Honey is made from flower nectar.
Bees collect nectar from flowering plants, pollinating the plants in the process as they wiggle around in the flower. This makes bees crucial links in the food chain. For instances, 80% of cotton relies on honeybees. Many plants, such as squash, have specialized bees that only collect nectar from that particular plant.
A bee visits about 1,500 flowers to gather enough nectar to fill up her honey sac stomach (which holds about 70 mg of nectar – almost as much as a bees body weight), which is different than their digestive stomach.
Bees then carry the nectar back to the hive in their honey sac stomach. Here, a younger bee will suck the honey from the honey sac stomach, via the mouth (kind of like they are kissing).
Bees navigate using an exceptional spatial sense, and can fly up to 15 mph. Back at the homestead, they may do a little “bee dance” for their hive mates to communicate where the nectar was found.
The bees deposit (OK, regurgitate) the nectar into the waxen honeycomb, where invertase (aka sucrase) from salivary glands thickens it and splits sucrose into glucose and fructose, so that the bees are able to digest the honey when they consume it later.
Once honey is in the honeycomb, worker bees flap their wings to encourage water evaporation until the nectar fluid becomes syrupy. Then the bees cap the honeycomb with wax. If honey is harvested before the water is evaporated, moisture content will be too high and naturally occurring yeast cells will ferment. This honey will be runny and taste like vinegar.
A single worker bee makes less than a teaspoon of honey in her 6-week lifetime (assuming she doesn’t sting anyone, as bees die after they sting). They work themselves to death, literally.
One colony can produce 44 pounds of honey during a typical summer. This requires more than 1 million foraging trips, and is roughly the amount necessary to sustain the colony during winter.