It’s common knowledge that bees make honey, but not all types of bees produce the honey we use. Bumblebees and honey wasps make small amounts of honey, but the golden stuff we stir into our tea is made by one of seven species of bees.
Watch the SciShow video below to see the fascinating process of how bees make honey.
Why Do Bees Make Honey?
Bees make honey for food to store and stockpile in the hive.
Different Types of Bees in the Honey Making Process:
The Forager Bee: Most of the responsibility for honey making falls on the female workers, or the forager bees. Forager bees buzz from flower to flower, sucking up nectar with their long, tube-like tongues. They also build and defend the hive and the queen.
The Queen: She’s very prolific, because her job is to lay a ton of eggs. Queens can lay up to a quarter million eggs per year.
Male Drone Bees: Their sole job is to mate with the queen. During intercourse their phallus pops off and then they die. If they don’t mate with the queen, they die at the end of summer. It’s a short, sweet life.
Processor Bee: This bee deposits honey into honeycomb cells and prepares it for long-term storage.
How Do Bees Make Honey?
1. The busy forager bee (worker bee) collects nectar and stores it in her honey stomach.
2. Once back in the hive, she regurgitates her nectar into a processor bee’s mouth.
3. The processor bee then spits it into a honeycomb cell. An enzyme called invertase comes with the nectar from the processor bee’s mouth. This enzyme changes the nectar into glucose and fructose, which helps preserve it for long-term storage.
4. At this point, the nectar is very watery (about 70 percent water). The bees in the hive start fanning the honeycomb with their wings until the water evaporates and the nectar becomes honey. (The finished product has a water content of 17 percent).
Why Should We Care About Bees?
If you think bees are only useful for making honey, which in itself is a miraculous gift from nature, then think again. As the worker bees fly around gathering nectar, the pollen from the plants they visit sticks to their bodies. While they are busy flying from flower to flower, they are distributing pollen from one plant to another. This is pollination.
Without pollination, many fruit and vegetable plants would not be able to bear their gifts. Almost all of the fruits we eat and the beautiful flowers we enjoy must be pollinated by bees! One-third of our food supply relies on pollination, and bees do 80 percent of the work.
Since 2006, bees have been dying off at an alarming rate. Dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, experts blame a variety of factors including pesticides, climate change, and immune system distress. If our bees continue to die at this rate, it could have a devastating impact on our food supply.
HoneyColony’s mission is to bring awareness to the plight of the bees and help find solutions. One of our co-founders is the director of the award-winning film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page. To learn more, check out our Save the Bees set:
Naomi Imatome-Yun is a food, wellness, and lifestyle editor. Her work appears in USA Today, Yahoo, and Dining Out. She is the author of Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce and is a food expert for About.com. Naomi lives in Santa Monica and spends her days running, reading, playing beach volleyball, doing yoga, wandering through sculpture parks, and dancing around with her husband and sons.
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