Honey is sweet liquid food made by honeybees and it is used for cooking, baking, desserts. Beside nutritional properties, honey has medicinal benefits and humans are using it for centuries. An interesting thing about honey is that it is the only food made by an insect that both humans and insects consume. We all know that making honey is not an easy process and it is all-natural but how do bee make it.
So how is honey made?
In short, the working bee collects nectar into her stomach and brings into the hive where she passes the nectar to processing bees. By adding enzyme bee breaks nectar into glucose and fructose. Then she passes partially process nectar to another processing bee that also adds enzyme and then pour honey into the cells. Then bees evaporate excess water to thicken the honey that is ready for storage.
Process of Honey production
Bees live in a well-organised colony that in the average developed hive has between 50000- 60000 bees where each bee knows their job. To make the honey, bees have to visit the flowers to collect the nectar that they will convert to honey.
Gathering the nectar is a job for working (foraging ) bees only. Drones (male honeybees) and queen Bee do not engage in nectar collection and don’t think that they are lazy they just have other responsibilities in the colony.
The process of honey-making starts with foraging (working) bees leaving the hive and collecting the nectar and pollen from the flowers.
When lands on the flower bees use their tounges (straw shaped) and collect the pollen, nectar and stores it till she collects enough pollen. Then bee returns to the hive to pass the polen to processing bee for processing. Then processing bee starts to release an enzyme called invertase that breaks down the nectar on fructose and glucose. After partially processed nectar then passes to the next processing bees for adding more enzyme that will break down the nectar into simple sugars and when ready bee will poor the watery honey into a cell.
At this moment honey contains too much water and it is too liquid. To remove excess water bees start to flap their wings to generate heat and to make the water evaporate from the honey and it becomes thicker. When the honey is ready bees make the wax and cover the cells to preserve the honey for future use.
Is honey a bee vomit?
Honey is not a bee vomit as mistakenly presented. And the simple answer for that is when the bee is collecting nectar or pollen during that long flight before she returns to the hive-bee may require energy (food) to go on. So, in that case, she will not use what is stored inside her she will just use a different valve to collect the nectar into the digestion system and not in storage. The nectar that goes into the digestion system is not suitable for making honey because different enzymes are used for processing.
The part of the stomach that is used for storage will start processing nectar into simple sugars to make honey.
Why do bees make so much honey ?
Honey is the main food source for the adult bees. It has all the ingredients that adult bee requires such as vitamins and minerals and they are vital for bee survival during the season bees use it to feed the offspring and entire colony and that is easy when you have available food source outside.
On the other hand, during winter it is too cold for the bees to leave the hive to look for food and there is limited or no available source of fresh food (there are no nice flowers to visit). Also, the number of bees in the colony is still large so they need a lot of food so they are making a lot of it to be sure that they will be able to survive the entire winter as long as it lasts.
Most of the energy bees use for generating needed heat during cold months. To do so they flap their wings and making sure to keep the temperature level and ventilate the hive to keep the moisture level low. All vital for colony survival during winter
What time of year bees make honey ?
Depending on an area where bees live season for honey-making starts at April and ends in Novembre
Making honey is dependent on the flower blossoming and providing sweet nectar that is needed for the production. So the weather-wise it has to be warm enough and that there is enough flowers for the bees to start foraging.
Also, they do not produce the honey at the same pace entire season and the highest production months are summer months when the size if the colony at its peak
During winter bees do not make honey they just enjoy fruits of their hard labor during the season. They only leave the hive during winter to take cleansing flight just to keep their hive tidy.
How much honey do the bees produce?
Foraging (worker) bee produce 1/12th of a teaspoon in their entire lifetime. So for us to eat a spoon of honey 12 honeybees work all their life. After reading that for the first time i started to appreciate bees and their hard work so much. And when you take the amount they produce in a lifetime you understand why there is up to 50000 bees in the colony (they need a lot of employees to reach the target : ) )
When you look it in the scale of the entire colony (hive) during one season (year) depending on the size of the colony bees produce between 60 and 100 pounds of honey.
Here is an interesting fact in numbers, to make a jar of honey (0.5 lb) 30000 bees have to travel 27500 miles and collect nectar from a million flower.
If the bee wanted to fly around the world she would need 1 ounce of honey to have enough energy for the entire trip
Why Do Bees store pollen?
Beside honey that is made out of nectar, bees need protein in their diet to be strong and healthy.
Pollen is very important for the younger bees (larvae) because they need high protein food to develop and they need it more than adult bees that prefer honey more. Combining pollen and royal jelly bees are able to nurture babies(larvae) that will also become working bees that will keep the colony alive. So bees store pollen along with honey so they have a balanced diet during winter when pollen is not available.
Different types of honey
Depending on the flowers that bees are collecting nectar from honey has a different color and taste. Here are some of my favorites
Produced by honeybees that consume the flowers of Tea Tree bush (New Zealand). It has a specific strong taste and darker color.
It has antibacterial properties, helps with digestive problems, and also great for sore throat.It is also used in treating skin issues like pimples and acne.
Manuka honey can help with healing small wounds and helps the organism to produce fibroblast and epithelial cells.
Manuka honey is rich with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, and amino acids lysine, proline, arginine, and tyrosine. Besides vitamins, it also contains minerals: magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium
And for last and not the least manuka honey has the highest level of antioxidant comparing to all other types of honey.
Honey with light color and mild taste used often as a natural sweetener. Produced by bees that collects nectar from Medicavo sativa flowers.
Alfalfa is rich with B-Complex ,Minerals,Polyphenols
Great for the digestive system as a prebiotic helping with digestion. It can also help with treating anemia and even fever. Diabetics use it as an alternative sweetener and it helps with regulating blood sugar level.
As all types of honey great for healing sore throat and cough.
It has a strong dark purple color but not as sweet as average honey. Produced by honeybees that collect nectar from small buckwheat flowers. It great antioxidant and helps with reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.
Helps with healing small wounds (burns and scratches) by reducing the moisture level and killing bacteria.
Buckwheat honey can be a good remedy for the sour throat, cough and respiratory infections.
It has a thick structure and mildly sweet and lightly floral taste. Produced by honeybees collecting nectar from flower plants. It is widely used as a sweetener (mostly substitution for table sugar) .
It has many benefits for the human body as an antioxidant and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
In the studies, it has shown to be most effective against Staphylococcus aureus cells and due to its antibacterial properties helps with healing skin wounds(burns and scratches)
Premium honey has a wonderful Tangerine colour with sweet , floral taste. Produced by honeybees that collect nectar from lavander flowers.
Has many medicinal benefits and most popular is treating Candida due to its strong anti-fungal properties. It has high levels of vitamin C and it is also a strong antioxidant , not as strong antioxidant as Manuka honey but second best.
Lavender honey is helpful with foot ulcers and skin fungal infections.
Acacia honey has a light yellow color and mildly floral taste. Produced by bees collecting nectar from Black locusts tree.It has high fructose and low sucrose level, so great honey for diabetics that even helps with blood sugar level.
It is rich with A,C,E vitamins, flavonoids and amino acids. Research says that Acacia honey is good for the liver and kidneys. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well.