The Honey Process

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As the main bi-product we can harvest when beekeeping, many questions revolve around the sweet stuff. 

The honey making process is actually a very interesting production that takes patience and some worker bee finesse. 

As we have previously mentioned in The Art of Pollination, forager honey bees gather nectar from the flowers of plants with their long tongue or proboscis. They then store it into a special second stomach called a crop. The nectar mixes in the crop with enzymes and proteins produced by the bee and kicks off the honey process. 

Once the bee makes her way back to the hive, she passes along the nectar from her crop to another bee.

This house bee takes the nectar from the forager bee and starts mixing it with her enzymes to continue breaking down the nectar. This breaks down the nectar further to protect it from bacteria and allows for easier bee digestion. After the nectar is ready, it is placed in a cell.

Though we don't often associate the word regurgitation with honey, that is essentially how they pass it from one another, and how they place it into the cell.

Without it, the nectar wouldn't be properly processed and would never turn into the honey that we love. Gross but cool!

These hexagon-shaped cells made of beeswax are used to store nectar while water evaporates. The bees help the process along and ripen the nectar into honey by fanning their wings to get all the water out. Once the cells are filled with pure raw honey, the house bee caps each cell with wax. 

As beekeepers, we want to make sure our bees have enough honey for themselves before we harvest any. 

Once we are comfortable that our bees are set for the winter, we take the surplus honey and extract it. This honey is stored above the hive body in "supers". You can read more about hive parts in our post What is a Bee Hive? Through different methods of extraction, you then get the rich raw honey we all know and love.

All that work and attention from the bees gives honey the truly deserving nickname of liquid gold.