An amazing process that can not be duplicated in the laboratory. Lets see How Bees Make Honey.
Our Planet is full of life. The most prolific are flowering plants. Flowering plants comprise 80% of all life on Earth.
Well, the flowers of these plants need to be pollinated. There is a long list of pollinators, such as Birds, Butterflies, Moths, Bats, Bumble Bees, as well as mosquitoes. Yet all these together only account for 20% of the whole pollinator force.
The other 80% are, you guessed it, Honey Bees. Not only are Honey Bees the greatest pollinators, Honey Bees are the ONLY insect that produces food and medicine for humans.
But, all of that will have to wait for upcoming blog posts. I need to stay on topic.
How Bees Make Honey
At dawn the foragers of the hive begin their journey, following the scent of flowers ready to be pollinated. Flowers are their main source of nectar, used to create honey.
This is not an easy job. In order to make 1 pound of honey, bees must gather 8 pounds of nectar. Furthermore, honey bees can only carry about 20ml in their honey gut at a time.
Foragers will have their honey gut filled after visiting only 50-100 flowers. Then, they must go back to the hive to empty their honey gut. Then, after they drop that off, they go back out to get more. In fact, the foragers will have to visit two million flowers and rack up 55,000 flying miles just for one pound of honey.
But wait, that is just for the raw ingredient, it's still not honey. In the honey gut of honey bees is where the transformation from nectar to honey begins.
Added to the nectar are enzymes. Enzymes are a catalyst, meaning they speed up the process of converting nectar to honey. These enzymes are, Invertase which helps convert sucrose to fructose and glucose. Also Amylase is added to help change Amylose to glucose, and finally glucose oxidase producing hydrogen peroxide and stabilizing the PH, and catalase which changes the peroxide to water and oxygen. All of these are just the key enzymes for converting nectar to honey. Honey is much more than just a few enzymes, it is loaded with many other additional enzymes, minerals and vitamins.
But wait, there is more, when the foragers come back with their honey gut filled they pass it to the house bees, and for about 20 minutes the house bees pass it among themselves adding more enzymes to the mix.
Once the mix is right, the house bees take it to the crown to dehydrate. (The crown is an open bunch of cells usually located above the brood nest, the brood nest is where the young bees are raised.) Nectar is 80% water and must be evaporated down to 18% before it can be stored. Once the moisture content is correct the house bees move it to the honey cells and cap it.
One colony will make about five gallons/about 60 pounds of honey in a season. That takes a lot of bees considering that a worker only lives 6 weeks, and only collects about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in it's lifetime.
If you have never seen the inside of a honey bee colony at work check out this pic. One colony can have upwards of 50,000 bees at work in it at the peak of the honey season.
So that is just a little bit about how honey is made. Until my next blog, have a great week.