Collecting Nectar & Pollen For Winter
It’s Oct 24 and there are only a few warm days left for the Honeybees to gather nectar and pollen for their Winter food supply. So this is why you see so many Bees working aggressively during these final warm Fall days. Yes, Honeybees use both Nectar & Pollen for a food source and here is why!
To make Honey a honeybee needs to fly to several hundred flowers to gather its Nectar. To collect this nectar the bee sucks it from the flower and stores it in its Nectar Sac, or a separate stomach for just storing nectar. When the nectar sac is full the honeybee will return to the hive and pass the nectar to the indoor bees via their mouths. These indoor bees will do the work of reducing the water content down by chewing the honey and passing it on to another bee until the water content is only 17% – 20%. To evaporate more water from the honey, the bees will place the honey into the honeycomb and fan it until the correct water content is reached, then the comb will be sealed with wax and stored for Winter use (food).
The Honey Process
So how was the honey made and where did the water come from. The water is in the Nectar the flower produced, but the honey is made as the bee sucks the nectar into its mouth. There the bees have glands that secrete an enzyme into the Nectar (sucrose), which generates glucose and fructose honey. Sounds gross right, but it does taste good! Note, Honey produced by Honeybees has a low pH that is inhospitable to bacteria, mold, and fungi, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration.
What If The Honeybee Gets Hungry
If the honeybee gets hungry and needs energy during its travel is can open a valve in its Nectar Sac, allowing a portion of the nectar to passe through to it’s stomach. At the hive the bee can eat honey already produced if needed. Note, A bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoons of honey in its lifetime, so you can see it takes a lot of Honeybees to make a quart of honey.
Why Do Bees Collect Pollen
Pollen is used as a food source, but it does not produce the Honey we all know so well and like. The honeybee also stores the pollen on its back legs instead of in a special sac like the nectar, as you can see in the picture below. But how is it used? The bees will mixed the pollen with honey making a Bee Bread (food), which is rich in protein and the main food source for both the larvae and new baby bees. Note, A bee can collect about have their body weight in pollen.