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How Do Bees Make Honey?

Updated on December 4, 2016

Honey is made only by certain members of the honeybee colony. These bees, called workers, forage for nectar. It is estimated that worker bees must obtain nectar from more than two million flowers to make a single pound of honey.

Using their long tongues, worker bees lap up and collect nectar in special sacklike structures, called honey crops. Inside the honey crops special ripening enzymes are released. The enzymes act on sugars present in the nectar, breaking them down into the simple sugars dextrose and levulose. The resulting mixture is called invert sugar.

When worker bees return to the hive, they place the honey in special cubicles, or cells, of the combs. After some water has evaporated from the honey, other worker bees seal off the storage cubicles with beeswax. The honey remains in the cubicles until it is used by the colony or is harvested.

Most honeybee colonies produce from 30 to 60 pounds of excess honey a year, but large colonies may produce more than 100 pounds. In general, one large colony can produce about 1 1/2 times as much as an equal number of bees divided into smaller colonies.

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