Why is the Moisture Content of Honey So Important?

Honey is the nectar of flowers processed with bee enzymes and concentrated to the perfect moisture level.

Nectar is the reward honeybees receive for helping flowers "conjugate the verb" with each other's pollen. After numerous menages a trois, the forager bee returns to the hive and transfers her bounty to the house bees. While her nectar delivery is sugar-rich, it is very diluted at 80% water content. From this point, the house bees begin the process to transform it into honey. 

In order to efficiently store the nectar, the bees turn it into a thicker, more viscous substance that can be stored in capped cells - the honeycomb - in the hive. First, the house bees add enzymes which break down the complex sugars. Next, they deposit the nectar in hexagonal cells. Then, using their wings, hundreds of house bees team up to furiously fan out the moisture. Once the nectar thickens to approximately 17.6% or less moisture, they cap the resulting honey. 

Moisture content is mission-critical. Honey is hygroscopic, meaning that it easily absorbs moisture from the surrounding atmosphere. Impatient beekeepers will pull the frames of honey before they are capped. Large beekeeping packers will store honey supers (the frames that hold the hexagons of honey) for weeks before extraction. These errors will raise the moisture content of the honey.  

Why is high-moisture in honey a problem? Because honey with a high moisture content has a thin texture and eventually tastes sour as a moisture level of 20% or more will ferment into alcohol. That's not honey, that's mead. 

Here at Killer Bees Honey, we pull the honey when the bees tell us it's ready - when all the frames are capped. Then the honey is extracted within 24 hours of taking it off the hive. Using a digital refractometer, we proudly monitor and report on the moisture in each batch of honey. And we guarantee that our honey will never exceed an 18% moisture level. 


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