Do you love sweets? Would you like to know how bees make honey in those treats?  You'll be amazed at how hard they work to provide this sweet liquid. Once you learn how bees make honey, you won't look at another bee or honey the same way again.


Facts About Honey


When we think of honey, many people think of something they put in their tea. But there are other ways it has been used that you might not know of. Here are some facts you might find surprising about honey.


Honey Has Eternal Life

Honey Has Eternal Life

It is not a well-known fact, but honey actually never goes bad. It can last a long time in your pantry or on your counter. In fact, they have actually found honey that was still good in Egyptian tombs.

It can last such a long time because of how bees make honey. Bees make honey from nectar gathered from flowers. They add an enzyme that decomposes the nectar into hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid and helps fight bacteria. Later, they flap their wings to draw out the moisture. This process is the reason honey can last such a long time.


Better Than Money

bee on top of a flower

In 11th century Germany, the people there loved honey and used it in their beer. They desired it more than money. When it was time to collect from the peasants, rulers had them pay with honey and beeswax.


Bees Eat Honey

close up of a bee eating fruit

Little did we know that bees also eat their own honey. Most honey bee larvae eat honey while adult bees tend to rely on pollen for nutrition. During the winter months, they also live off of honey. They are busy during the summer storing honey to help their hive survive. They use this honey to give them energy when heating their hive. When it is cold outside, they warm their hive inside by doing a shivering motion with their bodies.

In winter, the entire colony may need as little as 40 pounds to survive in warmer climates, but in colder regions, hives need closer to 90 pounds of honey each winter. Throughout an entire year, a colony of honey bees will eat as much as 200 pounds of honey.


Bee Colony Production

bee in a beehive frame
A full frame of honey

The bees must make a lot of honey to survive in the winter. They generally make double or triple the amount they need. So the beekeeper takes just enough that the bees won't miss. Often if the beekeepers take too much, the bees replace the honey with sugar syrup to make up the difference. Beekeepers should still try not to cut into what the colony needs so there is no risk of losing the hive to starvation over winter.


Nectar Determines The Color

different color of honey

If you've ever wondered how bees make honey with different colors and flavors, you might be surprised to learn it depends on the kind of flowers the nectar comes from. If nectar is taken from Linden trees, found in the Appalachian Mountains, it is lighter and woodsy tasting. But should it be from Buckwheat, it is black and tastes strong and spicy. When the nectar is taken from Eucalyptus, it has a menthol flavor. Whatever the nectar is taken from, it will carry that flavor within it.


Honey Can Be Used As Medicine

honey as medicine

Honey can be used as a common treatment for some colds and ailments. It has been used this way as far back as the Mesopotamian times. Due to being bacteria free, it was used on burns and cuts as a bandage. It prevented any infection from forming while it healed.  In addition, it can be used to treat allergies, dandruff and stomach ulcers.


Bees Are Not The Only Ones That Make Honey

bee collecting nectar

This might come as a shock but, believe it or not, bees aren't the only ones that can make honey. There are wasps that make honey as well. The Mexican honey wasp makes a great deal of honey but it can be poisonous. This isn't because of the honey itself but because of the flowers they drew the nectar from, such as poisonous Datura blooms.


Some Bees Don't Make Honey

bees on frame

It may be hard to believe, but there are bees that don't make honey. Only about seven out of 20,000 species of bees make honey.


Bees Are Not New To Making Honey

bee looking for food

When flowering plants first appeared on this earth about 130 million years ago, bees started to evolve, separating from wasps. They took a few million years to do so but once they did they made honey. The first fossil of a honey bee dates to 25 million years ago and proves that bees have been around for a while. Humans also used honey for much of our history. There are cave drawings of honey that date back about 15,000 years.


Facts About Bees


What Is A Queen Bee?

A queen bee is the mother of the hive. A queen bee is created by feeding the larva a protein liquid found on the heads of young bees. The liquid is called royal jelly. Queen larvae hatch only one at a time but once they do, they will fight each other until the death. Only one queen can survive and rule the hive.

She mates once early in her lifetime. During mating, she collects sperm from ten to forty drones. The sperm is stored to be used for laying eggs throughout her life. She lays these during the summer which is when the hive is most active. The queen bee is the only one that lays eggs and can lay as many as 1,500 a day.


How Do Bees Communicate?

How Do Bees Communicate?

The most interesting aspect of all is how a honey bee communicates with the others. Since they can't speak or make noises like other animals, they have to use their bodies. They have a special way of letting the other workers know where to find the best nectar. They do two different dances. One is called a “round dance” and the other a “waggle dance.” Here are the explanations for them both:


Round Dance

A round dance means that the flowers with the nectar are close by. When they find flowers that are about 30 yards away from the hive they do this dance. It is done by flying around in a circle one direction and then going in a circle the other direction.


Waggle Dance

A waggle dance means that the flowers with the nectar are farther than 30 yards. There is a different dance depending on where the food source is in relationship to the hive and the sun. They would do a waggle line if they were indicating that the source was located right in front of or behind the hive and the sun was straight ahead.  But, should it not be directly nearby the hive, they would adjust the waggle dance angle to the degrees the source is from the sun.

 

The Lifespan Of A Queen

Queens are chosen when they are just larvae in the honeycomb. Unlike the surrounding larvae, they are fed royal jelly instead of honey. Once they become adult queens, they are responsible for laying the eggs of new generations of worker bees and drones. Queens usually live for two or three years, but might live as long as five years before a new queen must be groomed.


The Lifespan Of A Drone

A drone is a type of bee within the hive and it lives from four weeks or up to four months. A drone is a male bee born from an unfertilized egg. There are only about 200 per hive and its sole reason for living is to fertilize the queen. Once it does so, then it dies.


The Lifespan Of A Worker Bee

A worker bee is the most common of all bees when you think about bees and how bees make honey. They are females that came from a fertilized egg. Worker bees are smaller and live about six to seven weeks during the height of the honey producing season. These bees are the key ones when thinking how bees make honey.  They have jobs unlike those of the other bees. These are:

  • Making honeycombs and honey
  • Caring for the drones in the hive
  • Tending to the queen
  • Collecting nectar and pollen

 

Pollination Helps The Crops

Without bees, crops wouldn't survive. Each year farmers in the US have the bees to thank for keeping $20 billion in crops flourishing. Most of the food that we eat exists because of bee pollination. One-third of our food relies on the bees pollinating it. The honey bees help our economy and the environment.


Bee Beards

In the past back in the 1930s those that would sell honey would get attention from the customers by using bee beards. These beards were made up of real bees that would swarm around the chin of the salesperson. He would place a queen bee in a small cage under his chin and then other bees would swarm around the cage creating a bee beard. Nowadays this is actually done in competitions in Canada to see who can create the most amazing beard of bees.  


Many Types Of Bees

The population of bees is about 25,000 species but not all produce honey. For instance, a bumble bee and carpenter bee do not make honey but they can store nectar for their food. The only ones that make honey are the honey bees, which fall under the genus Apis. There are 44 different subspecies of honey bees with more variants under each.


Honey Bees Are All Over The World

Most places in the world have honey bees except for the year-round cold climates. Honeybees are found in mild temperatures where flowers are abundant. They originally came from South Asia where it was forested and had tropical weather. They thrive better in warmer temps.

You can find most honey bees flying around your garden, orchards, or wherever you have flowers. Most wild honey bees build their hives in the hollowed out parts of trees. Farmed honey bees live in framed boxes that make it easier for beekeepers to access the hive and honey.


Not Much Room In The Hive

If you have ever seen a bee hive you have noticed the incredible amount of bees that swarm in and out. While you might see a few come and go, there are often between twenty to eighty thousand bees inside a single hive.


Benefits Of Honey

health benefits of honey

This wonderful sweet gold liquid is quite the little helper for naturally healing our bodies. There are some great benefits to using honey for your health and beauty needs.


Contains Antioxidants

Honey has an antioxidant fighting power that helps combat different health issues. The antioxidants in honey can help with blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, help with different types of cancer and strokes.


May Be Safe For Diabetes

The ruling on this is still not in but it might be alright for people with certain types of diabetes to use honey. As with any form of sugar, you should consult your doctor when diagnosed with diabetes. But studies have shown that honey actually helped reduce the risk of heart disease for people with type 2 diabetes. It should be pure honey if you intend on using it. Check the label and make sure that plain syrup isn't added.


Helps Lower Cholesterol

Honey can help lower LDL cholesterol levels which helps lower the risk of heart disease.  When you have high LDL cholesterol, your arteries have a fatty buildup inside that could lead to a stroke or heart attack. Studies now show that honey can help lower the LDL, the bad number in cholesterol. But, at the same time, it increases the HDL which is considered good cholesterol.


Use Honey On The Skin

While honey is good to eat, it is also great as a topical ointment on your skin. Honey can help fight infection and keep down inflammation Using honey on your skin can help with healing wounds and burns that are infected. It can be used especially on your feet if you have ulcers caused by diabetes.


Helps With Coughs

This is a common usage of honey but one that is worth mentioning. Coughing causes us to lose sleep so that our bodies cannot rest and get better. Coughing is rough on us all but especially on children. Children, especially young ones, are more susceptible to getting respiratory infections. Some cough medications do not work well and contain ingredients that might not be good for your child. Giving toddlers and older children honey can suppress their cough and allow them to get some rest. You should not give honey to infants under a year old because they risk contracting botulism.  


How Bees Make Honey

bee working in honey

It is amazing to know honey is one of the few non-plant foods that humans can eat directly without having to put it through a purification process. There are only a few steps to know when learning how bees make honey.


Nectar From Flowers

The first part of how bees make honey starts with honey bees finding flowers.  Foraging bees collect the nectar from flowers using their proboscis. This is a small tube in their mouth that sticks out to help them sip the nectar. Bees will drink nectar until they are full.


The Honey Pouch

The nectar is then stored in their "honey pouch" until they can return to the hive. This pouch is a second, separate stomach from the one the bees use to eat food. The honey pouch is a vital part of how bees make honey.  Most honey bees can hold about 70 mg of nectar before having to head back to the hive. Foraging bees will visit anywhere between 100 and 1,500 flowers to fill their honey pouch before returning to the hive.


Invertase Breaks Down Sugars

Worker bees have a gland inside their mouth that secretes a special enzyme called invertase. When the foraging bees return to the hive and regurgitate the nectar, they pass it on to a younger worker bee. The worker bee will "chew" the nectar in its mouth for half an hour, mixing it with the invertase. The enzyme partially breaks down the sugars from complex to simple sugars. The invertase enzyme changes the nectar to make it digestible and resistant to bacteria. This process ripens the nectar and is one of the most important parts of how bees make honey.


Into The Honeycomb

The worker bee then puts the processed nectar into the honeycomb. The worker bees vibrate their wings over top of the exposed liquid to help dry it to make it thicker. Once it reaches the right consistency, worker bees put was over the cells to seal it up. The honey is stored until bees or larvae are ready to eat it.

 

Conclusion

Now that you know how bees make honey this should help you understand how to plan your own hive and honey production. You can use honey to help with your health or as a topical ointment. As you set about caring for your bees, you can appreciate all the effort that these little bees put into making it. They might be small but they pack a powerful and amazing liquid punch.

 

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