Have you ever wondered exactly how those little bees make delicious honey? After all, honey is sold everywhere in the world from grocery stores to market stalls to small farms. It is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, not to mention that it comes in handy in a variety of unique recipes and DIY projects.
So, how do those bees do it? In truth, the process is quite simple.
Which bees make honey?
A common notion is that all bees make honey, but this is false. In actuality, there are only about seven species of honey bees who dedicate their lives to making honey.
Anyway, inside the hive you have the worker bees who set off in search of nectar and pollen. These are called foragers. There are other worker bees at the hive who take these ingredients and turn them into honey that is stored in honeycomb cells. Each honey bee will only produce about 1/12 of a tablespoon of honey!
Step One: The Flowers
Honey bees don’t live very long. But during their short lives, the worker bees stay busy by traveling far and wide visiting anywhere between 100-600 flowers. When they come across a nectar that they like, the bees sit on top of the flower and suck the nectar through their proboscis (straw-like mouth). They store it in sacs called “crops” or “honey stomachs” along with a bit of spit. Yes, honey is, in essence, bee spit and nectar combined! Sounds gross but tastes delicious.
Step Two: Back To The Hive
Once the worker bees’ honey stomachs are full, they fly back to the hive and hand over their ingredients to the hive bees. During the transfer from bee to bee, the honey is chewed up and deposited into the wax cells within the hive. This causes the pH levels and other properties to change making the honey very watery.
That’s okay, because these crafty bees have a way to fix that. They actually dehydrate the honey by spreading it out over the cells and fanning their wings in front of it to evaporate the extra liquid. Once the honey is the proper consistency, bees cover it up with beeswax so it’s ready to be stored over the winter.
Step Three: Honey Harvesting
Though honey is meant to feed the bees when food is scarce, they tend to be overachievers, making much more honey than they would need for their colonies. This is good news for us because we can harvest that 70 pound surplus of honey that they won’t need.
Beekeepers have bee houses called apiaries. Inside these houses are square frames where the bees build their honeycomb. Once the beekeeper has removed every seal over the individual cells, they put the honey frames into a centrifuge which spins and extracts the honey from the comb.
From there, the honey will be put through a strainer because bits of pollen and debris can still be present within the honey. After all of that, the beekeepers bottle it up for sale.
Different Tasting Honey
Because bees visit so many different flowers and plants, and because some bees have specific flower preferences, honey can take on all kinds of different flavors, hues, and textures. Clover honey is one of the most popular flavors because clovers happen to be a favorite amongst our little bee friends.
Due to the type of flower, clover honey is more floral tasting and takes on a light amber hue. Likewise, Apple Blossom honey will, of course, taste slightly like apples and Buckwheat Honey will taste very strong and take on a dark color, almost like molasses. It all depends on what is available to the bees and what they prefer. This means there are countless types of honey out there to sample and try.
Natural honey is unprocessed and free of any synthetic additives, sweeteners, or preservatives. It is raw, natural, and possibly one of the healthiest foods out there. What’s more, honey is the only food that never spoils. That’s right, you can keep it on your shelf for life. It may harden and crystallize over time, but you can easily transform it into its normal consistency by putting the container in some hot water.
You can also use the beeswax in a number of different DIY projects such as making candles, lip balm, and even perfume. Bees make sure nothing goes to waste, so the entire honeycomb can be repurposed. It’s pretty cool that all of this can be done by such diminutive creatures. Whether you enjoy honey or not, there is one thing we can all agree upon- bees are absolutely amazing!