Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Bees are Making Honey

There has been a series of plants coming into bloom in the vicinity of our urban bee yard. As a result, for honey production these bees are ahead of their country cousins in the Arkansas Delta. The urban bees have collected enough nectar from spring flowers to draw out the beeswax comb and start filling it with honey. The nectar that the bees gather is a thin liquid with sugars dissolved in it. As the bees are bringing the nectar back to the hive it is mixed with enzymes in the bees’ bodies. The enzymes start the transformation of the nectar sugars to honey.

If you click on the photo, you can see the honey in the cells. The honey contains a large amount of water at this time. The bees will complete the process of making honey out of the nectar by manipulating it with their mouth parts and blowing bubbles to further mix in enzymes. Next, they fan the honey with their wings to evaporate the water. The bee standing alone in the upper, right side of the picture is fanning her wings to evaporate water from the honey. Once the liquid is concentrated to a point where the moisture content is about 18 percent, the bees will cover the comb with a beeswax capping. At this point the honey will last indefinitely. It is the bees’ intention to feed the honey to future generations of bees over winter. The beekeeper can remove a portion of the finished honey from the hive.

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