Why and How Do Bees Make Honey?

One healthy beehive produces and consumes more than 50kg of honey in a single year. And, that does take a lot of work.

No wonder the bees are all dedicated and sincere in their honey production. But, why do they tire themselves with that much load of work. If it’s just for eating, then why make a huge reserves in proportionate to the need!

Well, could sound as silly as it can, but we bothered to do some searches and found some sort of answers to the queries on why and how do bees make honey.

The Reason Why Bees Make Honey?

Honey is what bees like to eat. They need nectar, the sweet liquid found in the middle of the flower, to make that honey. A colony of bees can eat up to 100-200 pounds of honey in a single year!

They need such large amounts of honey to keep the entire colony active and alive. This food choice helps them survive cold winter months. They always store their honey prior to winter, since there are very few flowers left during that season.

Even the bloomed flowers remain untouched by the bees due to extreme cold.

The significantly high sugar content of honey makes it a great source of nutrients and energy. Surprising as it may seem, these small creatures need a great lot of energy at all times. Even when they are not flying, bees have to keep their wings active to maintain the internal hive temperature.

Bees have a tendency to store their honey for long terms. They always store far more than they need and that is why humans can take the bees’ honey without endangering their food stock.

This habit for hoarding helps them avoid risking their lives in search for honey during winter.

This is also the reason behind the higher activity levels of bees in the spring. They know that they are not going to find food in winter. So, they prepare for the possibility of a summer drought (when there would be little growth or occurrence of pollination).

How Do Bees Make Honey? – Described in Easy Detail

Honey is a converted form of nectar. Nectar looks a lot like sugary water, and is the mixture of sucrose and water. The general misconception is that honey is collected by bees and stored in hives.

In reality, it does not come out of the flowers in the form of a gold-colored adhesive. At first, the foragers (worker bees who collect nectar) set out to find a proper source of nectar.

The Search Begins

These bees are only three weeks old when they set out for search of food for the hive. On one foraging trip, a forager bee goes to around 100 flowers.

Most bees only collect nectar and pollens. And once they do, they dive in head first with their elongated, specially modified tongues to consume little drops of nectar into one of the two stomachs that is later transferred to the bees in the beehive.

Nectar Collection & Carriage

To fill one honey stomach, a bee has to collect nectar from more than a thousand flowers. After that, the bees return to their hive and during that journey, their stomach already starts releasing digestive enzymes that assist in turning the nectar into honey.

And if hungry, they can take some nectar from that stomach for themselves as a payment of some sort since they obviously need the energy. The aforementioned digestive enzyme converts sucrose into two types of six-carbon sugar, glucose and fructose.

A second enzyme “glucose oxidase” transforms a small amount of glucose into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. This makes it an acid medium with a low pH that is unwelcoming to bacteria, mold, microbes and fungi.

The Key Processing

Upon arrival, the honey carried by the forager goes through a chain of vomit, which is transferred from bee to bee.

This continuous chain of passing on the nectar vomit is essential because as each bee adds more digestive enzyme to the long chain of complex sugar, more simple mono saccharides like fructose and glucose are formed.

And this process goes on until the moisture content is down to 20% (which initially was 70%).  However, sometime this process is skipped and the substance is directly stored into the bee cells if the internal beehive temperature is enough to bring down the moisture.

Even after the end of the process, the nectar remains very watery. To get rid of the excess water, all worker bees beat their wings continuously to create an air current inside the hive.

The decrease in water content provides a high osmotic pressure environment and safeguards the hive against microbes. This air current not only evaporates and thickens the nectar, but also caps the beehive cells with beeswax.

This certain step indicates that they are ready for the newborn babies to come. The evaporated water content leaves the sugar concentration beyond saturation point and prevents fermentation. This final evaporation step helps the substance in converting itself into honey.

Questions Out of Curiosity?

Well, if you have an innocent child-like perspective or you are the kid yourself, you may think it’s unethical to snatch honey away from the beehives. Plus, there are also some common queries out there in general. It’s time we answer a few for you!

1. Is it really okay to take the hard-earned honey from bees? 

Bees are a hard-working bunch and yes, they do collect honey for themselves and their upcoming babies. But apparently, they collect far more honey than they even need for survival. Hence, cultivation and collection of honey from beehives is completely normal.

2. How to get rid of the beehive in my garden?

Beehives are more of a seasonal phenomenon. It’s better to do nothing about a beehive. They do not sting or harm unless provoked such as when children throw rocks at them.

And since they have already built a hive, they are an established colony of bees rather than just a random swarm of bees. They will surely attack if provoked or if their hive is attacked on.

However, if you are still insisting on getting rid of it, I would suggest contacting local beekeepers about this matter. They are the first people to go to in such cases.

3. Why does the honey in my cupboard get solidified?

This solidification is called crystallization of honey and is an absolutely natural phenomenon. In fact, this process of turning the glucose into crystals helps to preserve the nutrients and flavor of the honey.

Honey with lower levels of glucose is less likely to crystallize. Also, crystallized honey is safe for intake and, in some cases, better than liquid ones.

4. How do I de-crystallize my honey?

Honey kept in glass jars can be de-crystallized using the hot water method. The jars are kept in bowls of boiling water and the lids of the jars remain open. This way, the supplied heat liquefies the solid crystals of glucose. Your work is done.

Conclusion

Honey Bees have contributed immensely to the ecosystem. And, that does not merely refer to their honey-making ability but also the role they play in pollinating the flowers and vegetables.

So, if there’s a beehive in your garden, let it be. Bee colonies are collapsing at a worrisome rate so it’s time to play your part in helping these Honey Bees out.

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