Most lists of “functional foods” – those that provide health advantages beyond basic nutrition – did not include honey until recently. According to entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Even beekeepers – and certainly bee scientists – considered it nothing more than sugar water.”

Honey contains a number of plant components that affect the health of honey bees, according to a flurry of studies published since then. Honey contains compounds that can help bees live longer, fight infections and heal wounds, and adapt to hard situations like extreme cold. The findings point to approaches to help bees that have been harmed by parasites, chemical exposure, and habitat loss in recent years.

Honey is a sweetener that tastes great on toast and in tea, but it’s so much more. The sticky liquid is mostly sugar, which is consumed by hive members, but it also contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds, which give honey its distinctive flavor and provide bees with a number of health advantages.