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.  

18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer

iStock/MCCAIG
iStock/MCCAIG

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. Rosé Wine Glasses; $60 for Two

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. Nerf N-Strike Elite Surgefire; $19

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Walmart

3. Bushel & Berry Plants; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. Inflatable Donut; $11

An inflatable pool toy shaped like a pink donut with sprinkles
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. Star Spangled Spatula; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked … with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. Mlb Hot Dog Branders; $6 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders (which come in a variety of different designs repping teams across the country) from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. Una Grill; $145

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, on your deck, or anywhere in between.

Find It: Una

8. Hamburger Grilling Basket; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon or Walmart

9. Copper Fire Pit; $120

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. Bendy Straw Pool Noodle Float; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. Griddler Deluxe; $115

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. Vintage Snow Cone Maker; $32

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. Dachshund Corn On The Cob Holders; $6

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. Ice Cream Sandwich Maker; $20

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. Ue Wonderboom; $62

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable Bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. Rollors Game; $50

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. Hammock; $177

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL Survival Essentials; $45

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Moosejaw

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A version of this story first ran in 2018. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

11 Unusual Cutting and Cheese Boards

Fred & Friends, Amazon
Fred & Friends, Amazon

Planning a wine and cheese party? Make sure what you're using to serve snacks is just as cute as your food is delicious.

1. Mouse Trap; $21

A cheese board shaped like a mouse trap

Fred & Friends, Amazon

At first glance, this item just looks like an oversized mouse trap. Ingeniously, the snapping part of the trap can be removed to reveal it's actually a cheese slicer. A chunk of cheese can be displayed and sliced on the 9-inch-long board—just don't invite any mice to the party.

Find it: Amazon

2. MOUSE BOARD; $30

A board shaped like a mouse hole with a mouse-shaped cheese cutter on top

Fred & Friends, Amazon

If a mouse trap is a little too macabre for your shindig, consider this adorable alternative. Assemble your cheeses on the 8-inch-long board and slice them up with a mouse-shaped knife that can be stored in the Tom and Jerry-esque mouse hole at the bottom.

Find it: Amazon

3. STATE SLATE; $20

Cheese and crackers arrayed on a slate cheese board

Bison Hill Stonecrafts, Amazon

Celebrate cheese from all over the United States with this patriotic slate. You can even grab a piece of chalk and write down the names of all the cheeses for hungry guests. Creator Bison Hill Stonecrafts will even personalize your board with a laser engraving, if you'd like.

Find it: Amazon

4. Log and Axe; $25

A cheese board shaped like a cut tree trunk

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Give your cheese a rustic presentation with this log and axe set-up. The solid beech cutting board is shaped like a log and comes with an axe-shaped knife to help you bring out your inner lumberjack.

Find it: Amazon

5. Mariner Wheel; $35

Invite all your sailor friends over for snacks with this nautical cheese board. When each of the four differently-shaped knives are placed into their respective holes in the board, the board looks like a ship's wheel.

Find it: UncommonGoods

6. Cheese Degrees; $20

A cutting board with a protractor design

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Make sure everyone gets an even amount of cheese with this obsessively precise cutting board. Whether you want perfect cubes or exactly portioned triangles, this cheese board can help ensure that everything is perfectly sliced.

Find it: Amazon

7. The States; $28

A cheese board in the shape of New York state

Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat, UncommonGoods

Celebrate your home state with a bamboo cutting board created by New York-based woodworkers Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat. You can see all the available state shapes in this PDF.

Find it: UncommonGoods

8. Voodoo Doll; $20

Pull out this voodoo doll-shaped board when you're feeling a little vindictive. You can hack away at meats and cheese and then store the knife appropriately in the wooden doll's back.

Find it: Overstock.com

9. Ampersand; $48

Delight your guests with some knowledge about where the ampersand comes from while using this board, which lets you fill a twisting line of crackers around three different cheeses.

Find it: UncommonGoods

10. Say Cheese; $19

A cheese board shaped like a smiling mouth

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Smile! It's cheese time. This mouth-shaped cheese board looks just as happy about the selection as you do. Underneath all the food, the board says "say cheese" in the center.

Find it: Amazon

11. The Obsessive Chef; $27

A cutting board with measurements on it

Fred & Friends, Amazon

This product comes with a series of lines to guide the cutter, including how to medium dice, small dice, brunoise, fine brunoise, batonnet, allumette, julienne, and fine julienne. The lines are burnished instead of printed, so they'll never get worn away.

Find it: Amazon or at one of the retailers below:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

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