Chemistry of honey

Does Honey never Spoil? Chemistry of Honey

Honey is the only food which is made by insects that human eats. Bees produce honey from sweet secretions floral nectar and plants. It is a viscous sugary liquid substance that is made by bees and other insects. It is mostly used as a sweetener as it contains monosaccharides such as glucose and fructose. Major ingredients in honey are carbohydrates —sugars but it also contains, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, organic acids, pollen, fragrance and flavor compounds. There are many types of honey-based floral sources having different colors and textures.


Components of Honey

Ancient study found that mixed floral honey from US regions typically contains:

Fructose: 38.2%
Glucose: 31.3%
Maltose: 7.1%
Sucrose: 1.3%
Water: 17.2%
Higher sugars: 1.5%
Ash: 0.2%
Other/undetermined: 3.2%

NMR spectroscopy study of 20 different kinds of honey from Germany found that their sugar contents include:

Fructose: 28% to 41%
Glucose: 22% to 35%

How bees produce honey


Bees store honey in wax structures called honeycombs. Honey is collected from wild bee colonies, or from hives of domesticated bees, a process best known as apiculture or beekeeping. Bees flap their wings to dry out nectar and bring the water content to roughly around 17%.


Bees get nectar into honeycombs by vomiting it. Really gross, but actually the chemical makeup of bees’ stomach also contributes to honey’s long shelf-life. Bees’ stomachs have the enzyme called glucose oxidase, which is added to the honey when the nectar is regurgitated. The conversion of the watery nectar to syrupy honey takes between 1-3 days. The enzyme and nectar break mix to create gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.


Honey has been used for many things since ancient times to the modern world – skincare, in food as a sweetener or flavor enhancers such as desserts or baked products. Mead is a type of wine that is made by honey undergoing fermentation. Honey is also used to make mead beer called “braggot”. Moreover, there are vast uses of honey in medical field, honey is used as an antibiotic, treating chronic or acute coughs, as a treatment for open wounds, etc. There is no evidence that honey is beneficial for treating cancer, although honey may be useful for controlling the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy used to treat cancer

Long shelf life of Honey

Honey jar

If properly stored, honey will not spoil, a pot of honey found in an ancient Egyptian tomb was proved to be as wholesome as fresh honey. However, honey will ferment if it is diluted by moisture from the atmosphere or by other liquids. So to keep honey unspoiled it is mandatory to make sure it’s well-sealed and stored in a dry place. The acidic pH of honey also prevents honey from spoiling.

Does the crystallization of honey makes it bad?

Apparently most people think that some sort of crystallization in the jar of honey as spoiled honey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gone bad. During large packing of honey the filtration process may be causing the honey to crystallize. Also to prevent crystallization avoid refrigerating honey. At temperature above 25° C honey avoids crystallization. To revert it back to normal you can apply little heating or immerse it in warm water for several minutes.

Therefore we can say that honey doesn’t spoil. So could you eat 5,000-year-old honey? Well, if it’s spent that time sealed and stored against moisture, sure.

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