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BEE Apprised - September is National Honey Month!

Bees in honeycomb  Sunny with Thunderstorms

The month of September has been designated as National Honey Month! For the next couple of blogs, I thought I would take a look at honey and the bees that are crucial for it and our gardens.

Honey: What it is, How it’s made and What it’s Used for
We all know that bees are great for our gardens – fertilizing our plants and enabling them to bear fruit, but how do bees make honey?

The process of making honey is actually completed in the worker bee’s stomach. As they fly about your garden, bees collect a sugary juice (nectar) from flowers by sucking it out with their tongues. They store it in what's called their honey stomach, which is different from their food stomach. The nectar mixes with their proteins and enzymes and is converted into honey. Honey is made up of 70-80 percent sugar – the rest is water, minerals and protein.

When the bee has a full stomach, it flies back to the hive and regurgitates it. Yes, honey is essentially “bee vomit”. It is then stored in the hexagonal wax cells within the hive. Honey is used by bees to feed larvae and serves as supplemental food for adult bees.

Bee House in Garden

Harvesting Honey
Normally, honey is stored by bees in their honeycomb nest or commercially on a honeycomb frame. Honey is typically harvested in the late summer when the frames will be most filled.

Once a cell in a honeycomb is filled with honey, the bee caps the cell with beeswax. The first step in harvesting is to remove the beeswax caps from all the cells on the frame. Then, there are then several different ways to actually remove the honey, which include centrifugal extraction, crush and drain, or by use of flow frames (too complicated to go into here).

Honey’s Many Benefits
Honey is a better option than sugar to sweeten your food and drinks. Honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar levels the way sugar will. Honey also has a sweeter taste than sugar and may help you use less sweetener on foods.

In addition to using it as a natural sweetener, honey provides a veritable “hive” of other health benefits. Included in its claims are: a tasty salve for a cough or sore throat, to alleviate allergies, to prevent infections and as a salve to heal burns and wounds, to improve both short- and long-term memory and for its antioxidant properties – some claims say it may be even used in the future as a cancer treatment!

Given all the amazing ways honey is created, harvested and the beneficial health claims it makes, its no wonder honey gets its own national month!

Tune in next time for information on which bees you see in your garden and how to attract these amazing plant pollinators!

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  • JoEllen Urasky