Honey of single origin: How do bees know which flowers to fly to?

Honey with a variety
How do bees stay loyal to some flowers?

From light yellow to dark, almost brown, acacia, rapeseed, linden, summer flowers: honey comes in many varieties. But how do bees know what kind of flowers to fly to? How many types of honey are there in this country and what gives them their color?

Small collectors with large yields: bees are on the move in flowers and trees all over the world. In Germany, for example, rapeseed seeds, acacia and lime honey are among the popular varieties. Marion Hoffmann from the honey test center of the German Beekeepers Association has had these varieties and rarer in the laboratory and knows how they are born.

How many types of honey are there in Germany?

Marion Hoffmann: First of all, it must be said that honey can be differentiated in different ways, for example according to the way it is taken. There is centrifugal honey, but also crushed, dripped or sprinkled. Comb honey, on the other hand, is a specific type of supply. In addition, a distinction is made between flowering honey and honeycomb by origin.

The latter are differentiated again: There are general designations, e.g. summer bloom or forest honey, containing different plants in different sizes. On the other hand, there are specific types of honey, for example rape honey for flower honey or fir honey for honey honey. In Germany there are about 20 types of flower honey, plus about a handful of honeycombs.

What exactly gives honey its unique color and why are some solid and others liquid?

In general, flowering honey tends to be lighter and honeysuckle tends to be darker, although there are exceptions. Various factors are involved in the color: First, the pigments from the nectar. The bees extract water from this, which intensifies the color. Sunflower honey, for example, is extremely yellow.

On the other hand, yellow-orange colors are also released from the pollen. And this has to do with the composition of sugar. Crystallized glucose appears white due to light reflection. Because this sugar predominates in kolapa honey, it is very light. Finally, there is a coloring due to the ongoing transformation processes, which is above all with honey.

Whether the honey is solid or liquid has to do with the ratio of the main sugars glucose and fructose. Approximately: with more fructose it remains liquid, if there is more glucose it becomes solid, with a balanced ratio it becomes elastic.

How do you even get honeycomb honey and why is it usually more expensive?

The bees do not collect the nectar from the flowers, but the sugary feces of the insects that suck the plants. Scaly aphids or insects, for example, pierce fir needles and excrete excess so-called honey dew. These drops are then swallowed by bees.

The highest effort is certainly reflected in the price. Because large forest areas are needed, the beekeeper usually has to migrate to these areas with his bees. The respective trip costs time and fuel.

How does it really work that bees collect only the desired variety?

If the bee colony “lives” directly in the rapeseed area, the bees quickly identify the good source and stay loyal to their catchment area.

(Photo: Patrick Pleul / dpa-Central picture / dp)

Bees are flowers and sitting. This means that if a bee has identified a good source, for example a rapeseed field, it will fly there again and again. There are also so-called tracking bees. When they have found a good source of costumes, they recruit their colleagues with a jump.

The bees have a flight radius of two to four kilometers, which corresponds to an area of ​​at least twelve square kilometers. They cover a great distance when it’s worth it. So if there is a sunflower field or a path with linden trees within this radius, for example, a variety of honey can result.

To specify a specific botanical type of honey, the legislature requires that at least 60 percent of the relevant nectar or honey be included. The Beekeepers Association, for example, checks this with a laboratory test.

Sometimes the honey in the jar is crumbly-crystalline. Where does this come from and how do you get rid of it?

If the honey has crystallized too hard, the beekeeper has usually not stirred it enough. This is not a lack of quality for the consumer, but a lack of satisfaction. Then a gentle heat is recommended, which should not exceed 40 degrees.

You can place the glass on the lukewarm heater for a while or heat it in a water bath. However, you should control the temperature, because excessive heat damages the enzymes valuable in honey. Once the warmed honey has a smooth consistency, mix well. Then the sugar crystals dissolve.

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