Honeybees Gather Nectar

Older worker bees, called field bees, leave the hive of a honeybee colony and gather nectar from flowers. Nectar is a liquid produced by flowers that is approximately 80% water and contains complex sugars. The field bee sucks the nectar from the flower through a tube-like tongue called a proboscis. The nectar goes into a specialized organ in the bee’s body, which is called a honey stomach.

Nectar is Returned to the Hive

The field bee returns to the hive and is met by house bees, which are young worker bees. These house bees suck the nectar from the field bee’s honey stomach using their proboscises.

House Bees Convert Nectar Into Honey

The house bees work the nectar around in their mouths, using enzymes to convert the nectar into unripe honey. This process takes approximately 20 minutes.

Bees Place Unripe Honey Into Cells in the Hive

The house bees place the unripe honey into cells in the beehive. At this stage, the honey is still high in water content.

The Honey is Ripened

Cells that contain unripe honey are left open. The bees use their wings to create a strong draft, which ripens the honey by evaporating the water out of it. Bees also use their mouths to draw droplets of water out of the honey.

The Honey is Ready for Use

Once the honey’s water content is reduced to a level that is satisfactory to the bees, they seal the honey in the cell with a layer of wax. This wax is produced in small sheets underneath the bee’s abdomen. Once the honey is sealed within the cell, it is finished and ready to be used by the honeybee colony or harvested for human use.