Bees are not simply honeybees, but they are also skilled honey consumers. When it comes to comprehending the nutritional benefits of honey, people still have a long way to go.

According to entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, most lists of “functional foods” – those that give health benefits beyond basic nutrition – it was not included until recently, “Even beekeepers – and certainly bee scientists – considered it nothing more than sugar water.” Since then, a flurry of studies has discovered that honey contains a variety of plant components that affect the health of honey bees. Honey contains components that can help bees live longer, boost their ability to fight infections and mend wounds, and increase their tolerance to harsh environments such as extreme cold. The findings indicate ways to rescue bees, which have been affected in recent years by parasites, pesticide exposure, and habitat loss.

“It’s just such a remarkable substance, and I think people maybe still don’t quite appreciate it,” says Berenbaum. Honey is a sweetener that goes well with toast and tea, but it’s so much more. The sticky liquid is largely sugar, which hive members take for sustenance, but it also contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds, which give honey its characteristic flavor and offer bees a variety of health benefits.