What Prevents Honey from Spoiling, Even After Thousands of Years?

What Prevents Honey from Spoiling, Even After Thousands of Years?

Honey has several remarkable properties that make it resistant to spoilage for over long periods of time. Honey stands out as a unique substance, distinct from the perishable goods, even those that are stored in the fridge. Thanks to its extraordinary capacity to survive without spoiling for years. An interesting fact implies the oldest recorded honey was discovered in a burial tomb in the country of Georgia in 2003, dating to around 3500 BC.

Honey tends to have natural preservatives; honey is hygroscopic due to its sugar content, maintaining an exceptionally low moisture level. This dry condition makes it inhospitable for microorganisms to grow. Furthermore, honey's slightly acidic in nature, with a pH level of approximately 3.9, acts as an additional defence against microbial growth, contributing to its excellent longevity.

The bees play an essential role in the long-lasting imperishable state of honey. When bees gather nectar, it initially contains a significant amount of water. Through a unique process, bees work diligently to eliminate this excess moisture. They achieve this by using their wings to create airflow within the hive, gradually dehydrating the nectar over a span of one to three days. This transformative process reduces the nectar's water content to approximately 17%, ultimately converting it into honey.


Factors responsible for honey's longevity:

  • Low water content: Microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, require water to grow and multiply. Honey's low water content effectively dehydrates these potential spoilers, making it impossible for them to thrive. Hence, this is one of the important factors why honey goes long and long without decaying.
  • Sugar content: Honey is primarily composed of sugars, glucose and fructose. Honey's high sugar content works as a natural preservative.  This excess sugar binds water molecules, reducing the amount of free water available for microorganisms to use.
  • Low pH: Honey is naturally acidic, with a pH ranging from 3.2 to 4.5. The low pH further hinders the growth of many bacteria and microorganisms, as they thrive in neutral or slightly alkaline conditions. The acidity of honey helps to preserve it over time.
  • Production of hydrogen peroxide: Bees have an enzyme known as glucose oxidase stomach. When bees regurgitate nectar, it mixes with this enzyme, resulting in the formation of gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide as byproducts. The presence of hydrogen peroxide within honey contributes to the establishment of an environment unfavourable for bacteria and other microorganisms, thus safeguarding the long-term preservation of honey.
  • Safe and, airtight packaging: Honey is typically stored in sealed containers, which prevent external contaminants from entering and spoiling the honey. Shiva Organic Honey provides quality organic honey with the best packaging. It's essential to note that honey's long shelf life also depends on its proper storage in a sealed container, away from moisture, and exposure to air. If honey is contaminated or allowed to absorb moisture, it can spoil over time.


In final words, these combined factors, low water content, high sugar concentration, acidity, and natural antibacterial properties have kept honey preserved and edible for an extremely long time, even thousands of years. Archaeologists have found pots of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that are still perfectly edible after thousands of years. So, dip a spoonful of honey or drizzle it on your favourite dish without any stress and keep up with your health. 

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