Bees are mysterious creatures. Men have been beekeeping for thousands of years, and our little-winged friends are still baffling us with certain traits and behaviors. But one thing we know for certain...
Honey is amazing. But why do bees make it? How do they do it? Is it really as good for you as people make it out to be? You may have heard all sorts of things about bees and their sweet, sticky stuff. So just like old Pooh, grab the honey jar, and sit back and relax. It's time to find out why bees make honey!
What is Bee Honey?
Before we get into why bees make honey, let's cover some of the basics about honey. What is honey? Honey is a thick golden-colored liquid, produced by bees and stored in their hives. The bees gather nectar from flowers before taking it back to the hive to be made into honey.
How Do Bees Make It?
Many wonder why bees make honey, but have you ever wondered how exactly do bees make honey? Let's find out!
Using their proboscis (a hollow protruding tongue) the bee sucks the nectar from the flower. The nectar is then stored in their 'honey stomach.' The honey stomach (or 'crop') is separate from the bee's main stomach and used purely for the transportation of honey.
Once back at the hive, the foraging bee returns to the hive where it passes the honey over to another worker through their mouths. The new bee then chews the nectar for half an hour, adding a special enzyme to it from their glands. This helps ripen the nectar into honey. It then deposits the nectar into a honeycomb cell.
After the nectar is in the cell, other bees gather around the honeycomb and fan their wings, evaporating the majority of the water content of the honey.
The bees then secrete wax, sealing the honeycomb. The honey is now ready to consume when needed.
To quote the Royal beekeeper to King Charles II of England (1630--1685): "A bee is an exquisite chemist."
Different Kinds Of Honey
There are many different kinds of honey. What type the bees will produce depends on what flora is in the vicinity of the hive. For example, if there are nearby fields of clover, the bees will produce clover honey.
Some Different Types of Honey
- HONEST: details on each jar include pollen count, batch numbers, and active ingredients (lab tested)
- UNDAMAGED: most pure, natural, and raw honey; very minimal heat damage maintains honey's unique properties
- TRACEABLE: can trace your honey down to the specific area, to the specific apiary, that created your honey
Manuka Honey Sourced from the wilds of Middle Earth, manuka honey comes only from the small Pacific island of New Zealand. It is one of the most beneficial foods known to nature, containing an extremely high potency when it comes to medicinal uses.
Clover Honey Canada and New Zealand are major producers of clover honey. It comes from the clover plant, a ground cover with white or purple-white flowers.
Buckwheat Honey is very dark and has a molasses-like taste. It is produced in the Midwest and on the East Coast. It is rich in iron and is also used in the making of mead.
Rosemary Honey A light yellow honey with a strong sweet flavor.
Acacia Honey This honey is rapidly gaining popularity in America today. It is sourced from the beautiful flowers of the Black locust tree.
Eucalyptus Honey Produced in California and Australia, Eucalyptus honey has a slightly herbal flavor. It's also a favorite when it comes to treating sore throats and the common cold.
Honey, Can Also Come in Many Forms
Bumblebees and wasps also make honey but in a lot smaller quantities. Though humans don't eat this kind.
Why Bees Make Honey?
Why bees make honey? Bees make honey for food. They store it in their hives for the winter months when the climate is considerably colder, and flowers are much more scarce. And a hive has to have enough food for all the workers and the queen (the drones get exiled from the hive to die). That's between 10,000 and 50,000 bees.
By storing the honey gathered in the warmer months, the honey bee ensures that they will have a sufficient food supply for the coming colder ones. Once spring rolls around once more, bringing with it warmer weather and the fragrance of flowers in the air, the bees will resume normalcy in their foraging routine.
Honey is full of sugar and nutrients. Sugar is an important part of the honey bee's diet as it is a great source of energy. Bees need a near-endless supply of honey, especially during the winter. Worker bees fly an average of 500 miles during their life span. We've all heard the saying 'busy as a bee.' It's no exaggeration that bees work hard and long their whole life.
The Impact of Honey
Honey is a food source with incontestable health benefits. For both bees and humans. It is also an extremely important part of nature.
Incontestable Health Benefits
The benefits of honey for the human body are numerous. Here are just a few.
Honey Lasts Forever
Another great thing about honey is that it keeps indefinitely. This is due to the high sugar content. Bacteria and fungi cannot multiply in high concentrations of sugar, keeping it from spoiling.
Mother Nature's Gift
Honey plays a vital role in nature. By collecting nectar for honey, bees subsequently pollinate plants. This means fruit, vegetables, and berries. While collecting nectar, pollen from the flower's stamen (male reproductive organ) sticks to the hairs of the bee's body and its legs. When the bee flies to a female flower or brushes against the stigma (the female reproductive organ), it transfers the pollen on its body, fertilizing the flower.
Existence As We Know It Would Cease To Exist Without The Bee
Without the honey bee, mother nature would be in dire straits. Basically, without bees, there would be no human life. Without bees to pollinate plants, we would have no fruit or vegetables. Cows are also commonly fed on alfalfa. No bees mean no alfalfa. Even what we wear is a result of the bee.
Cotton, one of the most common fabrics in the world today, needs bees for pollination. Without bees, cotton simply wouldn't grow anymore. The cost of food would go sky high due to a shortage. If the bees died out, it would be absolutely cataclysmic.
Bee My Baby
Bees use honey to feed their young. Majority of bee larvae are feed on the honey stored in the hive while the chosen few destined to become queens are fed on royal jelly.
Into The Wild
Honey is also a natural food source for wild animals. Bears, honey badgers, opossums, skunks, raccoons, and even birds all prey on beehives in nature.
Our Final Thoughts
Now you know why bees make honey. Not only is it a wonderfully sweet and delicious food for us humans, but it is also vital to the life and survival of the very creatures that make it.
And what's good for them, seems good for us too! The health benefits of honey really are like no other food out there. Whether consuming it in a hot drink or using it as a wound dressing, it's no wonder that honey has been enjoyed and used by man for thousands of years.
Next time you relish a spoonful of liquid honey over cereal, or a dash of Manuka with your tea, you will think of your furry friends the bees, and smile with the knowledge that they too are enjoying the very same thing!