Ask Kidspace! How do Bees Make Honey?
Hello everyone, my name is Bruce Steele. I’m the Beekeeper here at Kidspace Children’s Museum that created and maintains the observation hive. Today we are answering this month’s “Ask Kidspace!” question from Alexis, age 6, who asked “How do bees make honey?
Great question! The field bees travel up the tube of the observation hive and fly out the exit to find flowers. They can travel several miles, but usually find blooming plants closer than that. They gather nectar from many of these flowers and bring it back to the hive in their honey stomach (see diagram).
When they get to the hive they pass this nectar to a house bee. The house bees suspend the nectar in their mouthparts creating a film that exposes it to the air of the hive. Water evaporates out of the nectar. It comes into the hive containing 35-65% water. Workers continue to move the nectar into honeycomb cells of the hive where more water evaporates. As they move it they also add enzymes from glands in their mouth that change the sugars in the nectar from 2 part (disaccharides) to one part (monosaccharides – glucose and fructose). After several days, the water content of the nectar is about 18% and is ripe. At this point the cells containing the honey are capped with beeswax for long-term storage. Worker bees produce beeswax from 4 glands on the ventral side of their abdomen that they form into the comb and the caps that seal the individual cells. The honey supplies the energy needs of adult bees.
Come see the Observation hive on your next visit to Kidspace in the Nature Exchange, and watch the hive hard at work making honey.
This has been this month’s Ask Kidspace! Thanks for your question Alexis, and I hope you all check back next time to see if your question is featured on another episode of Ask Kidspace!