All about honey
Bees and honey
Close-up of the bee
Bee protection
Bees and honey

How is honey made?
Can all bees make honey?
And what exactly does a beekeeper do?

How bees make honey:
an impressive collaboration

1. The bee searches for nectar and pollen

A worker bee - the female one, with the exception of the queen – has different tasks to fulfil, depending on her age. She spends the majority of her life doing the work of a forager bee. Forager bees are bees that actively look for food at a speed of up to 25 km/h. Using their strongly developed eyes (bees have five (!) of them) they can orientate themselves very accurately allowing them to spot flowers with a large amount of nectar and pollen from a great distance.


FABLE
There is no such thing as a born worker bee or forager bee. Bees are the job-hoppers of the animal world. Depending on their age (bees live up to 5 months), they also have other jobs: cleaning, guarding, feeling larvae, nursing, foraging, etc. The bee does everything in function of the colony. Selfishness is something bees are not familiar with.

2. The bee takes the nectar from the flower and covers itself with pollen

Honey bees have long, tube-shaped mouths that they use to delve deep into a flower to suck out its nectar. In the process, the flower’s pollen sticks to their furry bodies. With their legs, they bring the pollen to the pollen baskets situated on their hind legs. In this way, they can transport the pollen easily and safely. On their way home, they lose some of the pollen: this is how plants are pollinated.

The anatomy of the honey bee


FACT
Both wild bees and honey bees are incredibly important to fauna and flora. 80% of the pollination of plants is done by bees. Plants pollinated by bees do not only grow more fruits, but bee pollination may also lead to juicier, bigger and tastier food crops. And when you realize that ¾ of the 100 most important plants are completely dependent on insect pollination, you may understand how much we need our buzzing friends.

Read more

3. The bee returns home

When the bee has gathered enough nectar and pollen, she flies back to the hive to convert the nectar into honey. To prevent other bees from plundering the hive or intruders from entering, there is an actual identity check at the entrance. Here are the guards posted who decide who’s allowed in or not, based on scent and pheromones. An intruder shows up? Quick and efficient measures are taken to get rid of it: the worker bees sting it to death.


FABLE
It is sometimes stated that bees die after they sting, but this is only true when they sting skin. The stinger gets stuck in the skin and because its attachment to the ovipositor, the abdomen gets ripped off. So, after stinging another insect, a bee will happily keep flying.

4. The bee does a little dance, but not an ordinary one!

Because bees can’t talk and don’t have a map in their pocket, they dance to indicate the exact location where they got their nectar from. Unusual, but very clever. Using different dances, that take into account the position and the movement of the sun, the forager bee indicates the direction the other bees should fly to. With her dance, she also shows how far they have to fly to get to the nectar source and what quality the source is. The longer the dance, the farther the source. The more enthusiastic the dance, the better the quality.

5. The bee makes honey

Honey does not contain pollen, but pollen is very important for the development of larvae, because it is full of protein, vitamins and minerals (iron, iodine, fluoride and zinc). When they return to the hive, the pollen is transferred from the forager bee to the house bee. The house bee then stores the pollen in a food cell.

The nectar is also passed on to the house bee. To convert the nectar into honey, the forager bee adds specific enzymes. The house bee then decreases the amount of water in the nectar by throwing up several times. The concentrated nectar is stored in a food cell, where even more moisture is extracted thanks to the ingenious thermostatic system of the beehive. When the moisture content is about 17%, the house bee closes the cell with wax.


FACT

The drones (male bees) exist primarily for procreation in the bee colony. Their presence ensures that the queen can create enough genetic diversity in her colony. The queen is the only female bee that procreates in a bee colony. The other females fulfil other tasks and do not contribute to the colony’s diversity.

Honey, a rich history

A lot can be found about the history of bees and beekeeping. For example, the Mayans in South America apparently kept bees for the Europeans for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, honey was also popular 4500 years ago and 1500 years later, the first beekeepers appeared in China. In Europe, apiculture did not become commonplace until later, approximately during the Middle Ages.

FACT
Honey doesn’t really have an expiry date. The strongest evidence for this is the honey found in the graves of various Egyption pharaos. It was still edible after 3000 years: isn’t that amazing?
The Langstroth beehive: a happy (r)evolution

The beehive is subdivided into different compartments, also called frames. In the past there was no way to separate the honey from the bees and their brood, which caused a lot of bees to die during the harvest. Not very bee-friendly, of course, and so, in the nineteenth century, the American minister Langstroth developed a beehive with moveable frames, so that the honey can be harvested without disturbing or killing the bees.

Meli’s honey: 100% natural and 100% bee-friendly

Meli imports 10,000 kilograms of honey to retail, food service and industry annually.
Unfortunately, the honey capacity in Belgium is too small to supply this much to Meli. That is why Meli searches for the best honey all over the world, directly from the beekeeper with respect to nature, quality, sustainability, and flavour.

Honey in a nutshell
What is the energy value of honey?

Honey contains sugars, fructose and glucose. With its powerful sweetness value, you need less of it you would need with sugar.

The nutritional value gauge of 100 grams of honey looks as follows:
  • Energy (kJ) 1340
  • Energy (kcal) 320
  • Digestible carbohydrates (g) 79.3
  • Of which sugars (g) 79.3
  • Fats (g) 0.1
  • Dietary fibre 0.7
  • Natrium (g) 0.006
  • Vitamins and minerals present
  • Antioxidants present
How do you store honey?
Honey does not like either extreme heat or the refrigerator. Store your tightly closed container at room temperature.

Honey is a product that can crystallise. Heat your crystallised honey au bain-marie and your honey will become liquid again.

Is it okay for my baby to eat honey?

Just like raw milk, honey is not recommended for babies. Honey is not pasteurised, so it may contain traces of substances (including botulism) that are hazardous for babies. A baby’s digestive system is not fully developed yet and cannot filter the hazardous substances. We therefore advise against honey for children under the age of 1.

As a diabetic, is it okay for me to eat honey?

Diabetics must avoid sugar peaks. Because honey is a composition of natural sugars, diabetics must pay attention to quantity, just as they do for regular sugar or maple syrup. If you would like more information about this, we recommend speaking to your GP, dietitian or specialist about this.