How does honey come about? I live in a small little town where it is quite normal for me to pass a whole slew of beehives. How better to get fresh honey than to have your own bees? I used to think the hard part was getting the honeycombs from the bees, I was wrong; the female worker bee does the hardest part.
When we think of bees and flowers we usually think of pollen, but it is the nectar that is obtained from a flower, that is used to produce honey. A female worker bee will go from flower to flower retrieving nectar and storing it in her honey stomach, which is separate from her digestive stomach. The bee will visit many flowers, anywhere from 150 to 1500, once she has obtained the desired amount she will make her way back to the hive, not an easy task considering her honey stomach now weighs close to as much as she does. Once the worker bee has returned, a hive bee greets her and the mouth-to-mouth transfer of the nectar begins. The hive bee uses enzymes to process the honey in the mouth and honey stomach into simple sugars. “After processing the honey with enzymes, small droplets are typically deposited on the upper side of a cell wall”. (How bees make honey, n.d.) This is where the honey is converted in to the honey that we are used to seeing. This conversion is an evaporation process brought about by the temperatures and movement across the honey combs. The maintained temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the hive, the movement cannot be left to chance for the conversion to work, therefore the bees control the movement by moving their wings in a controlled manner. Before this conversion started, the honey was approximately 80% water after the conversion it has only 17 to 18 percent moisture, finally turning it into the honey we like on our toast and in our tea.
The work that is done to give us this wonderful tasting treat takes its toll on those that do all the work. The female worker bee works so hard in the summer to get ready for the winter that her wings start to wear away. Once this happens she is unable to work, causing her colony to reject her and then she dies. As I said before it is the female worker bee that has the hardest job and she is not even rewarded.
How bees make honey. (n.d.). Retrieved December 28, 2009, from Beeswax Co. LLC: http://www.beeswaxco.com/howbeesMakeHoney.htm