About Honey Bees
Honey bees are social insects, whose colonies are established by groups, or “swarms,” consisting of a queen bee, and a large group of worker bees. Swarms travel together in search of a nesting site, where they build a wax comb, and begin raising a brood. Worker bees create honeycombs via the secretion of beeswax from glands on their abdomens.
The queen bee lays eggs in the wax honeycomb, with an individual egg deposited in each cell of the honeycomb. The queen bee determines the sex of the honey bee, by which eggs are fertilized. Unfertilized eggs create male drones, which are stingless bees. Fertilized eggs create worker bees, and queen bees.
The eggs transform into larva, which molt several times before spinning a cocoon within the honeycomb cell. The young worker bees maintain the larva, and clean the hive, until they are developed enough to leave the nest. Once capable of flight, the worker bee spends the rest of her life as a forager.
Worker bees coordinate among one another to discover resources, using patterns of dancing to communicate. Honey bees perform a tremble dance to call other bees to retrieve nectar from foraging bees. Virgin queen bees depart the nest to mate with several drones before returning.
Two main species of honey bees, Apis mellifera and Apis cerana indica are often fed and kept by beekeepers for the process of honey production. Apis mellifera is the most commonly domesticated species of honey bees, and originated in east Africa. Apis cerana is the Eastern honey bee, having originated in Southern and Eastern Asia.
Honey is comprised of a mixture of sugars and carbohydrates. It is mainly fructose and glucose, but also contains the carbohydrates maltose, and sucrose in smaller amounts. Although honey is primarily composed of carbohydrates and sugars, it does contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Some of these compounds, including: chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C, catalase, and pinocembrin, are thought to act as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial in diets, since they reduce oxidation reactions which contribute to human disease. Supplementing one’s diet with antioxidants such as honey, rather than using granulated sugar, may have positive effects on health. Honey has a low water activity measurement, which makes it difficult for microorganisms to grow in it. This makes honey more durable than granulated sugar for baking.
Honey has been used as a form of treatment for sore throats and coughs, as it is an effective soothing agent. It is also used for treatment of diabetic ulcers for patients who can’t use topical antibiotics. Honey also exhibits antiseptic and antibacterial properties due to its low water activity level. Antibacterial characteristics of honey also include: chelation of free iron, slow release of hydrogen peroxide, high acidity, and methlglyoxal.