Why Does Raw Honey Last So Long?

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By: Greg Brian


Honey is one of the few foods that has no expiration date -- but why does honey have such a long shelf life? The answer to that question is found in the complex relationship between flowers and the honeybee. 

Bees visit flowers and slurp up sugary nectar. Each bee stores nectar in a special organ called a crop, where the sweet liquid mixes with the bee’s enzymes. Those enzymes, when mixed with nectar, break down into byproducts like hydrogen peroxide, which keeps the honey free of bacteria. 

In the hive, the honey is stored in wax cells of the honeycomb, where bees continually fan it with their wings to evaporate out almost all the water. This makes the watery nectar from the flower into the thick golden liquid we call honey. With barely any water left in the honey, there are very few bacteria or microorganisms that can survive. 

Honey is also naturally acidic. This creates a hostile environment for any bacteria or microbe that tries to make a home in the hive. 

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