A useful treat, an important ingredient in cold and tonic formulas, a great cosmetic product – all this is it, a favorite product for children and adults alike.
All this is honey. Do you know how bees make honey? No? Then let’s try to describe the difficult work of transforming flower nectar into medicinal sweetness, which is done by little striped toilers.
How bees make honey. The basic steps of a bee family’s work
It all starts with scouting. Yes, yes, with the exploration. It is engaged in a special category of flying bees – scout bees. They scout the area around the apiary, searching for sources of honey, identifying places with the greatest nectar production or higher concentration of sugar in the nectar. When the source is found, the “scout” returns to the hive, making a series of characteristic movements, the so-called bee dance, which informs the congeners of a suitable place of honey collection.
Female bees join the “dance” by repeating the movements of the scout, occasionally touching her with their tendrils and taking the nectar they have brought. Having used up her food supply, the scout bee rushes off, taking the mobilized gatherers with her. Now it’s their turn to work.
Flying from one flower to another, the gathering insects use special receptors on their legs to detect the presence of nectar. The striped toilers collect the detected nectar in a pouch-like cavity on their abdomen, enriching it with the secret of their salivary glands at the same time. At this point, the long process of turning flower nectar into honey begins.
After filling the honey sack (its capacity is about 40-45 mg), the collector returns home to give her valuable cargo to the hive’s honeybees. In a day, the insect can process about twelve hectares of blooming honeybees. It is worth noting that during its entire working life, one bee produces only 3-4 grams of honey.
So what happens next? How do bees make honey in the hive? Once they receive nectar from their honey collectors, the flightless bees carry it to the honeycomb and attach sweet droplets at the top of the cells. This technique makes the extra liquid evaporate as quickly as possible. It should be added that bees maintain a constant temperature in the hive and force ventilation to maintain the necessary level of humidity. This is done by the constant movement of the wings of little toilers. As the honey ripens, it will be shifted from cell to cell more than once, filling it only a quarter.
The finished honey is stored in the upper cells, away from the honey hole. Cells filled to the top are sealed hermetically with a wax cap. In this form, the healing delicacy can be stored for several years without losing its properties.
During the repeated transfer from one wax cell to another in the nectar in addition to the already mentioned evaporation of moisture occurs a series of chemical reactions. Under the action of the enzymes contained in the saliva of the insects, complex sugars are broken down into simple ones, forming:
- organic acids;
- dextrin-like substances.
The result is an easily digestible product, rich in vitamins and minerals, useful for bees themselves and for humans.
Now you know how bees make honey, how much labor the striped crumbs put into making the popular natural delicacy. But to complete the picture, let us note that to get one kilogram of sweet gold, insects need to collect 4 kilograms of nectar by flying a strand of ten million flowers. A strong bee family can produce over 150 kilograms of natural honey in a year.
External Factors Affecting Honey Production
However, the amount of honey produced does not only depend on the bees themselves. Factors affecting the honey harvest and yield are many:
- climatic conditions (a lot depends on the weather);
- the location of the apiary in relation to the honeybees;
- Density and type of honeybees;
- Experience of the beekeeper;
- The timeliness of preventive measures in the apiary.