jars of honey

Why Do Bees Make Honey – Clue: It’s Not for Humans…

Bees make honey as a way to store food for their colony to survive the winter months when there are fewer flowers and nectar available.

It is important to understand the primary function of honey within the hive. While many may believe that honey is solely intended for human consumption, it is actually a vital resource for bees themselves. Honey serves as a crucial source of sustenance, providing the energy necessary for bees to carry out their roles within the hive and care for their young. However, it is not simply a matter of producing enough honey to meet basic needs. Bees go to great lengths to produce an abundant supply of honey, which begs the question: why do they go to such lengths to produce so much?

How Much Honey Can Bees Make?

Bees are fascinating creatures that have been vital to the ecosystem for millions of years. Honey, one of their most famous by-products, is a delicious and nutritious substance that has been enjoyed by humans for centuries. Honeybees are the only species of bees that make honey, and it is the worker bees that are responsible for this task.

A single worker bee can only produce around a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its six-week life. However, an entire colony of bees can produce a considerable amount more. A thriving bee colony can produce enough honey to feed themselves, and they will continue to produce honey as long as they have space to store it.

During the winter months when the bees are unable to leave the hive due to the cold and there is a scarcity of nectar-producing flowers, they rely on the honey they have stored to survive. Bees will always produce more honey than they need as they do not know how much they will require to survive the winter. This excess honey is that which allows beekeepers to harvest honey from their hives without harming the bees.

The Deciding Factors in Honey Production

The amount of honey that bees produce varies depending on several factors. The type of flower nectar that the bees collect affects the color and flavor of the honey. The weather conditions, the size of the hive, and the number of bees also play a significant role in the amount of honey produced.

A healthy and productive hive can produce anywhere from 30 to 60 pounds of honey per year. Nevertheless, this amount can fluctuate greatly, depending on the above factors. Some beekeepers can harvest honey multiple times a year, while others only harvest once a year, leaving enough honey for the bees to survive the winter.

honeycomb with dripping honey

How is Honey Made?

The process of honey-making begins with the forager bees, who fly out from the hive to collect nectar from flowers. Bees are attracted to flowers by their color, scent, and nectar production. When the bees find a flower with a high concentration of nectar, they use their proboscis, which is a tubular mouthpart, to suck the nectar out of the flower.

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Once the bees have collected the nectar they store it in their honey stomach, which is separate from their regular stomach. The honey stomach can hold up to eighty percent of the bee’s weight. During the flight back to the hive, the bees will add enzymes to the nectar to start the process of converting it into honey.

Upon returning to the hive, the forager bees transfer the nectar to the mouths of waiting house bees. The house bees will chew the nectar for about half an hour, breaking down the complex sugars in the nectar and adding more enzymes to it. Then, they pass it to another waiting house bee, who will repeat the process. This process of regurgitating and re-chewing the nectar by the house bees continues until it is partially digested and transformed into honey.

Next, the bees need to remove the excess water from the liquid. They do this by spreading the nectar across the honeycomb and fanning their wings to increase airflow and help speed up evaporation. The bees also use their body heat to help evaporate the water. As the water content of the nectar decreases, its sugar concentration increases, making it less hospitable to bacteria and more stable for long-term storage.

When the water content is just below twenty percent, the bees cap the cells of the honeycomb with a thin layer of beeswax. The honey is now ready to be stored and used by the hive. The bees use honey as their primary food source, particularly during the winter months when they cannot fly outside to gather nectar.

Why Do Bees Need Honey?

Bees are hardworking insects that need a lot of energy to perform their tasks. They require a reliable source of nutrients to maintain their strength and vitality. Honey provides bees with the energy and nutrition they need to perform their essential duties within the hive.

The Role of Honey in Reproduction

Drones are an important part of the bee colony’s reproduction process. They are produced by the queen to mate with her and then die. Drones never leave the hive and rely on honey stores for their energy needs. Honey is the primary food source for drones, allowing them to build their strength and have the energy required to mate with the queen. Without honey, the drones would not be able to perform their essential role in the colony’s reproduction.

The Role of Honey in Foraging

Worker bees are responsible for foraging for nectar and pollen. They travel long distances, visiting numerous flowers to collect the nectar and pollen required for honey production. The process of foraging requires a significant amount of energy, and honey is the perfect source of nutrition for these hardworking bees. Honey provides the necessary energy to fly back and forth from the hive, carrying heavy loads of nectar and pollen. Without honey, the worker bees would not have the energy required to complete their foraging duties.

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Crystallized honey
Crystallized honey

The Role of Honey in Winter Survival

During the winter months bees cannot leave the hive to forage for nectar and pollen. Therefore, they must rely on the honey stores they have collected during the warmer months. Honey is crucial to the survival of the colony during winter. If the beekeeper has not left sufficient amounts of honey in the hive, the bees may not survive until the spring when they can once again leave the hive and collect food. The bees must consume honey to maintain their body temperature, and to provide the necessary energy to perform essential tasks such as rearing young and keeping the hive warm.

The Nutritional Benefits of Honey for Bees

Honey is a natural and nutritious food source for bees. It contains a range of nutrients, including carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The sugar content in honey provides bees with a quick source of energy while the vitamins and minerals help to maintain overall health and wellbeing. The antioxidants in honey have been found to have immune-boosting properties, helping bees fight off infections and diseases.

Why Do Bees Make Honey – Conclusion

In conclusion, honey is a critical food source for bees, playing a crucial role in their survival and overall health. Worker bees and drones require this nutritious substance as an energy source, particularly during the winter when flowers are scarce and the harsh weather conditions make it difficult for them to forage. During this period, the bees must rely on stored honey to sustain themselves and survive the colder months.

It is therefore essential that beekeepers leave enough honey in the hive to ensure the survival of the colony. Harvesting all the honey can have severe consequences, as it leaves the bees with no food source, ultimately leading to their demise. Beekeepers must prioritize the welfare of their bees and take the necessary measures to ensure they have enough food to last them through the winter.

Furthermore, bees play a critical role in pollination, which is essential to our food system and ecosystem. Without bees, many plant species, including those that produce fruits and vegetables, would struggle to reproduce. Therefore, it is essential to protect these important pollinators and ensure their survival by providing them with the necessary resources they need to thrive.

As stewards of these vital pollinators, we have a responsibility to prioritize their well-being and take the necessary steps to protect their livelihood. By leaving enough honey in the hive and providing bees with a safe and healthy environment, we can help ensure the survival of these essential insects and the sustainability of our ecosystem.


Q: What is honey? A: Honey is a sweet and viscous substance that is produced by bees from the nectar of flowers.

Q: Why do bees make honey? A: Bees make honey as a food source to feed their colonies during the winter months when there are no flowers available.

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Q: How do bees make honey? A: Bees make honey by collecting nectar from flowers and bringing it back to the hive where they store it in honeycomb cells. They then fan their wings to evaporate the water content from the nectar, which thickens it into honey.

Q: How much honey can a hive produce? A: A healthy hive can produce anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds of honey in a single season.

Q: Why is honey good for you? A: Honey is a natural sweetener that is rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. It can also help soothe sore throats and coughs.

Q: Can bees make different types of honey? A: Yes, the type of honey that bees produce depends on the type of flowers they collect nectar from. For example, clover honey is made from clover flowers, while wildflower honey is made from a variety of flowers.

Q: What is the difference between raw and processed honey? A: Raw honey is unprocessed and unfiltered, meaning it still contains pollen and enzymes from the bees. Processed honey is heated and filtered, which removes these natural components.

Q: Can honey go bad? A: Honey has a long shelf life and does not spoil. However, it may crystallize over time, which can be reversed by gently heating the honey in a warm water bath.

Q: How can we help bees make honey? A: We can help bees make honey by planting pollinator-friendly plants and flowers, avoiding the use of pesticides, and supporting local beekeepers.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honeybees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

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