How Do Bees Make Honey? It’s Complicated

Our Texas insect expert answers common questions about bugs.

By Laura Rice & Leah ScarpelliSeptember 26, 2018 10:00 am| ,

Humans have used honey for thousands of years. We eat it, we flavor drinks with it and ancient Egyptians used it to preserve food.

Wizzie Brown, an insect specialist with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office says the process of making honey requires different kinds of bees, and several steps.

On how bees work together to make honey:

“What happens is you have different types of worker bees. And the forager bees are the ones that are going to go out and collect nectar. And they pass this off, the nectar that they have collected … to the processor bee. So, essentially, they will regurgitate the nectar directly into the processor bee’s mouth, which is kind of gross if you think about it.”

On how honey moves through the hive:

“The processor bee will then carry the nectar into the hive itself and they will actually put it into the honeycomb cells … by regurgitating it. And while those processor bees are regurgitating it – because it takes several trips to fill up a honey cell inside the hive – they are also regurgitating an enzyme that starts to break the nectar down.”

On what happens to the nectar:

“Nectar is essentially sucrose and water, so very similar to table sugar and water. So, the enzyme that they are regurgitating into the cell helps to break that down into fructose, which is fruit sugar, and glucose, which is blood sugar. So not only are they breaking it down with those enzymes, they also have to get a lot of the water out of it.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.