Bees produce honey from the nectar and pollen they eat from flowers. The resulting honey is stored in honeycombs for the winter time, when flowers are no longer available for bees to feed on, according to most beekeeping books. There are over 300 honey types available on the market nowadays.
Interested in becoming an active beekeeper? Besides the valuable information you can get from a wide variety of information sources, such as books and articles, you may also be interested in the detailed information the following article has to offer on what bees eat, how they make their precious honey, as well as the many different honey types available on the market.
Bees have been around for a very long time and, throughout time, people have been using the wonderful honey they produce for many purposes. If you are curious about how honey bees can make honey for you, there is a wide variety of books available you can learn from. It is a very good idea to better understand these tiny insects, so let’s take a closer look at their life cycles.
Bees are tiny flying insects that are closely related to wasps and ants. There are over 16000 bee species found across the world. Bees live on every continent, except for the polar area, in every habitat that has flowering plants that depend on insects to pollinate them. Bees pollinate flowers due to their feeding behavior.
Bees eat pollen and nectar found in flowers. Pollen gives bees protein and many other nutrients, while nectar gives them energy. Pollen, which is a yellow powder, will stick to the bee’s legs and this way it gets carried on to other flowers. This process is called pollination and it ensures genetic diversity in plants, fertilization and, therefore, the survival of the plant species.
Most bee species, such as honey bees, bumble bees, and stingless bees, live in colonies. This means they have a queen bee, many worker bees, and male bees, also called drones. The worker bees within the colony are responsible for feeding the queen, making the wax that the nest is made of, feeding and cleaning the hatching bees by producing honey and royal jelly.
What is honey?
Honey is a sweet substance produced by honey bees. It is known for containing many nutrients while tasting delicious. Honey has been used by people from ancient times for many curative purposes. Cave drawings that are approximately 8000 years old show people foraging for honey. This comes to prove just how much appreciated honey was by our ancestors.
Bees produce honey by regurgitating the nectar they ate from flowers and mixing it with their own secretions that contain enzymes. Honey is stored in honeycombs that bees make out of the wax they produce themselves. It is mainly used for feeding hatching bee larvae in the first stages of their life.
However, bee larvae that are chosen to become future queens will not be fed honey, they will be fed royal jelly, just like the queen itself. This highly nutritious product helps both queens and larvae that are to become queens, grow and develop at a much faster rate. Queen bees will develop to be twice the size of a worker bee and can lay up to 2000 eggs per day.
Honey is also used for feeding the colony members during the harsh winter times when there are no flowers available outside the hive. It is stored in honeycombs made out of beeswax. Honeycombs are made out of individual hexagonal, tube-like cells. Each cell is covered up with a wax cap once it is filled with the much-needed honey, that is to be properly stored.
What do honey bees eat?
Most honey bees species eat pollen and drink nectar from flowers. They use these two for feeding on the spot, as well as making honey they store for future feeding, when flowers disappear, such as the winter time. Some bee species have been observed eating some over-ripe fruit parts and licking sweet secretions from extrafloral nectaries.
Besides pollen and nectar, honey bees also need to drink water. They use water to keep themselves properly hydrated during hot summer days. Bees also use water to dilute the honey they feed their recently hatched larvae. Bees prefer drinking the fresh morning water drops found on the flowers they feed on. This way they produce good quality honey.
Pollen is a good protein source in their diet, while nectar makes a very good energy source for bees. By mixing these two ingredients, bees get a balanced, nutrient filled diet, that they very much needed due to their fast metabolism. Feeding their larvae nectar, pollen, and honey, bees provide them the best nutritious meal ensuring their fast development.
During the winter time, bees will use the honey they have stored in the honeycombs to feed the colony. If, however, the beekeeper notices that the honey left for the colony becomes insufficient, he/she may have to put out food supplements, made especially for honey bees. This could occur during particularly harsh winters, that last much longer than usual.
How do bees turn nectar into honey?
First of all, honey bees will forage for nectar and pollen, sometimes the foraging area being pretty far away from the hive. Bees will lick the nectar from the best flowers, and carry pollen back to the hive in special sacks on their back legs. During this process, the honey bees will help the pollination of the flowers they feed on.
Once they’ve returned to the hive, they start regurgitating some of the nectar they have eaten, mixing it with enzyme from their own saliva and then letting the resulting solution dehydrate for some time. The result is long-lasting, good quality honey that they store in the honeycomb cells, by covering them with beeswax caps.
For this whole process to take place, certain requirements need to be met. First of all, bees need to find suitable flowers to forage from. Then, the temperature and airflow conditions inside the hive need to be at an optimum level. The temperature within the hive should not be above 97 degrees Fahrenheit, nor should they be anywhere below 91 degrees F.
Also, good ventilation is essential to the well-being of the colony, and the production of good quality honey. There are many factors that influence the overall color, taste, and quality of honey. The flower source, the health condition of the colony or the rainfall during foraging time are some of the factors influencing the traits of the resulting honey.
There are over 300 types of honey on the market today. Some of them are raw honey, while others are processed honey. Processed honey is the product resulting after raw honey is heated, filtered, and bottled in a factory. This process causes a loss of vitamins and nutrients in the honey, therefore raw honey is always the better choice.
Most honey types are named after the flowering plants bees fed on when making it, such as Acacia honey, Dandelion honey, Orange honey, Manuka honey and so on. Every honey type has a specific color and taste, according to the flowers it’s made from, giving it a unique floral or sourish taste.
Manuka honey, for instance, is native to New Zealand’s coastal area and it’s made from the flowers of the Tea Tree bush. This honey type is well known for its antibacterial properties, making it a suitable product when treating ulcers, acne, sore throats, and good for the improvement of the immune system. It has a strong aftertaste that lasts for a while.
Even among different honey batches of the same type, some slight color and taste differences could appear. This might happen due to the climate differences between foraging times, which proves to be another factor that influences the characteristics of a certain honey batch. Also, the health condition of the colony may be an influencing factor.