How Is Honey Made?

Many people are curious and want to know How Is Honey Made?

So to answer this question, I have searched the web and found a great little educational video which I think could really help you to answer this fascinating question. How is Money Made?

The author is It’s Okay To Be Smart by PBS Digital Studios. Video length is 6 minutes and we thank them for producing this short educational video.

If you would like to learn more information about Manuka Honey specifically, please click here.

I hope you really like it.  I welcome any comments or feedback in the Comments section below.

Thank you for stopping by.

How Do Bees Make Honey?

It’s Okay To Be Smart by PBS Digital Studios

Publish date of March 28, 2016

The Western or European Honeybee (Apis mellifera) pollinates ¾ of the fruit, vegetables and nuts that we eat.  We would be in trouble without them. Of course there is a reason we don’t call them zucchini bees, almond bees or Applebees, they also give us honey.

One healthy hive will make and consume more than 50 kilograms of honey a single year.  And that takes a lot of work.  Honey is made from nectar, but it doesn’t come out of flowers as that golden sticky stuff. But after finding a suitable food source, bees dive in head first, using their long specially adapted tongues to slurp up tiny sips of nectar into one of two stomachs.  A single bee may have to drink from more than  1,000 flowers to fill its honey stomach, which can weigh as much as the bee itself when it is full of nectar.

Now on the way back to the hive, digestive enzymes are already working to turn that nectar into sweet gold.  when she returns to the hive, the forager bee will vomit the nectar into the mouth of another worker and that bee will vomit the nectar into another bees mouth and so on.

This game of regurgitation telephone is an important part of the honey making process.  Since each bee adds more digestive enzymes to turn long chains of complex sugars in the raw nectar into simple mono saccharides like fructose and glucose.  Now at this point the nectar is still pretty watery, so the bees beat their wings and create an air current inside the hive to evaporate and thicken the nectar. Finally capping the cell with beeswax so the enzyme rich bee barf can complete its transformation into honey.

Because of it’s low water content and acidic ph. Honey isn’t a very inviting place for bacteria or yeast spoilage.  It has an incredibly long shelf life, either in the hive or in your pantry.  Honey has even been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years, pretty much unspoilt.  Although I wouldn’t personally eat it, you know, just in case.

For one (1) pound (1lb of honey), 10,000 of foraging bees will together fly more than three times around the world and visit upto 8 million flowers.  That takes teamwork and organisation and while they can’t talk, they do communicate, with “body language”.

Bee foragers “dance” to tell other bees where to find food. A circle dance means flowers are pretty close to the hive, but for food that is further away, they get their waggle on.

The waggle dance of the Honey Bee was first decoded by Karl von Frisch and it’s definitely one of the coolest examples of animal communication in nature. First the bee walks in a straight line wagging it’s body back and forth and vibrating their wings.  Before repeating in a figure 8 shape. Whatever angle the bee walks while waggling, tells the other bees what direction to go.

If it’s straight up the line to the honeycomb then the food is in the direction of the sun.  If the dance is pointed to the left of the right, the other bees know to fly at that angle relative to the sun. The longer the “waggle” the further away the food is.  The better the food, the more excited the bee shakes it’s body.

If that is not amazing enough, even if they can’t see the sun itself, they can infer where it is and the time of day by reading the polarization of light in the blue sky.

A single bee is a pretty simple creature but together they create highly complex and social societies.  There are three main classes in a bee hive,  Drones, Workers and Queens.  Now when a new queen is born, she  immediately runs around and kills her sisters.  Because there can be only one.

During mating season she will fly to a distant hive and mate with several males and then store away their sperm, which she will use back at her home hive to lay more than 1000 eggs per day throughout the rest of her life.

Any unfertilized eggs, those that don’t meet up with sperm, will mature into male drones.  Which means they only have one set of chromosomes.

All fertilized eggs are all genetically female and are destined to be either Queen Bees or workers. Queens do the egg laying of course, but worker bees are the backbone of the beehive.

Queen Bee in Hive with worker bees. Source: Wikimedia Commons

So what makes most females become workers while just one wears the hive crown?  A baby bees diet activates genetic programming that shifts its entire destiny.  Every bee larvae is initially fed a nutrient rich food called “Royal Jelly”.  But after a few days, worker bee babies are switched to a mixture of pollen and honey called “bee bread”.  But Queens eat royal jelly their whole life, even as adults.   Scientists used to think that it was just Royal Jelly that put Queens on the throne.  Just last year, they discovered one chemical in Bee Bread, the food the Queen don’t get, that keeps worker bees sterile.  Being a Queen seems to be just as much about what bees don’t eat as well as what they do.

Making honey is insect farming on it’s grandest scale. With intricate societies cooperating to make a food to fit for bear tummies, big and small.  With the pleasant side effect of pollenating most of the world’s flowering plants.   I’d say that it’s a “pretty sweet deal”.

Stay Curious.

To learn more about  Manuka Honey, please click here.

To watch more videos by The author is It’s Okay To Be Smart and PBS Digital Studios please click here. 

What did you think about how bees make honey?  Did you learn something new?  Can you add any personal stories to information above?  If yes, please feel free to leave any comments in the section below.  Thank for visiting my site and watching this video.

4 Replies to “How Is Honey Made?”

  1. Good to know and enhance my knowledge about how difficult honey being made. Not easy at all.

    Now I know how great bees societies are and each of them knows their role respectively. How amazing is this about. On top of that, I was attracted by the amount in litre that can carry by a healthy bee.

    If I didn;t get to read your article I wouldn’t know so much about it.

    Thank you for letting me know and keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you Maxx.  Yes, I agree!  Bees really are wonderful creatures.  We are certainly lucky that mother nature has created them as our little helpers.  I am glad that I was happy to help you today.  Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Wow that video was really interesting, it just occurred to me when I seen the link to your site that I had no idea how this happened. The fact that it takes so much time for the bees to actually make the honey kind of make me appreciate it a little more.

    Although the fact that bees are sick into each others mouths kind puts me off!

    1. he he he!! You are spot on Lyle.  It made me stop and think about it as well, and then I thought of course, they don’t have any other tools to help transport the nectar around.  My kids LOVE this part about making honey and make them laugh and laugh.  Thanks for stopping by.

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