Frequently Asked Questions
Pollen’s Role in Honey
What is the role of pollen in honey?
Honey is made by honey bees from the nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen. Pollen is actually an accidental guest in honey, brought back by the bee as a source of food for baby bees (the “brood”), or incidentally introduced into the honey through other means, such as during the extraction process. Pollen in honey is sometimes analyzed to help determine the primary floral source. The amount of pollen in honey is minuscule and not enough to impact the nutrient value of honey. Honey is still honey, even without pollen.
Raw or Processed?
Is raw honey more nutritious than processed or filtered honey?
While there is no official definition of “raw” honey, it generally means honey that has not been heated or filtered. According to the FDA, “nutritious” can be used in reference to the diet as a whole, not an individual food. Nevertheless, we often see or hear claims that raw honey is “more nutritious” or “better for you,” primarily because raw honey may contain small amounts of pollen grains that are often removed during processing or filtering.
Honey is produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants, not pollen. Pollen occurs only incidentally in honey. The amount of pollen in honey is miniscule and not enough to impact the nutrient value of honey. According to Dr. Lutz Elflein, a honey analysis expert with an international food laboratory, the amount of pollen in honey ranges from about 0.1 to 0.4%. Similarly, a 2004 study by the Australian government found the percentage of dry weight canola pollen in 32 Australian canola honey samples ranged from 0.15% to 0.443%.
A 2012 study by the National Honey Board analyzed vitamins, minerals and antioxidant levels in raw and processed honey. The study showed that processing significantly reduced the pollen content of the honey, but did not affect the nutrient content or antioxidant activity, leading the researchers to conclude that the micronutrient profile of honey is not associated with its pollen content and is not affected by commercial processing. . The 2012 study and abstract with statistical analysis was presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Conference in Boston April 20-24, 2013.
Why is most honey filtered?
According to USDA Grading Standards for extracted honey, filtered honey is honey that has been filtered to the extent that all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles, or other materials normally found in suspension, have been removed.
Honey that is filtered by packers is filtered for various reasons:
Many consumers prefer honey that is liquid and stays liquid for a long time.
- All honey crystallizes eventually. Suspended particles and fine air bubbles in honey contribute to faster crystallization. Filtering helps delay crystallization, helping the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than unfiltered honey.
Many consumers prefer honey to be clear and brilliantly transparent.
- The presence of fine, suspended material (pollen grains, wax, etc.) and air bubbles results in a cloudy appearance that can detract from the appearance. Filtering is done to give a clear brilliant product desired by consumers. For the filtered style of honey, USDA Grading Standards for Extracted Honey give higher grades for honey that has good clarity.
- Honey is filtered to remove extraneous solids that remain after the initial raw processing by the beekeeper.
Various filtration methods are used by the food industry throughout the world. Ultrafiltration, a specific kind of filtration used in the food industry, should not be confused with other filtration methods generally used in the honey industry. When applied to honey, ultrafiltration involves adding water to honey and filtering it under high pressure at the molecular level, then removing the water. It is a much more involved and expensive process which results in a colorless sweetener product that is derived from honey but is not considered “honey” in the U.S.
Honey that is filtered through more traditional methods is still “honey,” even if pollen has been removed along with other fine particles.
What is raw honey?
While there is no official U.S. federal definition of raw honey, the National Honey Board defines raw honey as “ honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat.” This definition does not have any legal authority, but is provided to help in the understanding of honey and honey terms. The complete honey definitions document created by the National Honey Board is available here. The Definition of Honey
How do bees pollinate plants?
As bees travel from blossom to blossom in search of nectar, they brush against the pollen-bearing parts of a flower (anther or stamen) and pick up pollen. When the honey bee goes to another flower for more food, some of the pollen from the first flower sticks to the second flower. In this way, the flowers are pollinated. Almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all benefit from honey bees for pollination.
Bees Make Honey
How do bees make honey?
Honey is the sweet fluid produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers. Worker honey bees transform the floral nectar that they gather into honey by adding enzymes to the nectar and reducing the moisture.
How do I tell the difference between honeybees and other stinging insects?
To tell the difference between a honey bee and other insects, please visit the following site at the link below.
How do I find beekeeping assocations or publications?
The publication "Bee Culture" provides a list of common beekeeping assocations and publications at the link below.
How can I find a beekeeper to come and speak to my classroom?
Please contact your local beekeeping association. You can find a list of associations in your area by clicking on the link below, then searching under your state.
Who should I call to remove bees from my property?
We suggest that you contact your local beekeeping association. You can click the link below to view a directory of associations by state.
More Beekeeping Information
I am looking for information on beekeeping.
Although the National Honey Board does not focus on beekeeping or providing information on beekeeping, we do sell a short informational video for educational purposes. You may also find beekeeping courses or information available at many universities.
Permission to Link
May I have permission to link to your websites?
I would like to use some of your recipes on my Web site. May I have permission to use your recipes?
You may use any recipes from our Web site, but may not use any of our photography. All of our photography is copyrighted and may not be used without permission. Please credit the National Honey Board when using our recipes. If possible please provide a link to http://www.honey.com.
For complete website content and photo usage guidelines, see our press kit: Web Content and Photo Usage Guidelines
Where can I purchase honey?
Where can I purchase a specific type of honey or honey product?
Please visit our Honey Locator website, www.honeylocator.com. On this website, you can search for specific types of honey varieties as there are more than 300 nationwide. The website also includes ways to search for other forms of honey (like comb honey or whipped honey), as well as honey from a particular location (such as your home state) and for other goods and services offered by honey producers, packers and importers.
Why does my honey look/taste different than I'm used to?
Honey comes in many colors and flavors - these are called honey varietals and they are determined by the type of flowers the bees visited for nectar. Some are light and sweet; others are dark and bold. Pick the honey you like and enjoy!
How do I substitute honey for sugar?
When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. For baked goods, make sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning; reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Because of its high fructose content, honey has higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.
Weight of Honey
How much does honey weigh?
Eight fluid ounces (or 1 cup) of honey weighs 12 oz. Be careful in buying and measuring quantities of honey. Honey is typically sold by weight, rather than volume. It is heavier than water; the standard for "fluid ounces", which is why one cup of water is considered 8 fluid ounces, but one cup of honey will actually weigh 12 oz. A gallon of honey weighs approximately 12 lbs.
What is honey’s nutritional information?
Please follow the link below for technical specification about the nutritional components of honey.
Infants and Honey
Why can't I feed honey to my baby less than one year of age?
Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism - a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young babies (under one year of age). C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil and improperly canned foods. Adults and children over one year of age are routinely exposed to, but not normally affected by, C. botulinum spores. Honey is safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation. While infants are susceptible to the infant botulism, adults, including pregnant females, are not. The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans. Since the mother is not in danger of developing this condition, the unborn baby is protected. Spores are inactivated when manufactured food products (such as cereals or nuts) receive a roasting heat treatment. Graham crackers or cereal, for example, would not contain any viable microbial spores. For more information on infant botulism, click here.
My honey has become solid (crystallized), is it still good?
Crystallization is the natural process by which the glucose in honey precipitates out of the liquid honey. Different varieties of honey will crystallize at different rates, and a few not at all. If your honey crystallizes, simply place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place the honey in a microwave-safe container with the lid off and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey. Also keep in mind that you can eat the honey in a crystallized form. Just scoop out of the jar and spread it on your toast or drop it in your tea!
Does honey have an expiration date?
Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time. If in doubt, throw it out, and purchase a new jar of honey!
Can I Join?
I would like to become a member of the National Honey Board. How do I join?
Because the NHB is an instrumentality of the USDA, there are really no “members,” “dues” or “joining” the National Honey Board. The Board's work is funded by an assessment of one cent per pound on domestic and imported honey.
Honey From the NHB?
I would like to buy some of your honey.
The National Honey Board does not buy or sell honey. We are a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight that conducts research, marketing and promotion programs to help maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets for honey and honey products. One option that we do provide if you would like to sell or purchase honey, is our Honey Locator Web site, which is a directory of honey suppliers (see link below).
Local Honey & Allergies
Will eating local honey help with my allergies?
There are anecdotal stories of people claiming relief from allergies by eating local honey, but we are not aware of any scientific evidence to support these claims. This subject is somewhat controversial, since some experts claim that the kinds of pollens that are the greatest cause of allergies are smaller windblown pollens that are not typically found in honey. This topic is also covered on the website of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology at http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/The-ingestion-of-honey-for-allergy-treatment.aspx. Other sources of information about pollen allergy include the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.