the-bees-waggle-blog

Time for something sweet!

March 09, 2015 81514186

We all know honeybees produce this wonderful sweet treat that everyone loves, honey. But how in the world do they make it? The nectar is first extracted from flowers by foragers (the oldest of the worker bees).  They suck the nectar up through a long straw like tongue and into a second stomach named the crop, where enzymes are added to the nectar. These enzymes transform the pH as well as the chemical composition of the nectar, making it more favorable for consumption and long-term storage. A foraging bee can collect as much as half its body weight in nectar volume from as many as 400 flowers before returning to the hive! That is like me carrying 60 pounds while running for miles, impossible! That is impressive strength and endurance! Once the forager returns to the hive, she regurgitates the nectar from the crop into the mouth of her younger sister, a house bee, who then spits it into a honeycomb. Once the entire volume has been transferred to the comb, a group of house bees gather around the nectar filled comb and begin fanning the liquid with rapid beats of their wings. This combined effort leads to evaporation of water from the nectar, which begins with 80% water content, and ends at a 13-18% water ratio. Evaporation from 80% to 13%, by flapping their wings, wow! The honeycomb is then covered with a waxy cap to keep it at a low water containing composition. This process is absolutely necessary to preserve the honey and protect it from fermentation or spoilage. Honey is purposed to feed the colony in times of nectar draughts, times when blooms are sparse or unavailable. One bee can only produce a fraction of a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime, whereas a colony of thousands can produces upwards of 70 pounds of honey annually! What a team they are. Maybe we could take a life lesson from this. More can be accomplished with many hands working as a team toward a common goal. Time



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