Here's What People Are Saying About The Formation Of Honey
Some wasp species, such as Brachygastra lecheguana and Brachygastra mellifica found in South and Central America, are known to feed on nectar and produce honey. Some wasps, such as Polistes versicolor, consume honey, alternating between feeding on pollen in the middle of their lifecycles and feeding on honey, which can better provide for their energy needs.
Honey is produced by bees collecting nectar and honeydew for use as sugars consumed to support the metabolism of muscle activity during foraging or to be stored as a long-term food supply.
During foraging, bees access part of the nectar collected to support metabolic activity of flight muscles, with the majority of collected nectar destined for regurgitation, digestion, and storage as honey.
In cold weather or when other food sources are scarce, adult and larval bees use stored honey as food.
By contriving for honey bee swarms to nest in human-made hives, people have been able to semi-domesticate the insects and harvest excess honey. In the hive or in a wild nest, the three types of bees are:
a single female queen bee, a seasonally variable number of male drone bees to fertilize new queens, 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees.
Leaving the hive, a foraging bee collects sugar-rich flower nectar, sucking it through its proboscis and placing it in its proventriculus (honey stomach or crop), which lies just dorsal to its food stomach.
In Apis mellifera, the honey stomach holds about 40 mg of nectar, or roughly 50% of the bee's unloaded weight, which can require over a thousand flowers and more than an hour to fill. The nectar generally begins with a water content of 70 to 80%.
Salivary enzymes and proteins from the bee's hypopharyngeal gland are added to the nectar to begin breaking down the sugars, raising the water content slightly. The forager bees then return to the hive, where they regurgitate and transfer nectar to the hive bees.
The hive bees then use their honey stomachs to ingest and regurgitate the nectar, forming bubbles between their mandibles repeatedly until it is partially digested. The bubbles create a large surface area per volume and a portion of the water is removed through evaporation.
The bee's digestive enzymes hydrolyze converts sucrose to a mixture of glucose and fructose and break down other starches and proteins, increasing the acidity.
The bees work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion for as long as 20 minutes, passing the nectar from one bee to the next, until the product reaches the honeycombs in storage quality. It is then placed in honeycomb cells and left unsealed while still high in water content (about 50 to 70%) and natural yeasts which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the newly formed honey to ferment.
Bees are among the few insects that can generate large amounts of body heat, and the hive bees constantly regulate the hive temperature, either heating with their bodies or cooling with water evaporation, to maintain a fairly constant temperature of about 35 °C (95 °F) in the honey-storage areas.
The process continues as hive bees flutter their wings constantly to circulate air and evaporate water from the honey to a content around 18%, raising the sugar concentration beyond the saturation point and preventing fermentation.
The bees then cap the cells with wax to seal them. As removed from the hive by a beekeeper, honey has a long shelf life and will not ferment if properly sealed.
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