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How Honey Bees Make Honey

Posted on 1st May 2023 by Ernest H.

Some worker bees specialize as foragers, and they travel relatively far distances (around 4 miles, or 6.5 kilometers) for their tiny body size in search of good food sources. Once a honeybee finds a patch of flowers or fruit orchard, the bee returns to the colony to recruit other workers to visit the site by performing a "waggle dance." The bee's waggle dance is "a symbolic language giving a distance and direction," Couvillon said. The dance provides all the information the other bees need to find the location.

Honeybees gather nectar in their mouths, which collects in a honey crop, an internal organ also known as a honey stomach. Pollen accumulates on the bee's hind legs in the pollen basket, an indented area surrounded by hair.

Back at the hive, workers regurgitate the nectar and pass it among themselves in a chain of regurgitated nectar-honey, until enzymes in their stomach have broken down the nectar into simple sugars. The nectar then gets dehydrated to contain only 18 to 20% water, a process aided by the rapid wing flapping of the honeybees, according to an article in The Conversation. Once the nectar has turned into honey and sufficiently dehydrated, the bees seal it in honeycomb chambers with a thin layer of beeswax, which the bees produce themselves. The honey can remain edible for hundreds of years because of its low moisture content and natural antibacterial properties, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

When nectar is in short supply, some honeybees steal food from other hives rather than waste energy foraging. Honeybees may be particularly defensive at these times, called a robbing season, said Elina Niño, a beekeeping researcher at the University of California, Davis.