How Do Bees Make Honey?

 

Bees can make honey from the nectars they collect from the blossoms.  They make honey in their bodies from those nectars with their natural enzymes (proteins) by evaporating the water. 

The raw material of honey is nectar, mostly coming from the flowers.  Nectar is a delicious and sweet fluid. However, bees can also obtain nectar, sugary secretions from non-flower sources. This type of honey is known as honeydew honey from insect species that live on the stems of certain pine trees.

Honeybee sucks nectar (liquid food) and solid food (pollen) from the flower and stores them in her special honey stomach, ready to be transferred to the honey-making bees in the hive. If she is hungry, she opens a valve in the nectar “sac,” and a portion passes through to her own stomach to be converted to energy for her own needs.   The honey sac of the bees can dilute the nectar.  This attribute helps bees to suck even crystal sugar. After bees enter into the hive, they digest the nectar with the help of their enzymes into honey during flight.  They transfer honey to the bees in the colony that place it into cells of the comb.  That is the semi-matured honey stored in cells.

The honey stored in the comb has high moisture.  Therefore, bees need to evaporate the water of honey.  This phase is called maturation, which only takes place in the hive.  To remove excess water, the bees hold on the walls of the hive in a vertical position, while carrying a small portion of honey.  It opens its mouth and pushes the tongue continuously with up-down movements. The bee pulls the nectar drop back and forth about 5-10 seconds in the mouth, and the nectar eventually becomes dry as it gets contacted with the air several times.  This movement lasts about 15-20 minutes for about 80-90 times.  After this process, bees lay the nectar drop as a film on the bottom of a cell comb. During this activity, the honey becomes maturated with about 50-60% dry matter. 

In general, bees fill about ¼ - 1/3 of cells with honey.  When honey is close to full maturation, bees transfer it into another cell and fills ¾ of it again.  The sole purpose of making this change is removing the water from honey. Besides, bees use their wings to create an air current on top of the cells for removing more water.  The final maturation phase lasts about 1-3 days, depending on the temperature and relative humidity of the air, the initial moisture of honey in combs, and the percentage of filling capacity of the comb. Honey becomes fully maturated if the moisture content is below 20%. The bees completely fill the combs and seal each cell with beeswax. That sealing process aims to protect honey from absorbing moisture back again.  

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