How Do Bees Make Honey?

How Do Bees Make Honey?

Honey is a part of everyday life. It’s a decadent tea sweetener, a rich topping for cereal and snacks, and even a delicious secret ingredient in many family recipes. Aside from its culinary uses, honey is also a popular ingredient in many skincare and haircare lines.

It’s hard to live a life that doesn’t somehow benefit from honey — but where does this sweet substance come from? Let’s examine the fantastic world of bees and discuss our favorite kind of honey: Manuka honey. 

How Is Honey Made?

We will break down this intricate, amazing, and strange process, from pollination to your cup of tea or coffee — or straight from your spoon. While a drop of honey may seem small to us, it results from a complex and natural harmony.

The true ability of bees lies in their numbers. A colony can comprise tens of thousands of bees in the warmer months. They work together, communicate, and collaborate on an intelligent level to thrive and produce the honey that makes its way to the store shelves.

What Are the Different Roles a Bee Can Play?

Bees that function as part of a colony have different roles:

  • The queen bee is a female bee that controls the whole colony — populating the hive with her fertilized or unfertilized eggs. 
  • The unfertilized eggs become male “drone” bees, whose only job is to mate and reproduce with the queen.
  • The fertilized eggs become the female “worker” bees — the true backbone of the entire operation. The worker bees are the ones who pollinate flowers to produce honey.

What Does a Worker Bee’s Day-to-Day Look Like?

Aside from maintaining the structural integrity of the beehive itself, worker bees go out every day in search of the substance that eventually will become honey: nectar. Nectar is a sugary fluid that many flowering plants secrete alongside pollen to encourage natural pollination. 

In addition to being the main ingredient of honey, nectar also serves as the bees’ main food source. They will fly far and wide for nectar, traveling several kilometers to visit hundreds of flowers.

When worker bees find a good supply of nectar, they communicate with each other through tiny movements. This incredible communication is just a small glimpse into the magnificent world of bees and honey. 

Once a forager bee lands on a flower, they dive head first, looking for nectar. Their special straw-like tongue, called a proboscis, is used like a straw to suck up tiny droplets. Once harvested, the nectar stays inside a special organ in the bee called a “honey stomach.” 

As bees continue to fly in search of more nectar, the nectar in their stomachs begins to be broken down by digestive enzymes, which is the first step in honey production.

Once the bees return to the hive, they pass the nectar to each other to naturally refine that nectar into honey.

Each new bee ingesting the nectar adds an enzyme called invertase before passing it to the next worker. This step is critical to honey production because it helps to break down long chains of complex sugar molecules into shorter, simpler glucose and fructose molecules. Essentially, this helps the honey taste sweeter and makes it easier for our bodies to use for energy. 

The nectar has been transformed, but its water content is still too high. House bees (young worker bees that stay at the hive until maturing) pack the substance away in those iconic hexagon-shaped wax cells that make up the “honeycomb.” 

At this point, many commercial honey manufacturers remove the honey before it can be fully dehydrated. Unfortunately, doing so means high heat and heavy processing. At Manukora, we let the bees do their thing. 

They use the warm air produced by flapping their wings to dry the nectar, eventually drying it into that sticky, dense texture that real honey is known for. The honeycomb cell is then covered with a fresh layer of beeswax, making a tiny jar of honey for the coming winter months.

At Manukora, we leave the bees to make honey the way nature intended it to be made, and when we harvest that honey, we make sure to leave enough behind to get our friends through winter to ensure we’re working with them, not against them. 

 

What Role Do Bees Play?

One of the most valuable members of this world is the Apis mellifera, which we know as the Western (or European) honey bee. Although roughly 16,000 known bee species exist around the globe, this is the bee you are most likely familiar with.

Humans have had a symbiotic relationship with bees for thousands of years — images of honey pots are even on the walls of the great pyramids of Egypt. Today, bee colonies play a big role in our agricultural system.

If these bees disappeared from the earth tomorrow, we would have much to worry about. It's estimated that they pollinate around three-quarters of all the vegetables, fruits, and nuts we consume yearly.

For instance, popular food crops like blueberries and almonds rely almost entirely on bees for their pollination. Although Western Bees are the most common, other bees worldwide play specific roles in pollinating many local crops. Because different nectars can influence honey's flavor, texture, and color, this is why honey from different global regions is so diverse.

 

What’s the Difference Between Manuka Honey and Regular Honey?

So what is Manuka honey, and is the honey-making process different? The difference between Manuka honey and other types of honey is that the bees harvest the nectar from a single source, the Manuka tree of New Zealand. 

The Manuka tree — first discovered by the native Maori population — only flowers during an extremely narrow few-week window yearly. This is part of the reason Manuka is extremely rare and valuable; on top of a short flowering window, the compounds that come from this particular tree contribute to Manuka honey’s many wellness properties and long history of use. This is what gives it the reputation of being extremely rare and valuable.

Standard honey comes from many floral sources, like clover, acacia, and other wildflowers. It can be recognized by its translucent gold color and consistency, similar to maple syrup. Unlike the specific origin of Manuka, regular honey is produced and sourced from all around the world.

 

Why Manuka Honey From Manukora? 

So if regular honey and Manuka honey come from bees and plants, you might wonder if one has an advantage over another. As it turns out, our raw Manuka honey has significant advantages over other forms of honey — we like to think of it as Honey with Superpowers™. 

The thick, dark, and creamy consistency is unique — it is a sensory experience unlike anything else. 

On top of that, Manuka’s bioactive compounds include prebiotics, the antibacterial compound MGO, as well as unique antioxidants you won’t find in regular honey. 

 

MGO for Wellness

Manukora’s Manuka honey is graded for its MGO value. A higher MGO value means higher levels of the naturally occuring methylglyoxal (MGO) compound.

MGO is a unique, potent antibacterial compound not found in any other honey types.

As the MGO rating increases, so do the other key unique bioactive compounds in the Manuka.

Each batch is third party tested to verify the MGO level, results are available on our QR trace system.

Our range of varying MGO-rated honey fits perfectly in your day-to-day wellness routine, whether a teaspoon of 600+ Manuka honey to kickstart a powerful week or just a drizzle of 850+ Manuka honey in your afternoon cup of tea. 

Not only is Manukora honey a healthy indulgence, but it is also a valuable tool in your wellness toolbox. 

 

Ethical Beekeeping

With beekeeping becoming one of the fastest-growing hobbies in an increasingly environmentally-aware world, we’re proud to be leaders in the art of ethical beekeeping. 

Here are just a few of our most notable ways of working with nature, not against it:

  • Our beekeepers always leave enough honey in the hive to give the bees ample food for the winter when they need that energy source the most.
  • Our hives don’t need to be transported or shifted for commercial pollination — the bees we work with are never disrupted or exposed to the pesticides and environmental chemicals usually resulting from this kind of shifting.
  • Our bees are never fed refined sugar; we’re here to work with nature and found that nature’s way of doing things is best left untouched.
  • We allow our bees to complete their process. Much of the honey you find in the grocery store must be dehydrated to reduce moisture. This process can deplete its natural properties, whereas allowing the bees to dehydrate the honey naturally using their amazing process means all of the beneficial properties are retained.

Our honey is also traceable — a crucial way to ensure your Manuka honey is genuine is to trace it back to its roots. With adulterated honey infiltrating the honey industry, it's become essential that we provide adequate traceability to our customers. 

Any Manukora Manuka Honey product will have ways to ensure your honey is, in fact, authentic. 

Here's what to look for: Examine the packaging of your product for a QR code, then scan it with your smartphone camera. You can access the harvest location, meet your beekeeper, and verify the MGO grade.

 

Regenerative Practices

We've grown up doing things the New Zealand way — this is a slower, more intentional way of life, and we believe it is the pathway to a better planetary future.

We are dedicated to implementing and refining regenerative practices across our entire business, with the health of our amazing pollinators and the ecosystems in which they reside being our top priority, as we know this is critical to a well functioning planet earth.

You can read more about our commitment to this mission here

 

Rely on the Best

There are many different aspects to high-quality honey production; however, if we clearly focus on achieving ecological balance, we get a functioning food network due to the intricate pollination process, and at the same time we are gifted with this amazing honey.

At Manukora, we’re constantly striving towards ecological balance and spreading the beneficial wellness properties of Manuka.

Ready to explore Manuka honey for yourself? Peruse our high-MGO Manuka honeys here, or learn more about ethical beekeeping, Manuka honey benefits, and more at the Manukora blog



Sources:

The Colony and its Organization | Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium

How Bees Communicate | Ask A Biologist

Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative | PMC

Streptococcus Mutans in Saliva of Normal Subjects and Neck and Head Irradiated Cancer Subjects After Consumption of Honey | PMC

5 Benefits of Manuka Honey | Cleveland Clinic

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