Honey is made from nectar, but it doesn’t come out of flowers as that golden, sticky stuff. After finding a suitable food source, bees dive in head. First, using their long, specially adapted tongues to slurp tiny sips of nectar into one of two stomachs. A single bee might have to drink from more than a thousand flowers to fill its honey stomach, which can weigh as much as the bee itself when full of nectar.
On the way back to the hive, digestive enzymes are already working to turn that nectar into sweet gold. When she returns to the hive, the forager bee will vomit the nectar into the mouth of another worker. That bee will vomit it into another bee’s mouth, and so on.
This game of regurgitation is an important part of the honey making process, since each bee adds more digestive enzymes to turn long chains of complex sugars in the raw nectar into simple monosaccharides like fructose and glucose. At this point, the nectar is still pretty watery, so the bees beat their wings and create an air current inside the hive to dehydrate and thicken the nectar.
Finally, capping the cell with beeswax so the enzyme rich bee barf can complete its transformation into honey. Because of its low water content and acidic pH, honey isn’t a very inciting place for bacteria or yeast spoilage. And it has an incredibly long shelf life in the hive or in your pantry. Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years, pretty much unspoiled.
Do You Know How Honey Is Produced By The Bees? (PBS Digital Studios VIDEO)