You might run in the other direction when you spot a bee buzzing toward you, but they are an important piece of nature. They pollinate our flowers. They keep our crops alive. Not to mention, they make us delicious honey to spread across toast.
Why do bees make honey in the first place? The answer is not as complicated as you might have thought.
Why do bees make honey?
It is a simple answer. Because honey is what they like to eat. They need it to keep energized and to feed their young so they grow up to become strong workers.
Honey is full of nutrients and high in sugar, which helps them gain energy. These creatures need a lot of energy, because even when they are not flying around from flower to flower, they beat their wings to keep the right temperature in their hive.
A colony of bees can eat up to 100-200 pounds of honey in a single year!
As you probably know, bees store their honey in a hive. The reason they collect it instead of eating it all on the spot is so they have extra saved for the winter months when it is harder for them to forage for food. It is protecting them from going hungry in the cold when the flowers wither.
This is why bees are so active in the spring. They know they are not going to find food in winter and are preparing for the possibility of a summer drought where there is little growth or pollination occurring.
How do bees make honey?
Most hives contain 60,000 bees. The male honey bees and the queen bee do not gather food, but each worker bee visits up to 100 different flowers while on a single trip to find nectar.
Their favorite types of flowers are apple, blackberry, dandelion, clover, golden rod, lavender, lime trees, ivy, and rosemary.
Once they find that nectar from blossoming flowers, they convert it into honey. How? Well, bees use their proboscis to suck the nectar from a flower and store it inside of their second stomach, which some people refer to as ‘honey stomachs.’
This stomach does not digest the honey. It just sits there as a collection tool and is located in front of the digestive tract of the bee. This stomach can hold up to 70 mg of nectar!
When the worker bee returns to the hive, a house bee will suck the nectar out of its stomach and chew it for half an hour. While chewing, it will secrete an enzyme that mixes with the nectar and turns it into syrup.
After, the house bee will spit everything inside a cell in the honeycomb to maximize the surface area. This is meant to make the water evaporate. The bees will also speed the evaporation process along by fanning their wings.
Once the honey has grown thicker and is officially ready for consumption, then the bees will add a layer of beeswax over it to ‘cap’ it. This happens when the bees excrete a substance from their abdomen made up of scales.
Do bees mind when humans take their honey?
Bees are prepared for disaster to strike. Even without humans, in the wild there is always the risk of birds and other insects invading their hive and stealing their honey. That is why they try to make as much as possible. That is why they never stop working.
As long as they have enough honey to survive the cold winter months where they are unable to search for flowers, then there should not be any problem with humans stealing some honey for themselves.
Most beekeepers will only take a little amount of honey at a time, because they realize it would be wrong to leave the bees without any food of their own.
However, other beekeepers will take all of the honey and give the bees sugar as a substitute. This is not the best solution because it is not as nutritious for the bees as their actual honey is. It does not give them all of the benefits they need.
There is nothing wrong with eating honey. We just have to be careful not to abuse bees in the process, because they deserve better from us.