How do bees make honey? - Buzz Power

by Flo Rooke October 29, 2020

60 million years in the making

We all know that bees come from honeybees, but there is more to it than that.

The earliest bee-like insect was found preserved in amber dating from around 120 million years ago, the same time as flower bearing plants started to appear. The oldest European honeybee was found in a fossil dated from 60 million years ago.

Over millions of years, honeybees and flowering plants have developed a beautiful synchronicity. Plants produce a solution of sucrose called nectar to attract honeybees and other pollinating insects, and in return the insects carry pollen from one flower to the next.

Herbal medicine has been the basis of medical practice for millennia and the health benefits of different plants flow naturally into the nectar they produce and the honeybees carry away. We don’t know why bees choose one source of nectar over another. We do know that they prefer nectar with a low water content, but no one is sure why bees select which cocktail of herbal ingredients. 

The bees carry nectar back to the colony or nest in a special honey sac where any foreign objects such as dust are filtered out. At the same time, the bees produce an enzyme called invertase that breaks the sucrose in the nectar down to two more simple sugars, fructose and glucose. These are the two essential sugars for bees - and for endurance athletes.

When the foraging bees arrive back at the nest, the house bees take over. They will select or reject nectar from one bee or another. The nest itself is kept at a high temperature to protect the brood, and with a high moisture contact, the sugar rich solution is vulnerable to bacteria and fermentation by natural yeasts. 

So the house bees expose the nectar to a draft of air generated by fanning their wings, and the moisture content is reduced, typically from over 50% to under 19%. Below 20% honey becomes ‘hygroscopic’ – it will attract water from anything it comes into contact with. So it literally sucks the moisture out of any bacteria or yeasts present and kills them. Beekeepers always check the moisture content of honey before storing to ensure it is fully ripened. The water content of each batch of honey used in Buzz Power is individually checked and certified.

The filtered, inverted and concentrated nectar has now been converted into honey, which the bees store and seal in wax honeycomb. In this state the honey will last for many years. The low water content protects the honey from bacterial degradation, and the wax cappings effectively prevent contamination from dust or dirt.

Honey is the result of over 60 million years of evolutionary development. A perfect food for bees and the perfect running fuel for athletes.

Flo Rooke
Flo Rooke


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