You spread it on your bread, put it in your tea, sweeten your cakes with it, but you have never questioned how it’s made!

HONEY [ha-nē]   a sweet , viscid material elaborated out of flowers in the honey sac of various bees. Honeybees are social insects, they live in colonies. A colony can include a queen, drones and worker bees. Drones are all males, they don’t collect honey and they don’t tend the larvae either. A hive can contain up to 50-60.000 bees, which are mostly worker bees. Worker bees are female bees, who have a short life span. It varies between 30 and 60 days. Literally they work themselves to death.

In order to produce 1 liter of honey, the bees from the hive have to travel 50.000 miles (approximately 80.467 km). One bee makes in her entire lifetime (~60 days) as much as 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. During one trip a single bee visits about 50-100 flowers. 


Nectar is extracted from flowers using a bee’s long, tube-shaped tongue and stored in its extra stomach, or “crop”. The nectar mixes with enzymes that transforms its chemical composition and PH, making it more suitable for long term storage. When a honeybee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee, by regurgitating the liquid into the others bee’s mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb. Once in the comb, nectar is still a viscous liquid. To get all that extra water out of their honey, bees set to work fanning the honeycomb with their wings in an effort to speed up the process of evaporation. When this is done, the bee seals the comb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold winter months. 


Bees feed on nectar, primarily as a source of energy, and pollen, mostly for protein and other nutrients. Most of the pollen collected by bees is used to feed the larvae. Almost all the beekeepers take all the honey from the hive and then feed  the colony with cheap sugar syrup or corn syrup. To make the bees start work earlier than they would, the beekeepers feed them in the spring or in the early summer with sugar syrup, to ensure the hive gets off to a good start. This sugar water later is also turned into honey. A typical hive in the UK uses at least 8 kg, in the US 11,4 kg of sugar per year.


Honeybees return to the hive (and make honey) if there is a queen. So the  beekeepers have to make sure, that the queen never leaves. How do they achieve it? They rip off her wings to prevent her from flying. A queen bee can live up to five years, but she is usually killed after one year, and the beekeepers get a new queen for the colony.


A queen bee is always artificially inseminated, a process in which male bees are crushed and drained of their semen, which is then forcefully inserted into a queen bee. Queen bees travel via post, so it’s not rare that the queen arrives injured or even killed. There is a standard practice in the beekeeping industry, that the beekeepers kill off their hives before winter. It is more profitable for them to buy new hives at spring. Countless studies have shown the  incredible intelligence of bees. In the well documented waggle dance, bees use vector calculus and physics. After finding a food source, forager bees return to the hive and perform a dance for the other bees, which conveys all the information they need to go to the feed.

Not only does this dance convey the direction of the food source, but also the distance to it. As if that’s not complex enough, every 4 minutes the sun moves 1° to the west. Bees actually account for this in their dance. It’s been documented that every 4 minutes, the angle of their dance moves 1° to account for the movement of the sun. So you can’t really knock a bee’s intelligence. ( 

So next time, if you wanna sweeten your tea or your muesli with some (liquid) stuff, there is already a great variety of sweeteners on the market!


More Than Honey

More about the film More Than Honey