Honey Bee Hive

honey bees on hive

Scientific Name: Apis mellifera Linnaeus

Honey is made from the nectar of flowers. When a bee visits a flower, she sucks the nectar from the flower and stores it in a special stomach or 'honey sac'. If the bee wants to feed, a valve in the honey sac opens to allow nectar to pass through to her own stomach for her own energy needs. The bee will visit numerous flowers in order to fill the sac and once it is full she returns to the hive and delivers it to a worker bee or deposits it in a cell of the honeycomb to be later converted to honey.

Nectar is 70-80% water and 20-30% sucrose and in order to make honey, the water must be removed from the nectar. This is accomplished by manipulating the nectar in the mouthparts as worker bees pass the nectar between them from mouth to mouth. Enzymes in the bees' saliva converts the sucrose to glucose and fructose. Droplets of the nectar will then be placed on the upper sides of the honeycomb cells and bees will fan their wings in order to increase air movement and remove excess water by evaporation.

When the nectar has been fully worked and moisture content reduced, it is called honey and contains about 18-20% water. The honey is placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax in readiness for the arrival of offspring. Pollen, a rich source of protein, is mixed with the honey and is fed to the larvae.

Did you know?

To gather 0.5kg of honey, a bee flies a distance equivalent to twice around the world.

It takes about 2 million flowers to produce 0.5kg of honey.

A worker larva is fed an average of 1300 meals a day.

Photo courtesy of Carl Dennis, Auburn University. Image 1203135, www.insectimages.org.