About Bees & Honey

How is honey made?

The nectar that is gathered from flowers by bees is of a thin, watery consistency. Upon return to the hive, the field bees regurgitate their nectar loads to other bees, who distribute it in the comb cells as small droplets. With the increased surface area, the moisture more readily evaporates, and as they are moved around, enzymes from the bees salivary glands are added, which convert the sucrose in the nectar to glucose and fructose. The bees then gather the honey droplets up again and store them in cells ready for capping with wax. Worker bees positioned on both sides of a hive entrance accelerate the evaporation process by continually fanning their wings, which drives currents of air into the hive and across the surfaces of the comb. Others direct the moist air out of the hive. Once the moisture levels have been reduced sufficiently, the cells are sealed with a wax capping, and the honey is ready for either extraction or future food stores.

How is beeswax made?

The wax is formed by worker bees, who secrete it from wax-producing glands on their abdomen. The sizes of these wax glands depend on the age of the worker and after daily flights these glands begin to gradually waste away. The new wax is initially glass-clear and colorless, becoming opaque after chewing by the worker bee. The wax of honeycomb is nearly white, but becomes progressively more yellow or brown by incorporation of pollen oils and propolis.  Honeybees use the beeswax to build honeycomb cells in which their young are raised and honey and pollen are stored.  For the wax-making bees to secrete wax, the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36 °C , and to produce their wax, bees must consume about eight times as much honey by mass.  It has been estimated that bees collectively fly 530,000 km (roughly six times around the earth) to yield 1 kg of beeswax.  When beekeepers extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell with an uncapping knife or machine. 


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