How Bees Create Honey?

What did the male bee say to his female partner when he arrived home?

“Hi Honey!”

Is that the most amusing bee joke you’ve ever heard? What? It isn’t? We don’t believe it!

Bee jokes have become very popular at Wonderopolis lately. Of course, that’s probably because bees are such significant creatures, and we absolutely adore the honey they produce. In fact, some of our Wonder Friends were recently wondering exactly how bees produce that delicious substance.

Most of us have never dared to look inside a beehive. Is a typical hive filled with small stoves, cooking pots, and stirring spoons? Not quite! The actual process of creating honey is much more intimate than that!

The process begins when bees go searching. Older worker bees fly outside the hive in search of flowers filled with nectar. Depending on the weather and the time of year, they may have to fly several miles to find the necessary flowers.

When bees spot flowers, they swiftly approach and use their long, straw-like tongues to extract the nectar from the flower, which is very similar to sugar water. However, they don’t digest it. The nectar is stored in their extra stomach (known as a “crop”) for the journey back home. Bees may visit hundreds of flowers to fill their crops with nectar.

During the return flight, the nectar mixes with enzymes in the crop. The enzymes gradually begin to alter the chemical composition of the nectar, initiating the process of transforming it into honey. The complex sugar (sucrose) in the nectar is broken down into simple sugars (glucose and fructose) during this process, which is referred to as inversion.

Upon returning to the hive, the bees regurgitate (that’s the scientific term for “throw up”) the nectar into the mouths of younger worker bees, where it continues to be further broken down. The regurgitation process is repeated until the nectar is completely broken down, at which point it is regurgitated into a honeycomb cell.

The deposited nectar does not yet resemble honey, as it is too watery (about 80% water). Hive bees quickly begin fanning the fresh nectar with their wings to expedite the natural process of evaporation. Once the water content of the nectar drops to around 14-18%, it will resemble the thick, golden substance we know as honey.

When the bees are satisfied with the honey, they seal the honeycomb cells with a liquid secretion from their abdomens. This secretion hardens into beeswax, which helps to protect the honey from air and water. Stored in this manner, the honey will remain preserved indefinitely. This makes it the ideal food source to sustain bees’ happiness and health throughout the long, cold winter.

If you’ve ever observed an active beehive, you are aware that it can be filled with hundreds and even thousands of bees. That’s a good thing, because a single worker bee can only produce about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime. However, by working together, thousands of bees can produce hundreds of pounds of honey in a typical year.

Give It a Try

Make sure to find a few friends or family members who are willing to assist you in exploring the following activities:

  • Invite an adult friend or family member to take you on a field trip to a local grocery store or supermarket. What is the purpose of your visit? To find honey, of course! Take a look at the store’s honey selection and, if possible, buy one or two containers to try at home. While you’re there, explore the store and see if you can find other products that contain honey. Can you find any breakfast cereals that have honey in them?
  • Bees play a crucial role in the survival of many food crops that humans consume. Without bees, we would face significant challenges! Did you know that you can assist bees? It’s true! All you have to do is plant some bee-friendly plants near your house. If you’re unsure about what to plant, you can simply go online and consult these Ecoregional Planting Guides to determine which plants are recommended for your area to attract pollinators, like bees, to your garden.
  • Are you a fan of honey’s taste? If so, you should definitely explore 10 Recipes for Kids Using Honey. Take a look at the various options and pick one or two to try out at home. Which one is your favorite? Why? Share your preferred honey recipe with a friend or family member!

Wonder Sources



1. How do bees collect nectar to make honey?

Bees collect nectar from flowers using their long, tube-like tongues called proboscis. They fly from flower to flower, inserting their proboscis into the flower’s nectar-producing glands. As they do so, they suck up the sweet liquid and store it in their honey stomachs.

2. What happens to the nectar once the bees collect it?

Once the bees have collected the nectar, they return to their hive. Inside the hive, they regurgitate the nectar into the mouths of other worker bees. These worker bees chew the nectar and mix it with enzymes from their saliva, breaking down the complex sugars in the nectar into simpler sugars.

3. How do bees turn the nectar into honey?

After the nectar has been broken down by the enzymes, the bees spread it out onto the honeycomb cells. They fan their wings over the cells to remove excess moisture, reducing the water content of the nectar. This process also helps to thicken the nectar, transforming it into honey.

4. What gives honey its unique flavor and color?

The flavor and color of honey depend on the types of flowers the bees collect nectar from. Different flowers produce nectar with different chemical compositions, resulting in a variety of flavors and colors of honey. For example, honey made from clover flowers has a light color and mild flavor, while honey from orange blossoms has a darker color and citrusy taste.

5. How long does it take for bees to make honey?

The process of making honey can take several weeks. Bees need to collect large quantities of nectar to produce enough honey to sustain their colony through the winter months when there are fewer flowers available. The time it takes also depends on factors such as the availability of nectar, weather conditions, and the size of the bee colony.

6. Why do bees make honey?

Bees make honey as a food source to survive during times when there is a scarcity of flowers and nectar. Honey provides bees with the energy they need to fly, maintain their body temperature, and perform other essential tasks. In addition, honey is stored in the hive as a reserve food supply to sustain the colony during colder months or periods of food scarcity.

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