How Do Bees Make Honey?

How Do Bees Make Honey?

It’s hard to believe, but the honey you eat is made by bees. Have you ever stopped to wonder how they do it? Before David became a beekeeper I know I did.

Honey is produced from nectar the worker bees collect when they gather their food. Each collecting trip can include visits to 150 to 1,500 flowers. At each flower, the bees suck up a tiny bit of nectar and add it to her “honey stomach,” which is different from her digestive stomach. As she continues her collection, a unique enzyme is added to the honey stomach which changed the complex sugar in the nectar into a simple sugar that is found in the honey we eat.  It’s crazy to imagine that by the time she returns to the hive, the nectar in her honey stomach can weigh almost as much as she does, forcing her to fly at a low altitude back to their hive.

Once back at the hive, the bees regurgitate, yes, I said, regurgitate, (as in puke) the enzyme enhanced nectar into waiting honeycomb cell, one drop at a time. During the peak of summer, the nectar is transferred, mouth to mouth from a worker bee to a drone bee who carry it to back to the hive to allow the worker bees to continue collecting.

The honey the worker bees bring to the hive is about 80% water. With the of the warmth of the hive, staying a constant 95 degree,  the water starts to evaporate, and with the help of the worker bees fanning the liquid with their wings the nectar continues to evaporate to about 17 % water which is the consistency we know as honey. The drones then cap the filled cells with beeswax which keeps it safe and protects it from spoiling.

You are now probably wondering what the bees do with the honey; you already know what we do with it.  The bees use the honey for their nutritional needs and keep in stored for winter. Beekeepers safely collect about 50% of the honey and still have it be safe for the bees.

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