How bees collect honey
Honey production is a complex chain of biological and chemical processes. We understand how flower nectar, thanks to the work of bees, turns into a delicacy.
What is nectar
Many plants have so-called nectaries, honey glands that secrete sugary juice, nectar. Most often they are located in flowers, but sometimes they can be in other places. For example, in linden, the glands are located at the base of the leaves.
The sweet nectar attracts bees and other pollinating insects, as well as birds and bats. While the creature drinks sugar juice, pollen settles on the body. Her animal transfers to another flower and thus fertilizes the plant. It turns out that nectar is a kind of bait and payment of the plant world for the opportunity to reproduce. Although this is not the only function of natural syrup.
Which bees collect honey
A bee colony is a whole world with its own rules, distribution of positions and responsibilities. From 40 to 60 thousand individuals live in one family in the summer, and matriarchy reigns in it. At the head of the colony is the queen bee, the only female responsible for the birth of offspring. Around it revolve several thousand fertile males, drones.
The remaining tens of thousands of bees work to feed the entire family and stock up on food for the winter. It is these individuals that are engaged in the production of honey. Workaholics are divided into collectors and receiver bees. The former leave the hive, look for nectar and bring it home, while the latter take the prey and place it in the combs.
How bees collect honey
Honey production takes place from about mid-spring to mid-autumn. At this time, the forager bee leaves the hive and goes in search of nectar. Finding a suitable flower, she dips her long proboscis into the nectary and drinks the sweet juice. At the same time, it does not fall into the stomach of an insect, but into a special storage, a honey goiter. The bee continues to flit from one plant to another until it fills the inner reservoir with nectar. For one flight, she has to fly around an average of 50 to 100 flowers. Even with the storage loaded, the worker is able to reach speeds of more than 24 km / h.
Nectar enters the goiter along with the enzymes of bee saliva. They help break down complex carbohydrates. For example, thanks to invertase, sucrose is converted into simple glucose and fructose. Glucose oxidase separates glucose into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide (it is no longer in ready-made honey, but at the start of production, this component protects the contents of the goiter from pathogenic microorganisms). Finally, amylase breaks down starch.
With a full belly, the forager returns to the hive. She, as it were, regurgitates partially fermented nectar, and it is also sucked in by the receiving bee through her proboscis. In her honey stomach, the processing of the product continues. Domestic individuals transfer nectar to each other, so moisture also evaporates in the process. This continues until the water content in the future honey drops to about 20%. This may take 8 to 10 days. The bee then sends the processed nectar to the comb.
Then the insects shift the product from cell to cell many times. They intensively work with wings, helping moisture evaporate faster. And the heat inside the hive, about 33–35 degrees, also contributes to this. If you hear a characteristic long buzz from the house, this means that the bees are hard at work preparing honey.
Due to fermentation, air circulation from flapping wings and exposure to high temperatures, the nectar loses water, thickens and turns into honey. When the mass reaches the desired consistency, the domestic bee seals the full cell with wax, which is produced by special glands in the individual's abdomen. The honey in the combs matures and is stored until the insects need food. They usually use up emergency supplies during the cold season. However, sometimes this also happens in the summer (for example, during a drought), when they do not have the opportunity to extract nectar.
How much honey do bees collect
The age of a honey bee is short: in the cold season, about 6 months, in the warm season, about 4 weeks. During its short life, the insect manages to produce approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey. At the same time, one bee family is able to produce about 90 kg of honey per year. Although the number may vary up or down depending on the climate, weather conditions, breed of bees and other factors.