Wednesday, April 1, 2020

How do Honeybees Make Honey?

Have you ever wondered how honeybees make honey?

Well, flowers need pollination from honeybees to grow fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The way the flowers entice honeybees to pollinate them is by producing a sweet substance called nectar. The bees gather the nectar to turn into honey for their food. When a bee lands on a flower it will stick out its tongue (also called a proboscis). The proboscis is shaped like a straw and helps the honeybee suck up the nectar. 
Notice the bee's proboscis drinking the
nectar from the flower?

Photo: dalantech - deviant art

The nectar is then stored in a bucket inside their body called a honey sac. Honeybees can’t carry buckets like we can, so they store it in a special bucket inside their body. Inside the honey sac, the nectar is mixed with enzymes, special substances which give medicinal properties to honey. These enzymes add antibacterial, antimicrobial, and hygroscopic properties. That means honey is like nature’s Neosporin. Next time you get a cut or wound, put some honey on it and then a band-aid. The honey will clean the wound because of the cleansing properties and keep it moisturized and sealed to help it heal with as little scarring as possible. Many hospitals even use honey to help heal burns.

Honey stored in the honeycomb
Photo: Igor Dmitriey
While the honey is mixing with enzymes, the honeybee will fly home to her beehive. Inside the beehive the bee will deposit the honey from her honey sac into the honeycomb. The honeycomb is where baby bees are laid and born as well as the food (like honey) is stored. The bees will fan their wings over the nectar to dehydrate the honey (take some of the water out). Once some of the water is taken out, we have a thick, syrupy honey. The honeybees will put fresh beeswax over the honeycomb cells to make sure no dust or dirt comes in while the honey is stored until it is needed.

After all the hard work, the bees now have honey. Honey is their main food source, and they often have an excess amount of it. A beekeeper can then come in to take their extra honey they don’t need, so we can enjoy it too. Next time we enjoy honey drizzled on a biscuit or a honey smoothie, we should thank the hardworking honeybees.

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