Larousse Gastronomique, the premier food reference book (which has been on my bookshelf for about three years now), says this about honey…
HONEY: A sweet substance manufactured by bees from nectar, and stored in the cells of the hive as food. Its flavor varies on the season, the species of flower from which it is derived, and when it is collected from the hive. Honey contains 17-20% water, 76%-80% sugar (primarily glucose and fructose), small amounts of pollen and wax, and mineral salts (especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus) but practically no vitamins.
Which is all well and good, but it still doesn’t tell me what the hell honey is specifically. Most of us know that honeybees use nectar to make honey. They use their long, tubelike tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and they store it in their “honey stomachs”(Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach). The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar and when full, it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honeystomachs.
The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive. The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it a thicker syrup. The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.
So, to clarify, honeybees go out and collect nectar. They come back to the hive where the workerbees suck it out of the honeybees, chew on it for a bit, and then spew it througout the hive.
It sounds like honey is essentially bee barf. Sure it’s sweet, golden bee barf, but it’s bee barf nontheless.
Enjoy your crumpets!