How Honey is Made

You can spot the larger male drone surrounded by female worker bees hard at work.

Bees are one of the hardest working social communities in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees are responsible for pollinating 80% of our flowering crops, which makes up a third of everything we eat. Bumbling and buzzing, these colonies of honeybees play an essential role in not only pollination, but also transporting nectar from varieties of floral sources and transforming it into honey.

To truly understand how these complex insects work, we have to understand their social structures. There are three distinguishable social classes within one colony: the queen, the drones and the worker bees. The queen bee is the single fertile female that specializes in reproduction, laying up to 2,000 eggs a day. Drone bees are males that specialize in the fertilization of the queen’s eggs. These drones have the shortest life span because they only have one responsibility in the hive.

One of Kelley's Queen Bees surrounded by her baby bees!
One of Kelley’s Queen Bees surrounded by her baby bees.

Worker bees are females that earn their name because they are responsible for performing many different jobs in the first three weeks of their short 6 week lifespan including: cleaning the cell from which she emerged, removing dead bees and disposing of them as far from the hive as possible, feeding and caring for developing larva bees, often checking a single larva 1,300 times a day, attending to the queen, collecting nectar and pollen from the foraging field bees, fanning the hive to control the temperature and humidity and guarding the hive. During the final half of her short life, she becomes a field bee. The field bees travel within a two- to three-mile radius collecting nectar and pollen, visiting approximately 5 million flowers to produce a single pint of honey.

The science behind turning nectar into honey is quite impressive. In fact, pure nectar from the flower is made of 80% water with the rest being complex sugar. Honeybees have to work together to cure the nectar, reducing the moisture content to about 17-18%. They begin this process by adding their enzymes and evaporating excess moisture. Once the nectar is collected and stored in hexagonal shaped cells, the bees use their wings to fan the nectar thickening it to its most perfect state, sweet gooey honey.