How do Bees Make Honey? I’ll Tell You… If you’re sure you want to know
How do bees make honey? That's a question that I have always enjoyed answering face-to-face. The facial expressions displayed as I answer the question are often quite entertaining!
So before I describe how bees make honey, I thought I should first offer a SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who love honey (and who doesn’t?), the following description of how bees make honey might be a bit of a turn off! Think you can handle the truth? OK, read on …
How do bees make honey?
Well, it Isn’t Really All THAT Bad
But for some, it may be best to enjoy honey without knowing the details of how it’s made. For those who are still with me, honey is the regurgitated nectar of flowers, carried from the flower to the hive in the bee’s honey stomach, where it is mixed with some enzymes from the bee’s saliva.
When the foraging bee returns to the hive with her load of nectar, she transfers it to a young worker bee (called a house bee) that begins the process of “ripening” the nectar. The nectar is ripened by reducing the moisture content of the watery nectar, transforming it into the thick, syrupy consistency of honey.
The ripening process is begun when the house bee repeatedly ingests and regurgitates the nectar, exposing it to the drying air, and then finally depositing it in a honeycomb cell where it will continue to ripen until the cell is sealed with a wax capping.
So that’s it. The bees eat the nectar, mix it with their spit, throw it up, and then do it over again and again to produce a drop of honey. That's how bees make honey. Not really all that bad, is it?
The next time you spread a little honey on your toast, or stir some into your tea, think about this: one single pound of honey requires 2 million visits to flowers, representing a cumulative flight distance of more than 55 million miles. Just one single teaspoon of honey represents the entire life’s work of 12 honeybees!
So when you eat honey, if you’d rather not think about the other details of honey making that you’ve just learned, think instead about how hard the bees worked to make that honey for you.
Or Think of it This Way…
If we compare honey to some of the other foods we eat regularly, the description of how honey is made doesn’t sound so bad.
For example, most of us eat the muscles of animals (meat) without blinking an eye. How many of us get squeamish about frying up some unborn chicken embryos (eggs), or guzzling some bovine mammary gland secretion (milk)? And ALL of us know better than to even ask about how things like hot dogs, bologna and sausage are made!
Perhaps eating some honey bee throw-up doesn’t sound so bad after all.
Besides, honey goes really well with pulverized wheat embryos (flour) mixed with curdled sour milk (buttermilk) and the congealed, rendered fatty tissue from animal carcasses (lard), which are the primary ingredients of …buttermilk biscuits, of course!
So, if in the future someone happens to ask you: How do bees make honey?…
Enjoy watching their face as you answer their question.