How Honey Is Made by Bees?

Honey is a food that people have used since ancient times, and it consists largely of sugar. It contains health-friendly substances such as amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Honey bee uses nectar to make honey. Nectar in flowers is an important factor in pollination by attracting creatures such as birds and insects. The nectar found in the flowers turns into honey by the bees. Nectar is secreted by the so-called Nectarium in flowers. The nutrients produced as a result of photosynthesis are the main source of nectar and the nectar is mainly composed of fructose, sucrose, and glucose. Apart from these sugar substances, substances such as lipids, organic acids, and amino acids are also present in honey. The type and amount of these substances vary from plant to plant. On the other hand, pollen is used only to meet the protein needs of bees.

If you divide the stems of some flowers into two, you will see a sticky liquid flowing. This liquid is the active nectar used by bees in honey production. In order to be able to obtain this liquid, bees land on top of a flower and absorb the fluid with the long pipe in their mouths and keep the nectar in their belly. The bees collecting the nectar stores this nectar in the area with the name honey stomach. Bees have two stomachs. One of them is used to collect nectar, the other is the normal stomach. The stomachs of bees holding nectar can contain up to 70 mg of nectar and, when fully filled, weigh as much as the bee itself. Bees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers to fill their stomachs where they collect nectar.

Bees provide the disintegration of nectar disaccharides (especially sucrose) into monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) with some enzymes they secrete. The bees collecting nectar transfer them to the worker bees in the hive. Worker bees in the hive take back this nectar and drink it again. This process takes about 15-20 minutes. For this reason, there are people who think that bees make honey by vomiting. At this time, the secretions containing the enzyme mix with the nectar and the sucrose in the structure of the nectar continues to be converted into glucose and fructose. The worker bees in the hive then transfer the nectar to the honeycombs.

The Content of the Honey

The water content of honey is quite low. The worker bees in the hive flap their wings and ventilate the hive and allow the excess water in the honeycomb to evaporate. While the rate of water in the nectar is at 80%, it drops to and below 20% after the whisk. After lowering the water level, it takes 1-3 days for the nectar to darken and turn into honey.

Honey has a weak acidity because of organic acids such as gluconic acid in its content. The taste and odor of honey depend on the volatile organic substances in it. Honey production is very difficult. To bring together only half a kilogram of raw nectar, 900 bees need to work one day. 450 grams of honey, which is formed by turning nectar into pure honey, is formed by an average of 17,000 honey bees collecting nectar from 10,000,000 flowers. Honey is a very sweet food because it contains three different sugars. 34% of the honey is fructose, 2% is sucrose and 40% is levulose. The remaining 7% of honey, 17% of which is water, is composed of substances such as sulfur, iron, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, magnesium and pollen.

Bees work very intensively and fly to very long distances according to their small size and they feed on honey, honey extract (nectar), royal jelly, propolis, and pollen. The queen bees, the leader of the bee colony, are physically different from the worker bees. The queen bee, which differs physically and in rank, is fed by this very special and nutritious as well as more valuable substance, called royal jelly, which is secreted by the salivary glands of the worker bees.

Honeycomb are the pores that worker bees weave to store the eggs of the bees as well as honey. It is all made by bees made of wax. Bees produce wax thanks to 4 pairs of glands in the abdomen. The bees use the legs of their bodies to bring the beeswax flakes to their mouths, knead them until they reach a paste consistency and stick them to the top of the frame. Another bee repeats the same process and glues it right next to the other worker bee. When the third and fourth bees are joined, others perform the same process and eventually thousands of bees produce a honeycomb. Just like in construction, bees perform the same process as everyone from the crowded group of workers brings and puts bricks and builds a wall in the construction. When this process is completed, hexagonal geometric shape is formed. They spend 22 kilos of honey for 1 kilo of wax. If the bees could not produce wax, honeycombs would not exist.

Activities of Bees When Making Honey: Division of Labour

Bees can distinguish potential food sources from their color and odor, find directions using the sun as a compass, and give other bees information about the nature and presence of their food through famous swing dances. Moreover, all the bees in the hive notice these signs and find that food even in the dark in 5 minutes. Interestingly, the bee hatches from the egg and starts collecting nectar at jet speed. For 500 gr honey, 900 bees should work for 1 day. 450 gr honey accumulates with 17 thousand bees circulating 10 million flowers. A bee contributes to the honeycomb by collecting only twelve of a teaspoon of honey throughout its life.

Bees do not only make honey with the nectar they collect from the flowers, but they also carry out the task of maintaining the ecological balance with the fertilization of the plants by performing qualified pollination and the building block of our natural resource production. This is how all living bees become life insurance. We need bees not only to eat honey but also to eat many nutrients. The female worker bees travel even 3.5 km from the nest in search of nectar, pollen, and water supply. This is more than just 4,000 hectares of field survey around each colony. A bee visits about 1,500 blossoms a day and collects half the nectar of his own weight and fills his stomach or “honey sac”.

It was calculated that a bee made 800 kilometers of flight to collect honey. Bees live in a colony. An average of 50 thousand individuals in a colony. In spring and summer, the bees of a colony run 7.5 million times to the flowers. This equates to 20 million kilometers of flight distance. Thus, 26 times between the Earth and the Moon to go back and forth. In this way, 30 kg of pollen and 600 kg of nectar are carried to the hive. The bee colony functions in a way like the human brain. The total number of nerve cells of bees in a hive is half that of a human brain. Each is a tiny, relatively silly building block. But when they create the network, they do extraordinary work that is fascinating.

As the bee returns to the garden with the nectar he collects daily, he recognizes his home thanks to the queen’s unique pheromonal scent, an aromatic chemical cover that can be sent from bee to bee and traced around the hive. Each bee carries with it a piece of this fragrance, which is like a perfumed security password that the guards at the entrance know before they remove it. In this way, they understand the smell of foreign bees and intruders, scare them away to prevent them from stealing their honey. As the bees wander from flower to flower to collect nectar, they also pollinate the fruit to fertilize them. They trace pollen from one flower to another. Thus, plants are fertilized, crops are diversified, colored, abound, and develop.

The Complete Journey of a Honeybee

In the warm sunlight of the morning, when the flowers blossom, the bees leave their hives like racehorses that jump out the exit door. The orchard quickly buzzes and clouds with hundreds of eager bees covering every tree. They immediately attack the colorful flowers and start looking for pollen. As soon as the bee leaves one flower, he is greedy, guided by his scent and signs, looking for another of the same kind. Each time the bees go on a nectar gathering trip, they focus specifically on one type of flower, so if a picking trip starts over dandelions, tulips or apples, it will end in the same way. In the path of the next flower, using the grooming inserts placed on the joints, brushing his body, scrubbing his hind legs flying in the air, scrubbing the collected pollen into smooth, small balls. At this time, the male pollen particles smeared from the previous flower fall into the female flower and the plant is fertilized.

Thus, while they continue to visit the same kind of flowers, they also fertilize them. In this way, by using the pollination service of bees, we increase product productivity by up to 60 percent. Flowers waiting for honey bees compete in many different ways, producing more delicious nectars, brighter colors, wider landing areas, and more detailed, timely and attractive pollen presentations. Such conscious and determined behavior of bees is fascinating. We owe one-third of our food stock to the bees for their leading role in pollination. In the commercial production of more than one hundred of our most important crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, melons, onions, almonds, cherries, apples, plums, pears, turnips, parsley, sunflowers, blueberries, and clover, visitor honeybees are necessary and indispensable.

Bees are also useful in fertilizing as many as fifty crops, including asparagus, coffee, anise, chicory, pear, apricot, pepper, coconut, strawberry, and tomato. The well-known entomologist E.O. Wilson says: “The more the bees enter the crop pollination, the more advanced and efficient the products are obtained.” The more the bees enter the crop pollination, the more advanced and efficient the products are obtained. Moreover, this is a much more necessary activity than honey and other products they produce. Experts are right when they say, “If we consider the value of bees by calculating the fruits, vegetables, and seeds that are the result of pollination, we are about 150 times as profitable compared to honey and beeswax.” The contribution of bees to the agricultural economy is estimated to be around $ 15-20 billion just for the United States.

For example, in trees that are not fertilized with bees in the loquat fruit, 4 percent of the flowers hold fruits, while the fruit holding rate of the flowers fertilized with bees is 83 percent. While the seed tying rate in clover fields which is not pollinated by bees is 1-2 percent, this rate increases to 53 percent in the field pollinated with bees. 80 percent of all flowering plants on earth are pollinated by insects, and honeybees are responsible for 85 percent of them. This corresponds to approximately 170,000 plant species.

Unfortunately, the alliance of bees that benefit nature, the ecological environment and humans with recent modern farms have endangered their health. Bees are often exposed to pesticides thrown in the greens on the side of the road, or water basins contaminated with chemical poisons, adjacent to the fields where they often collect nectar during their useful agricultural activities and long trips. With the wider use of chemicals, the increase in genetically modified plants, and the reduction of safe natural habitats for bees, it is difficult to escape hazards, thus thousands of colonies are poisoned each year. This leads to a decrease in the yield of the crops.

After all, we can say that the work of bees is not only about making honey. The bees are the leading actors in the development of plants, the formation of agricultural products and the forage crops, which are the main inputs of animal husbandry, by fertilizing the 120 thousand flowers they visit to collect nectar and pollen for the production of 1 gram of honey. There are no other alternatives.

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Savaş Ateş

I like eating honey a lot. We have a huge interest in bees and how they make honey. I have visited honey farms. I have talked to a lot of honey sellers. I read a lot of books about them. I want to share my knowledge with you.

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