What Is Honey : How Bees Make Honey?

Honey is processed and cured nectar. Bees rely heavily on honey as their only food source when pollen and nectar are not available.

Some people may refer to honey as “bee vomit.” Are those people right? Well, sort of, but not exactly. Bees are equipped with a sac at the bottom of their throat called a honey sac.

 Honey is the result of bees processing nectar in the honey sac and infusing enzymes into it. They store the nectar in their honey sac until they get back to the hive.

How Bees Make Honey

Thousands of worker bees go out to forage for both nectar and pollen. They consume nectar from plants and flowers and store this nectar in their honey sac, where it mixes with enzymes. 

From there, they fly back to the hive and transfer their nectar to another worker bee, called a house bee. The house bee then repeats the same process, but transfers the nectar into the comb cells, where it becomes honey.

The bees fan the honey to help the liquid evaporate, similar to the way you would reduce a liquid in cooking to make it thicker. At this point the honey is still green, which means it hasn’t been processed enough by the bees for consumption and could easily spoil. 

When they’ve reduced the liquid enough they cap it (seal it with beeswax) for long-term storage. Once it is capped, it is honey.

It Takes Alot Of Bees

The term “being worked to death” brings on a whole new meaning with bees. I know some of you may feel like you’ll work until you drop dead, but bees actually do that.

From the moment they crawl out of their cell, they work until death for the greater purpose of their hive. No poolside honeycombs, no beehive retirement community, just 30-plus days on this earth of constant labor.

Bees will travel up to five miles from home in search of plants to forage on. If humans had to walk the equivalent distance to gather food as bees do, most would starve.

Remember this when you’re thinking about what your bees may be exposed to. You can have the best organic garden around, but your bees will still forage at the nearest chemical plant. That is why it is almost impossible to have truly organic honey. Not every plant the bees visit will be free of toxic chemicals.

One bee only produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime. With an average beehive consisting of 55,000 bees, they will collectively need to fly around 55,000 miles just to make one pound of honey! Let that sink in for a minute.

When you buy a pound of honey at the grocery store, it took about 770 bees to make that, along with nearly 55,000 miles of travel. How many flowers does this mean they had to visit to fill the plastic bear you just bought? More than 2 million. This is just for one pound of honey. Do you understand why we call this stuff liquid gold?

As you read this and ponder the magnitude of what it means, you need to reflect on the importance of plants in our lives and for bee survival. We need plants, plants need bees, and bees need plants. It’s the circle of life.

I always say beekeepers and gardeners go hand in hand; one cannot thrive without the other. This is why I advice you to plant a bee-friendly garden. Include some forage for your bees; not only will your plants feed your bees, but what you plant can help flavor your honey. As an added bonus, you can also harvest whatever fruits, vegetables, and flowers you plant. It’s a win-win.

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