Honey is made by the honeybees using flowers nectar in a honeycomb. It sounds simple! However, the process of making honey is a much more difficult journey for honeybees.
Honeybees work collectively as a team in the honeycomb. Their team consists of three types of honeybees in a colony:
1. Queen bee
2. Drone bee
3. Worker bee
Let’s dive straight into know how honey bees make honey:
Discovery of nectar by honey bees:
Do you know how honey bees discover the nectar?
They have a remarkable method to communicate with each other telling where to find productive flowers for nectar.
The method is called the waggle dance. The returning or scout bee draws the attention of other bees in the honeycomb by climbing on the back of its sister bee.
It begins dancing or waggling using the code of movement telling everyone where she discovered the flowers for nectar.
The longer the waggle, the longer the flower location where she found the flowers full of nectar.
Duration of the waggle indicates the distance to the nectar source in relation to the sun.
In addition, honey bees waggle dance also describe what angle to travel away from the sun.
All in all, this is a fantastic communication method that honey bees use to guide its mate to collect the nectar.
Collection of nectar by honey bee:
Worker Bees forage to collect the nectar.
A worker bee lives three to six weeks and plays the most crucial role in the whole journey of honey making. Because it is responsible for collecting the nectar and pollen from flowers.
It forages every day around two to three miles from the beehive collecting nectar from thousands of flowers.
Transforming nectar into honey:
After collecting the nectar, it comes back to the beehive where it unloads the nectar to other honeybees. The honey bees through regurgitation add beneficial enzymes to the nectar.
This unique process transforms flower nectar into honey.
The honey then deposited in hexagonal spaces called honeycomb.
Initially, honey has a lot of moisture content, honey bees through fanning of the bee’s wing evaporate the excess moisture and make it thick liquid. This is called honey ripening.
Following this, honeybees seal the comb to safeguard the ripe honey through the liquid from their abdomen or stomach called beeswax.
Honey bee’s stomach:
The honey bee has two stomachs; one is ‘honey stomach’ to store nectar before passing to the other bees. And the other one is ‘food stomach’. Hence, honey is safe and hygienic, maintained by honeybees in their stomach separately.
Why do they store honey?
Honey bees protect and store the honey for their food. Because, during the winter season, as they can not forage to collect the nectar due to harsh winter condition or unavailability of nectar.
As a result, they work extremely hard during the spring and summer seasons to collect the nectar from the different flower and make plenty of honey for their food during the offseason.
Five different types of honey bees in India:
Apis Dorsata Honeybee:
Also called rock bee, usually makes their beehive in the forest areas or on the cliff, on big trees, rock and old buildings. Usually, local tribals harvest this type of honey.
Apis mellifera is widely domesticated worldwide and cared for by beekeepers. It gives Hygenic honey because it is extracted using an extractor.
Apis Cerana Indica:
Though this type of honeybee is domesticated but tend to swarm and abscond (abandon a hive location) more frequently than Apis mellifera, hence, the honey harvest from it is low.
Domestication of this honey bee is highly unlikely because of its way of inhabitation. As they make a very small beehive on the branch of the trees and generally inhabit in the forest.
It makes small honeycomb and its honey taste is sour. Hence, the honey from this honey bee is rarely available.
Types of honey:
Forest Honey (Honey harvested by tribal):
The tribal harvests wild honey in the forest and sold it to the local consumer.
However, the honey that tribal harvests might be unhygienic, because, they squeeze the entire beehive damaging honeycomb as the whole which includes dead larvae and pollen.
This results in honey becoming cloudy and unsuitable though the honey is raw or natural.
Apiary Honey (Honey harvested by beekeepers):
Beekeepers harvest raw honey with utmost sensible and sustainable way.
There is no damage to the honeycomb in this process at all. Because they use extractor or centrifugal force in extracting the honey without damaging the honeycomb.
As a result, the honeycomb is safe and available for honeybees for storing nectar again. Ultimately, this will help in harvesting honey in a great amount of quantity.
How is honey packed for the market:
Raw honey: Honey, as present in the honeycomb and extracted hygienically, is raw honey.
Processed honey or pasteurised honey: The honey that goes through ultrafiltration and heating to make it shiny and appealing to the consumer. Therefore, It is widely available in the market.
Crystallized honey: Raw honey does crystallize, and sold as set honey in the market. Hence, it mostly goes better with bread.
Comb honey: It is full of carbohydrates and antioxidants. Hence, It is eatable, including the raw honey present in it with its waxy cells.
Honey is the produce of nature’s most hard-working species. Most importantly, It is not just the sweetener but an excellent value for a healthy being.
So, be wise and buy raw-natural honey but not commercial honey.