So Why Do Bees Make Honey?

Why do bees make honey?

In short, honey bees make honey as a way of storing food to eat over the cooler winter period, when they are unable to forage and there are fewer flowers from which to gather food.

Honey is ideal for bees - it is very high in energy, because it is full of nutrients and high in sugars. When you consider that whilst flying, a honey bee's wings beat about 11,400 times per minute, you can guess they need a great deal of energy! They also flap their wings to regulate the temperature in the hive.

Honey bees convert nectar into honey. By allowing the nectar they are storing to concentrate and form into honey, (hence reducing the water content), this prevents bacteria and other nasties from forming in the honeycomb. Bacteria and fungi cannot multiply in high concentrations of sugar, and this is why it keeps indefinitely.  This means that honey is a form of food the bees can store, without it going bad.

Aah, the wisdom of honey bees!

Now, if you are wanting to find out HOW bees make honey, then this link to my page: How Do Bees Make Honey?

But for now, why not read on...

Why do bees make honey, then store it?  Why don't they simply eat it as they go along?

Well imagine this. You're stuck in your home, and the weather is so cold for you, that you're unable to go out and get food. Oh, and even if you could, there wouldn't be much around anyway!That's what it's like for honey bees in winter. For this reason, they collect, then store their food to last them through the winter months. Then, come spring, the weather will warm up, the flowers will begin to appear, and they'll be able to collect food again.

Is it alright for humans to steal the honey, then?

Assuming there is plenty of food available for them from plant and tree blossoms, and assuming the weather is okay for the honey bees to venture out, then hopefully there is plenty of honey so that it's alright for humans to take some of it. Remember that in the wild, predation is natural. Other insects, mammals and even birds (often with the help of another predator) will steal some of the honey from honey bee nests.

However, I feel the real skill of the beekeeper is in knowing how much the bees need, and how much can be taken. Some beekeepers will only take a modest amount of honey. Some beekeepers will also ensure they keep plenty of the bees' own honey in store during the winter, in case the bees need it. (Note, it is important that honey bees are only fed their own honey, to ensure viruses and disease do not spread bewteen bees).

However, some beekeepers do remove all the honey from bees, and only provide sugar in return. Sugar is in no way as nutritious for the bees as honey is. However, it is worth remembering that these practices exist largely because of human demands that put pressure on beekeepers and bees to produce more, because people wish to buy it from the supermarket - and many wish to buy it as cheaply as possible.

If we want things to change, we need to look at ourselves. We could support organic practices by purchasing organic products - this would mean a healthier environment for honey bees and other pollinators. We could also regard honey as a precious treat for which a fair price needs to be paid, rather than the cheapest price possible. That said, this is not always so easy for families on low incomes.  Read my tips about buying honey.

So What is honey?

There's more to honey than meets the eye! Even before we had scientific laboratories analysing the stuff, we humans have been harvesting it. Well, that's for another page.You can find out more about it, by following this link: What Is Honey?

Do All Bees Make It?

The honey you are familiar with, is made only by honey bees.  Bumblebees don't make honey as such, but in a sense, they make their own version of it.  You can read more about this here.

Honey bee facts
Some quick, fun facts about honey bees here!

Honey bee life cycle
Go from Why Do Bees Make Honey to this page about the life of the honey bee.

Honey bee deaths explored
There's been much news about honey bee deaths and colony collapse disorder. What's happening to our bees, and why are bees disappearing?

Honey bees
Go from Why Do Bees Make Honey to this page featuring more general information about honey bees here.

Save the bees!
We don't have to wait for governments or anyone else. Go from Why Do Bees Make Honey to these ten tips outlining what you can do to help the bees.

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