No doubt, honey is one of the most delicious foods out there! Sweet and nutritious – what more can you want?
It doesn’t stop there; the way it is made is mind-blowing. It makes you think about the effort and time spent on the making of it.
Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the immense hard work the honey bees put in to make it. And that is what we will discuss.
But before getting into the honey-making process, let’s learn a little about honey bee’s lives.
Honey Bee’s lives – right before the start of the honey making process
The hive must have a queen to keep it functioning. But when the hive gets too big, the queen starts to lay queen cells that are taken care of by nurse bees by feeding it royal jelly.
Once it hatches, the older queen leaves as the virgin queen can kill her. If multiple queen cells hatch, they fight to the death, and the last one standing is the new queen.
After that, the virgin queen goes high in the sky, and the strongest and best drone (male bee) makes its way to the virgin queen, and they mate.
The queen returns to the hive and lays eggs and determines what each bee will be, depending upon the hive’s needs.
And after the eggs hatch, their jobs to start with the honey begins.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the honey-making process, shall we?
Let’s go step by step, making it is easier to understand and throwing in some fun facts about bees between the steps to enhance your knowledge about bees!
Step 1: Searching for Nectar
The honey bees go on their hunt for nectar, a sugary fluid found from the blossoms, and collect it by sucking it out with their straw-like tongues, also known as a proboscis.
They usually fly within a five-mile radius of their hive and suck the nectar from numerous flowers before returning to the hive.
Fun fact 1: There are 300+ varieties of flowers that honey bees can visit, and so the smell, color, and taste of honey can vary.
Step 2: Storing the Nectar
As they suck the nectar out from the flower, it will first go to the bee’s first stomach, which is needed to nourish their bodies.
After they are done with that, the rest of the nectar will then go to their second stomach, also known as the honey sacs or honey stomach, which is just a pouch for storing the nectar to make the honey.
And off they go back to the beehive!
Fun fact 2: Bees can carry nectar almost equivalent to their weight. How amazing is that?
Step 3: Converting the nectar to Honey
Once they reach back to the beehive, there will be younger worker bees (also referred to as house bees) waiting. They then suck the nectar out of the forager’s second stomach with the help of their proboscis.
Once that is done, the house bees will chew it for around half an hour.
During this time, the nectar mixes with enzymes produced in the bees, and nectar’s Ph and chemical compositions start to change, and thus the conversion of nectar into honey begins.
Fun fact 3: All worker honey bees are female as male bees do not even know how to feed themselves, and their only mission is to reproduce with a queen.
Step 4: Dropping the Syrup
Now that the honey is made, the bees drop the honey into the beeswax comb, which is the structure of hexagonal, thin-walled cells made from beeswax by house bees.
This step is repeated until the combs are full.
If you were wondering why many people call honey bee vomit, this step explains why.
Fun fact 4: Sometimes, bees store the nectar in cells at once before the mouth-to-mouth as the evaporation is done by 32.5°C inside the hive.
Step 5: Dehydrating the Honey
The mixture of nectar and enzyme holds too much water, and so the bees work on drying it.
The drying is done by energetically fanning their wings over the honey just at the right speed for the right amount of time until the water evaporates from the nectar.
The water content is decreased to around 20% from 70% – crazy, right?
Fun fact 5: The honey bee’s wings stroke 11,400 times in a minute, making their buzz distinctive.
Step 6: Capping the Honey
The next step is the bees capping the honey with wax, this is to keep the honey from spoiling by allowing more water to come into it, and so they can eat it as fresh as new when the winter comes.
They make enough honey to store for winter – lucky for us; we get to enjoy the delicious honey.
Fun fact 6: The glands of work bees convert the sugar from honey into wax and deposits flakes of it on the abdomen, which they use to cap the honey.
And there you have it, that is how bees make honey.
Come to think of it; it is A LOT of work. And here we are, taking it for granted as it is so easy for us to go and grab a jar of honey – no hard work at all.
Here’s the last fun fact for you: It requires 556 worker bees to make one pound of honey.
Next time you are eating honey, thank the thousands of amazing honey bees that spend most of their lives making this possible, I surely will.
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