How is honey made? you ask.. Good question! It all starts with a warm day, sun out, and flowers blooming. Once the temperature is consistently above 54°F and spring is right around the corner, the worker bees begin to leave the warm winter hive in search for nectar. Scout bees will go out and locate sources of nectar, and come back to the hive to pass on this information through the waggle dance – a movement pattern done by bees to convey to one another the location of nectar. The forager bees will then visit anywhere between 150 and 1,500 flowers per trip. In order to collect the nectar, bees suck it up and place it into their “honey stomachs,” a separate compartment just for foraging. It is in a bees honey stomach that nectar is transformed from a complex sugar into a simple sugar. In order to have monofloral honeys, bees will only visit a single type of plant near to where the beekeepers have placed their hive.
Once back at the hive, the bee will empty the contents of her honey stomach into the honeycomb cells. The honey that the foragers deposit is about 80% water, so in order to get honey to the consistency we all know and love, the worker bees inside the hive fan the honey with their wings to accelerate the evaporation process. Once the nectar is only about 17% water, the bees will cover the comb with wax.
In order to get the honey out of the comb and into your jars, beekeepers remove the top-most parts of the hive where the honey is stored. Most beekeepers gently smoke their bees to keep them from becoming too agitated when part of the hive is removed. The beekeeper then takes the super, or top-part of the hive, to an area where the honey can be harvested. Beekeepers with several hives typically use a heated knife to remove the wax caps on the combs to release the honey. But even just a table fork can work to do this in smaller productions. The honey then drips out of the cells and into a container used to later fill your jar!
To learn more about beekeeping through the seasons, read Laurey Masterton’s The Fresh Honey Cookbook.
Asheville Bee Charmer 38 Battery Park Ave Asheville, North Carolina 28801