Bees at a Hive A Varroa Mite on Bee Larva
Honey bees are the only insects that produce a food consumed by humans. Honey is produced in one of the busiest yet most efficient factories in the world — a beehive.
Honey bees are social insects with a marked division of labor among the various bees in the hive. A colony contains one queen, 500 to 1,000 drones and about 30,000 to 60,000 workers.
The matriarch of the colony is the queen. Nurtured on a special diet of royal jelly, the queen is the only sexually developed female in the hive. A few days after hatching, the queen mates with drones in flight. The drones, which are stout male bees that lack stingers, fulfill their single purpose in the colony by mating with the queen.
A Queen Bee Surrounded by Her Workers
To make a pound of honey, worker bees must forage nectar from millions of flowers. To communicate the location of nectar sources, bees perform several different and distinct dances.
In the fall, beekeepers prepare their hives for winter, ensuring that each hive has adequate honey “left on” (not extracted) to feed the colony. Many beekeepers also move their hives to warmer states during the winter. About one half of all commercial beekeepers are migratory beekeepers. Some rent their bees to farmers, moving their hives to pollinate various crops. Others relocate their hives near blossoms for honey production.
Extracting the Sweet Liquid:
Fortunately, honey bees normally make more honey than the colony needs. On average, a colony will produce about 80 pounds of surplus honey each year. To harvest the honey, beekeepers remove the honeycomb frames from each hive. The wax cappings covering the honeycomb are scraped off to expose the liquid honey.
Using a honey extractor (typically a centrifuge-type apparatus), the honey is spun out of the comb. The honey then passes through a filter and drains into a storage tank. The honey is often placed in 55-gallon drums and transported to a honey packer. Or, the beekeeper may bottle the honey for local sale.
Honey is a source of carbohydrates — mainly fructose (about 38.5 percent) and glucose (about 31.0 percent). The remaining carbohydrates include maltose, sucrose and other complex carbohydrates. On average, honey is 17.1 percent water.
Honey also contains several compounds which function as antioxidants (see honey facts) — compounds that may help delay the oxidative damage to cells or tissues in our bodies. Known antioxidant compounds in honey are chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C, catalase and pinocembrin.
Bottom picture is a new Queen emerging