One of the tastiest contributions made by honey bees comes in the form of a sweet sticky substance collected by bees from the nectar in flowers - honey.  Learn more about the benefits and uses of honey by clicking through the tabs below.

Health Benefits

Healthy green smoothie sweetened with honeyHoney is a source of carbohydrates (17 grams per tablespoon) that works well for a natural energy boost. It is a natural sweetener that is used in sports-related energy foods as well as many other nutritious and delicious recipes.

Honey also has proven to act well as a natural cough suppressant, soothing a sore throat. (Please note that honey should not be fed to infants younger than one year of age.)

As an effective skin moisturizer, honey attracts and retains moisture, and it is used in many commercially produced lotions, soaps, hair products, lip balms and more.

Honey Extraction

Bayer Beekeeper Sarah Myers explains honey extractionThe Bayer Bee Care Center has a honey extractor for extracting honey from the Center’s demonstration hive. When extracting honey, a good rule of thumb is to leave an average of 50-75 pounds of honey or more in the hive for the bees to consume over winter. Any honey produced in excess of their winter stores can be harvested. An average colony can produce in excess of 50 pounds of honey for extracting.

A video from the first-ever honey extraction at the Bayer Bee Care Center is available for viewing on YouTube™. Learn how we bring our honey from the bee to the bottle at the Center and enjoy seeing the first use of the brand new extraction equipment. The wildflower honey was extracted by Sarah Myers (pictured to the right), Center event manager and beekeeper, in September 2014, National Honey Month.

Honey Flavors

Bee pollinator for clover honeyThe flavor of honey varies depending on what the bees were feeding on when they produced it. At the Bayer Bee Care Center, honey tasting samples usually include clover, blueberry, orange blossom and Tupelo. Tupelo trees blossom for about two weeks each spring and produce a popular honey flavor that is sometimes considered as the honey gold standard.

Wildflower is the term used for honey with sources unknown. So if beekeepers don’t have their bees pollinating one specific crop, such as clover or blueberries, then it is called wildflower honey.

Clover honey may taste the most familiar to Americans since that is what most grocery stores stock, but not so in Canada. When the Bee Care Team visited the University of Guelph, visitors to the honey bar had their choice among citrus, apple, wildflower or a canola mix honey. When tasting the canola mix honey, most of the Canadian visitors to the booth agreed, "That's what honey tastes like."

Honey Quality

When beekeepers enter their honey in a show or competition, it competes against other honeys of the same color or type. Extracted honey is judged in a variety of categories, which typically center on its sanitation, aroma and taste.

Clear mason jar full of honeySanitation refers to the cleanliness of the jar and honey and whether the honey has any impurities such as hair, wax or bee body parts. Judges also examine the honey for foam on the surface or crystals within the honey. Note that honey naturally crystallizes after time (or if it’s kept in the refrigerator). This does not change the quality of the honey, and it can be liquefied by gently warming the honey. Properly extracted honey can be kept sealed and unrefrigerated indefinitely without spoiling or fermentation.

Aroma is another important criterion. Judges look for a good aroma that does not have a fermented or burned odor. A fermented odor indicates high moisture content that may be due to improper extracting methods. A burning odor comes from overheating honey. Honey often is heated to ensure it is free from crystals, but heating for too long or at too high a temperature can leave an odor.

Taste is another criterion, to ensure that flavors are distinct and pleasant. The nectar source that a bee feeds on determines the flavor of the honey, and the judge should be able to distinguish whether the honey is properly labeled.

The University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab offers an online pictorial about the Welsh Honey Judge methods for judging honey. When purchasing honey, some of these same criteria are good to know.

Buying honey directly from a local beekeeper allows you to ask questions about the beekeeper’s honey and collection process, to help ensure you’re buying high quality honey. The National Honey Board has a Honey Locator tool that allows you to search for beekeepers by state, or by other criteria, such as honey variety or floral source.

Recipes & Celebrations

There are many fun ways for children and adults to celebrate bees and honey. Honey makes a sweet addition to many recipes. For example, the National Honey Board website lists recipes for everything from appetizers to energy food to main dishes to snacks.

Children tasting honey at the Bayer Bee Care Center

Paraguay Honey and Peanut Candy is a two-ingredient snack that is quick and easy to prepare for parties or gifts. Take advantage of the natural energy boost from honey using these energy-boosting honey recipes.  Try some great main dishes including Grilled Honey, Almonds and Brie Burger or Grilled Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Onions. If you like these recipes, consider signing up for The Honey Feast, a newsletter from the National Honey Board with recipes for the honey lover.

Honey-containing food is a great start for a honey-themed celebration.  One celebration idea is to have a honey-tasting bar, a simple and fun activity for guests. Purchase several different flavors of honey and put a small amount of each into a dip bowl. Use toothpicks or small crackers for guests to dip into each flavor and taste the subtleties of each. To make it fun, write the name of each flavor on an index card and place the cards, turned over, in front of each flavor, so that guests can guess each flavor. This activity even makes a fun, competitive game – with a prize of a small jar of honey to the player who correctly guesses the most flavors.

Bee-themed baby shower diaper cake giftA honey bee theme works well for birthday parties, baby showers and more – especially for celebrations held during spring or summer months. In addition to bee-themed paper products, there are plenty of bee cake and cupcake ideas online. A bee-shaped piñata, homemade or purchased online, is also a nice addition. Bee and honey-related crafts, such as seed balls created to feed the bees, are fun activities for children’s parties or garden club gatherings.

For a bee-themed baby shower, a “diaper cake” can be made with flowers and bee-wrapped layers of various sizes of disposable diapers as a centerpiece and a useful gift for the mother-to-be.

U.S. Honey Production

US honey bees on a honey combThe most recent USDA Honey Report stated that honey production in the United States increased 19 percent in 2014 and honey bee colonies increased by 100,000 or 4 percent. That’s good news according to Bayer Bee Care research manager Dick Rogers. Check out his blog post. Also read an article in the Huffington Post.

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