Written By Gautam Shankar, 8th Grader
Recently, the Middle School Classroom used a refractometer to figure out the water and sugar content in our honey after we extracted. This year, instead of combining all the honey into a couple of buckets we used a separate bucket for each super so we could do experiments with it and compare each one to the others. We used the refractometer, not only for the science we are doing but also because we are submitting our honey into a competition.
In a honey competition, your honey has to be between 14% to 18% water. If there is too much water it could ferment and if it has too little water the judges could think that we artificially tried to dry our honey. All of our honey was within the competition parameters.
One interesting finding in our comparisons was that the AZ hive had higher sugar content and less water. All of the supers from the Langstroth hives had around the same amount of water and sugar in them, but the AZ hive honey had less water, more sugar, and weighed more. We hypothesize that this might be due to the AZ hive being in a hotter space much of the year (protected by the hive house). We hope to design and experiment for next season that will allow us to test this hypothesis. We also plan to interview experts to see what they think about this hypothesis.
A refractometer (ree-frak-tom-i-ter) is a tool which uses light to measure the amount of sugar and water in a liquid. It works by measuring the angle of light after it goes through a liquid by doing this it is able to determine the water and sugar content in a liquid.
The refractometer measures the amount of sugar using the Brix scale. The Brix scale is largely used in the honey, sugar, fruit juice, carbonated beverage, wine, and maple syrup industries. The Brix scale uses the mass of the liquid to figure out how much sugar is in a liquid instead of volume. One Brix in the Brix scale is equal to one gram of sugar, sucrose to be more specific, in a 100 gram solution. Since honey is relatively dense 100 grams of honey is not that much at all being only around 4¾ tablespoons of honey.
In the near future, we plan to learn more about and conduct experiments on the honey and hives. In the spring, we are also going to use liquid nitrogen to see and compare hygienic behavior in the queen bees. Hygienic behavior in a queen bee helps the hive deal with varroa mites and infected brood better resulting in a healthier hive. We will share our results once we conduct the experiment.