A honeybee starts the honey making process by visiting a flower and gathering somenectar. Many plants use nectar as a way of encouraging insects (bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.) to stop at their flowers. In the process of gathering nectar, the insect transferspollengrains from one flower to another and pollinates the plants.
Most flowers' nectars are similar to the water mixed withsucrose. Nectars can contain other beneficial substances as well.
Enzymesthat bees produce turn the sucrose intoglucoseandfructose. An enzyme, invertase, converts most of the sucrose into two kinds of six-carbon sugars, glucose and fructose. A small amount of the glucose is attacked by a second enzyme and converted intogluconic acidandhydrogen peroxide. The gluconic acid makes honey an acid medium with a low ph that is inhospitable to bacteria, molds, andfungiwhile the hydrogen peroxide gives short-range protection against these same organisms when the honey is ripening or is diluted forlarvalfood. Honey bees also reduce the moisture content of nectar, which gives it a highosmotic pressureand protection againstmicrobes.
Most of the moisture has to beevaporated, leaving only about 18-percent water in the honey. The physical change involves the removal of water, which is accomplished by bees externally manipulating nectar in their mouths and then placing small droplets on the upper side of cells and fanning their wings to increase air movement and carry away excess moisture.
Thus honey is made to be a very stable food. It naturally resists molds, fungi and other bacteria, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration!