Honey: Processing & Hazards Involved

Honey is the product of one of the most intelligent and industrious creatures whose miniature society is one of the most sophisticated in the animal kingdom It is used as a food product, in religious ceremonies, etc and it is also known for medicinal qualities for centuries. Honey consists of a mixture of sugars, mostly glucose and fructose. In addition to water (usually 17-20%), it also contains very small amounts of other substances, including minerals, vitamins, proteins, and amino acids. A minor, but important component of most types of honey is pollen. These components contribute to the different flavors that honey can have and make honey a nutritious food that has a high demand in many regions of the world. To Understand the processing of honey its must understand about bees and how do they make honey.

Bees: Bee is a marvelous flying machine. She can carry a payload of nectar or pollen close to her own weight.

Caste of Bees: Honeybees have three castes: drones, workers, and queens.

Queen: Single fertile female in the whole hive.

Drone: These are stingless and defenseless males who work to increase their population by mating with the queen.

Workers This class of bees performs the main role in making honey.

When worker bees fly from flower to flower they collect nectar and when their nectar “sacs” are full, the honeybee returns to the hive. Nectar is delivered to one of the indoor bees and is then passed mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee until its moisture content is reduced from about 70% to 20%. This changes the nectar into honey. Sometimes the nectar is stored at once in cells in the honeycomb before the mouth-to-mouth working because some evaporation is caused by the 32.5°C temperature inside the hive. Finally, the honey is placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax in readiness for the arrival of newborn baby bees. 

Figure 1:worker bee collecting nectar

Industrial Processing:

  1. Receiving: Once the honey is made by the bees the honey supers are then sent to the company for processing.
  2. Uncapping– To separate honey and wax from the comb, the honeycomb frames are uncapped by using a heating knife to cut the wax off. It is important to note that in some cases before uncapping the honeycombs are kept for dehumidification. It is best to remove moisture before extracting. Honey supers can be placed in a warm, low humidity drying room which allows for a much greater surface area to be affected by warm, dry, moving air.

Figure 2: Uncapping manually

  1. Extracting– The process of removing honey from supers (hive box filled with honey) is called Extraction. It is done using a Honey Extractor based on the principle of Centrifugal force. Honey extractors can be manually or electrically operated, depending on the scale of production. The frames are placed in a honey extractor machine which rotates the frame at speed and the honey is drained to the bottom of the machine then pumped to storage containers. The honey is collected by gravity in tanks placed often on the floor.
  1. Purification– The purification is carried out with two different techniques: decanting and filtration. Here, the extracted honey is passed through different sieves and enters into a raw tank, where it is kept for some time. It is then transferred through a sieve to the pasteurizer.
  2. Pasteurization– Processing of honey means indirect heating of honey. Batch pasteurization/Flash Pasteurization is generally followed and is done to kill an unwanted microorganism, yeast. Excess heat will reduce the quality in terms of nutrient content. So, it is a must to maintain the temp.
  3. Evaporation: After being pasteurized, the honey is sent to the vacuum evaporator to maintain the moisture at (18-20%) and collected in the finishing tank.
  4. Filter– It is again filtered for any remains of crystals beeswax, and propolis extraneous material and sent to the cooling chamber which maintains its temp. to around 30° C.
  5. Bottling– The filtered honey is then transferred to the bottling tank from where it is filled in bottles, packaged, and dispatched.


  1. Moisture content – too much water in honey (greater than 19-20%) causes it to ferment. Honey is ‘hygroscopic’, meaning that it will absorb moisture, and all honey processing equipment must therefore be completely dry. Honey should also be processed as soon as possible after removal from the hive to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air, especially in humid climates. In areas with very high humidity, it can be difficult to produce honey of sufficiently low water content.
  2. Development of HMF (Hydroxymethyl furfural) due to high temp. or storage. This is a break-down product of fructose (one of the main sugars in honey) that is formed slowly during storage but very quickly when honey is heated. Colour can also be an indicator of quality because honey becomes darker during storage and heating. The amount of HMF present in honey is used as a guide to the age of the honey and/or the amount of heating that has taken place. Some countries set an HMF limit for imported honey. HMF is measured by laboratory tests and technical advice from a Bureau of Standards should be sought if the export is being considered.
  3. Contamination by insects. Honey processing is a sticky operation, and the sugar in honey attracts ants, cockroaches, and flying insects. Careful protection is needed at all stages of processing, including insect screens on doors and windows to prevent contamination by insects. All honey residues on equipment should be removed by proper cleaning to prevent them from attracting insects. The presence of any other contaminations (e.g., particles of wax, parts of bees, splinters of wood, dust, etc.) make the honey very low value


1.Granulated honey is of poor quality????

Of course, NO. Granulation is a natural process and there is no difference in nutritional value between solid and liquid honey. Although there is obviously a difference in the texture between liquid and granulated honey, there is no difference in the flavor or other quality characteristics

 Glucose is one of the main sugars in honey and when it crystallizes (i.e. it changes from a liquid to a solid), the liquid honey also becomes solid (or granulated). Depending on the source of the nectar collected by bees, some types of honey are more likely to granulate than others, but almost all honey will granulate if its temperature falls sufficiently.

The Chemistry of Honey Crystals

The “why” behind the crystallization of honey has simple chemistry. Usually, honey contains at least 70% carbohydrates and less than 20% water. This is more sugar that can naturally remain dissolved and over time, crystals begin to form. Some honey crystals are fine and smooth while others are large and gritty. This is largely due to the proportion of the two main types of sugars found in honey, fructose, and glucose. While fructose tends to remain dissolved, glucose has a much lower solubility. The higher proportion of glucose honey contains, the more quickly it will crystalize

  1. Pale color Honey is better in quality?

The color of honey depends mainly on the source of the nectar. Usually, dark-colored honey has a strong flavor whereas pale honey has a more delicate flavor. Both have good quality.


Some honey has a high pollen content, which makes them appear cloudy, and this may be considered as lower quality by some customers.


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