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How do bees make honey?

A typical hive will house around 60,000 bees which is made up of around 95% female worker bees (forager and hive workers), 5% male drones and 1 Queen.

Foraging bees will collect nectar by visiting between 50-100 flowers per flight. Using their proboscis (bee tongue) they will suck a small amount of nectar from each flower they visit.

The nectar passes through their oesophagus to the honey sac (honey stomach).

In the honey sac, the nectar is mixed with what is called Bee Enzymes. Bee Enzymes are secreted by honeybee’s glands to help ripen nectar. This process starts to turn the nectar’s sucrose (sugar) into glucose (source of energy) and fructose (natural sweetener). Learn more about natural sugars and crystallization here.

Raw nectar has a high-water content of around 70-80%, and once the nectar is in the bee’s stomach it will start to break down moisture levels as this needs to be reduced to become honey.

Once the bee’s stomach is full, they will make their way back to the hive and pass the nectar via mouth to mouth to the hive workers.

Worker bee’s will continue to pass it from bee to bee until its moisture content has been dramatically reduced.

The next step is for the mixture to be regurgitated into the honeycomb cells and using their wings, they will fan the honey to further reduce the moisture content to around 17-20%. Only when they are happy with the levels they will ‘cap’ each honeycomb cell with beeswax.

Once cells are capped with beeswax this indicates to the beekeeper that they are full of honey and ready for extracting. But don’t worry, they leave more than enough honey for the honeybee to feed.

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