We all know the term “busy as a bee,” and we also know we have our buzzing little friends to thank for every spoonful of honey. However, it’s easy to take for granted all the hard work that goes into a jar of sweetness. What actually happens inside those hives is less than common knowledge, especially if you just started exploring the world of bees. How do honey bees create honey? Let’s find out.
Search for Nectar
A worker bee’s journey begins as they exit their hive to search for flowers. Though they tend to stay as close to the hive as possible, bees will travel a couple miles out to forage. A bee searches for flowers high in sugary nectar and protein-rich pollen. When it’s successfully found a target, the bee will suck out nectar with their long tongue and store it in a second stomach. This stomach, sometimes called a honey stomach, solely stores nectar, and it mixes the nectar with enzymes to remove water. Reducing the water content in the nectar is a vital part of how honey bees create honey. Meanwhile, pollen sticks to the hairs on the bee’s body, and it rides back to the hive with the bee to feed the growing larvae.
Return to the Hive
Once the honey stomach is full—typically carrying nearly the bee’s weight in nectar—the bee returns to the hive with their haul. There, another worker bee takes the nectar from them and uses it to create a simple syrup. To do this, the bee chews the nectar. This adds more enzymes to break it down and to continue reducing the amount of water. Once this chewing process turns the nectar into honey, the worker bee places it in a honeycomb cell. The honey is spread out to help any water continue to evaporate, and bees within the hive will fan the honey with their wings to help it dry and thicken up over time.
Cap, Rinse, and Repeat
With the honey dried and at the right consistency, a bee comes along to cap the honeycomb cell with beeswax. The honey is now safely stored and ready for consumption. Meanwhile, the process begins again, as the bees continue to work tirelessly to provide for their hive. A successful hive will put aside enough honey to last through any hard times that hit the hive, such as drought, winter, or other weather that doesn’t provide the necessary plants. When hard times hit, however, honey bee feeders will ensure your colony can continue to thrive throughout the honey-making processes.