Honey, the golden flow. The nectar of the Gods (or is that Mead?) For us bees, it is the stuff of life. Whatever you might think of honey, it’s not nearly as what it is to honey bees.
First of all, what is honey? Honey is nectar, a sugary sap-like substance produced by flowers that is mostly water with varying amounts of sugars in it. Actually honey is nectar that has been changed and dehydrated by the mixing of special enzymes found in every worker bees “Crop” also known as the honey gut. We’ll gut more into that later.
First of all, flowers aren’t as nice as you think they are. Oh sure, they want you look at them and say how pretty they are and how great they smell. You don’t understand though, it’s all a plot. Plants are conniving things that are manipulating us bees into helping them to multiply and take over the world.
It’s true. See, for millions of years now, plants have been adding this addictive and tasty substance you call nectar to trick honey bees and some other insects into pollinating them and help them to reproduce, multiply and spread out. With bee pollination, some flowering plants can take over entire landscapes and no-one bats an eye except to look at the pretty sight.
They lure us in with this tantalizing nectar. We brush past all the pollen, covering ourselves in it, drink up the nectar and store it to take home and share with the colony. On the way, bees stop at other, similar flowers and as we go in for the nectar again, the pollen we picked up from the previous schemer is brushed off onto the next one helping it to reproduce more efficiently.
Meanwhile, we take the nectar home, mix in a variety of enzymes from our Crop and as we pass it to the next bee or into a stores cell, we mix even more of the “special enzyme mixture” into the nectar which, among other things, converts the sugars and helps to dehydrate the nectar until it’s only about 18% water. When you consider that nectar starts out as maybe 80% water or more, that’s one heck of a transformation we put it through.
So it get’s converted, dehydrated, stored and then we save it and make more. It gets eaten, eventually. depending on the time of year or the season. This is the primary food of all adult bees. We do collect some of the pollen also to feed the brood but for adult bees, we get the good stuff.
However, we have to live with the knowledge that we are willing accomplices to plants’ diabolical plot to take over the world. Really, when it all comes down to it, we don’t mind. The plants and bees were here long before you people and we’ll pretty much bee here long after you are gone. Not that I’m wishing anything bad on anyone, just, well, you know, that whole “Survival of the Fittest” thing.
A single honey bee colony in a beekeeper’s hive is capable of relatively easily producing anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds of honey depending on the resources, environment and weather. Of course, it also depends on the bees. I have got some cousins that, well, let’s just say if they don’t get motivated, they will be “Naturally Selected” before you can say “Honey”.
I have sisters who will spend their whole lives as a forager collecting about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey. Don’t worry too much about it though, I have more sisters than most cities have people. This is what they are made for. True story.
My Momma, the Queen bee, she told me once, “Bubba Bee, when you’re sisters give you food, you’d better eat all they give you beecause that stuff took a whole lotta effort to make and we’re all counting on you to go make some future Queen bee mighty successful at laying eggs. So you eat that honey and become healthy and strong.”
Truth bee told, my Momma didn’t call me “Bubba”. She just said, “Boy” beecause when she’s laying that many eggs to beecome drones, it’s hard to come up with that many different names. One of my sisters did tell me once that one colony in a hive can fly a total (combining all the flights of all the foragers) of about 55,000 miles, getting nectar from approximately 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey.
Did you realize that honey bees are considered to be the only insect that make food edible by humans?