Bees, Beekeeping and Honey

Collecting Food

Through out the year, honey bees will leave the beehive in search of food. Two types of food are needed, pollen (provides protein) and nectar (carbohydrate - energy). A newly discovered food source by a scout bee communicates the location by perform a dance in front of other workers in order to recruit them to forge the same nectar source. The dance is known as the round or waggle tail dance. Learning the location, foragers arrive at the floral source, suck up the nectar from the flower and store it inside their stomach or honey sac which is the size of the head of a needle. Foragers also collect pollen that rub off on the hairs of their body and use their front legs to place it on a flat part the hind legs, their leg hairs hold it in place. While the nectar is inside the honey sac the bee adds enzymes from its salivary glands, this helps in the conversion from nectar to honey.

With a full load the bee returns home and is checked by the guard bees at the entrance. The worker regurgitates the nectar and gives it to the waiting bees and returns to the nectar source to gather another load, only to repeat the process again and again. The waiting bees that received the nectar add further enzymes and places it in a cell. Bees fan to circulate air in the hive and the draft created causes the excess moisture from the nectar to be evaporated off. When the water content has been reduced to 20% or less, the bees cap off the contents in the cell with a wax cap. It is at this point the terminology changes from nectar to honey.

Flowes contain nectar useful to the honey bee

Bees fanning at their entrance

Capped and uncapped honeycomb