September has arrived whether we're ready or not. However it seems the bees are well on their way in preparations for the colder months ahead. In the hives the queens have slowed down their egg laying dramatically. Coincidentally honey production has slowed because of the drought, but the bees will be eking out as much nectar as they can find in the remaining crop and wildflowers available. Ironically, the nasty thistles we've been cursing all summer provide some well needed nectar for all pollinators at this time of year.
So, are you ready for the shorter days and colder temperatures ahead? Stocking up on your honey supply at this time of year for all of your sweetener needs (including preserving and canning) is a great idea because honey never goes bad. Most of you already know that, but have you ever wondered why?
Honey creation begins when a bee collects nectar from a flower, stores it in her crop (nectar storage stomach) and brings it back to the hive. The plant nectar consists primarily of sucrose and initially has a moisture content of approximately 80%. Reducing that humidity is important because the natural bacteria and yeast it contains can easily ferment. It's dehydration starts while the bee is in flight back to her hive and continues as she transfers it to the receiving bee. Once deposited into a honeycomb cell, the hive bees continue the process by fanning their wings, creating airflow and heat. From the beginning, the honey bees digestive system also starts breaking down the sucrose into glucose and fructose. But the very important part is their addition of the enzyme 'glucose oxidase' which oxidizes glucose to form hydrogen peroxide. Then once dehydration has reduced the nectar to 18% moisture, the cell is capped with wax to prevent additional moisture from hygroscopically increasing it. Voila - honey that will last forever! Thank you honey bees :)