You must be wondering How Honeybees Make Honey. Who doesn’t love the golden, delicious substance called honey? It’s no secret that insects called Apis Mellifera, commonly called honey bees make honey. Have you ever wondered how they turn flower nectar into a thick, sweet liquid that humans drool over? From gathering nectar to the final stages of honey-making, we’ve got all the buzz on these amazing insects.
Before knowing How Honeybees Make Honey, check out what’s Inside The Bee Hive – Types Of HoneyBees
If you think every honey in the bee hive can make honey, you are wrong. In any bee colony, there are three types of honey bees: queen, worker and drone. A colony can have 20,000 to 80,000 honeybees of which there will be only 1 queen, hundreds of drones and thousands of workers.
In a beehive, there is only one queen bee and all other bees are its offspring. You can easily distinguish it as it is the biggest one and hence lives in the largest hexagon block in the hive. Its primary job is to lay eggs and regulate the hive’s activity. It usually lays worker or male bee eggs but lays a queen egg if the colony gets too big. Once the baby queen grows, the colony is divided and the mother queen leaves the hive with half of the workers. This is called swarming.
Worker bees are female bees and are the ones that do most of the work. They are smaller in size than both the queen and the drones. They collect nectar from the flowers, store them in the beehive and make honey. Apart from making honey, they do other work like building the honeycombs, producing beeswax, attending to the queen, taking care of young larvae, hive defence, regulating the temperature, foraging for nectar, pollen and water etc. A worker bee’s role depends on its age and maturity. About 99% of the bees in a hive are workers!
Drone bees are the male bees and are the laziest in the colony! Their only role is to mate with a virgin queen bee so that the queen can reproduce. The funny thing is they instantly die upon mating. They are larger than the workers but smaller than the queen bee. Unlike the other bees, a male bee doesn’t have a stinger. Yes, a male bee cannot sting you. Since they consume more food than workers, they are forced out of the hive if their number exceeds or resources become scarce.
How HoneyBees Make Honey?
Except for reproduction, female bees do almost all the work in a bee hive. It’s no secret that they make honey by collecting nectar from flowers. But how exactly do they convert the nectar to the sweet, delicious edible liquid called honey? Here is the step-by-step process of how Honeybees Make Honey.:
1. Collecting The Nectar
Nectar is a sweet liquid found in a flower’s organ called the nectary. It contains 70-80% of water and three types of sugars: glucose, sucrose and fructose. It also has some scent to attract bees and other insects for pollination. Honeybees pick up the scent from their highly sensitive antennae. They collect the nectar from flowers using a long straw-like tongue called a proboscis.
A honey bee has two stomachs: one to store food and the other to store nectar called the proventriculus. It’s commonly called “honey stomach” and stores about 40 mg of nectar, 80% of the bee’s weight. The honey stomach has an enzyme called invertase that breaks down complex sugars into simple ones that are less prone to crystallisation. Once the honey stomach is full, the bee returns to its hive.
Honeybees also collect the pollen on their hairy body to feed the young bees in the hive. This is why raw honey contains some pollen dust.
2. Turning The Nectar Into Honey
After returning to its hive, the worker bee passes the nectar to other younger worker bees, also called house bees. These house bees pass around the nectar from mouth to mouth where each bee will chew the nectar for about 30 minutes. But why? To reduce the nectar’s moisture content.
During chewing, the enzymes in the honeybees break down the sugars and proteins making them more acidic. Removing the water content ensures that no bacteria or fungi grow and prevents honey from fermentation. Once the water level in the nectar is reduced from 70 to 18-20%, they push the honey to the hexagon-shaped honey cells.
3. Dehydrating The Honey
The honey bees further dehydrate the honey after storing them in the honeycomb. They do this by continuously fanning their wings to create a warm breeze. They also maintain a warm temperature of around 35℃ or 95℉ in the hive. This process further evaporates the water content preventing any chances of fermentation. You are now left with a highly concentrated sweet golden syrup called honey.
4. Sealing The Honeycomb
Just like how we store our food by sealing them airtight, bees also seal their fruits of labour. Once the honey is dried out, the honeybees seal the honeycombs using fresh beeswax. They store honey for the winter when they open individual cells and consume the honey, which is nothing but their food.
Wait, does that mean we are actually consuming their food? Actually, yes. But don’t worry, honeybees make more honey than they can consume. And ethical beekeepers ensure that they don’t take away all their food. We will tell you how they extract and process the honey in the coming articles.
So, that was all about how honey bees convert sweet nectar from flowers to a delicious golden liquid called honey. Honey is basically dehydrated, highly concentrated nectar from flowers. And it takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to make just one teaspoon of honey!!!
If you want to try some ethically sourced, 100% natural and organic honey, we have some amazing varieties. Yes, we have different types of honey like ajwain, berry, coffee and many more. Check them out here.