The eldest of the worker bees, named forager bees, fly out of the hive first thing each morning, scouting for flowers. Once one of these forager bees have found a cluster of flowers with delicious (and medicinal) nectar, she slips her long, straw-like tongue, called a proboscis, into the base of the flower. She sips the nectar and fills her honey stomach with up to a third of her body weight!
Heavy with the weight of the nectar, she beelines directly back to her colony. As soon as she enters the hive, one of the house bees (younger worker bees) takes the nectar out of her honey stomach via trophallaxis – when one passes food from mouth to mouth. For all of you paying attention, yes, the house bee drinks the nectar from the forager bee’s honey stomach. A little different than how you share a drink with your friend, right? This continues, the passing of nectar from house bee to house bee, until one of the bees deposits the nectar, now infused with enzymes from the bees' honey stomachs, into a cell within the wax comb above the brood nest – the nursery for baby bees.
This nectar contains 40-80% water and will start fermenting unless the moisture content is reduced. Knowing this, the bees have a few ways to dry out the nectar: they move the nectar around the cell and create air currents throughout the hive to promote evaporation. Once the enzyme-filled nectar has dried down to 18% moisture, the bees cap the honey with a thin layer of wax, storing it for a rainy day. In fact, honey is the only food that lasts for thousands of years! It’s just one more way bees amaze us every day.