Think about buying food for an entire hive of bees! That is what the older female workers do! They are the field bees that we see in the spring and summer collecting pollen and nectar from flowers.
Nectar is the liquid that will be turned into honey back at the hive. These bees may go far from the hive each day just to collect nectar! Indeed, they are “busy bees“!
They are perfect for the job, sucking up the sweet floral nectar with their long tongues, like drinking straws.
Also, they have two stomachs, one of which is a honey stomach that functions like the grocery bags we carry home from the store and stores the nectar. It can take over a thousand flowers to fill the honey stomach.
The field bees return to the hive once their honey stomach is full, , at which point they spit out nectar into the mouths of the younger female house bees.
The house bees munch on the nectar for about half an hour, chewing it like gum and breaking it down with special chemicals, making it easier for the bees to eat.
Then, they deposit the chewed nectar in the wax tubes, called cells, that make up the honeycomb. The honeycomb forms the inside of the hive, like a food pantry.
The water in the nectar dries while it sits in the honeycomb cells, and the nectar gets thicker, becoming honey. The bees will cover each honeycomb cell with a wax cap once the honey has reached the ideal thickness. By doing this, the honey will stay fresh until they are ready to eat it.
Why Do Honeybees Make Honey?
Although humans love honey just as much as honeybees do, honey is actually made by bees for the colony to eat. One colony of bees can consume 120–200 pounds of honey yearly, and they need to make and store enough of it to get them through the winter when there isn’t enough nectar to eat.
Why do bees make honey, then store it? Why don’t they simply eat it as they go along?
Well imagine this. You’re stuck in your home, and the weather is so bad, that you’re unable to go out and get food, and even if you could go out for food, there wouldn’t be much around anyway!
That’s what it’s like for honey bees in winter. Whilst they may be able to forage on a dry, cold day, it’s unlikely there will be many flowers for them to forage on.