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Honey: Interesting Facts

September 14, 2017 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Some fun honey facts to start your new off right.

It’s hard to imagine Rosh Hashanah without honey. Apples dipped in honey are a sign of a sweet new year. Many Jews eat honey cake or carrots cooked in honey to start the new year off on a sweet note, or munch on honey-drenched teiglach pastries.

Here are some fun honey facts to start your new year off right. Best wishes for a Shana Tovah u’Metukah, a Sweet New Year! 

  • It takes up to two million flowers and 556 bees to make one pound of honey.

  • A hive of bees has to fly over 55,000 miles, gathering nectar from flowers, to produce a pound of honey: that’s over twice around the world!

  • An average worker bee visits between 50 and 100 flowers on each nectar-gathering trip.

  • The average worker honey bee makes about 1 / 12 of a teaspoon in his lifetime.

  • Honey is the only food widely used by humans that’s manufactured by animals.

  • Honey is one of only two animal-produced products that is kosher and “parve” (neither milk or meat). The other is human milk for infants.

  • Honey is so delicious that the Bible notes that the mannah God fed the Israelites with in the desert after their exodus from Egypt “tasted like a cake fried in honey” (Exodus 16:31). (Jewish tradition also records that mannah tasted like whatever the person eating it most desired it to taste like.)

  • Modern doctors caution against feeding infants honey because it can expose very young children to botulism. This advice was also given a thousand years ago by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (also known as Rambam or Maimonides), who advised parents not to feed their very young children honey. (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deot 4:12).

  • The MIdrash notes several ways that Jews and the Torah are compared to bees: just as bees follow a leader, so too do Jews follow prophets and sages who advise them; just as bees can bring both sweetness and stings, so the Torah brings sweetness to those who follow it and can cause bitterness when people realize they’ve missed their opportunity to learn about it; and just as bees collect sweet nectar, so too Jews collect sweetness, in the form of mitzvot and good deeds. (Devarim Rabbah 1:6).

  • Devash, the Biblical term for honey, also refers to boiled fruit syrups from dates, grapes, pomegranates and figs.

  • Cookbook writer Claudia Roden recalls how Jews in her native community of Cairo used to make date “honey”, which might not have differed substantially from the way it was prepared in Biblical times: “Pitted dates were soaked for a few hours, then boiled, and the juice was pressed through thin muslin and left in trays on the roof, or boiled down to a thick syrup” (from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden).

  • Honey from bees was cultivated in ancient times in Israel. In Tel Rehov, in Israel’s northern region, archeologists found the oldest apiary (commercial beehive) in the Middle East, dating from the 10th Century BCE, over 3,000 years ago. Made up of about 100 beehives, it seems to have produced about half a ton of honey annually.

  • Two women in the Bible are called Devorah, which means bee in Hebrew: the nursemaid of our matriarch Rebecca, and Devorah the prophet, who helped lead the Jewish people for forty years in the 12th Century BCE. She commanded the raising of an army of 10,000 troops to overthrow the Israelites’ Canaanite oppressors, thus fulfilling her name, and stinging Israel’s enemies like a bee.

  • Israel is called “a land that flows with milk and honey” in the Bible (Exodus 33:3).

  • When the ancient Greeks conquered the Middle East, they introduced new, gentler, strains of European bees that replaced the native wild “Syrian” bees of the Middle East, making it easier to produce honey in Israel.

  • Today, Israel produces about 3,500 tons of honey annually. Israeli honey producers maintain about 90,000 beehives in the Jewish state.

  • Israelis eat about 1,600 tons of honey each year on Rosh Hashanah. That’s nearly half of their total honey consumption for the entire year.

  • The average American consumes about 1.31 pounds of honey each year.

  • Honey is central to a beautiful Jewish tradition carried out in many communities on the first day of preschool. As children prepare to learn the Hebrew alphabet, they are shown the letters covered with a dollop of honey. As the children lick off the honey, they learn their first valuable lesson that studying is sweet.

  • King Solomon compared honey to wisdom: “Eat honey, my child, for it is good, and drippings of the honeycomb and sweet on your palate; so is knowledge of wisdom to your soul….” (Proverbs 24:13-14).


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