Honey is a sweet fluid produced by honey bees (and some other species), and derived from the nectar of flowers. According to the United States National Honey Board and various international food regulations, "honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance…this includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners". This article refers exclusively to the honey produced by honey bees (the genus Apis); honey produced by other bees or other insects has very different properties.
Honey gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose and has approximately the same relative sweetness as granulated sugar (97% of the sweetness of sucrose, a disaccharide). Honey has attractive chemical properties for baking, and a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners.
Most micro-organisms do not grow in honey because of its low water activity of 0.6. However, it is important to note that honey frequently contains dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to infants as the endospores can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in the infant's immature intestinal tract, leading to illness and even death.
The study of pollens and spores in raw honey (melissopalynology) can determine floral sources of honey. Because bees carry an electrostatic charge, and can attract other particles, the same techniques of melissopalynology can be used in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust, or particulate pollution.
A main effect of bees collecting nectar to make honey is pollination, which is crucial for flowering plants.
The beekeeper encourages overproduction of honey within the hive so that the excess can be taken without endangering the bees. When sources of foods for the bees are short the beekeeper may have to give the bees supplementary nutrition.
Honey is a mixture of sugars and other compounds. With respect to carbohydrates, honey is mainly fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about 31.0%), making it similar to the synthetically produced inverted sugar syrup which is approximately 48% fructose, 47% glucose, and 5% sucrose. Honey's remaining carbohydrates include maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. Honey contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals. As with all nutritive sweeteners, honey is mostly sugars and is not a significant source of vitamins or minerals. Honey also contains tiny amounts of several compounds thought to function as antioxidants, including chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C, catalase, and pinocembrin. The specific composition of any batch of honey will depend largely on the mix of flowers available to the bees that produced the honey.
Typical honey analysis
Other sugars: 9.0% (maltose, melezitose)
Honey has a density of about 1.36 kilograms per liter (36% denser than water).
The analysis of the sugar content of honey is used for detecting adulteration. Isotope ratio mass spectrometry can be used to detect addition of corn syrup or sugar cane sugars by the carbon isotopic signature. Addition of sugars originated from corn or sugar cane ([[C4 carbon fixation|C4 plants, unlike the plants used by bees which are predominantly C3 plants) skews the isotopic ratio of sugars present in honey, but does not influence the isotopic ratio of proteins; in an unadulterated honey the carbon isotopic ratios of sugars and proteins should match. As low as 7% level of addition can be detected.