The answer is yes! It’s a wonder how a bee, as tiny and beautiful, can secrete a sweet natural substance, at the same time, eat it.
What’s more surprising, they do not make it purposely for human benefit as food but their own. We’ve grown up believing the false ideology that bees are meant to feed us honey, when in real sense, we, the unmindful selves, invaded their food mines for our selfish gains. Honey is not made to suit humans in the first place. Bees had been feeding on their honey long before man discovered the delicacy.
However, that’s not the main concern of our article; let’s focus purely on bees’ extraordinary honey-making nature.
Bees’ Honey-Making Behavior
Bees exist in more than 20000 species across the globe, but not all can make honey. Also, it’s presumed that only honey bees make honey, which is not the case. Among other types, Bumblebees can, too, despite not making large amounts of honey as honeybees do.
Basically, bees unite to make honey to maintain the food supply for the bee colonies. This is in preparation for the disastrous rainy or winter months. During these times of the year, the adverse cold and wet conditions limit their movements and ability to forage. Additionally, most flowers become unavailable, and nectar and pollen become scarce. If there’s no stored honey, the bee colonies will starve and eventually die. How smart bees are in acting proactively!
How Do They Make Honey?
The scenic movement of the bees hovering over your flower garden is not for nothing. They might have traveled thousands of miles to be at no other place but there. It’s their quest for plant nectar and pollen for survival, your blooming garden being the food source. The production of honey is a step-by-step process:
- During the foraging journeys in summer and spring, the worker bees buzz around collecting nectar and pollen. The worker bee sucks up nectar using its proboscis from 100 flowers on average every trip. They then store it in the crop, sort of like a special honey stomach, for ease of transportation. The honey stomach gets full after accumulating enough nectar of 25 to 80 milligrams. They return to nests or a man-made hive to offload the stored nectar for action by the honey-making bees.
- Bees use only plant nectar to manufacture their honey. The house bees, at the hive, take the offloaded nectar inside the colony by passing it from mouth to mouth. Meanwhile, the mouth enzymes digest the nectar. The younger house bees pack up the nectar in hexagonal honey cells in the honeycomb made out of At this point, the nectar is very moist at about 70% moisture content.
- The bees dehydrate the nectar by flapping their wings to provide warmth for evaporation. Sweet viscous honey forms once the nectar accrues 10-20% moisture content and a high sugar concentration. The color of the honey depends on the type of nectar.
- The high sugar concentration inhibits bacterial growth; thus, the honey stays unspoiled. The honey is stored in the honeycomb cells, where it’s capped with beeswax to retain the freshness. The honey remains in the honeycombs till the day the queen bee and the baby bees need to feed on it.
Some people imagine honey as bees’ poop or vomit when it’s not. In summary, honey is made when bees transfer nectar from the nectary to the hives. And the moisture content is reduced to certain levels. On the other hand, pollen is packed up in the beehives. This pollen is for bee bread production for the young bees, especially in their larva growth stage.
How Do Bees Locate Nectar And Pollen for Food?
First, what is nectar, what is pollen? By a simple definition, nectar is the sweet sugary liquid produced in the nectary found at the base of the sepals or the base of the petals of a flower. Pollen is the fine powder sitting right in the anthers of a flower.
When the bee enters the flower towards the nectary, its body collides with the anthers. By the collision, the pollen sticks onto the body of the bees. And when the bee moves onto the next flower, some of the pollen is left there. The rest is carried to the beehive.
But the question here is, “ how do bees locate the nectar and the pollen in the flowers?” Bees’ navigation relies on the phenomenon of light polarization in the atmosphere. Like any insect pollinator searching for pollen, their sharp sense of odor and eye vision helps them detect food’s presence.
Can Bees Be Fed Sugar?
Bees love anything sugary. That’s why you’ll see them humming around your bunch of grapes or any fruity food. Beekeeping is a good economic activity. However, cases of overharvesting lead to the beehive running out of honey. Yet bees depend on honey to live. Also, if winter stays longer, the nectar gets little, affecting the honey quantities.
Keeping the bee colonies well-fed, the beekeeper feeds the bees dry sugar or white sugar syrup. That’s in a bid to compensate for the over-extracted or insufficient honey. The beekeeper places the sugar on shallow in-trays under the hive lid. Hence the bees reach the sugar easily through the perforations. This feeding culture gives the bee colonies a good food supply and lives longer.
According to Agriculture Victoria, the best time to feed the bees is towards evening. At this time, they rarely seek food from nearby beehives already. The beekeeper should also wet the dry sugar to issue immediate food in starvation cases. With dry sugar, the bees will go through the hassle of liquefying the dry sugar for ease of consumption.
Bees cannot survive without the honey they make. They eat honey to stay healthy and strong. So, if you decide to venture into beekeeping, keep in mind the honey you extract is not yours only. The producer lives on it, too.
Over-extraction kills bees and should never be taken lightly. Let’s strive to care for bees as they do care for us.