Honey bees work together with their hive to make sweet golden delicious honey. It takes constant teamwork and dedication all year round from the bees and their keepers. Throughout the seasons, the bees go through a cycle of growing their hive, pollinating flowers, and creating honey in their hive. If anything is messed up along the way, the cycle gets disrupted, and the honey will not be produced.
When you buy that little bear-shaped container of honey at the grocery store, I’ll bet you’re not thinking about the enormous amount of time and effort honey bees went through in order to make that one bottle. It takes so much just for one pound of honey. Honey bees need to tap almost 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey.
So how much honey does a bee make? A single worker bee produces only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. So, as you can imagine, it takes a lot of bees to make a significant amount of honey.
The Honey Bee Colony
In a honey bee colony, each bee has its own job that they must complete every day in order to maintain the function of the hive. There are three kinds of bees in a honey bee colony. These groups of bees are called castes. Castes are worker bees, the queen, and drones.
The queen bee is the most important; without her, the colony wouldn’t survive. If any caste is removed, the colony won’t survive; but the queen is the foundation and the start of an entire hive. She gives birth to the other two castes, but eggs laid by the worker bees become drones.
The majority of honey bees in a colony are worker bees. The workers conduct all pollinations and collect the nectar needed to make honey. They only live for about a month, unlike the queen, who lives for 2-3 years. There is only one queen to a colony, and she is the leader. Drones are the male bees who work inside the hive, and they sometimes mate with the queen bee. Unfortunately, for them, mating means death.
When it comes to honey production, the worker bees are the most important facet of the hive; without them, flowers would not be able to reproduce or grow. While they spread pollen from flower to flower, they are also collecting nectar. The nectar is then brought back to the hive for the transformation into honey.
How Bees Turn Nectar into Honey
Before honey is produced by the honey bee, they must collect nectar. Nectar from flowers eventually becomes honey through a long process performed by the drone bees. While the worker bees are out doing their job during the day, drone bees are passing around nectar through each other’s mouths.
Each time a drone receives the nectar, they push it down to their stomach (also called a nectar sac) where it combines with enzymes. They then spit the nectar back up, repeat, and then give it off to another drone, who does the same thing. This continues until the moisture content of the nectar reduces to around 20%. At this point, the nectar is now honey. Drones put the honey into a wax storage cell for safe keeping. The level of honey production directly relates to the income of nectar from the worker bees.
How Much Honey Does a Bee Make?
Although honey can’t be 100% collected by beekeepers from a single hive, due to the need of food for bees, there is still a great amount taken because of how much honey the bees make. So, there’s the question: how much honey does a bee make?
Well, if you’re referring to the honey production of a single worker bee, the answer is about only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. That’s why bees work together as a colony to make honey so that they make more than just a 12th of a teaspoon. To make a whole pound of honey, the worker bees need to fly 50,000 miles and visit about 2 million flowers.
Worker bees have a very short lifespan, but they’re replaced quickly by new workers, and altogether in a year, they can produce several hundred pounds of honey.
When this honey is collected by the beekeepers, some of it has to remain in the beehive for bee consumption, especially right before winter.
You may not have known; there are several different species or “stocks” of bees in the US and around the world. There are some native honey bees in the US, but most of them came from other countries. Most of these types of honey bees are settled now. It’s never a good idea to introduce a new species into a country where they’re not native.
The invasion could bring unknown diseases that the native species are not immune to, causing them to get sick. It can also be detrimental to existing hives and bee queens if their area of land is taken over by a new type of bee. All of this plays a part in why the worldwide bee population is increasingly shrinking.
Types of Honey Bees
- Italian – very good honey production
- German – ok honey production
- Carniolan – good honey production
- Buckfast – good honey production
- Caucasian – low honey production
- Russian – ok honey production
Honey bees play an incredible role in the ecosystem around them. Although their honey is just a yummy product of their job, many flower species of plants would not survive without the bees’ input. The amount of honey produced by a bee colony is based on a few things: general honey production level for that specific type of bee, the plants that surround their beehive, and the size of the colony. You can make a lot of money off of beekeeping and selling jars of honey, that is if you do it correctly.
See a video of how bees make honey below: