Let’s Take Some Time To Appreciate Honey Bees!

by | Nov 28, 2021 | Honey | 0 comments

Bees are vitally important insects. The role they play in the production of honey is nothing short of amazing and something we as humans, should be incredibly thankful for. Below are some interesting reasons why bees deserve our gratitude…

When most of us think about honey, we think about it as something that comes in a jar that we pick up from the shelves of a health store or supermarket. The vast majority of us are unaware of the meticulous amount of hard work that goes into the creation of honey by the bees. Next time you add a few drops of honey to your breakfast toast, cereal and tea, perhaps consider the important role that bees play in making it all possible!

The bee family

Bees work cohesively within their family unit (colony) and the reason honey is so unique is because of the incredible way that it’s made. Bees devote their lives towards contributing to the welfare of the entire colony. Each bee has a precise job requirement in order for the colony to flourish. Honey production and storage is how bees work individually to ensure the collective success of the whole hive.

Some really interesting facts about bees…

  • A large honey bee colony may consume up to 45-90 kilograms of honey in a year.
  • When searching for pollen, a honey bee could visit 100 flowers per trip.
  • Honey bees will travel over a 6 to 8 kilometre radius foraging for pollen and nectar.
  • To make just one pound of honey, honey bees will travel approximately 55,000 miles!
  • Bees have a lifespan of about six weeks and on an individual basis only produce a few grams of honey.
  • While there are around 22,000 bee species, only seven of those species actually produce honey.
  • Honey is collected by the bees and stored for the purpose of surviving the winter months.

HONEY CYCLE

Step 1: Collection of the nectar.

When the worker bee has found a good source of nectar, she gets to work. Using her trunk (or more technically her proboscis), she sucks up nectar from inside the flower of choice. The worker bee is likely to visit in excess of 100 flowers on a single foraging trip.

The nectar is stored in a special sac called a honey stomach along with a little bit of honey saliva. The worker bee will return to the hive to drop off the load once the honey sac is full.

Step 2: Worker bees transfer the nectar to the house bees.

Whilst the worker bees collect the nectar, bees known as house bees await for the workers to return from their foraging trips. Once at the hive, the worker bees transfer the nectar to the house bees and this signifies the start the honey-making process. Nectar is passed between the bees and at the same time is chewed. From here enzymes change the nectar’s Ph levels as well as a number of other chemical properties.

At this point is where a degree of complication is encountered. The nectar and enzyme mixture arrives at the hive with an excessive water content which means it is in no condition to be stored over the winter months. It is at this point that the bees must work on drying the nectar solution out.

Step 3: Dehydration of the honey.

A small amount of water is removed from the honey while it is passed from bee to bee. However, the bees must use two other methods to dry out the honey. Firstly they go about spreading the honey over the honeycomb in an effort to increase its surface area to facilitate more water evaporation.

Also, in an attempt to increase airflow to the honey, the bees fan their wings whilst nearby. With wings that beat at an incredibly high speed of 230 beats/minute, the airflow generated from this activity facilitates even more liquid evaporation. The outcome of all of this work means that eventually, the water content of the honey drops from approximately 70% to around 20%! There’s no doubt that the bees work incredibly hard to keep their hive fully stocked with food!

Step 4: Encasing the honeycomb with beeswax

The last piece of the intricate honey-making process sees the bees working further to ensure that the honey is safely stored. They deposit honey into the cells of the honeycomb. The honey remains within the walls of the honeycomb until the bees are ready to eat it. To keep the honey fresh, each cell is capped with beeswax. The making of beeswax is another enthralling and intricate process.