How does a bee make honey?

April 29, 2022


How does a bee make honey?

Nowhere in the world is there anything to compare with the incredible efficiency of the industry of the honeybee. Inside the beehive each bee has a special job to do and the whole process runs smoothly.

You probably already know about the most important ingredient needed to make honey: flowers.

A colony of bees can visit up to 50 million flowers each day, with as many as 60,000 bees in each colony. They’re not called busy bees for nothing! 

All bees during their life have different roles, depending on how old they are. 

Honey bees work together as a team to make decisions about where the best flowers are. They communicate with each other using bumps, noises and even dance moves known as the waggle dance.

Bees need two different kinds of food.

One is honey made from nectar, the sugary juice that collects in the heart of the flowers. The other comes from the anthers of flowers, which contain numerous small grains called pollen. Just as flowers have different colours, so do their pollen.

Honey bees collect nectar from flowering plants using their long, tongue-like proboscis. They store the nectar in their 'honey stomach', called a proventriculus, and bring the nectar back to the hive.

Honey bees usually visit flowers within 2km of their hive but can travel up to 5km to collect nectar.

The honeybee will go from her flower to the hive and back again. Most bees gather only pollen or nectar. As she sucks the nectar from the flower, it is stored in her special honey stomach ready to be transferred to the honey-making bees in the hive. If hungry she opens a valve in the nectar “sac” and a portion of the payload passes through to her own stomach to be converted to energy for her own needs.

The bee is a amazing flying machine. She can carry a payload of nectar or pollen close to her own weight.

Consider that even the most advanced design in aircraft can only take off with a load one-quarter of its own weight and you’ll appreciate the miracle that the honeybee can remain airborne with such a load.

When her nectar sacs are full, the honeybee returns to the hive.

Nectar is delivered to one of the indoor bees and is then passed mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee until its moisture content is reduced from about 70% to 20%. This changes the nectar into honey. Sometimes the nectar is stored at once in cells in the honeycomb before the mouth-to-mouth working because some evaporation is caused by the 32.5°C temperature inside the hive.

The nectar is then regurgitated and deposited into honeycomb cells.

Next, worker bees in the hive will ingest the nectar and enzymes in their honey stomach will break down the sugars. Polysaccharides and disaccharides found in nectar are turned into monosaccharides. Sucrose is the main sugar broken down and turns into glucose and fructose. 

The bees will ingest again and again and this process repeats until the correct sugar composition is achieved. Worker bees in the hive then fan the honey with their wings to evaporate water content and ripen the honey.

Finally, the honey is placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax. This honey is a food supply for bees and beekeepers take the surplus that the bees produce. It’s important for beekeepers to leave enough honey for their bees to overwinter. Overwintering is a northern hemisphere term for colder climates. Two Busy Bees Honey is based in sub tropical Brisbane, QLD, Australia. We are very lucky that we don't have to deal with the cold but the summers sure do get hot here!

A potion of pollen is also mixed with nectar to make bee bread, taken down into the brood box and is fed to the larvae in readiness for the arrival of newborn baby bees. A baby bee needs food rich in protein if the bee community is to flourish.

Before returning to the flower again for more pollen, the bee combs, cleans and cares for herself.

Not because she is vain but so she can work more efficiently. Throughout her life cycle, the bee will work tirelessly collecting pollen, bringing it back to the hive, cleaning herself, then setting out for more pollen.

Forager or field bees start out from the hive for blossom patches when three weeks old. As they live to be only six or seven weeks old they have much work to do and little time in which to do it. There will be many other bees working at the same time, and the air will be noisy with their droning. It takes 300 bees about three weeks to gather 450 g of honey. On average, a hive contains 40,000 to 50,000 bees.

This process of ripening the honey allows it to become supersaturated. This is one of the main reasons why honey doesn’t spoil and has antibacterial effects!

How do you extract the honey from the beehive frames?

Once the honey bees finish up a busy season of collecting nectar and making honey, it is time for the beekeeper to extract the honey and prepare it for bottling.

The top layer of wax is cut off the fully capped honeycomb. The wooden frames are then placed in a machine called a centrifuge that spins to extract the honey. The honey is gently filtered to remove any large pieces of beeswax or propolis that were included in the extraction process. The honey is stored in large barrels until it is ready to be bottled.

Once the honey is bottled, it is ready for you to enjoy in your home. That’s it!

Is honey bee vomit or poop?

No – honey is not bee poop, spit or vomit. Honey is made from nectar by reducing the moisture content after it's carried back to the hive. While bees store the nectar inside their honey stomachs, the nectar is not vomited or pooped out before it is turned into honey – not technically, at least. 

Check out all of Two Busy Bees Honey delicious honey products below!


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