need to bee feeded.

So – bees produce honey to eat. Because it mainly consists of different types of sugars, honey is a source of high carbohydrate energy. A hive of bees will produce huge quantities of honey to feed the increasing colony in summer and to store enough food in winter when all other sources have run dry.

Because the bees know: Winter is coming...

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Bee-to-bee-business

How is honey made?

Bees store nectar in their honey stomachs, taking it back to the colony. Back in the hive the collector bee passes the raw product onto another bee – a mouth to mouth process which will be repeated until the nectar has lost enough water to be placed in a honey comb.

During this process of continuous regurgitation the nectar mixes with enzymes from the bees organism that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it more digestible for the bees and less attackable by bacteria.

After placed in a comb the honey is still a viscous liquid which needs to be even more dehydrated. To speed up the process of water evaporation, the bees set to work fanning the honeycomb with their wings.

At least, when the liquid is gooey enough (moisture less than 20%), the cell will be sealed with a plug of beewax – now ready for long-term storage.

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Chemistry Class

What's honey made of?

40% fructose | 30% glucose | 17% water | 10% maltose and saccharose | 3% miscellaneous like proteins, enzymes und amino acids, pollen, mineral substances, trace elements and vitamins, aromatic and coloring substances

Chemistry Class

What's honey made of?

To produce honey, bees collect the sugary secretions of plants (nectar) or plant sap-sucking insects like aphids (honeydew). Through regurgitation, enzymatic activity and water evaporation this sources are converted into the thick, golden liquid we all knew as honey.

The specific composition, color, aroma, and flavor of any batch of honey depend on the visited flowers and on environmental conditions the bees have to face. Typical is the certain amount of water and its basic mixture of monosaccharides, which provide about the same relative sweetness as granulated sugar. Honey provides 64 calories in a serving of one tablespoon (15 ml) equivalent to 1272 kJ per 100 g.

Properly sealed honey doesn’t spoil and is eatable even after thousands of years.

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Strange Statistics

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Waggle Dance

How do bees communicate?

Have a try: klick and drag the flower around to change the bees angle to the sun.

Waggle Dance

How do bees communicate?

Aside from exchanging nectar and odor cues, bees have developed a unique method of communication: to teach other colony members about direction and distance to food sources, bees perform a special series of movements, often referred to as the waggle dance.

The honey bee first walks straight ahead, vigorously shaking its abdomen and producing a buzzing sound with the beat of its wings. The duration and speed of this movement communicates the distance of the foraging site to the others. Communicating direction becomes more complex, as the dancing bee aligns her body in the direction of the food, in an angle relative to the sun. The entire dance pattern is a figure-eight, with the bee repeating the straight portion of the movement each time it circles to the center again.

The honey bee dance was observed and noted by Aristotle as early as 330 BC. Karl von Frisch, a professor of zoology in Munich, Germany, earned the Nobel Prize in 1973 for his groundbreaking research on this dance language.

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Ugh, insects!

Beekeeping through the centuries

Ugh, insects!

Beekeeping through the centuries

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Milk & Honey

Recipe for Burnt Honey Gelato

Ingredients

For Caramelized Honey:
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 T water
For Custard:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese

Milk & Honey

Recipe for Burnt Honey Gelato

Directions

  • For 4-6 Servings
  • For the caramelized honey: Combine honey, lemon juice, and water in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pot.
  • Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until a deep amber color develops. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • For the custard: In a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pot, bring milk and basil to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow steeping for 10 minutes.
  • Remove basil, and whisk in warm reduced honey.
  • In a medium stainless steel bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth.
  • Slowly temper hot honey- milk mixture into the egg yolks.
  • Return mixture to sauce pot and cook over a low flame for an additional 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
  • Strain mixture through a sieve and refrigerate covered until cold.
  • Churn mixture in ice cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions.
  • https://www.honey.com/recipe/burnt-honey-gelato
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