15 Honey Facts Worth Buzzing About

istock
istock

Even if you’re not a fan of bees, you have to give them credit for creating one of the most delicious substances on earth. Not only is honey great for sweetening a spot of tea, it also has some incredible properties that set it apart from all other food products. Stock up on 15 surprising facts about the honey bee's original all-natural sweetener.  

1. HONEY NEVER SPOILS. 

When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life. There are even reports of edible honey being found in several-thousand-year-old Egyptian tombs. Honey’s longevity can be explained by its chemical makeup: The substance is naturally acidic and low in moisture, making it an inhospitable environment for bacteria. 

A lot of hard work from bees goes into imbuing honey with these magical properties. While transforming nectar (honey’s main ingredient) into honey, bees flap their wings so hard that they draw excess moisture out of the initially water-filled substance. Bees also have a special enzyme in their stomachs that helps to break the nectar down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, the latter of which acts to further prevent the growth of bacteria and other organisms in the honey. 

2. BEES MAKE A LOT OF HONEY. 

A typical beehive can produce anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds of honey a year. To produce a single pound of honey, a colony of bees must collect nectar from approximately 2 million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles. This amounts to a lifetime’s worth of work for around 800 bees.  

3. HONEY WAS A HOT COMMODITY IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE. 

In 11th century Germany, honey was so highly valued for its beer-sweetening abilities that German feudal lords required their peasants to make them payments of honey and beeswax. 

4. BEES SURVIVE ON HONEY IN THE WINTER.

Bees work hard all summer to ensure they’ll have enough honey to sustain the hive through the winter. During the colder months, bees occupy their time by clustering themselves around the queen and shivering their bodies to fill the hive with warmth. All that shivering burns a lot of calories, so honey makes for the perfect high-energy diet.

5. HONEY IS MEDICINAL. 

Evidence of honey being prescribed as a medical treatment dates back as far as ancient Mesopotamia. Because the substance is so inhospitable to bacteria, it was often used as a natural bandage to protect cuts and burns from infection. Today, honey is still used as a natural treatment for dandruff, stomach ulcers, and even seasonal allergies. 

6. FOR BEES, A LITTLE HONEY GOES A LONG WAY.

On average, a honey bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over the course of its life. To put that into perspective, two tablespoons of honey would be enough to fuel a bee’s entire flight around the world.  

7. THERE ARE DIFFERENT FLAVORS AND COLORS OF HONEY.

Honey’s depth of flavor is determined by the source of the nectar it was made from. Linden honey is delicate and woodsy, buckwheat honey is strong and spicy, and eucalyptus honey has a subtle menthol flavor. The darkness or lightness of certain honey varies as well. Bees in the southeastern U.S. have even been known to produce honey that’s deep purple in color, though scientists can’t agree why. 

8. NOT ALL BEES MAKE HONEY. 

There are 20,000 species of bees on earth and only a small fraction of them make honey. The species of honey bee used for commercial beekeeping in the U.S. is known as Apis mellifera. It’s one of only seven known honey bee species.  

9. AND NOT ALL HONEY IS MADE BY BEES.

While bees are most associated with honey, the Mexican honey wasp also produces honey on a large scale, a fact that pre-European Native Americans are known to have taken advantage of. In 2013, researchers did a survey of honey wasp nests in Texas to attempt to get insight into honey bee behavior. But be aware, this honey can occasionally be poisonous thanks to the flowers that the wasp likes visiting. 

10. BEES HAVE MADE HONEY FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS.

Around 130 million years ago, flowering plants first appeared, and a few million years later, bees began separating from wasps. At some point after that, bees began producing honey, with one fossilized honeycomb dating from around 3 million years ago. Humans, meanwhile, have been harvesting the sweet stuff for thousands of years. An ancient cave painting was discovered in Valencia, Spain, that depicts a human figure removing honey from a hive, and it could date from as far back as 15,000 years ago. 

11. EVOLUTION ALLOWS US TO EASILY FIND THE HONEY IN THE SUPERMARKET.

In 2007, researchers took men and women on a circuitous route through a large farmer’s market, showing them a wide variety of foods and having them rank the food and stalls. They then took the subjects to the center of the market and had them point in the direction of each of the food items that they had sampled. Women were, on average, 9 degrees more accurate than men. But both men and women were most accurate when pointing towards the high-calorie foods, like honey and olive oil—even if they didn’t particularly like them. It’s believed that this power for locating high-calorie foods can be tied back to our time as hunter-gatherers, when locating honey was a prime goal. 

12. BEEKEEPERS ONLY TAKE WHATS EXTRA. 

A productive bee colony makes two to three times more honey than it needs to survive the winter. When harvesting honey from a beehive, beekeepers try not to take anything the bees will miss. If necessary, beekeepers will feed bees sugar syrup in the autumn to compensate for the honey they take. 

13. HONEY IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE ECONOMY. 

The environment depends on the pollination that occurs when honey bees gather nectar. Bees pollinate $20 billion worth of U.S. crops each year, and approximately one third of all food eaten by Americans is either directly or indirectly derived from honey bee pollination.

14. BEES ARE A SURPRISINGLY VERSATILE FOOD SOURCE. 

Though Westerners are still squeamish about using insects themselves as a source of protein, we seem to have no problem eating something that’s been regurgitated by them. And bees also provide us with Royal Jelly, beeswax, bee pollen, and other interesting and exotic foods. 

15. HONEY VENDORS WENT THROUGH GREAT LENGTHS TO ATTRACT CUSTOMERS. 

In the 1830s (and possibly much earlier), some honey vendors started sporting “bee beards” as a way to draw attention to their products. This is done by holding a caged queen bee beneath your chin and allowing the bees to cluster across your face. Today, bee beards are more fashionable than ever. There's even a competition held in Ontario, Canada, each year to create the most impressive bee beard.  

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

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Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

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Apple

You may not know it by looking at them, but these tiny earbuds by Apple offer HDR sound, 30 hours of noise cancellation, and powerful bass, all through Bluetooth connectivity. These trendy, sleek AirPods will even read your messages and allow you to share your audio with another set of AirPods nearby.

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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FenSens

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

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15 Memorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87.
Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Supreme Court justice, feminist, and all-around badass Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020 from "complications of metastatic pancreas cancer," the Supreme Court said in a statement. Over the course of her 87 years, she smashed glass ceilings and delivered plenty of wisdom—inside the courtroom and out. Here are some of our favorite quotes from the Notorious RBG.

1. On her mother

"My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the '40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S."

— via ACLU

2. On turning rejection into opportunity

“You think about what would have happened ... Suppose I had gotten a job as a permanent associate. Probably I would have climbed up the ladder and today I would be a retired partner. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.”

— In conversation with Makers

3. On female Supreme Court Justices

"[W]hen I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that."

— In an interview with 10th Circuit Bench & Bar Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder, via CBS News

4. On dissenting opinions

"Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, ‘my colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way,’ but the greatest dissents do become court opinions."

— From an interview on Live with Bill Maher

5. On criticism and not getting a majority vote

"I’m dejected, but only momentarily, when I can’t get the fifth vote for something I think is very important. But then you go on to the next challenge and you give it your all. You know that these important issues are not going to go away. They are going to come back again and again. There’ll be another time, another day."

— via The Record [PDF]

6. On having it all

"You can't have it all, all at once. Who—man or woman—has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it."

— From an interview with Katie Couric

7. On discrimination

"I ... try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, color of their skin, whether they’re men or women."

— From an interview with MSNBC

8. On gender equality

"Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation."

— via The Record [PDF]

9. On feminism

"Feminism … I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free to be You and Me.' Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent."

— In an interview with Makers

10. ON her fellow Supreme Court Justices

"We care about this institution more than our individual egos and we are all devoted to keeping the Supreme Court in the place that it is, as a co-equal third branch of government and I think a model for the world in the collegiality and independence of judges."

— In an interview with C-Span

11. On the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling

"[J]ustices continue to think and can change. I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow."

— From an interview with Katie Couric

12. On those Notorious RBG T-shirts

"I think a law clerk told me about this Tumblr and also explained to me what Notorious RBG was a parody on. And now my grandchildren love it and I try to keep abreast of the latest that’s on the tumblr. … [I]n fact I think I gave you a Notorious RBG [T-shirts]. I have quite a large supply."

— In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg

13. On being an internet sensation

"My grandchildren love it. At my advanced age—I’m now an octogenarian—I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who want to take my picture."

— From an interview with the New Republic

14. On retirement

"Now I happen to be the oldest. But John Paul Stevens didn’t step down until he was 90."

— From an interview with The New York Times

15. On how she'd like to be remembered

"Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid."

— From an interview with MSNBC