On a recent hike in a nearby wash, we discovered swarms of bees in a few rocky areas along the wash. Upon a closer look, it appeared the rocks were damp. Is this one way bees get water? According to www.HoneyBeeSuite.com, yes! They drink the water and store it in their “crops” (honey stomach or honey sack) then take it back to their hives. The water is exchanged through the process of trophallaxis—the direct transfer from one bee to another.
Water is used to keep the honey moist if the honey begins to crystallize during the dry season. It is also “fanned” through the hive for cooling when the weather is warm.
Surprisingly, through my multitude of bee photos, I have discovered how the pollen is carried (post here), now how they drink their water, but I’ve never read exactly how honey is made.
Well, a little Bing search and bingo, a few questions answered!
First of all, why do bees make honey? According to www.BuzzAbountBees.net it is to store food for the cooler winter period. And here are a few fun facts from this site:
- To produce a pound of honey, foraging honey bees have to fly a whopping 55,000 miles!
- That’s a lot of honey bees, working very hard, because each honey bee will only produce around one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its life!
- Oh, and that’s despite the fact that a foraging honey bee visits up to 100 flowers – per foraging trip.
- So no wonder it takes about 556 foraging bees to visit 2 million flowers, just to make a pound of honey!
But, more curiously, how do they make honey? Well, here we go…
- Bees collect the nectar and mix it with an enzyme in their mouth
- Back at the hive, the nectar moves from one bee to another, further mixing the nectar
- The nectar is then dropped into wax cells
- And yes, the bees make the wax cells
- Now, the honey is wet, so the bees fan the honey to evaporate the water, and bring the water content down to about 17%
- Next the bees cap the cells to seal them
- If bees are being kept in a hive, that is when the bee keeper knows the honey is ready to harvest
- A good bee keeper will not take more honey that what the hive can afford to lose
- Sometimes bee keepers will supplement the bees with sugar water. Hopefully only when the summer has not produced enough flowers for pollen, and not because he stole too much honey
To learn more, check out this page here.
Hopefully we will all feel a higher appreciation for the amazing and humble Honey Bee, and when we cover our toast, or sweeten our tea, we will appreciate every sweet and tasty drop of this precious miracle of nature!
Now that we are all a bit more informed on the honey making process, below are a few photos from that recent hiking trip:
“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”
~ A. A. Milne
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. “There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”
~ A. A. Milne
“Kindness in ourselves is the honey that blunts the sting of unkindness in another.”
~ Grantland Rice
“I shouldn’t think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter and honey for tea.”