August 27, 2013 AT 2:00 am

Why honey doesn’t go bad

honey

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

Pots of honey, thousands of years old yet still good, have been found in Egyptian tombs. Why it lasts forever, and why it was used as a topical barrier against infection in wounds:

Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris’ estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase. When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. “Then,” Harris explains, “hydrogen peroxide is the next thing that goes into work against all these other bad things that could possibly grow.”

Photo via Flood G.


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