How do bees produce honey?

How do bees produce honey?

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Honey production begins when worker honey bee collects nectar from flowers – when collecting nectar, bees also pollinate flowers, which in addition to allowing the reproduction of plants, also results in the production of better quality fruits and a greater number of seeds. Although it is the main ingredient, flower nectar is not the only raw material for honey since bees collect any sugary liquid that can be used to produce food. That is why it is common to see bees prowling the remains of juices or soft drinks.

Storing and producing honey

The bees have in their bodies a stomach for their food and a kind of reservoir of honey, where it collects the nectar that sucks from the flowers to transport it to the hive. It can carry about 70mg of sugary substance. When it finishes collecting, the bee then goes back to the hive, and already during transport, the nectar starts to be transformed into honey. This happens thanks to enzymes that are produced by glands located in the mouth of small insects. They produce the enzymes: invertase and glucose oxidase.

Honey is formed by the reaction of these substances with the nectar collected from the flowers. Invertase converts sucrose – a kind of sugar contained in nectar – into two other sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose oxidase, in turn, transforms a small amount of glucose into glycolic acid, which makes honey acid, protecting it from bacteria that would cause it to ferment. By flapping their wings to dry the water, present in large quantities in the nectar, the bees dehydrate the honey, killing other microorganisms.

Arriving at the hive

When the workers arrive at the hive, the nectar brought in the honey bag is passed on to younger bees, who will process the nectar for about half an hour. During this process, the enzymes will break down the complex sugars in the nectar and turn them into simpler sugars, so that it is more digestible for bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria, while it is stored inside the hive. The bees then spread the nectar over the honeycombs, where the water evaporates. The mixture gradually turns into a thick syrup rich in carbohydrates, sugar, vitamins, and minerals: the honey itself.

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