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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When bees collect nectar it is my understanding, perhaps incorrectly, that they add enzymesetc to it before storing and capping it.

It seems the do the same with sugar syrup.

Chemically just what is the difference in the product they manufacture from collecting plant nectars versus sugar syrup?

What is in the natural nectars that is not in plain sugar that results in more nutritious "honey"? After all sugar is purified sugar cane liquid.
 

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Our beekeeper's association circulates Catch the Buzz articles to us, and this one came out recently:

http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.07.18.07.47.archive.html

For sure, nectar is the natural diet, and will be more complex than sugar. And, after all, we think local wildflower honey is better for you than cane sugar. Proof? Well, that's harder than opinion.

Nectar can be toxic. And sugar processed with the enzymes and micro-organisms a bee adds is pretty darned similar to nectar honey.
 

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So nectar source, sugar source, changes gene expression...up/down regulation....that may have some effect on the immune system etc of the bee itself. That is one part of the question.

The other part is...what is the chemical difference in honey produced from sugar syrup vs various single varietal sources?

I ask as we are so careful to not supplement hives while honey supers are on even in interim periods of dearth.

Surely there must be some sound scientific data on this rather than than hearsay.
 

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You can definitely taste the difference. I don't have the equipment to measure it but I've got a pretty good idea what sorts of instruments might be used. The science of watching gene activity is pretty advanced stuff. I have no doubt there's good science possible on this but I would expect a lot of noise in peer review as people decided how reliable and reproducible the results are. Honey is so variable that it is probably hard to reproduce tests, and reproducibility is the key to acceptance of methods. This may take a while to sort out, but it sounds to me to be a worthwhile line of investigation.

Most people here interested in honey harvest will tell you not to feed when a heavy nectar flow is on. They'll stop feeding and put on a honey super or two, and that way know that what went in to the super was nectar. (Actually, the bees constantly move curing nectar around, but this system at least assures most of what goes in the super is from nectar.) I'd not want to be caught passing sugar "honey" off as the good stuff.

All this takes frequent inspection and maybe the use of hive scales. The experienced beeks can heft the boxes and tell if weight is increasing fast. The rest of us need good notes and/or some means of weighing. Comparing notes with experienced beeks is a big help ... good reason to join a local club.

This year my bees never stopped taking syrup even though they apparently had nectar available. I let them get away with it because they're building comb and almost all their stores this year we'll let them keep. But that's a bad business model for honey producers ... I intend to track hive weight next year and will super and stop feeding as soon as I see a sharp uptick in weight. I hear tales of sudden increases of as much as ten pounds a day in a good flow, and they may switch on and off multiple times in the spring and early summer.

The "honey" they produced while on syrup tastes OK, but very light. We couldn't resist the temptation to sample some, but it is not for sale. We just did a side-by-side taste test with several other honeys, and the syrup based definitely lacks character.
 

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>Chemically just what is the difference in the product they manufacture from collecting plant nectars versus sugar syrup?

Since your body can break down the sugars anyway, and at that point it will be identical to what the bees will make of it, why not just eat the sugar syrup and leave the bees out of the process?
 

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Sugar is a highly processed and refined substance, it is soley sucrose, with an absence of any vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. Honey is specifically made from the nectar of flowers (then there's honeydew honey, a different animal altogether) and nectar, as an unprocessed, natural result of plants using photosynthesis to create the sugar they need to live, contains traces of proteins, salts, acids, enzymes and aromatics.
Sugar, in the refined way I assume you are referring to, is 100% sucrose; nectar has a variety of sugars of which sucrose can be a high-proportion and this depends on the particular plant, the time of day and climate and soil conditions. Honey bees add invertase to convert the sucrose that is present into fructose and glucose.

Nectar is not 100% sucrose, so while feeding bees sucrose (sugar syrup) will result in them adding invertase to convert it to fructose and glucose, the end result is not the same as honey simply because sugar cane or sugar beets are not nectar and lack the complexity noted above. Does that answer your question?
 

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Even when feeding sugar I see my bees crawling all over such things as wet dung covered cow lots, salt blocks, cow and chicken feed, and have even watched them clean a mitersaw of every speck of sawdust. How they use all these things I have no idea but I can't help but think they add all types of compounds to their honey even when eating alot of sugar; Although I still prefer the taste of wildflower honey to the sugar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
These answer I was hoping to get was a chemical analysis of honey made from sugar syrup versus that made from a single plant crop.

I agree honey tastes different depending on source. What exactly makes it taste different...chemically that is. If sugar based honey is chemically like nectar sugar except for the specific flavour molecules then, apart from taste, it would not be so different. Some folks like maple honey, some don't like ragweed and rhododendron is potentially toxic. The bees handle them the same way...so just what is it that makes that difference?
 

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keep shaking my head ... Go real or dont bother...yes you can save a buck passing off the stuff other countries and discount chain dollar stores are trying to sell as the real deal but ITs not...
 

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I have no intention of feeding while honey supers for human consumption are on. I have bees to put down mixed nectar honey. This does not mean I am not curious about the chemical differences. One should not assume one is looking to put something into practice simply because they are interested:)
 

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Chemically defined artificial nectars exist for bees. This is needed, as toxicology screens against pesticides and insect growth regulators need in-vitro raised standard animals to control contaminant variables. No one is suggesting an in-vitro reproduction strategy should be pursued for hobbyist hives.

Bees are raised on chemically defined glucose-fructose solutions with varying adjutants of synthetic additions and/or varying degrees of naturally produced royal jelly from field foragers. Entirely artificial larvae food exists (ie. 0% royal jelly)

A paper worth consulting is:
The Taste of Nectar: A Neglected Area of Pollination Ecology
Author(s): Mark C. Gardener and Michael P. Gillman
Source: Oikos, Vol. 98, Fasc. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 552-557
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3547198 .

A university library or college alumni association may provide access to JSTOR archives.

The 2005 paper, is available as a free download, and has a useful bibliography.
Improvement of artificial feeding in a standard in vitro
method for rearing Apis mellifera larvae
http://www.bulletinofinsectology.org/pdfarticles/vol58-2005-107-111aupinel.pdf

This paper should also be consulted
Responses of Honey Bees (Apis Mellifera) to Amino Acid Solutions Mimicking Floral Nectars
David W. Inouye, Gordon D. Waller
Ecology, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Apr., 1984), pp. 618-625

Honey bee-attractive Nectar, invert sugar syrup and HFCS are all very similar, with the exception of microscopic flavor, oil and protein compounds in the nectar. In bulk, there is no gross nutritional difference, on the finer scale one loses flavor from the artificials. I expect the epi-genetic effects of "up-regulation" are still poorly described --- certainly any pollen collection will introduce enormous volumes of the relevant factors (e.g. quercetin), and sterols, oils, and protein are also sourced from the pollen. HFCS has a poor reputation for the presence of the "burnt toast-caramel" contaminants, which are toxic. Better manufacturing control could likely eliminate these from HFCS feed, but they can appear in any heated and mishandled fructose (including natural honey) -- don't feed back the wax melter leavings. The Australian publication on bee nutrition places enormous stress on fresh, species appropriate pollen in the sub mixes -- this is careful empirical observation. Again -- the sugar component are cross replaceable (D-fructose is D-fructose), but the magic is in the very complex pollen contribution, of which a little travels with the nectar as a contaminant.
 

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keep shaking my head ... Go real or dont bother...yes you can save a buck passing off the stuff other countries and discount chain dollar stores are trying to sell as the real deal but ITs not...
You must be unaware of the countless threads about fall feeding light hives, about not feeding when honey supers are on or soon to be on, about emergency feeding in a dearth, etc. Either that or you have such a low opinion about the members here that you jump to ridiculous suppositions about their intentions.

Obviously I'm no fan of the "Better dead than fed" philosophy.

Wayne
 

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No, I don't think that other beeks here "have low opinions," "jump to ridiculous suppositions," and so on de-dah de-dah de-dah. We're all just here, expressing our opinions about this and that, and talking shop.

My opinion is that ... I don't feed. A little powdered-sugar in the bottom of my (hTBH) hive, and a continuously available water supply which won't drown them, and that's it.

During the course of the season, waves of plenty come in-between waves of dearth. When plenty, the bees lay-up honey like crazy. When dearth, they consume what they've laid up. At the end of the season, there's a surplus, some of which I take. The taste of the stuff is indescribable, it's different every year, and it never "sugars up" in the jar.

I'm pretty sure that I know why so much commercial honey tastes bland and sugars-up: because it is "sugar water." it's the stuff that the beekeepers force-fed them, minimally processed and put away.

It's very easy to create an un-natural situation and then to misread it. You "feed" them, and you see (improbably large ...) returns of "honey." Perceiving this apparent "positive reinforcement" of what you wanted to believe, you feed even more. And the dots never seem to get connected: "what you feed is what you get."
 

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As a beekeeper I let the results dictate the effects. simple as that. I have no concern as to the how or why of the outcome. You can have all the debate about micro analysis you want. that is fine. it is only beneficial to me if it results in some supplement that works better than sugar water at an equal or lower cost.

Fact is week colonies even extremely weak colonies recover on sugar water. bees make it through winter on sugar water or granulated sugar cakes. I don't find they do as well on some of the opinions of other beekeepers. even those that I have attempted to apply. The one colony that came closest to being lost nearly died in a hive full of honey. I started feeding them sugar water and they snapped back. I cannot tell you why. as a beekeeper I really have no interest in the microscopic reason. I recognize the value of the microscopic reason but as a beekeeper I am only interested in hives that are strong and productive or on there way to being so. Why it works is not my concern, that it works is.
 
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