Honey is a syrupy and sweet substance that honeybees produce from nectar that they collect from flowers, and humans use it for spreads and in the form of a sweetener. Honey is made up of 76-80% glucose, 17-20% water, wax, mineral salts, pollen, and fructose. The colour and the composition will depend on the flower type that produces the nectar. For instance, clover and alfalfa produce a honey that is white in colour, sainfoin and acacia produce honey that is straw coloured, lavender is associated with amber hues, while heather produces a reddish-brown colour.
The typical bee colony will produce 27.2-25.4kg (60-100lb) of honey every year. The colonies are divided into a 3-tier organization when it comes to labour. This includes 2,000 drones, 1 queen, and between 50,000-70,000 worker bees. The worker bees live for between 3 to 6 weeks, and each bee collects nectar that translates into around 1 teaspoon. 0.454kg or 1 pound of honey needs 1.8kg or 4lb of nectar, which requires on average around 2 million flowers to collect from.
How the Manufacturing Process Works
1. In order to remove honeycombs out of a hive, the beekeeper will wear protective gloves and a helmet with a veil. As soon as the bees located inside the honey chamber find out that they are about to be separated from the queen, they quickly pass through a hatch into the brood-chamber. From here they will not re-enter into the honey-chamber. The beekeeper inserts a separator board around 2 to 3 hours before removing the honeycomb.
The beekeeper will examine the combs by shaking them. If the honey sprays out, the honeycomb is put back inside the honey-chamber and left for a few more days. The beekeeper will leave behind some of the honey (one third), to provide food for the colony.
2. The honeycombs which are two-thirds capped at least are then placed inside a special transport box and then taken inside a room that is free from bees. The beekeeper then uses a long-handled uncapping fork to scrape the caps on either side of the comb onto a tray.
3. The combs are then placed inside a big drum (extractor), that uses a centrifugal force that draws the honey out. As the drum starts to spin, the honey is extracted out and sticks to the walls. From here the remains are poured inside drums and then transported to commercial distributors.
4. Bottling and processing: the commercial distributors pour the honey into a tank that is then heated to 48.9°C (120°F) in order to melt the crystals. The honey is then maintained at this temperature over a period of 24 hours.
5. Most of this honey them undergoes a process of flash-heating to 73.8°C (165°F). The honey is then filtered through a special type of paper, and then flash-cooled to a temperature of 48.9°C (120°F). These procedures are conducted very quickly (approximately 7 seconds). Even though the heating process does remove a level of the healthy properties associated with honey, consumers seem to prefer the bright and light-coloured honey that results from this process.
Around 5% of the honey will be left unfiltered. This honey is strained and features a cloudier and darker colour. There is a market present for this type of unprocessed honey.
6. The processed honey is pumped into cans or jars, using food grade pumps, to prepare the product for shipping to industrial and retail customers.