Author(s): J W WHITE, LANDIS W DONER
Honey is essentially a highly concentrated water solution of two sugars, dextrose and levulose, with small amounts of at least 22 other more complex sugars. Many other substances also occur in honey, but the sugars are by far the major components. The principal physical characteristics and behavior of honey are due to its sugars, but the minor constituents – such as flavoring materials, pigments, acids, and minerals – are largely responsible for the differences among individual honey types. Honey, as it is found in the hive, is a truly remarkable material, elaborated by bees with floral nectar, and less often with honeydew. Nectar is a thin, easily spoiled sweet liquid that is changed (“ripened”) by the honey bee to a stable, high-density, high-energy food. The earlier U.S. Food and Drug Act defined honey as “the nectar and saccharine exudation of plants, gathered, modified, and stored in the comb by honey bees (Apis mellifera and A. dorsata); is levorotatory; contains not more than 25% water, not more than 0.25% ash, and not more than 8% sucrose.” The limits established in this definition were largely based on a survey published in 1908. Today, this definition has an advisory status only, but is not totally correct, as it allows too high a content of water and sucrose, is too low in ash, and makes no mention of honeydew.