I don’t know about you but when my little girl asked me “How is honey made?” I didn’t have a clue how to answer her. So together we researched a bit and learned all about how bees create honey together. Here are a few simple steps to explain how it is done.
First honey bees collect pollen and nectar in the spring when most flowers and plants are in bloom. Bees have a long tube-like tongues call proboscis, similar to a straw, that they use to suck the nectar out of the flowers. The nectar is than stored in their stomachs and carried back to the beehive.
Now inside of the bee’s stomach the nectar mixes with the proteins and enzymes produced in their stomachs, which converts the nectar into honey.
Back at the hive bees then drop honey into hexagonal cells made of wax also produced by the bees, also known as a honey comb. They then will repeat this process until all the combs are full.
Next the bees will work towards evaporating the honey to prepare is for long-tern storage. The bees fan their wings to evaporate and thicken the honey. Honey is about 10-20% water, whereas nectar is about 80%.
Once the honey has been thickened, the bees cap the honeycomb with wax and move on to the next empty comb, starting all over again.
So, in a nutshell, the honey we love to eat is just flower nectar eaten and then regurgitated by bees that has been enhances with the nutritional properties in their stomachs, that is then dehydrated.
The bees make all of the extra honey to store in their hives as food for the winters when there are no blossoms and therefore little nectar available to make more of their delicious honey. Luckily for us the bees only need a small portion of the honey to get through the winter, meaning that there is plenty of honey that can then be harvested by bee keepers, for the rest of us to enjoy.
Recently I was given the opportunity to go visit some of our beehives and talk to some of the beekeepers about the hives and how they harvest the honey. The beekeepers will remove the honey filled combs from the beehives, as pictured here.
They will extract the liquid honey by first removing the wax cap with a sharp knife or a machine and then placing the bee hive frames in a large centrifuge to get the honey out of the comb. Beekeepers have the choice of reusing the comb, as we do, by putting it back into the bee hives to be refilled with honey so that the bees do not have to rebuild new combs.